Bonsai Study Group Forum

General Category => Evergreen Bonsai Discussion => Topic started by: Chrisl on October 21, 2011, 06:11 PM

Title: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Chrisl on October 21, 2011, 06:11 PM
My Boulevard Cypress over last 2-3 wks has lost several small branches, mostly on the bottom of the plant.  I poked around the corners of the pot and found the substrate to be very organic, very thick, and looked like unhealthy.  So I carefully removed the tree from the pot and the roots were tan in color.  No white roots at all.  So I had to repot it.  I carefully removed at least 1/2 of the dirt from the roots.  Cleaned the pot out, put a layer of lava at base, then used 100% Turface for the substrate. 

So, I know nows a terrible time to repot.  But are there any things I should do to increase the chance of the tree?? Do you all think it'll make it?
(I read this summer here I believe where someone said the first thing they do after buying a new tree is to check the root system of the tree.  I wish I had done this, esp. from the looks of the soil and depth of this pot now)
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: MatsuBonsai on October 21, 2011, 08:53 PM
So, was the soil holding too much water then?  What was the problem that required immediate action (other than losing branches)?
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Elliott on October 21, 2011, 11:58 PM
If the problem was root rot from too much moisture, than I would mist the foilage a few times daily with superthrive and HB101 mixture and ofcource keep the watering to a minimum. When you do water however, for the first 6 or 7 times, I would use some K.L.M. root hormone or some hormex with a small amount of HB101 mixed in.
 The misting will help the tree get moisture that roots can't do so well rite now without promoting more rot (just mist enough to get the foilage wet, don't let it get in the soil) and the hormex/KLM will help jumpstart the new roots growing. Again, assuming it was root rot.
 You can also spray the foilage with a product called cloud cover. Its actualy a very dilute acylic that will seel the foilage and stop it from losing as much moisture thru the leaves. I use that on weak trees and on new transplants especialy is its windy.
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Chrisl on October 22, 2011, 09:04 AM
Yes Matsu, it was holding way too much water.

Elliot, I'll try the hormone and misting, Thanks for the idea!
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: mcpesq817 on October 22, 2011, 11:14 AM
You mentioned that these were smaller branches mostly on the bottom.  Is it possible that it wasn't a soil/root issue, but rather that these branches were receiving less light?  I have one of these growing in my yard, and they are very apt to shed interior or low branches that don't get light.
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Judy on October 22, 2011, 12:30 PM
Chris, that's too bad, I hope it pulls through.  I wonder if some bottom heat at this point would help out.  If I have an "emergency" patient, I put it on a heat mat, and find that it can help the recovery.  It'll also dry it out faster,  so you'll have to watch that ...
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: coh on October 22, 2011, 05:28 PM
Sorry to hear this! Are you saying that you've lost whole branches (back to the trunk), or little sub-branches? Probably not from insufficient light, this tree has a pretty open structure. Were some of the roots mushy and actually rotten? The lack of white root tips alone is not necessarily a problem, maybe the plant just wasn't in a root-growth phase?

I don't have any additional suggestions except probably would be wise to give the tree extra winter protection this season...

Chris
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Treebeard55 on October 22, 2011, 09:23 PM
Always a bummer when you have to do an out-of-season repotting.

I ended up repotting both of the yews I acquired for the "Bonsai from Scratch" contest at Stone Lantern. One was in a nursery soil that was just a swamp waiting to happen; the other had its nebari buried so deep that by the time I found it, so much soil had been taken off that I just went ahead and repotted! In both cases I disturbed the roots as little as I could manage.

Those repotting were on Sept. 11th and 23d. When the weather started getting significantly colder, I moved them both into the "Crate" in the basement, where I overwinter my tropicals. They're getting consistent temperatures in the 70's, high humidity, and light 16 hours a day. Both appear to be doing well.

Within a week or so I'm going to have to move them out to make room for the tropicals. When I do, I'll move them to our unheated mudroom, where the temperatures in winter are usually about 10 degrees F warmer than outside. They'll spend this winter there, and next year (assuming all goes well) be outside with rest of my hardy trees.
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Chrisl on October 23, 2011, 12:11 PM
Sorry for the delayed response, I had Bonsai Classes yesterday and volunteered the remainder of sat.

mcpesq817, coh is right, this tree is very open and light isn't an issue. 

coh, yes, sub branches are the ones dying.  I found just the beginning of mushiness/rotten roots.  It def. had to come out of that soil.  Even if it was not in a 'growth stage', it still shouldn't have such a rapid loss of so many small branches. I think the rains came and stayed for what? 4-5dys might've been the trigger.

Judy, not a bad idea on the heat mat.  I have one and a controller so I can def. give it a try.  No harm trying.

Hi Steve.  Unfort. I don't have an area where I can provide inside protection, light and humidity.   (Darned radiator heating is so dry!)  Even in the basement where the pipes warm and dry it out.  I'll try keeping it misted and the mat.  Not much more than keep my fingers crossed.

Thanks everyone for the suggestions!
Chris
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: John Kirby on October 23, 2011, 10:42 PM
so, what is the lesson learned?
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Chrisl on October 24, 2011, 10:04 AM
Check out the root system immediately after getting it home?  This is the only thing that I can think of that I could've done to prevent this from needing an emergency repot. 
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: John Kirby on October 24, 2011, 10:59 AM
I was wondering what you would take from this. My suggestion would be to not do dramatic work on trees that you don't really know what their status is. Many demo trees die because they are worked to hard, not too hard for healthy, well established trees, but worked to hard for trees with marginal root and overall health. Personally, I would not have done so much root work on a tree that was just getting ready for a long, cold, winter. But that is just me. Hope that it flourishes for you. John
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Treebeard55 on October 24, 2011, 04:57 PM
...  I'll try keeping it misted, and the mat.  Not much more than keep my fingers crossed.

Chris

Misting and the heat to the roots sure can't hurt!  :)

I would also use light foliar feeding, so the tree is getting nutrients without the roots having to overwork themselves in their present condition: something like a balanced fert at 1/4 recommended strength, until dormancy.

You may know this: Kathy Shaner recommends beer as a foliar feed, 1 T per gal. She also recommends not giving the trees the best beer -- it makes no difference to them! "Use that last inch left in the bottle the next morning." (Approximate quote.)  ;D ;D
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: october on October 25, 2011, 02:59 PM
Depending upon the health of the tree and how much root disturbance there was .. I would seriously consider protecting this tree for the winter. Meaning keeping it in an area that is about 55-60 degrees F and giving it a few hous of sun a day. If this tree is in a weak state and then it was repotted. Winter might be the nail in the coffin, so to speak.

Rob
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Chrisl on October 26, 2011, 10:42 AM
John, I totally agree.  But at the time, I thought it was healthy and ready for working.  Obv. I was wrong.  I have to know better the specific trees physiology is another take away.  But I did feel that if I had not done the repot, I certainly would've lost it.   But who knows....

Steve, I've been giving it foliar sprays already.  Just need to find a way to keep the heating mats' thermostat from getting wet in the rain.  I hope to have something figured out today....thinking a gal. sized ziplock bag.

October, this tree needs to have a dormancy period, which means from what I've gathered, no higher than 40 degrees.  I plan on putting it inside my greenhouse, and put the tree in a styrofoam box up to the top of the pot, and then mulch it in.  Also, keep a heater going set for 32 degrees. 

Thanks everyone for your insights, no better lesson learned than the hard way if this turns out bad.   But I'm with John ;), I too hope it flourishes or at least survives the winter.

Chris
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: John Kirby on October 26, 2011, 08:19 PM
learn it, or don't. Your trees. John
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Chrisl on October 27, 2011, 12:46 PM
Oh, believe me John, I've learned!  :(
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: coh on October 27, 2011, 03:16 PM
I was wondering what you would take from this. My suggestion would be to not do dramatic work on trees that you don't really know what their status is. Many demo trees die because they are worked to hard, not too hard for healthy, well established trees, but worked to hard for trees with marginal root and overall health. Personally, I would not have done so much root work on a tree that was just getting ready for a long, cold, winter. But that is just me. Hope that it flourishes for you. John

This topic has come up elsewhere - if it's "out of season" and you discover a tree that has an obvious root/soil problem, what do you do? Seems like you're (John) implying you'd leave it until spring. I've always thought it was better to deal with the problem immediately, especially if it involved the roots. I don't know if I've ever lost a plant due to an out-of-season repotting, but I have definitely lost plants by putting off repotting!

Of course, the best approach is to avoid getting in that position in the first place, as indicated in the first part of your response. Helps to be reminded of that on occasion.

Chris, best of luck with the tree. I will tell you that my chamaecyparis pisifera is also losing some interior and lower branchlets, even though I opened the canopy up quite a bit this summer.  Soil and roots look fine, I think these trees do have a tendency to shed branches even when healthy. I've seen several others locally (bonsai specimens) that are doing the same thing. Guess what I'm saying is, unless you're losing lots of branches, you should be OK...I think!

Chris
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Chrisl on October 27, 2011, 08:32 PM
Thanks Chris!  I hope you're right.  I'm now tending to agree with you, " I think these trees do have a tendency to shed branches even when healthy."  This weekend, I volunteered at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and worked on a huge forest planting chamaecyparis pisifera bonsai specimen. Cutting back die back. Not a lot, but still....and it is even healthier than mine. 

Luckily, (if that can be said), I'm just loosing some secondary branching right now.  It really needed the repot, and I still stand by my statement, that I should've checked out the roots after buying it.  But it looked healthy, enough so that I thought I could do the work on it.  So for now, I've kept it in the shade, and have it on a heating mat, and another wrapped vertically as it's in this 10"D pot.  Both set to 72 degrees.  It's 41 outside right now and a low of 39....I feel like I've done what I can do.   

And Chris, I too tend to think about loosing more trees to root rot than out of season repots, though just moving to a 'winter state'.  Learned it this last year with a Chinese Elm I delayed needed repotting.  So heck, I'm still learning how to deal with winter for myself, and my trees ;)  I never had a problem repotting any time of the year in N. Cali. lol

Chris

Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: John Kirby on October 27, 2011, 09:23 PM
Out of season repots can be successful if after care is appropriate. I think the concept of slip potting up into a rapidly draining medium, followed with a good spring repotting is very effective. But since this tree will be protected from freezing, I am sure that it will do fine.

Cheers.
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Owen Reich on October 28, 2011, 10:22 AM
One thing to consider with that cultivar of Chamaecyparis is that it is like candy for mites.  They do naturally shed interior shoots as mentioned earlier but be on the lookout for mites.  Sounds like the tree found a loving home with all the heat mats  ;D.
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Chrisl on October 28, 2011, 11:21 AM
So John, are you suggesting that all the trees I put in the greenhouse this winter, I keep above 32 degrees, but less than 40 to keep them dormant?  I would love some advice about managing winter greenhouse temps.

Owen, Thanks for the warning on spider mites.  That is one disease I've yet not had the honor of having yet here in IL....black spot mold/yes, powdery mildew/ yes, root rot/yes, needlecast/yes, and strangely, ants too...but not yet mites!  ;D  I'm going to for the first time to give all my trees a 10% lime sulfur spray after they enter dormancy.  I'll see how that goes as a preventative.

Btw, I'm planning on keeping this in the shade and on the mats for a total of 10-14 days before putting it back out in the sun (and perhaps leave it on the heating mat).  Does this sound like a reasonable plan? 

Thanks to all for sharing their experiences.  I truly appreciated it!!
Chris
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Chrisl on November 02, 2011, 11:36 AM
Anyone with advice on how long I should keep the roots warm at 72?  Does 10-14 dys sound too long to let the plant start the dormancy period?
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Judy on November 02, 2011, 12:29 PM
How is the tree responding?  If it has stabilized, then I'd give it another week or so to be sure, then wean it off.  Then I'd just keep it in a cold greenhouse over this coming winter. 
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Chrisl on November 02, 2011, 07:40 PM
I think I've gotten some stability to the plant now.  I've kept it watered well and misting it, I try for 2X/dy. 
I too was thinking about beginning weaning it off the mats in a week or so, and get ready for a long winter.  (Just finished getting my first greenhouse finished today btw! lol)

Thanks for the help Judy,
Chris
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Chrisl on November 10, 2011, 12:13 PM
I've now got it in semi shade, mats down to the lowest setting for 2 days.  No more dying branches!!  Yes!  I'll leave it here for another 3 days and then get rid of the mats and put it back in full sun....which there isn't too much of right now anyway lol

Thanks everyone for the help and support!
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: scottroxburgh on November 10, 2011, 08:49 PM
Peter recently posted a great write up on repotting an unhealthy shimpaku. A good deal of detail on what can be done in this sort of situation.

As always, a good read...
http://peterteabonsai.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/shimpaku-health/ (http://peterteabonsai.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/shimpaku-health/)
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Chrisl on November 10, 2011, 10:51 PM
Excellent read Scott, Thanks!  I learned quite a bit.
Title: Re: Necessary Repotting...aargh!
Post by: Chrisl on November 21, 2011, 07:47 PM
Just an update.  The tree is looking great with no further die back.  I dodged a bullet here lol
Thanks for everyone's help!
Chris