Many like the idea of allowing trees to grow larger to create a more detail tree with more
character. To do so, enlarge the root system by going to a larger pot with media.
But how do you keep a small lava planting small? Kathy Almeida first wrote on
October 22, 2002 not long after she had purchased a small Dwarf Schefflera from our
largest account Dan's Greenhouse of Lahaina, Maui. The original contact was concern
about a mold. About six months later, she wrote concerning pruning recommendations.
It was very clear that Kathy was very observant, took great photos, and was a great
correspondent. So I asked her to share her story and to introduce herself!
- KATHY FIRST WROTE ON OCTOBER 22,
I purchased the Fuku-Bonsai dwarf schefflera Hawaiian
lava at Dan's Greenhouse (Maui) on Sept.
12th. I have it in my kitchen green house window which is a bright area. I was told by Dan's Greenhouse to submerge the
plant (rock & leaves) for one hour every week and to keep the lava moist.
I think it's being over watered because it looks as though mold is growing on it.
Also, the tiny roots have turned black and died. The main root keeps growing
& the plant looks good, but I'm concerned about the mold, the dying roots and the
base of the trunk is turning white. I did not water it this past weekend.
Aloha Kathy and thank you for forwarding the photos. The plant is fine,
so follow the Maui instructions. The mold is from some fertilizer residue and will
disappear. If it bothers you, use a very soft toothbrush and scrub it off the next time
you water. In acclimation some small roots dry off. Here's a tip that
works: Use 4-8 drops of Schultz Liquid Plant Food (available in 5.5 oz bottles)
in a gallon of distilled water. Pour in bowl. Soak plant for 1 hour per week. Pour
some water in bowl to just dampen the gravel and return rest to gallon for reuse.It's
better to slightly over-water and don't allow plant to ever fully dry out. Hope this
helps and the plant brings you the joy we had in growing it! ~~~ David
I asked and received permission to use the photos as this type of "mold" was
- Kathy takes good photos and is a good
writer and it gave an opportunity to give others some insight and information.
Loredana had taught me how to add text to photos and it was a good chance to try it!
- SECOND CONTACT: APRIL 22,
David, I know I have to trim my bonsai, but I'm scared to do so. I have attached photo's
of my plant. I've been on your web site and
reviewed the cutting process, but I want to be sure about what I'm doing (Loredana's page is interesting and helpful). Questions: How
far up should I cut the roots? They just keep
getting longer. Will this hurt the tree? How
does the plant get the bigger roots that grow into the rock? I'm not sure how far back to
cut the branches. Any advice? Thank you.
Aloha Kathy and congratulations! You've really got your tree growing well.
Before I can advise, you've got to tell me what you want your plant to be in the
future. Do you want a small compact plant or a larger more developed one? If
you want a more compact one, I'll use one of your photos and mark places to cut.If you
want a larger plant, consider picking up a #8 Conversion Kit and I'll walk you through the
steps. Either way, may I utilize the photos as I think it will help others just as
Loredana's page is amongst our most popular. Which way do you want to go?
Hi David: I would prefer a more compact plant. It would be great if you could use my photo
and mark the appropriate places to cut. Please also advise on the root system. Yes, you
can use my photos any time. I will await your
response. Thank you very much for your assistance. Kathy
1. The long root can be cut if you also cut back the two long growth points.
2. Cut the low branch with the pruner almost horizontal and more towards the
branch tip and above the leaf growing almost horizontal. The new growth point
will come out where the last end leaf-stem meetings the branch. So you can
actually guess where the new branch will come out and influence that by where you cut.
3. Cut back the upwards facing branch with the pruner held almost vertically. This
will assure that the new growth developing on that branch will come off at a nice
4. After you cut, coat the cut ends with Vaseline so the branch won't die
back. Be sure to take some photos just after, perhaps with you in the picture
with a happy?, shocked?, or worried? look! Take you time and write with
questions until you reach a comfort level. Regards, ~~~David
I had a chance to use two of Kathy's other photos to show where the cuts could
be made from two different views.)
Hi David, I finally had the courage to trim my precious bonsai and we both
survived! Even though I read Loredana's Page and your emails several times to
understand where to trim, I was still very nervous to do it. I ended up cutting
off 2 major branches as well as the long roots. I also applied the Vaseline as you
suggested. I have enclosed several photographs of my first trimming experience.
Hopefully these will be helpful to others who have questions. Thanks David for your
Kathy's "before" and "after" photos tells the story! Kathy was a
bit concerned whether she had cut enough and because it was extremely hectic as we were
finalizing the Micro-Lobster introduction, I begged off from adding a lot of detail. She
did just fine and I was sure that she would gain confidence as she saw for herself how the
plant responded. It did and I was delighted to hear from her a few months later!
August 18, 2003: Hi David, I just wanted to report on the growth of my
bonsai since pruning it in June. There was no change for several weeks, then all of
a sudden five new leaves popped out and a vigorous growth of roots. Pictures
were taken eight weeks later (August 12th). Another two leaves appeared a few days
ago and the plant is almost as big as before I trimmed it. After reviewing your web site,
I think it's too early to consider trimming it now. Thanks David, Kathy
30, 2003: Aloha Kathy and congratulations! You're doing great! Allow the
new section to grow out 6 to 7 new leaves, then prune back to 1 or 2. In other words, cut
off the latest 5 leaves including the stem section. Prune only the branch growing
vigorously. Regards, ~~~David
September 2, 2003:
Thanks David. So what you're saying is prune off almost all the new
growth? Yikes, that sounds scary. If this is the case, it sounds like I'd be
pruning the same branches each time but would see growth in the trunk? Also, I
assume I would cut off the long roots as I did before? I'm not yet comfortable doing
it on my own, but hope to become comfortable soon!! Thanks again, Kathy
Kathy's photography tells the story again! Her growth is extraordinary because
she has learned the "secret:" To get exceptional growth, give the plant
exceptional growth conditions! Her kitchen greenhouse provides great light. The
strong growth is a result of ideal watering and a consistent weak fertilizer
schedule. She's obviously enjoying and carefully observing her plant and it's
really responding to her care! From this point on, I had a strong hunch that
she would be able to teach everyone, including me! MAHALO KATHY!
WOW! Isn't that a great photo showing the amount of root growth in just 5 months in
great growing conditions! In this situation, when a plant is pruned back, it will
respond very predictably and this is the type of growth that we have in our Kurtistown
| November 5, 2003: Hi David,I have another concern about my bonsai... I have a few
leaves down at the bottom of the trunk that have turned yellow. I've watered it the
same for the past 14 months (soaking in water once a week for 1 hour) and I haven't
seen any yellowing leaves until now. Kathy
November 5, 3003: Aloha Kathy! I am very surprised by
your root growth. When you have good strong new growth, you'll get yellowing of the
smaller leafed old growth and this is especially normal as we move seasonally into fall
when light levels drop. It also happens just after we ship a plant as its adjusting.
I see no cause to worry. Although the roots seem overly long, you might want to wait
until spring to prune both top growth and roots as you did before. Otherwise you'll see
very little growth through the winter. You're doing fine as the new growth looks
healthy! Warm regards, ~~~David
- November 5, 2003: I appreciate you taking the time to
answer me. I will take your recommendation and wait until spring before pruning
again. I look forward to seeing Kathy's page in the coming months. Thanks
With strong growth, it's low risk to prune back even harder into the older trunk to
get a smaller more compact tree. It is likely that if Kathy does this during the
stronger spring growth season and trim off all leaves, that she will get several new
growth points developing. If she selects two growth points to replace each growth
stem and rubs off the excess growth, she'll have twice as many growth points.
With twice as many growth points, that amount of energy is dispersed and the growth at
each point will be slower and weaker to result in smaller leaves. Imagine if this is
done a second time and the number of growth points doubles again, new growth will be will
dispersed, the plant will develop more character and interest, and growth will be
That's the goal of bonsai and I thank Kathy for helping to prove it's possible even
outside of Hawaii. For those without Kathy's great conditions, consider having two
plants with one given optimum window light to be rotated with the one that you can enjoy
where you work. ~~~David (November 16, 2003)
There really are no bonsai secrets. Kathy has learned what it takes to get strong
growth and it sets the stage for higher risk training! Stay tuned!
January 16, 2004: Happy New Year David!!
Hope you enjoyed the holidays. I'll think about the total leaf removal and we can
correspond in the spring as the weather gets warmer.
You had asked me to send a picture of the environment where my bonsai lives. The
bonsai is in my green house window in my kitchen. It gets
filtered morning sun through a slotted overhang in my backyard. It gets about
three hours of morning sun before the sun shifts over.
In the spring our average weather range is about 50°F-75°F, summer is about
55°F-85°F, and winter is about 40°F-60°F. The bonsai loves warm weather. It gets
cold in the green house window in the winter, but still gets light. Kathy
17, 2004: Aloha Kathy and Happy New Year! I
you for sharing the photo of your beautiful growing area. I know many of our customers can
only envy the great growing conditions that you and I have. I think your growth may
be better than mine. Our weather may be more favorable, but its clear that you lavish your
plant with a lot more tender loving care! It looks great and I look forward to some
advanced training in spring! ~~~David
WOW! It wasn't all that long ago that Kathy was a bit
timid and look at her now! Congratulations Kathy you've done a great job of figuring
out what needs to be done and sharing it with the website readers. THANK YOU!
Kathy has always
taken great photos and that said it all. She's got as good a growth as any of our
customers and with that healthy growth, the plant should bounce back when pruned.
I'm hoping to see Kathy root those cuttings and send photos as she trains them!
Mahalo Kathy and congratulations again! ~~~David
Since the above article was written,
Kathy has contributed two more articles for this website. Her story of
keeping her original small lava planting small and compact is posted at
I asked Kathy to field-test and critique the new Introductory Workshop
package and her outstanding report is titled:
Kathy Alameida &
Introductory Workshop Packages!
- We invite those who are willing and able to learn while
teaching others to also create a page and share the development of their trees. My
own understanding greatly increased after I began teaching Bonsai Evening Adult Education
Classes at Aiea High School in Honolulu in 1966. In sharing her progress, I am very
confident that Kathy will increasingly become more confident and I look forward to
increased enthusiasm as we learn and teach together! Those interested in
participating are invited to contact:
David Fukumoto, founder and president, Fuku-Bonsai Inc.
PO Box 6000 (Olaa Road), Kurtistown,
Phone (808) 982-9880; FAX (808)