Questions about UME

Hello all, my name is Atom and i live in the bay area! Great blog btw. I am very new to the bonsai world and have been doing a lot of reading and such. But reading can only get you so far… I recently picked up an ume seedling because so far they are my favorite, its really the only thing i have as of now. Well, im pretty sure i killed it :[ so i am just about to get another, it came in a little green pot maybe 1 or 2 quarts. My question is with really small trees like this, when i first get them, should i remove all the soil and put in bonsai soil? When i first got it i removed it from the pot it came in and into a bigger pot with all new soil. Im pretty sure thats what did it. Maybe wrong time of the year? Im not sure if its completely dead, but all the leaves turned brown and fell off. I am also curious as to when you should start fertilizing a small tree? Anyway, any insight on this would be greatly appreciated, im sure you get a lot of noobs like me asking questions, but i appreciate your time into hopefully sheading some light.

Hello Atom. Is this the SF Bay Area you refer to? There are very many clubs in the area that can ease your introduction to bonsai. We repot most trees in winter when they are dormant but not while there is a chance of freezing. For the SF Bay Area we have a wide window for repotting that stretches from December through February. No chemical fertilizers for a month after repotting. I have been told by one person that organic fertilizer right after repotting is okay, because it doesn’t have the salts that cause roots to burn.

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Hi Atom - Catherine’s advice is great. As you found out, removing all of the soil from the tree can be stressful, especially if this happens during the growing season. Strong trees can sometimes lose their leaves and bud back again, but this is less often the case with young or weak trees.

Feel free to share a pic if you pick up another seedling and have any questions about it.

Ok ya, good info thank you both.
So what if i would have kept the original soil but just removed from the pot and added new bonsai soil to a new, bigger pot, but keeping the existing soil? Is this also too stressful for a young tree?
And yes i do need to get involved into a club, will start looking. Thank you for your info


If it is not repotting time, you can just leave the tree as is until it is safe to repot. If the tree is seriously root bound or in very poor draining soil, then you can do as you describe. Simply remove it from its current pot and put it into a slightly larger pot with good soil to fill in the gap. Do not work with the roots at this time unless you want to accept the risk of losing the tree. But why take the risk. In just a few months you can change soil and work on roots at the proper time. Be sure to get help repotting the first few times. There are very many important techniques applied during repotting, and much can be learned about your new tree when it’s roots are exposed. I tried repotting for the first time by using a book. The tree survived, but I lost two years that could have been more productive towards the development of my tree.

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I shall heed your words. Thanks cat for your help . I appreciate it

Ok, so here is the seedling i just got (today)… I am very excited about it, but very wary. Again, i am very new to all of this, including gardening in general. But i am very eager and willing. So any info would be great! ::poke poke nudge nudge:::yum::laughing::seedling:

(I do not keep it inside, i just brought it inside for pics)

Could you say a bit about your plan for the tree - tall or short, large trunk or small, full or sparse branching?

You know honestly, i dont have any specific thing in mind… I was gonna kinda let the tree show me what it wants to be. I have that secondary shoot down there at the bottom, and now that i think about i have never really seen an ume that was 2 trunkin it up. So maybe il let that one grow out and see what happens, but i do know that it is a little too “lanky” as of now. I would like to kind of keep it tighter and dense

A lot of us would simply let the tree grow for a number of years before styling it, though you might try to give it a little shape first so you have something to look at while it develops. Do try to keep the lower shoot alive as you may need it at some point - ume don’t always bud back as easily as other deciduous varieties.

Are you saying to just completely leave it and let it grow? I was thinking about cutting back to top 2 shoots, to maybe 5 or 6 leaves each?

And really what im wondering is the semantics on growing it. Soil make up, when to repot, seasonal care, trimming, fertilizer etc… Styling will come in time, my knowledge will increase, hopefully. I really wanna get it going on and get it healthy.

Every cut will slow the tree down a bit - the main reasons to cut at this point would be to try and generate new shoots somewhere or to redirect growth. I’d try to get it to grow as much as possible this year and repot in early spring. When you repot you can switch to a completely inorganic mix, maybe some mix of pumice, lava and akadama if it’s available. If the tree dries out too quickly this summer you can slip pot it into a larger container with any kind of soil so the roots have a chance to expand a bit.

Umes like lots of food so I’d feed a lot too.

If the idea is to get a bigger trunk, the more growth, the better. Maybe let the tree get to 6’, cut back a bit, then do it again until the desired taper is achieved. Here’s a description of the approach using pine as an example:

Ok cool, thanks for the advice, i really appreciate it.

So a couple of weeks ago, the last of the dead leaves have fallen off and now it’s completely bare. But buds are starting to swell (see pic) and im wondering if these are new leaves that are gonna start growing or are these flower buds just plumping for the winter?

Only time will tell. If the tree is exposed to warmth and sunshine it could begin to open. If it’s cold out I wouldn’t expect a lot of movement.

If the tree lost its leaves because it dried out and now it has adequate moisture, the buds may open. When trees are strong they can recover from stress by sending out new growth.

Ya that’s probably what’s happening. When I first got it, it wasn’t looking to good. Then a little after the tips started growing out a little, then dropped all its leaves. Starting to grow those leaves back out. Wonder what kind of affect it will have on it?
Anyway thanks!

It wont affect it in any negative way. Trees that have undergone stress and lost their leaves will push to replace them. Even late in the season. Give it some liquid feed for the next few weeks. Once your fall/winter hits leaves will fall and tree will be dormant. Stop feeding at this stage. If it has the strength it may flower. If not, come Spring you will have fresh leaves and a stronger tree. Ume are fairly forgiving.