There is extensive on-going email correspondence as well as incoming phone calls and we try to assist.  We really want everyone to be successful and hope by sharing the photos and our recommendations, that it helps others.  If you have concerns,  please send me an email at david.f@fukubonsai.com with photos and as much information as possible!  I can't help if I receive a very short:  "My plant is drooping and dying! What do I do?"

                    I request photos of:  1) An overall photo where the plant is kept to give a better idea of the amount of light.  2)  One or more photos taken from the side showing the plant, trunk, roots, branches and leaves. A close-up photo of the roots, trunk and branches.  Request also when the item was purchased or received as a gift,  where it was purchased,  method of watering, type of water, how often, fertilizer, how often, etc.  If requesting assistance or recommendations for pruning, please send three side-view photos taken against a plain background (like a large towel or blanket). 

                    The great majority of requests concern our HS8 Small size Dwarf Schefflera Hawaiian Lava Planting.  These are sold mainly by Fuku-Bonsai Hawaii Authorized Retailers and pre-packaged and pre-certified for hand carry to all parts of the United States.  The great majority of our direct customers were introduced to us when they purchased from one of our Hawaii Authorized Retailers.  These pre-packaged plants always include Fuku-Bonsai cultural information which cannot be removed from the packaging to keep the certification valid. 

                   The instructions for WATERING & MOISTURE:  Check your plant every few days until you understand how much water it needs.  Once per week set your plant in clean water to cover the entire rock for 30 minutes. Place the lava planting on dry gravel. Do not allow the plant to be "bone dry" but don't always have it sitting in water either!  The 100% air and water exchange keeps the plant healthy.  White roots indicate that the plant is healthy!  As roots grow, tuck them under the rock and trim any that grow out beyond the rock.  Allow roots to build a mat under the rock and trim from time to time.  Roots (and later the trunk) will rot when overwatered, and the plant will die.

                  Here are THREE such requests for help:


 1                 Hello David,    I purchased 4 Fuku-Bonsai trees with my family while visiting Maui in August. It was my goal to return to your store as I had purchased, grown and loved our previous Fuku-Bonsai tree for 11 or so years prior. I emailed you when we returned from our trip because our 11-year old plant wasn't looking very good, and with your suggestions to plant and feed it with some good soil, it is thriving once again. So thank you for your support in that!

                 However, around mid November one of our new trees suddenly started to get speckled leaves, then began to discolor and within 3 weeks the tree lost all of its leaves and died. Well we understand that it happens and assumed it was a fluke thing that happened to that one tree. Now a second of our new trees (just purchased in August 2011) is losing quite a lot of leaves and getting more yellow as the days pass. We were watering it once a week for a while by soaking it, as the directions say to, but noticed that it was getting worse, so we made our watering a less frequent (1.5 -2 weeks) and only enough to dampen the rock, roots and leaves (so not soaking).  This seemed to help, but it still seems to be in poor shape. It's also in plenty of light, if not from the sun through the window, then from lights on for most of the day.

                 I'm looking for suggestions. Could it be too cold out (we live in CA, it's not that cold, but it is dry)? Is it related to the moss or algae growing on the rock? We'd prefer not to plant it, and have not done any trimming as it loses leaves faster than it grows them.  ~Will S.

                I requested photos that appear below.  ~~~David

                The photos show  two rock plantings in wood bowls that are sold with our plants by our exclusive Maui representative Dan's Green House of Lahaina.  The right photo shows that there are white roots tips so this is not likely a major problem.  Rather, I believe it is a seasonal acclimation thing and the plant is dropping leaves as it adjusts as the tree warms and cools that is like the tropical variation of trees dropping leaves in the fall.  Having travelled from Hawaii,  it's not yet to a schedule.  If you have not inserted Nutrient Granules, bury two, and add one every other month. 

                Will has cut back on watering but I recommend that in addition to increasing nutrients,  instead increase humidity.  Soak plants for 30 minutes once per week, drain, and place it in a blown up polybag for a week or two to take the load off the roots.  The polybag first aid tactic is posted on our website.  DO NOT KEEP THE GRAVEL WET!   After a week or two if the problem persists get some clear sheet flexible plastic and form a cylinder about 8" high and 6" to 8" in diameter and place around plant.  That extra humidity should help as introduced in the JANUARY 2013 MAILBAG.    Please give me an update in a month or so. ~~~David 


 2                Hi. I bought my bonsai 3 years ago and until now itís been doing great.  Recently, I soaked it in water from my outdoor garden tap, which Iíve done many times in the past, and now the plant leaves are droopy and not a healthy color.  Here are some photos of my sick  tree. The trunk does not feel soft, but I don't know if the roots are white or not. Can you tell from the pictures?

                 I always water the tree with reverse osmosis water except when I soak it, which isn't once a week.  I do remember that maybe 2 weeks ago my daughter was to soak it for one hour and she forgot it and it was submerged for 3 hours. Could this be the problem?  The instructions I received with the plant said to soak it once a week for one hour. Luckily, I was never that disciplined, since it seems like this is too much.  It seems to drink a lot of water in our dry Southern CA climate. It is in a dish on top of rocks. I put water in this dish every few days when it looks dry.   Thanks for  your advice,  ~Cheryl H. 

                 This plant is in critical condition with a good chance of dying.  This is typical over-watering due to inventing new instructions or misinterpreting our standard instructions.  We grow tough plants that can adapt better than plants grown in optimum greenhouse conditions.  And when they survive and do great for a full year or more, customers believe that their cultural practices are correct.  After three years, there should be a lot more visible roots and the lack of roots is a strong indication of overwatering and it is likely that some or most of the roots within the rock have already rotted. Note that the trunk is developing some tiny vertical creases as it begins shriveling as inadequate moisture is being sent up to the leaves.  The leaves have taken on a sandy dried out surface with poor new leaf growth.  It may not be possible to save the tree but here's what I would try:
                   With the exception of the two youngest new leaves at the ends of each branch, trim off the older leaves.  This will reduce the amount of moisture and nutrients that must be sent up by the roots.  Soak the rock in 3" of reverse osmosis water for  30 minutes, drain until it almost stops dripping, and place in a polybag on a small dry plate, to be blown up, the top tied, and hung from a cabinet knob in bright indirect light.  The high humidity will take much of the load off the roots.  Stay with this treatment until the plant either recovers or dies. Cheryl sent the above photos as she reduced the number of leaves and put it into high humidity to try to develop some strong healthy roots. Soak the plant weekly for 30 minutes, drain until it almost stops dripping and replace in the polybag.  If it will recover, the new leaves will perk up and you may notice some small white root tips developing.  These are very tender and fragile so keep the plant in the polybag, but cut some holes to reduce the humidity until you notice stronger growth and can take it out.
             HI David. Here are my most recent photos of my sick tree.  It seems to be looking a lot better. There is new growth and two new green roots. It has been hanging in the plastic bag for a week and I'm not sure what to do next.   Please advise. Thanks so much,      ~Cheryl  H.


3          In the first January issue,  a photo showed a badly dehydrated plant that seemed almost dead.

          The recommendation was to soak it in a bowl of water for 3 to 5 days to try to rehydrate it, then place it in a blown-up polybag hung up in bright indirect light.  It worked.  D.L. of Georgia just forwarded the third right photo showing the trunk now well rounded and the tree coming back!  Even some moss has begun growing!

          CONCLUDING COMMENTS FROM DAVID:   I'm not able to fully explain what happened, but Dwarf Schefflera is a really tough plant. Here at Fuku-Bonsai,  we have rainy seasons in which the plants never have a chance to dry out for many months so they are grossly over-watered.  But during some months, there is very little rain and staff allows the plants to wilt a bit before lightly watering.  In this way we try to produce tough plant that can take a lot of abuse in both over-watering and under-watering!  They will survive while pretty plants grown in optimum greenhouse conditions will fall apart and die.

             Note that trunks no longer has the tiny vertical creases and trunks are now plump and rehydrated.  So the major problem was that the plant was likely under-watered at times (and possibly over-watered at other times).  The soaking may have been enough to restart growth and placing it in high humidity provided the condition to allow the plant to adjust and normalize.  I think the danger is over and you can replace on dry gravel.  Be sure gravel is 1/8" to 1/4" size as it will dry out too fast if on larger rocks.  Recommend following Fuku-Bonsai's standard of soaking once per week for 30 minutes and when it almost stops dripping, place on dry gravel. Do not mist or water in midweek.  If you feel the plant needs a little more humidity, try using a deeper glass bowl that has sides that come up to the bottom of the leaf stems.  Bury one BB size Nutrient Granule in a hole made between the roots every two months.

            IF YOU SEE VERTICAL CREASES IN THE TRUNK, THE RECOMMENDED FIRST AID IS TO SOAK THE PLANT AND HANG IN A BLOWN UP POLYBAG TO GIVE IT HIGH HUMIDITY!  Thanks Cheryl and Don for sharing the photos and results.  Hope your plants brings joy!  Regards,  ~~~David 


                   WATER ONCE PER WEEK AND ONLY BY SOAKING FOR 30 MINUTES.  DO NOT MIST.  DO NOT ADD ANY WATER IN MID-WEEK.  The plant will do well if it gets a weekly air and water exchange.  If watered in mid-week, the roots never air out and will rot and the plant will die.  Sometimes it dies in 6 months but can sometimes survive for three years or more.  We have reports of the plant always sitting in 1" deep water and surviving for over 5 years! 

                Customers who are not following our instructions are proud of their plants.  They give them as gifts to friends and relatives and tell them not to follow our instructions as "they found a better way."  So when the plant starts dying, they find our contact information and request help!  We try our best but hope that this Journal feature encourages everyone to create optimum growth as healthy plants are necessary to train bonsai!

                Every so often there is a story or photo that cries out to be shared! We encourage those growing our trees to send in stories and photos and we'll share them in the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai!  "MAILBAG" will address questions and problems that we receive or learn about. Fuku-Bonsai has been a certified export nursery since 1973 and ships to all parts of the United States. Our goal is to make our plants "customer-proof!" But a major challenge is being able to write our cultural sheets in a manner that they cannot possibly be misinterpreted!

              When the plants die due to one type of overwatering, the trunks become soft and it is easy to peel the bark off the trunk.  In the case of "long-term overwatering"  the roots die first,  the trunk shrivels up and become hard with vertical creases.  It's a bit confusing as plants that are under watered also have a trunk that shrivels up and become hard with vertical creases!  In a relatively fewer cases, plants are under watered and once they are rehydrated and survive, placing them in deeper glass containers and placing them on DRY gravel seems to add a bit of humidity to make a difference.    ~~~David

The Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsaiô is published monthly by email and is a benefit of Foundation membership. Annual dues are just $12 per year. For more information about becoming a member, go to www.fukubonsai.com/MPBF.html

          ©  Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2013