Author Topic: Portulacaria afra (elephant bush) question  (Read 4773 times)

jacksmom

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Portulacaria afra (elephant bush) question
« on: September 29, 2011, 08:53 PM »
I have a very small, young dwarf jade/elephant bush that is starting to drop leaves.  I potted it in July in a tropical soil blend sold by a club member here in Minnesota.  It was outside until about two weeks ago.  I moved it inside and under a grow light for 14 hours a day.  It is about 6 inches from the light.  I only water it occasionally.  Outside, I watered it about once per week.  Since I have moved it inside, I have only watered it once, when the leaves had shriveled a little. Any suggestions?  It has lost about 4 leaves per day the last couple of days. Any suggestions?
 

Elliott

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Re: Portulacaria afra (elephant bush) question
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2011, 11:07 PM »
it may just be going thru a leaf drop from being moved inside. The tree may need some time to adjust. They generally do well indoors, usually by a window facing south.
 A tropical soil mix may hold to much water and it could be dropping leaves as a result of root rot that happened when it was outside. Also, maybe its not getting enough water. I have a few of those guys. When you first pot them up, you have to really under water them, but when they get established, they can be watered as much as any other bonsai as long as the soil drains very well. They actually like a good amount of water once they have a large healthy amount of roots. They  just don't like to STAY WET.
 I go thru allot of little leaf drops with them until they establish. See if there is little tiny buds where the leaf dropped off. This would indicate that the tree is just changing out for new leaves, or there is not enough healthy roots rite now to support the tree at this moment, but they will grow back once the rootball grows.
 Remember, the humidity in a house is very dry and if you are hardly watering, maybe the tree is actually drying out. Pour out some soil and see if there any sign of rot on the trunk or roots.
 As a last ditch effort, you can pull the tree out if it has root rot and flat cut the bottom to a point of healthy tissue. Let the tree sit on the counter for a day or 2 to give the cut surface time to dry and "scab" over then replant it in a 90% scoria to 10% organic mix. If you do that, lightly mist the top of the tree with HB101 and superthrive. Water with Hormex root stimulant the first month (you can get hormex from Travis at California Bonsai studio).

Good luck. Let us know
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Larry Gockley

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Re: Portulacaria afra (elephant bush) question
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2011, 01:39 PM »
I have a very small, young dwarf jade/elephant bush that is starting to drop leaves.  I potted it in July in a tropical soil blend sold by a club member here in Minnesota.  It was outside until about two weeks ago.  I moved it inside and under a grow light for 14 hours a day.  It is about 6 inches from the light.  I only water it occasionally.  Outside, I watered it about once per week.  Since I have moved it inside, I have only watered it once, when the leaves had shriveled a little. Any suggestions?  It has lost about 4 leaves per day the last couple of days. Any suggestions?
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   I am almost 100 % sure it needs more water. I'll get in to that, but first I suggest you get a wooden skewer or chop stick, and insert it into the soil down to the bottom. Remove it after about a minute, and if the stick is dry, so is your soil. The reason I believe it needs more water is that to water once in 2 weeks doesn't seem to be enough. I water mine every day,( out in the sun), but even in the greenhouse in the winter, I water every 2 or 3 days. In addition, a very small pot has almost no reserve moisture and will dry out quickly. I'm told there is less moisture in the air in our houses than in the desert. It is very easy to see how a Port - afra is needing water just by looking at the leaves. A plant getting plenty of water will have puffed up, shine leaves that are actually thicker in the middle, than at the edges. Getting just enough water, the leaves will be flat and not  so shiny. A tree not getting enough water will have thin leaves, and in advanced stages, the leaves will actually start to wrinkle. When I water all my small trees, I hold the pot in my left hand, with my finger tips covering the drain holes. I add water, a little at a time, let in soak in, until the water lays on the top and doesn't soak in anymore. Then remove your fingers from the hole.  The water should drain out in 10 seconds or so. If the soil was not screened of the fines, and/or gets to dry, it will develope what is called surface tension, and be somewhat difficult to water properly. I would water it as described every other day for a week and see if it responds. You're not going to get root rot in a week, especially if the water drains right out.  I've worked with Ports for about 8 years, and have never lost one. Good luck, Larry
« Last Edit: September 30, 2011, 01:42 PM by Larry Gockley »
 

nsmar4211

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Re: Portulacaria afra (elephant bush) question
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2011, 08:19 AM »
"it may just be going thru a leaf drop from being moved inside. The tree may need some time to adjust"

I'm with Elliot on that. Every Port I've moved inside has dropped all of its leaves within a few days, and then grown them back starting a day or so after that. They really need a *lot* of light. Mine sit in the full South Florida sun all day long and have no problems. The ones I've moved inside have looked so pathetic compared to their outside brethern they end up back outside! Massive leaf drop always occurs when I move any Port from sun to less sun. When I moved I put them all on a west facing back porch that had sun from 1pm on for a week, and I swept up a carpet of dropped leaves after I moved them outside.

Keep an eye on the watering as suggested, you shouldn't have any wrinkled leaves (starting to slightly wrinkle is an indication to water.....wrinkled means its overdue and those leaves may drop).

Define "tropical mix"? Down here in Florida I use either pure turface, turface/lava/pine bark in equal proportions, or if I don't plan on watering the plant much I'll use sand/pine bark. The plants I do put in soil I have trouble with root rot in the rains....
 

jacksmom

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Re: Portulacaria afra (elephant bush) question
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2011, 10:41 AM »
Thank you all for your detailed responses.  All great information that is helping me alot.  I agree that this is probably a combination of things:  under watering and change of location/sunlight exposure.  I watered it carefully yesterday (before your suggestion of how to water Larry). I usually water slowly, one light watering, wait a minute or two, followed by a longer watering session.  I water until I see a light trickle of water from the pots, not a river, but small stream of water.  In a day or two I will check the soil with the chopstick to see how fast it dries out inside.

The soil mix I used is called a general-purpose blend of crushed granite, haydite and composted pine bark with micro-nutrients.  Unfortunately I don't know the ratios, but will ask him Tuesday at our monthly meeting. I would say the pieces are a little smaller than a grain of rice.

Right now, I have it under my new grow lights on a timer for 14 hours a day.  Our houses in Minnesota do get very dry in the winter.  One suggestion from a club member was to make a tent with plastic around our tropicals to increase the humidity.  I know my ficus will benefit from the humidity, what effect would that have on this little elephant bush.

Thank you all again. 

 

Treebeard55

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Re: Portulacaria afra (elephant bush) question
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2011, 07:37 PM »
In my experience, an established elephant bush can handle somewhat high humidity; but if things are moist enough that your Ficus are throwing aerial roots, the Portulacaria may get a bit unhappy.  The roots don't grow as vigorously in high humidity: they don't need to.

One thing I learned about Portulacaria, from observation over 4-5 winters, is that they need a daily period of darkness. (Eight hours is plenty.) Mine kept defoliating until I finally figured that out.