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TOPIC: New to bonsai, wondering when and if to repot?

New to bonsai, wondering when and if to repot? 1 year 9 months ago #29326

I recently purchased two bonsai trees. I'm pretty sure they are a Juniper and a Hawaiian umbrella, but I'm no expert. It's winter by me, but spring is approaching, and I was wondering if I should re-pot my bonsai? I'm a little worried about the Juniper because his leaves have become a bit brittle and I'm worried the soil isn't draining properly. I've been sure to get them plenty of light and have been checking soil dampness before watering.

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New to bonsai, wondering when and if to repot? 1 year 9 months ago #29327

CarlaMary wrote: I recently purchased two bonsai trees. I'm pretty sure they are a Juniper and a Hawaiian umbrella


I'd say a juniper, mallsai, just a young plant and not a bonsai and a ficus, mallsai.
The brittle parts on the juniper are dead, the plant may be dying.

Species guidelines, including information when to repot, can be found under the Species guidelines, top of the page.

Junipers do NOT belong indoors.
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New to bonsai, wondering when and if to repot? 1 year 9 months ago #29328

Do you think I should put him outside? It's pretty cold by me.
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New to bonsai, wondering when and if to repot? 1 year 9 months ago #29329

CarlaMary wrote: Do you think I should put him outside? It's pretty cold by me.

The juniper should never have been inside. Doesn't matter now. It is beyond rescue from what is visible on the picture.
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New to bonsai, wondering when and if to repot? 1 year 8 months ago #29378

What do you look for to make that determination? Is it the purplish-greyish tint to the needles?
Asking for a friend. >_>
I'd stick the plant next to a window, letting it get used to the cycle of daylight, and put it outside whenever it's reasonably warm. If the plant doesn't die, that will fast-track it to getting used to the outdoors.

As for the repotting question (because I assume even if this one doesn't make it, it won't be CarlaMay's last), soil compaction and lack of proper drainage are two very good reasons to repot. Junipers are pretty unhappy with those conditions, which can suffocate the roots and cause root rot. As a matter of fact, I think the only plants that do like conditions like that are swamp plants like bald cypress. Heck, I even have aquarium plants that get unhappy if they're in compacted substrate. One of the more important things to keep in mind with evergreens like junipers and pines is that they require a symbiotic fungus that grows in the soil, and thus you'll kill them if you bare their roots. I've seen recommendations that you leave at least half of the roots covered in dirt to prevent this.
While you can look up information online (and I really do recommend it), I've repotted by passing a spoon around the perimeter of the pot to loosen the mass from the pot, and then slide it in under the plant itself to pry it out. You don't want to break up the soil, as that breaks roots and that's a bad thing. Take a chopstick (or a pen, or a pencil, or anything reasonably similarly-shaped) and noodle away the dirt to loosen things up. One thing I'd take a look at is to try breaking up the thick stuff right next to the plant's main root mass, as I've noticed that tends to be a common problem with mallsai. That thick stuff will block water from getting in or out, encouraging fungal growth (the bad kind of fungus, mind) and killing the plant.
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New to bonsai, wondering when and if to repot? 1 year 8 months ago #29380

Solaris wrote: What do you look for to make that determination?


I read what the poster writes: "his leaves have become a bit brittle"
Brittle (also 'a little brittle') foliage on a juniper is dead foliage.

Also, I look at shape and direction of the needles, color of the foliage. Some junipers can turn purple in winter, some can turn yellow. This species should be bright green though, which it isn't. Many parts of the foliage look dried out and brittle - these parts are dead. I'm not sure if the whole plant is dead, but I'm sure it has no future. These things, that are sold as indoor bonsai, essentially are bent young cuttings, that hardly ever have a chance. The forum is full of identical trees - and identical questions from people who see their plant die. Always. We never see these plant in a later stage. Really absolutely never. They are not meant to be sold, but they are not meant to last.

As for the repotting question...


A lot of information, some of it I have a different opinion about, but I find it hardly applicable to this plant.
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New to bonsai, wondering when and if to repot? 1 year 8 months ago #29381

Auk wrote: They are not meant to be sold, but they are not meant to last.


Obviously, there's a 'not' too many in there :oops:
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New to bonsai, wondering when and if to repot? 1 year 8 months ago #29383

Auk wrote:

Solaris wrote: What do you look for to make that determination?


I read what the poster writes: "his leaves have become a bit brittle"
Brittle (also 'a little brittle') foliage on a juniper is dead foliage.

Also, I look at shape and direction of the needles, color of the foliage. Some junipers can turn purple in winter, some can turn yellow. This species should be bright green though, which it isn't. Many parts of the foliage look dried out and brittle - these parts are dead. I'm not sure if the whole plant is dead, but I'm sure it has no future. These things, that are sold as indoor bonsai, essentially are bent young cuttings, that hardly ever have a chance. The forum is full of identical trees - and identical questions from people who see their plant die. Always. We never see these plant in a later stage. Really absolutely never. They are meant to be sold, but they are not meant to last.


Thank you, I was wondering about the coloration being an indicator.
My litmus test for picking out baby junipers is much like picking out cats. I gently pet them, and if they scratch me I put them back.

Auk wrote:

As for the repotting question...


A lot of information, some of it I have a different opinion about, but I find it hardly applicable to this plant.


Which parts? I'd hardly like to be passing around misinformation that's only been confirmed by my own biases rather than a greater breadth of experience and/or science. I'm coming into this hobby from container gardening (I used to say "pot gardening", but people kept taking that the wrong way), so it's entirely plausible that trees have somewhat different requirements than the plants I've worked with more.
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New to bonsai, wondering when and if to repot? 1 year 8 months ago #29384

Solaris wrote: Thank you, I was wondering about the coloration being an indicator.


Depends on the species and the conditions. I have a Squamata that never turns purple - and one that does. Top of the foliage only, the bottom stays green. In this case, that's not a good sign. I have a Virgiana that was yellow/brownish when I bought it, but it turned beautifully green in the growing season.

My litmus test for picking out baby junipers is much like picking out cats. I gently pet them, and if they scratch me I put them back.


That too depends on the species. A communis will scratch - a rigida even more if I'm right. Most needle junipers will, Junipers wit scale type foliage won't.

Which parts? I'd hardly like to be passing around misinformation that's only been confirmed by my own biases rather


I don't think there's something you wrote that isn't right, just things we can have different opinions about. I have bare rooted my juniper.
When repotting, I do remove more than 1/2 - I actually only keep a small part of the old soil (less than 1/3). If it is in bad soil, I'd probably replace even more.

About the soil: we can't see what it is in. First I'd remove that decorative moss and the stones.
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New to bonsai, wondering when and if to repot? 1 year 8 months ago #29871

Since I first posted here I've done a lot more reading. I've since moved my plant from its original container, because there were no drainage holes. I also put him in a better draining soil, and moved him outside. It seems to be hanging in there, but only time will tell. Though I found the initial feedback I received to be VERY discouraging , I appreciate the newer discussions and found them to be very informative and thank you all for sharing. I look forward to learning as much as I can from this forum as well as my other research endeavors.
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