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Chinese Elm Bonsai Care: Assess and Location (Part 1)



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hi YouTube I'm Darren George

well it's mid-december and here in the

UK it's gray it's a cloudy day the rains

coming down and it's miserable with

Christmas just around the corner I

wonder if one or two folks out there

might be getting new Chinese alban's ID

so I'd like to talk a little bit about

how to keep these charming little guys

healthy and happy until the spring when

the growing season begins again and all

the fun jobs need to be done I think

there are three things that we need to

do in order to guarantee the success of

a new Chinese our bonsai first it's

important to have a good look at the

tree get to know how healthy is it has

it been doing up to now this information

might give us some clues about how to

keep it happy and healthy until the

spring the next thing that we need to

think about is where should we keep the

tree until the growing season comes

around and finally the last thing that

would need to be considered is watering

the tree let's have a look at this tree

first then so the first thing to notice

is got plenty of foliage the crown is

quite full the leaves are a nice even

green color the foliage on the branches

is reasonably close together it's not

too spread out they are the branches are

looking a little bit leggy so we've got

quite a long distance from the trunk

until we start to get to the foliage

what's happened is this trees been sat

in the nursery and as it's been grown on

it's been trimmed over so repeatedly any

grows that pops up it's been cut back to

this silhouette that we've got here and

so what that's created is plenty of

foliage on the outside and some sparsity

in the middle

another factor would be that the leaves

on the outside will create shade

underneath and so any leaves that were

present here have turned yellow and

dropped off that's a perfectly natural

thing to happen the tree senses that the

leaves on the inside that are shaded out

it senses that they're not receiving

enough light so it sucks the goodness

from those leaves on the inside and

reinvests it on growth on the outside

searching for the light so the foliage

is looking quite nice on this one I'm

quite happy with it this is healthy

foliage perhaps could be a little

greener but it's fine okay so let's have

a closer look at the soil on the surface

we've got a gravelly substance that's

quite loose and we're able to push it

back revealing this soil that looks a

bit more familiar it looks like potting

compost or plain old if we press it

there's a sponginess to it that tells me

that these stones aren't present

throughout the pot they are simply a

topdressing to top up the pot the

sponginess also indicates that there's

probably quite a lot to route through

the soil this tells us that this tree is

probably coming up for a repot as the

pot fills with roots

there's less and less room for the roots

to grow and there's also less

less room for water to penetrate the

soil even though this tree probably

needs to be repotted it's not the best

time of year to be doing it we'll come

to that in the spring the soil that

we've got underneath looks quite dense

this isn't ideal soil for growing bonsai

in what the roots need is plenty of air

passing through the soil and the roots

also need good drainage and this this

dense soil isn't the best growing medium

to achieve that again we'll address that

when we come to repotting we'll use a

more open substrate that will encourage

strong healthy roots and also minimize

the chance of over watering

so overall then this trees looking

reasonably good the foliage is great for

newly purchased Chinese elm bonsai the

soil needs a bit of work but we're not

surprised this is pretty standard stuff

and we'll address that in the spring so

the foliage on this Chinese elm is

looking quite sparse the branches are

very leggy that's quite long distances

to get to the leaves the leaves are

reasonably well spaced there's also

quite a lot of stuff that looks like

it's died back here and there with no

leaves it's quite crusty and falls off

easily the foliage of on this tree is

telling us that the tree isn't in the

best of health the sparsity of the

leaves is a pretty good indication that

the roots of the tree aren't happy the

amount of foliage a tree can support is

dictated by the health of the root

system the healthy of the roots the more

water and nutrients can be taken up by

the tree and the more leaves can be

sustained if we have sparse

foliage such as this it tells us that

the roots aren't working as well as

perhaps they could be the sparsity of

the foliage also points to the tree

perhaps trying to tell us that it's not

getting enough sunlight if a tree isn't

getting enough sunlight what I'll do

is it will suck the nutrients out of

foliage near the trunk and reinvest the

nutrients into growth further and

further away from the trunk searching

for the best sunlight so that it can

continue to thrive and survive if a tree

is getting enough nutrients from the

roots and is getting enough sunlight

from above we'd expect plenty of leaves

closing the leaves to be quite nice and

tight and close together and have good

good density to the foliage we wouldn't

have these died back twigs

it will be nice and much more bushy okay

so if we move in close and let's check

out the soil of this tree so there's

quite a lot of moss on the surface as we

push the moss back we reveal this

uniform looking earth that possibly

potting compost or maybe it's plain old

earth and this is typical stuff it's

quite standard for trees to be planted

in this material and then shipped to be

sold the trouble is this material is

very dense it doesn't allow water to

easily penetrate and it doesn't allow

air to easily penetrate so the chances

are the root system of this tree isn't

as healthy as it could be and we may

have drainage issues when we come to

water which we'll look at shortly and

important things take into account when

you've got a new bonsai tree

particularly Chinese Elms or other

imported trees that have come from

countries that have a different climate

to where you live in my case the UK it's

important to think about where you keep

the tree in the case of Chinese Elms

they're much much easier to keep happy

and healthy if you keep them outside

year-round when you keep your Chinese

arm outdoors it's easier to ensure that

the tree gets plenty of light during the

growing season it's also important that

the tree gets rest over winter and is

allowed the cold temperatures that it

requires in order to go into dormancy in

this country the UK Chinese arms are

deciduous that means in the autumn the

trees will drop their leaves and go

dormant over winter until the longer

days and the warmer temperatures arrive

in the spring as you can see these trees

are still in leaf even though it's

December and that's because they've

probably been fairly recently imported

into the country from a place that has a

very different climate to the UK because

these trees aren't used to the UK

winters we need to give extra careful

thought to where we keep the tree even

though Chinese arms are easier to keep

healthy outdoors it's important that we

take into account the conditions that

the tree has been used to before it was

imported into this country that means

that it's not a good idea to take this

tree and let it live outside immediately

the tree is probably going to need a

couple of UK winters before the tree

realizes that it's actually better to

drop its leaves and go dormant in

winter because these trees aren't yet

used to the cold conditions that we get

what I will be doing with them in the

winter is I will be storing them in a

greenhouse the greenhouse ensures that

the trees don't get excessively wet in

all the rain that we have and also it

provides shelter from cold drying winds

what the greenhouse doesn't do is

prevent freezing the temperatures over

now it will still drop pretty low in the

greenhouse admittedly not perhaps as low

as outside of the greenhouse but still

low enough for the water inside to

freeze but because the trees are

sheltered from the wind this is less of

a problem it's also important to note

that I took these trees into my garden

and well before we got the first Frost's

so the trees have experienced a gradual

decrease in temperatures as the autumns

progressed through to the winter if

you're wondering where you should keep

your trees and you have the option to

keep the tree outside it's probably

still worth considering keeping the tree

in a cool indoor location if you don't

have access to a greenhouse such places

as an unheated garage are shared if it's

got a window or like I'm in here

conservatory that gets plenty of light

all of these options will be fine it's

best not to keep your tree near a

radiator or if you can and if you can

avoid it away from drafts I don't know

very much at all about keeping trees

alive indoors I keep on mine outdoors

I'm fortunate to have a garden so I will

provide a link to an excellent youtube

video that goes into great detail about

how to keep trees alive indoors if

that's the route you choose this is

where I keep all of my sensitive

projects things like

cuttings and air layers and emergency

repots so I'll keep these these trees in

here with all my other sensitive

projects it's just a cheap plastic

pop-up greenhouse it was actually given

to me so it didn't cost me anything

during the day open the doors to ensure

some fresh air can pass through prevent

any fungal issues and then in the

evening or on particularly windy days I

will shut the doors keep everything nice

and snug coming up in part two we'll

talk about watering your new Chinese our

bonsai