Chinese Elm Bonsai: Quick Care Guide For Newbies

Have you ever admired a Chinese elm tree (Ulmus parvifolia)? These entrancing trees can grow to 80 feet, and there is no chance that you could grow that kind of tree inside your home. Or can you?

Chinese elm bonsai is the solution to this problem. And you made a great choice! Not only are these type of bonsai trees graceful and alluring; they are also one of the easier types of bonsai trees to grow provided you follow the guidelines in this care guide.

Care Guidelines For Chinese Elm Bonsai

Ideal Placement

Choosing the site for your new bonsai tree is probably the most difficult part of growing them. Chinese elms like full sun, so your first thought may be a sunny window.

However, that location is usually hot and dry, which can stress the tree.

Chinese elms grow best with high humidity. One way to make sure that your plants have enough humidity – especially if they are in the sun – is to place them on a bed of pebbles or and add water to the pebbles. You can also mist the plants periodically.

Do not set the plant in water. This can be fatal! Also, place them away from a heater.

Many experts advise moving your Chinese elm bonsai tree outside during the summer, so it gets the light it needs. These trees are fairly tolerant to cold, but you should still bring it back in at the end of summer.

Water Requirements

Overwatering is the most common reason that plants grown inside face an untimely death.

Chinese elms like to be moist, but too much water will cause the roots to rot.

The solution is to thoroughly water the plants, and then let them dry out. The most common way to water them is to put it in the sink and run tepid water through until it drains out the bottom. Another technique is to submerge the whole pot in a bucket of water until all of the soil is wet.

It is hard to say how often you should water, because so many factors vary between households. The standard way to check is to monitor the soil. Let the top of it dry out, and then poke your finger down an inch to see if the soil is moist. If yes, don’t water. If it is dry, water it thoroughly.

Another option is to buy a moisture meter, which will indicate when to water.

Underwatering can be fatal, too. Don’t go more than a couple days without checking the status of your tree.

If you use a soft water system, you should not use the water on your plants. It will kill them. Rainwater or bottled water are ideal types of water to use on your bonsai tree.

Soil And Fertilizing

Newly purchased Chinese elm trees should not be fertilized immediately. Give them a few weeks to adjust to their new location.

You only need to fertilize every three or four months. The best fertilizer to use is one that is low in nitrogen – either slow release granules or low strength liquid fertilizer.

Do not fertilize the tree if it is dormant.

Pruning Times

Pruning is a critical part of keeping bonsai trees small and attractive. The goal is to get more twigs and not for the plant to grow higher.

You should frequently prune lightly, so more branches will grow. Once a shoot has grown a couple inches, prune it, leaving the first two to four leaves.

Remove any shoots that are growing downwards.

If you want to prune the larger branches, wait until the late fall.

Propagation Management

If you are so happy with your bonsai that you want more Chinese elms, you can take cuttings and plant them in a pot of soil. They typically root readily.

Growing them from seeds isn’t feasible for a home gardener.

Potential Pests And Diseases

Pests are sometimes a problem.

If you have little brown bumps on the branches, these are scale insects. Aphids are tiny little insects that suck the sap out and multiply rapidly. Whiteflies are what they sound like – little white flies that can infest plants. They typically form a cloud if you touch the plants.

You will need some sort of insecticide to kill them – preferably something not very toxic. Neem oil is a good choice that is carried by most garden centers.

It is made from the leaves of the neem tree and has been used for thousands of years. Follow the directions on the label to spray your tree.

There is a horrible disease called Dutch elm disease, but fortunately, Chinese elms are resistant to the fungus that causes it.

Repotting Times

Do not be in a hurry to repot your new bonsai tree. Once every year or two will suffice for young trees. Older ones can grow for several years without repotting.

Repot your tree in the spring.

A critical part of repotting is to carefully prune the roots, which tend to be intertwined.

You don’t need any special soil for Chinese elms. Standard potting soil is fine, although some experts recommend using Akadema to grow bonsai trees.

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