Ask a Question forum: Dead or Alive?

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Karlsruhe, Germany
marcei
Aug 18, 2017 10:11 AM CST
Hello all,

I bought this Acer Palmatum Atropurpureum bonsai on April.
Thumb of 2017-08-18/marcei/b92166
(was 5 years old and well kept)
I started to feeding the tree with bio fertilizer and I noticed I have used too much when the leaves started to dry out and fall. As the old soil had too much fertilizer in it, I have replanted the tree and heavy watered it, kept in shadow for couple weeks.
Thumb of 2017-08-18/marcei/84f689

When new nods started to form I moved the tree into sun. Everything seemed ok, new leaves were growing. Then the weather has changed and it was cold and rainy for several weeks. So I moved the tree from my balcony to my room and put it under the LED light next to my other plants. But I assume the LED light was too intense for a Japanese Maple as they require half shadow. The new leaves seemed they lose strength like they need watering, so I watered it. But nothing has changed over a week.
The leaves didn't fell off, nor gain health. And there were no new nods, no sign of life on the tree.
Thumb of 2017-08-18/marcei/719a73
I cut the sick leaves (only one leaf remains in the picture as it was healthier than others, but I cut that too afterwards) and expected for new nods but the tree is idle for 3 weeks now. I'm keeping it outside but not under direct sunlight, keeping it moist but still no changes.

Here is a current image:
Thumb of 2017-08-18/marcei/7f473f

The tree had too much stress over past 4 months, but I couldn't be sure if it is dead or recovering. Is there anything I can do for the tree? or is it already dead?





Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Aug 18, 2017 11:09 AM CST
It seems un likely that your Japanese Maple will recover from the trauma it has experienced. The fertilizing was probably not necessary, but the solution was to flush clear water through the soil to remove the excess. It was the replacing of the soil that did most of the damage. Constantly changing its location also did not help.

It is probably best to discard the Japanese Maple and start with an easier plant next time and do some research in advance as to how to care for it.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Karlsruhe, Germany
marcei
Aug 18, 2017 11:15 AM CST
WillC said:It seems un likely that your Japanese Maple will recover from the trauma it has experienced. The fertilizing was probably not necessary, but the solution was to flush clear water through the soil to remove the excess. It was the replacing of the soil that did most of the damage. Constantly changing its location also did not help.

It is probably best to discard the Japanese Maple and start with an easier plant next time and do some research in advance as to how to care for it.


Thanks for your advise, I actually did my best searching the internet about the plant but seems like I need more experience and research. I'm truly sorry for this maple though. May I ask why feeding was not neccessary? As I know they requiere it through the growing season.

Thanks again for guidence!
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Aug 18, 2017 1:57 PM CST
The standard plant care recommendations are for plants grow outside in their natural environments. Indoor light is far less intense so plant growth is greatly reduced and so are the plant's needs for water and nutrients. Potted plants use nutrients in extremely minute quantities, measured in ppm (parts per million).

Fertilizer is not medicine and should never be used on struggling plants. It is intended for healthy plants growing vigorously and using a lot of soil nutrients.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Aug 18, 2017 2:33 PM CST
I don't think the plant was indoors to start with - whether it had too much fertilizer depends on how much it was getting. There are other possible causes of leaves drying and falling. I'd be surprised if the LED light was too much, my guess would be it was not enough. Even though it was cold and raining the plant would have been happier outdoors. Also giving it a lot of water when it had few leaves is not a good idea, most of the water needs of a plant are used by the leaves (transpiration). When there are few or no leaves the plant does not use as much water.

I'm not sure why the branches and leaves were cut off but it looks like there are some buds still on the plant. If you scratch the bark is it green underneath? If it is brown and the branches are brittle then it is probably dead.

I grew a Japanese maple on a balcony year round in the UK years ago and it was fine in the sun. I also have one in the full sun here in Canada where it is warm/hot in summer (28C today for example) although it is planted in the ground. A bonsai is more challenging though, I haven't been ambitious enough to try one.
Name: Donna
Mid Shore, Maryland (Zone 7a)
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Shy_gardener
Aug 18, 2017 4:36 PM CST
welcome Marcei Welcome!

I Love Bonsai.......What a great Hobby...

Maples are deciduous trees, and sadly won't survive indoors....
Best to keep it outdoors in a shady place....
No sun in a Bonsai pot.

It appears it has leaves that are attempting to grow. I'd take it
out side in a shady place and plant it in the ground. If it comes back
leave it in the ground but shovel deep in a large circle around
it at least once/twice a year to keep roots cuts until it gets going
great. Keeping it shaped how you want it, and when it's doing
really well and full dig it up and put it back in a Bonsai Pot.

If you don't have a yard, or available ground to put it in, next best
thing would be a huge pot with excellent drainage.

When you do fertilize it, it's always best to fertilize at 1/4 strength.
Better less than more... Most folks do fertilizer Bonsai every time
they water (but at reduced strength). AND never in the fall, because
they need to start shutting down and going dormant.

Except under perfect conditions deciduous Bonsai trees typically
start losing leaves right after the horrid heat of summer going into
fall... I would not give up on the tree... Looks like it's trying to grow.
Spring will tell the tale...


Thumb of 2017-08-18/Shy_gardener/8efb9b

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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Aug 18, 2017 5:10 PM CST
I have several Bonsai - Japanese Maples are my favorites.

You have done several things wrong but fertilizing and transplanting were the biggest. You should not fertilize a plant in a pot that small with full strength fertilizer - mix at 1/4 the recommended strength. And, bonsai need fertilizer very rarely. If mine get fed once a year, they feel lucky. Smiling

Japanese Maples are extremely sensitive to transplant shock. They should be re-potted during the coldest month of the year only.

I'm not sure what you were attempting to do with all the wire and pruning. The tree looked pretty perfect before you started. After a bonsai is established, usually it only needs light pruning in the summer to maintain shape. If it needs major pruning, that is done in the winter when you re-pot (the roots are pruned at the same time). Part of the challenge is to keep the roots and the leaves balanced - they need each other for survival but if the roots are stronger, you get uncontrolled top growth. If the roots are weaker, you get leaf drop and death. In this case, the roots were burned by the fertilizer overdose and then shocked by the transplant.

When you decide to do this again, read up about bonsai care and maintenance before you get your plant. One of my favorite books is:

The Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and Landscapes by Yuji Yoshimura ad Giovanna M. Halford

One of the tricks that bonsai growers use is to pick all the leaves off a couple times throughout the summer. Everytime the leaves grow back, they are smaller. So eventually, the tree and the leaf size are proportional.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Sally
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sallyg
Aug 18, 2017 5:53 PM CST
Bottom line: Bonsai is very specialized in care, and not for beginners.
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Karlsruhe, Germany
marcei
Aug 19, 2017 6:38 AM CST
Thanks everyone for great responses!

I already learned more from my mistakes and Your guidence. I actually did my research and all I did was applying the treatments being told in the internet. Yes dont trust everything you read in the internet...

This was my first attempt with Bonsai and I was told to fertilize it every week and cut 2/3 of the leaves twice during summer. Wiring was to give my desired shape( I didnt know the effects, but I read that after second year you can wire a Bonsai for desired shape and it was 5 years old so I thought why not)

Heavy pruning was also a treatment I read in the internet. Those branches were completely dead (sucked out all brown no nods etc), so it was written somewhere that those dead branches should be gone so the tree has a better chance to survive.

This forums are much better place for information imo. And now that I have an experience with what NOT to do with your bonsai, I will continue to reading and learning stuff and get an easier tree, a native one. Already found a Field Maple young plant and planted it in my balcony. Gonna leave it till spring and see what happens. I will attempt make a young bonsai


Thumb of 2017-08-19/marcei/a9809a

[Last edited by marcei - Aug 19, 2017 6:44 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1531158 (9)
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Aug 19, 2017 2:03 PM CST
Choosing a seedling to train is a great idea. I am always scouting out potential candidates. Choose seedlings that are naturally more bushy then others of their kind.

I never cut the middle out immediately but give it a year or so to see what the tree wants to be, then I encourage that shape. You have already cut off what will eventually be the trunk of your tree. I never force a tree to be what I want it to be, either.

Bonsai is not an immediate thing - its take years to develop into something worth having. Starting with trees that have been cut off to force branching is never a good way to go. The tree needs to be natural looking - that's the whole idea.

My oldest bonsai is a forest of Gingko trees that I have been babying for over 40 years. I started the forest from seedlings in 2 inch pots. The largest trunk is just over an inch through.
Thumb of 2017-08-19/DaisyI/7ef395
This one is an Ume tree - about 20 years old and 1 foot tall. I grew it from a seed.
Thumb of 2017-08-19/DaisyI/9e712b
And a Bonsai in training. A dogwood collected as a seedling because of its bushy behavior and great (to my eyes) potential. At 6 - 7 years of age, its two feet tall and ready for training.
Thumb of 2017-08-19/DaisyI/a7cf46

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Webmaster: osnnv.org
[Last edited by DaisyI - Aug 19, 2017 2:23 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1531425 (10)
Karlsruhe, Germany
marcei
Aug 19, 2017 3:12 PM CST
Thanks Daisly , duly noted Smiling

They all look nice! I wish I will become an expert myself and grow beutiful plants like them

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