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 Chinese Elm Bonsai Tree

 By Erik A. Olsen

While there are many excellent tree species for bonsai, the Chinese Elm lands near the top. This particular tree is native to East Asia and can grow outdoors up to 60 feet tall. As a Chinese Elm bonsai tree, of course, the tree is trained to be miniature in size. The bark is mottled with a dark gray color that is mixed with cream and red coloring. The nice thing about the Chinese Elm is that it remains semi-evergreen, as long as kept indoors. However, if you grow this tree as a larger outdoor bonsai then it would be deciduous.

The leaves are small, dark green, and have a leathery appearance with a shiny top side and small, blunt teeth. Then in the fall, the Chinese Elm bonsai tree has fruit that matures. One of the advantages to growing a Chinese Elm bonsai tree is that many other elm trees are prone to Dutch elm disease but the Chinese Elm is not. Because of this, the Chinese Elm makes an excellent plant for people just starting out growing bonsai. The growth pattern is highly predictable and you do not have to be an expert at pruning because this tree is very forgiving. Additionally, the Chinese Elm bonsai tree is slow-growing, allowing you time to become accustomed to training and caring.

When caring for your Chinese Elm bonsai tree, you want to keep it protected from harsh conditions, as well as cold weather. Although the tree is hardy, cold blasts of air is not good for it. Then to prune, the best time is after the growth period, which would be in the early spring months. Just make sure when pruning that you leave one to two nodes located closest to the main branch or trunk. For water, the Chinese Elm bonsai tree will need moderate water throughout the year. The key is to keep the tree moist at all times but not over watered.

Then, the Chinese Elm bonsai tree needs to be repotted during the early spring months, typically between one and three years. With this, you need to repot a month before or after you have pruned the tree. The reason this is important is that the tree will be able to get through the repotting process with as little shock as possible. As mentioned, the bark of the Chinese Elm bonsai tree is the most fascinating aspect of the tree. Depending on the species, some trees have smooth bark and some rough, almost cork-like looking bark. With the cracked type, it will become even more deeply fissured as the tree ages, giving it yet more enriched character. However, with the Chinese Elm bonsai tree the smoother the bark the less hardy the tree.

Because the Chinese Elm bonsai tree is so versatile, you can place it in full sun or shade and it will do very well. However, during the hot summer months, you do want to make sure your bonsai tree gets some shade, and is never allowed to dry out. The Chinese Elm falls in the Ulmus species that includes more than 45 species of deciduous, semi-evergreen trees. These trees are known for alternating ovate to elliptic toothed leaves with incredible fall color display.

Just as your Chinese Elm bonsai tree needs careful watering, you also want to provide it with a weekly feeding, never feeding when out of leaf for indoor growth. However, if you plan to grow the Chinese Elm outdoors, then after the buds open in the spring, the tree will need a weekly feeding with high nitrogen for about one month and then every two weeks thereafter until later summer. Finally, the Chinese Elm bonsai tree would be wired for training on a regular basis but only when out of leaf. Remember, the bark marks easily so be very careful with the process. The result is a magnificent bonsai specimen, perfect for getting started.

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