This month I received an email and photo from an old customer (R.C of Connecticut) who purchased a small size Dwarf Schefflera Lava Planting 10 YEARS AGO!  He also purchased a #8 Conversion Kit to enlarge the root system to create stronger growth and trim what probably was the primary apical growth,  then left it alone to now and requested pruning recommendations.

                First, I recommended that he wait until the plant is at its strongest growth of the year and in Connecticut, that may be in May or June.  Until then, increase the amount of fertilizer so the plant will be growing as strongly as possible when he prunes. 

                If the objective is to create a compact plant, the general guideline is to prune about 2-3 diameter lengths from where it was last cut or where it branched.  The diameter of the apical top growth is about 1/2" so the center of the vertical apical cut (shown was a red line) should be about 1" above the branch.  With this cut, the odds are that the new growth will emerge on the side opposite the cut towards the left to create a more balanced tree. 

                There are two branches that need to be shortened (as shown by blue lines) and branches are given horizontal flat cuts. The odds are that new growth will emerge either from under or the sides of the branches and this will help to create a wider tree that is more attractive. 

                Note that when he pruned what was then the apical growth, although it resprouted, tree's major energy shifted to the two unpruned sections.  So when pruning trees that are growing strongly like this one that needs to be cut back hard,  prune all sections.

               If the tree is growing slowly and just one section starting to grow strongly,  allow that section to grow out 7-8 leaves and prune back to the 2-leaf position to leave a compact stub.  At this point, another growth area will start growing faster and when that section grows out 7-8 leaves, prune back to the 2-leaf position to leave a compact stub.  In this manner, growth rotates to different sections of the tree.  Only prune the section that is growing strongly.  There will be a follow up article when it's time to prune. 


                In 1990 or 1991 a custom collection tree was sent to Cheryl Owens of Elkhart, Indiana and it's really developed well since.  She potted it into a beautiful mottled green Tokaname pot that she purchased at the Tokaname factory in Japan. The pot is 22" long, 18" wide, and 3" deep.  The root system has developed beautifully, but it's getting a little large and she requested recommendations on how far it can be pruned back.  Right now it's under artificial lights on 14 hours per day.  Unfortunately she suffered a stroke and hopefully will be recovering soon.  Cat Nelson is assisting her and plans to defoliate when it goes out in spring and will send photos then.  Cheryl,  all of us wish you a full and speedy recovery.  Hope you enjoy seeing your beautiful tree in the Journal. 



       CL of LaCanada, California wrote:  My husband and I visited you back in January and bought this beautiful plant from you.  It has been doing great until recently.  Some of the leaves have started turning light green to yellowish instead of the regular deep green and some have developed spots.  My husband cut off about 3 branches worth this morning.  The only change we can think of is being that we are in California the temperature has dropped at night considerably so the house is colder and we keep this plant in the bathroom so it has been getting a steam bath every night as well due to our hot showers.  Please let me know what you think is the problem and how we can get our plant back to its usual healthy self. 

       I wrote back teasingly that the plant was homesick for Hawaii!  But really, this is what happens when tropical trees experience their first winter in a cooler climate.  It's sort of like deciduous trees dropping leaves in the fall.  Tropical houseplants will develop more leaves throughout the warm seasons but with the lower light of winter, must shed some leaves to adjust.  Usually in November, December,  and sometimes in January, we get these letters of concern.  I advise simply remove leaves that are yellowing and if your tree has become bushy and you cannot see the trunks and branches,  to thin out and remove some of the older leaves so light can get to the new growth points.  If it's too shady,  new leaves will come out thin and long as it battles it's way through a shady canopy.  Give it a lot of window light.  Water by soak-saturation for 30 minutes once per week, drain, and replace near windows.      ~~~David (

    ***  Return to the December 2013 Issue of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
    ***  Go to the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
    ***  Go to the Fuku-Bonsai Website
             Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2013