By Ora Scott (Harvest, Alabama)

      I received the plants back in early December, so with my watering each week by soaking, I was happy to see that I haven't killed any of the three plants, and also happy to see some white roots.  I had been concerned of some leaf drop but David assured me it was due to the plant growing accustomed to it’s new location indoors here in the winter, versus life in Hawaii.


       The first picture shows everything that was received.  Not in the picture was the cultural sheet, which explained in detail the steps needed for this first package as well as other useful details and information.

       First step was to insert the wire in the pot to later be used to secure the plant.  Next the coarse bottom media was added.  Then the plastic separator was creased and placed on top of the bottom media, and then approximately half of the body media was added to the pot.



         The next step, where I am concerned that I went to far, was removal of the plant from its original pot, and loosening/separating of the roots and original potting media.   On this step, I took my time, and tried to gently using a root pick to loosen everything up.  The plant as it came out of the pot was a very solid square block.  Below are pictures of the plant as removed from the pot, after this “loosening up” step and before placing in the new pot.  As can be seen in the third following picture, several pieces of fine roots were lost in this process.  I considered cutting back the large root on the right hand side of the picture of the “loosened” plant.  It would have allowed for some other options in placing of the plant in the pot, as this root was large and quite stiff.  I ultimately decided against it.


            The accent rock that came with the Introductory Workshop Package was placed under the plant to help raise and support it on the side opposite the large root.  The plant was also offset to the side in the pot.  The plant in this picture is also wired down, with more body media added. The plant with the top dressing in place just before watering.   I started weighing the plants before and just after watering to track water loss.  Currently I am weighing them each day, and will be watching for a “drying out” or flattening of the weight change.  Currently I am roughly weekly --- every six days.




         This last picture is the plant back home in it’s terrarium, or as I am hoping, it’s little humidity bubble under the fluorescents.   I also am providing some bottom heat.  The control measures the rock temperature in the bottom of the glass bowl, and holding it at around 73F.  I notice with the bottom heat, I do have to add water almost daily to the rocks, but have to be careful to not let the water get to the bottom of the pot.

         I think the next few days will let me know if I got carried away with the root work.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.




          Bonsai is a new adventure for me.  I live in northern Alabama, so I am thinking that the plants will enjoy spending some of this summer outside.  I also travel for work quite a bit though, so I will have a challenge of figuring out what plants will come with us in the motorhome, and what will be staying at the house. 

          Caring for what is left behind will also be a challenge, but I am working on that also.  My job is as an engineer, so I am likely to over-analyze working with the bonsai.  At the moment I'm weighing the plants between watering to monitor the moisture loss. 

         David has been a very big help to me thus far, and I'm anxious to move onto the next workshop project.

        - - - Scott


         SOME COMMENTS BY DAVID:  I welcome Scott and look forward to his contributions to improve and further develop True Indoor Bonsai.  It was interesting to observe Scott as he started.  He really did a good job of researching what is already on the website that shows what others have done. His report and photos allow me to comment on a few points.

          First, have more confidence and stop babying the plant.  We grow them tough to survive, but you may be making them wimps that will fall apart when you don't have that terrarium with you.  Recommend using it only when plants recovering.  But it's not necessary to loosen all of the root ball and if you did not,  you could have safely cut that large root in half.  Recommend you water weekly.  They can handle a little dryness.  But if leaves droop, color becomes little green, and tiny vertical creases indicate you're underwatering, you can adjust.  The main thing is not be baby the plants! 

          Second,  note the third photo as Scott was taking apart the root system of the prepared stock.  While a bit aggressive, it is likely the plant will live.  Note that the material removed contains small hair roots that add organic matter to our largely gravelly potting mix.  This can be dried out and reused.  In fact,  we like to use this type of removed material around the roots that are grasping the rock.  Note in the last photo above that shows the potting material already flowing away from the mounded up soil around the roots. 

         That's a challenge when you use ideal gravelly potting media with ideal drainage.  In general, I recommend the use of aluminum foil to hold in place anything that is not flat level. I recommend that all Dwarf Schefflera be potted high to encourage the development of a prominent root-trunk buttressing that is the characteristic trait of good Tropical Bonsai.  From the very beginning,  tropical bonsai should have heavier trunks and larger roots than beginner temperate climate bonsai that usually start out looking like a bonsai interpretation of a telephone pole rising out of a pasture! 

         Remove potting media so all is about 1/4" below the top of the pot rim.  Use some of the damp material with fine roots and pack it around the rock and roots into a steep mound.  Cut an 8"x8"  piece of aluminum foil and fold it over twice to be 8"x2" and go around the tree and overlap and fold over the ends around your plant.  Then scrunch the bottom of the foil around the base of your mound and you might consider adding a bit more media as you scrunch the foil going up and as you past the highest roots,  flare out the foil to be a bit of a water catcher so you can pour some water in. 

         The foil will allow hair roots to develop and colonize the mound and after a few months,  larger roots will follow to develop into the desirable buttressing roots.  The Introductory Workshop Package is intended to teach the basics for Sumo and Roots.  There are two ways to do either and your placing the rock under the tree would be more effective if potted higher with the use of the aluminum foil.

        But for your next Roots workshop,  there are two routes.  The first does not use the accent rock and you tie the base of the roots to go downwards to be a taller snake like exposed Roots design.  The other route uses the accent rock under the tree to spread out the roots to sit on a "saddle" in a future root-over-rock planting.  In both cases you'll use a taller aluminum foil collar.  Note that there are two ways:  1)  Attach the collar like a skirt around the base of the tree,  arrange roots on the outer edges of the collar, fill the collar with media while the plant held upside-down.  Then use a cardboard or plastic to help turn it upright and position in a prepared pot as you slip out the aid and secure it to the pot. 

        The second route is to hang up the plant as high as you want with either tripod chopsticks or wire.  Then starting from the pot, add an aluminum foil layer 3"-4" high, fill with media,  add another foil layer and fill and repeat until the column is complete.  If you plan to go high, be sure to create air hole and the top flair so you can water from the top weekly.  By the time you complete the first set of IWPs, the goal is to have you comfortable with the care and having the confidence to do basic Sumo and Roots.  From that point on,  the challenges become more interesting and hope you'll join the Fast-Track Study Group and help us through some challenging projects ahead!  I look forward to your progress and welcome you to the study group! 

       ~~~David  (

*** Return to the January 2014 issue of the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai
*** Go to the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
*** Go to the Fuku-Bonsai website
© Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2014