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Noobie needs help??

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Post  Lulubelle606 Wed Feb 03, 2016 6:34 am

I suck at keeping plants alive.  No seriously.  

Until a while back when I received a bonsai for my birthday.  As I've always loved bonsai's I decided to really try my best to keep it alive and thriving.  

Fast forward a year and add a severe 3 month draught and you get a very unhappy little bonsai.  Firstly it started throwing off its leaves.  Like crazy.  I would clean up about a handful of leaves from the ground around it on a daily basis.  Secondly, it now has these ugly brown stains (looks like water stains) on the stem of the tree. Thirdly, some of the leaves are turning black on the edges.  

Am i doing something wrong or am I just paranoid?  confused

Some more info:

Species : Ficus

Watering routine : Once a week between 250 and 300 ml of water
Bonsai food : Once a month month i use a capful of Chrysal bonsai plant food

Average summer temp : between 30 - 35 degrees Celsius
Draught temperatures : ranging from 35 - 41 degrees Celsius

Draught watering routine : about 100 ml on a daily basis (I would test the ground with my finger to see if it was dry)

Location : indoors next to a north facing window (plenty of indirect sunlight but no actual direct sunlight - at my office)

As it appears that i cannot attach photographs as my account is new, i'd be happy to email pictures of the problem areas if needed.
Thanks in advance!



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Post  kingsnake Wed Feb 03, 2016 3:53 pm

It's impossible to say whether you're giving enough water or not... the bigger the plant, the more water it uses. The bigger the particle size, and the more drainage holes, the less excess water that's retained. Not to mention how porous the medium is, and some mediums repel water when allowed to dry. Then you have the factors of heat, humidity... The more heat, the faster water will evaporate. The less humidity in the air, the faster the water will evaporate. Not to mention how fast the tree is growing and the amount of water it's using. Same goes for fertilizer... can't tell if you're giving not enough, too much, or a good amount, because it depends how much the plant is using and what's happening to the excess if the plant's not using it all.

Water when the tree needs it, not on a timeline. Sometimes it may not need water for weeks. Other times it may need water 2x/day. Its needs are going to fluctuate all the time, based on factors both external from the plant and internal to the plant. If you're watering on a schedule you're almost certainly watering either too frequently, or not frequently enough, at all times. And if you're measuring out the water you're almost certainly providing too little water when you do provide it.

Here's a general rule for any potted plant... when you water, give the plant more water than the pot can hold; don't try to measure it out, the water should be freely flowing through the drainage holes. Then start checking if it's dry as you have been doing during the summer. If it's starting to dry, water again. Make sure that the excess water is draining out; don't leave it sitting in a humidity tray. Watering like this will prevent salt buildup by flushing the soil on a regular basis.

Make sure that the pot is an appropriate size for the tree. If the pot is too big it'll hold too much water. If the pot is too small it won't hold enough water.

Yes, you can attach photos. Use the 17th icon from the left (Host An Image). Then click the 18th icon from the left (Insert Image) and use the URL that they give you for the image URL. You can't post an external link as a new member.


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Post  Lulubelle606 Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:55 am

Thanks for your advice!

I will most definitely make use of your suggestions. It seems even the nurseries get things wrong sometimes as it was them who suggested that i water once a week and only so much water.

Much appreciated.

thumbs up


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Post  Kev Bailey Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:13 am

Kingsnake's advice is all good. One way to test if the tree needs water is to leave a short flat wooden stick pushed vertically in down the edge of the pot. When it is pulled out and is very nearly dry, then it is time to water.

There are different types of "nurseries". Ones who truly understand plants and do all of their own growing and propagation. They are the origin of the word nursery in this sense and often specialise in certain types of plants. Hostas, Ferns, Cacti, Shrubs, Trees, Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs, Fuchsias, Orchids etc. Then there are the ones that most of us see today, that we in the UK call Garden Centres who very rarely grow anything themselves, but buy it all in and often understand very little about it, just shifting volumes of plants and any other tat that they can, to make cash. If they set up a Santa's grotto every August, they fit into this category. Finally there are specialist Bonsai Nurseries who sell nothing but little trees, pots and accessories such as books, tools and wire etc. Only the last can really be trusted to actually give good and accurate advice. Sadly they are few and far between, as there is not much money in it. Well worth seeking out and driving a distance to, for the advice that they will give and the joy you will receive from seeing all the well grown stock and how it should really be done.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” - Charles Darwin.
Kev Bailey
Kev Bailey

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Post  Lulubelle606 Thu Feb 04, 2016 9:22 am

Thank you Kev,

I think this specific nursery is the SA equivalent of your garden centre. They slap stickers on pots with instructions on.

Oh well. Luckily there's the internet and a few awesome people willing to help out.


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