HOW NOT TO WATER II:  Last month's mailbag showed how not to water.  Here's another example!

       In October 2012 I received an email  from "D. H of Ohio:" About 4 1/2 years ago, I bought a Dwarf Schefflera Small Size Lava Planting on Maui at Dan's Green House.  It has been a very successful plant since that time, until now.  About a month and a half ago, I trimmed many of the branches off because I had let the plant get quite large.  A couple weeks ago, some new growth began to appear.  Recently, however, some of the new growth has begun to turn black, dry up, and die.  Also, some of the other leaves have started curling up.  Attached are some pictures of my plant, the dying new growth buds and leaves. I have watered the plant weekly or more and it sits near a window for light.  Is it possible to water it too much in its bowl?  Do you know what might cause this problem of the black, dried, dying leaves?  I want to save it before more dies, if possible.  Hopefully you can answer my question or point me to someone who does know.

        The top photo shows the lava planting had been sitting in water for 4 1/2 years but only now dying!  I advised drying out the gravel, soaking the plant for 30 minutes once per week, and placing it on DRY GRAVEL.


         In April 2013 I received another email from "D.H.of Ohio"     Sorry it took so long, but here's the update, as promised.  I changed my watering habits, so that I now  immerse the plant once each week and have been putting a little water in the bowl, too, but usually, there is a day or two near the end of the week where the rock and the gravel underneath both appear and feel dry.  The reason I've been putting some water in the bowl, too, is that my room is very dry and the water evaporates quickly, so I don't want to now kill the plant by giving too little water. During the transition from the last time I emailed you, one of the two main branches of the trunk dried up and stopped growing when the last set of leaves died on that side.  The other main  branch now seems healthy and stable.  It has been a while since I've seen any leaves blacken, dry up, and die and even a few new sets of leaves have successfully grown.  Thank you for you help.

         The current growth seems to be okay and it is likely that some roots have been able to survive and must now be growing within the lava rock.  Dwarf Schefflera is a very durable plant that continues to surprise me as it survives an exceptional amount of abuse.  These traits make Dwarf Schefflera the most successful houseplant bonsai,  especially if given good care!


         Journal contributing writer Russ Mann of Polsun, Montana sent this photo of an unexpected late winter April 7 snow!   Russ completed his first three Introductory Workshop Packages and is taking on the challenge of a 1:10 Project conversion three 4LL8 small potted bonsai into a shallow 9" saucer-pot and this will be a major part of making a "PREMIUM 1:10 CONVERSION KIT" in the future to be offered with either 9" diameter x 1" deep saucer-pot or larger 12" diameter x 1.25" deep saucer-pot. His first sumo 1:10 Project report will be in the May 2013 issue.

         Darrell Havener of Denver, Colorado visited Fuku-Bonsai earlier this year and it was great to share ideas with another old-timer.  I asked him to be a part of the 1:10 Project Study Group.  He wrote on April 9, 2013 that his workshop trial plants arrived safely a week before and he's been busy bringing over 100 cold hardy bonsai out of winter storage.  They've been in a shaded cold frame since November.  He does a lot of repotting in early spring. He likes the fatter trunks and movement of our short plants in the Introductory Workshop packages and I've asked him for a more detailed report when he has more time. 
          Ray Willard of Oregon spends winter in Arizona with his outdoor bonsai are bundled over plastic with slits with "bark-o-mulch" around and over the pots; then repeat over and over until all bonsai are bedded down.  In Oregon it rains enough so they don't worry about watering as the mulch retains some water and the excess goes out of the plastic. So now that he's back home, we can ship the True Indoor Bonsai he ordered earlier.  A lot of his deciduous trees have already leafed out.  (April 17, 2013)

          NOTE FROM DAVID:  This mailbag feature is intended to give those in the True Indoor Bonsai community an idea of the vast range of bonsai interest. Each bonsai's care requirements are based upon the need of that specific plant and the climatic conditions of each grower's area. While the great majority of those who grow Fuku-Bonsai's Dwarf Schefflera True Indoor Bonsai grow them indoors, some grow them outdoors when night temperatures are above 55F and they achieve growth that rival ours. 

         Happily, this trend is increasing and those with a lot of outdoor bonsai skills and experience are growing (and teaching) True Indoor Bonsai and giving them as gifts to family and friends because they are so much easier to grow.  Older bonsai clubs are using our Introductory Workshop Packages for their beginner bonsai classes and increasing their memberships to include families, ladies, and youths!  Clubs are using our Intermediate Workshop II packages for public demonstrations and are bulk purchasing to receiving discounts and reselling Hawaiian Lava Plantings and our Potted Bonsai to the public to benefit their treasury.  I would appreciate photos and stories of how bonsai clubs are working with Fuku-Bonsai to create greater overall interest in bonsai and strengthening bonsai clubs.

          Most who grow the more difficult outdoor bonsai hesitate to sell their bonsai trees to the general public who would promptly kill them.  So they are happy to sell our True Indoor Bonsai with our cultural sheets so anyone who has problems can call Fuku-Bonsai directly for help or if they have questions.  An annual MPBF club membership is just $12 with one club contact person.  The link to the monthly email Journal can be forwarded to all club members.  MPBF membership is on an honor system. In the future,  some items will be specially produced and will only be available to individual MPBF members of record.    

            I would appreciate photos and notes from those who grow our Dwarf Schefflera outdoors in warmer climates or in warmer seasons in colder climates.  Also appreciated would be reports concerning the growth rates between indoors and out, and different growth characteristics when grown outdoors.  Our True Indoor Bonsai Dwarf Schefflera can be grown outdoors if greater attention to watering and fertilizing.

            The biggest mistake is believing that ALL bonsai can be grown indoors.  They can't.  Outdoor trees don't automatically become houseplants because they are bonsai. There are very few houseplants that can be trained as bonsai and Dwarf Schefflera has the best bonsai traits.  We specialize in Dwarf Schefflera that has a lot of character within one inch of the soil line and this greatly increases the potential for those who start with such prepared or semi-trained bonsai stock compared to natural untrained seedlings and cuttings.

           In the few months since we've published the JOURNAL OF TROPICAL & TRUE INDOOR BONSAI, there has been a wonderful excitement as those in isolated areas where there are no bonsai clubs are finding that it is possible to grow bonsai and those who have only grown True Indoor Bonsai for a few months are already starting to teach family and friends!  Many in the old-timer outdoor bonsai community know that our late bonsai master Haruo "Papa" Kaneshiro inspired the Hawaiian bonsai community to experiment and grow new plants as bonsai.  He also enjoyed growing succulents in colorful pots.  "Mama" Kaneshiro grew Schefflera houseplant mame bonsai in pots and this was one of the inspiration for creating Fuku-Bonsai.  All of us in Hawaii applaud and support the vision and commitment of the late Japanese grand master Saburo Kato and we preserve, promote and educate bonsai as a bridge to international friendship and peace.  We hope these values and the spirit of Hawaii becomes an integral part of the True Indoor Bonsai community.  Please email me if I can be of assistance. 

            ~~~David W. Fukumoto  (    


*** Return to the April 2013 issue of Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
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Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2013