Small-leaved indoor elm – capricious and majestic

Ancient giants of elms are plants that are difficult to imagine in miniature form. But thanks to the complex long-term formation and careful care, these trees are now found among indoor plants. Bonsai art creates real living works of art from elms. Growing them in living rooms is not easy, but with diligent care, elms will become the pride of any collector.

Bonsai from small-leaved elm. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com artofbonsai

Small-leaved elm – indoor mini version of an ancient Chinese legend

In nature, these giants, impressive in both beauty and size, are admirable for one of their views. Even in garden form, elms are luxurious woody only for very large areas. Not surprisingly, home-grown elms always seem like a small miracle, a truly exclusive plant. The art of bonsai helps to “tame” the ancient beauties, while preserving the key features of these trees – a beautiful silhouette and unusual foliage.

Only one species became widespread – the small-leaved elm (Ulmus parvifolia). The genus belongs to the Vyazov family of the same name. In indoor culture, small-leaved elm is also known as Chinese elm, elm, birch bark. It is endemic to Southeast Asia, most common in China.

Indoor elms outwardly seem to be ancient and very old trees in miniature. Perhaps it is difficult to find another plant that exhibits the effect of aging as clearly as the elm. It is the small-leaved elm that allows beginners to succeed, and bonsai masters fully demonstrate their skills and create the most bizarre silhouettes and curvatures. In height, such small-leaved indoor elms are limited to 15-80 cm, which, with the “initial” size of up to 25 m, seems to be just an amazing miniature.

The main characteristic of elms, which made them indispensable plants for bonsai, is their uniquely dense branching and small foliage, which make it possible to form mini-copies that are as close as possible in decorativeness to natural plants. The gray, smooth, beige-brown bark with red young twigs emphasizes the complex structure of the tree. With age, the bark not only cracks, but also flakes off. At the site of strong wire pulling, scars remain, sometimes they are created specifically for greater naturalness.

The leaves of the small-leaved elm are really very small: in indoor culture they rarely grow more than 2 cm.Faultless ovoid or oval shape, solid edge, dark but not pale green color and bright shine emphasize the beauty of the green of the elms. The leaves on the shoots do not sit tightly, the twigs are perfectly visible under them, which allows you to fully appreciate the beauty of the silhouettes and lines. Almost always, elms shed their leaves for the winter, which significantly reduces the decorative effect of plants, but the dormant period of elms lasts only until February, when new shoots begin to actively develop. Even at room temperature, elm can preserve foliage until new shoots grow, then quickly and rapidly renewing itself (in fact, during a warm winter, the plant behaves almost like an evergreen).

The flowering period of elms in a room culture is determined by its “habits” and temperature regimes. Elm usually blooms in late summer or autumn. But if the wintering temperature does not meet the requirements, you can not wait for flowering, observing it at a different time from the traditional one. Small-leaved elms bloom very beautifully. Miniature, graceful flowers, which you just want to look through a magnifying glass, seem precious in combination with small leaves. And when, after flowering, much wider fruits gradually ripen, the plant reaches the peak of its decorative effect.

Caring for small-leaved elm at home

Small-leaved elms are not the most difficult types of bonsai. It is believed that this plant tolerates well even with improper care, but this statement is not entirely true. For an elm tree, you need to ensure not too hot conditions, and consistently bright lighting, and constant access to fresh air. The plant does not like waterlogging. But it is not easy to find a comfortable watering regime, and often the elm prepares unpleasant surprises, either dropping leaves or surprising with its sluggish appearance. Therefore, it is better to start this bonsai for growers with experience, for those who can assess the problems and take timely measures to correct the conditions of its maintenance.

The hardest part about growing elms is choosing the right plants. Most bonsai from small-leaved elm are outdoor plants that winter in the cool and decorate terraces and gardens. It is these elms, native to the Japanese mountains and northern regions of China, that adorn the bronze young and autumn leaves that fall at the end of the gardening season. Indoor elms are considered only, originating from southern Japan, southern China and Taiwan, which are more thermophilic, shed or partially shed their leaves only in a cold winter, without showing off a spectacular autumn color. By clarifying the origin, you eliminate the risk of buying a street bonsai less adapted to the rooms.

Elm bonsai
Bonsai from small-leaved elm. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com artofbonsai

Lighting for small-leaved elm

The level of illumination directly affects the decorativeness of elms. And it needs to be kept stable throughout the year without exception. Elms are light-loving plants, but it is better to protect glossy leaves from direct sunlight. In order to maintain the usual regime in winter, plants need to be moved to lighter places and windows or additionally illuminated. Elm does not like full artificial lighting, but additional lighting has a good effect on the state of the plant while preserving the leaves.

Small-leaved elms are perfectly adapted to less light only in nature, in the form of bonsai they are hypersensitive to insufficient light.

Comfortable temperature

Small-leaved elms tolerate temperature extremes well, which, in principle, is not typical for most of their competitors used to obtain bonsai. But this adaptability and resilience has its downside. Elms are not very fond of heat and feel better in cool rooms even in summer. In the heat, the leaves of the plant become unpleasantly sticky, the plant seems to attract dust to itself, and maybe even throw off the leaves altogether. Indoor elm small-leaved in the form of a bonsai will not stand a content below 5 degrees Celsius, but otherwise any temperatures up to 22 degrees Celsius will suit it. In winter, it is desirable to lower the temperature by several degrees, but the elm can accept the usual temperatures.

It is believed that leaf dropping directly depends on the wintering temperature; in warm rooms, foliage can persist until the crown is renewed in spring, but in fact this factor is very conditional: the origin, the region of growing of the original mother plants, and the peculiarities of temperature regimes also affect the dropping or preservation of leaves. in the early stages of bonsai formation. When buying, it is always better to specify this parameter, as well as the minimum temperature that an elm in the form of a bonsai can withstand (elms from northern China, street and even in bonsai, can withstand frosts up to -5, unlike indoor ones).

The most difficult thing in the selection of conditions for small-leaved elm is sensitivity to stagnant air. It is not only better to move the elm during the entire warm season (when the temperature is above 8-10 degrees at night) to fresh air, to the balcony or even to the garden, but also to place it in a place where the plant will have the opportunity to enjoy frequent ventilation.

Watering and air humidity

Elms need very careful watering. The plant does not tolerate waterlogging, overflow of water, stagnation of water in the pan, but at the same time it loves a sufficiently high moisture content of the substrate. When watering, water is added in small portions, checking how much the substrate is moistened. In between these treatments for elms, you need to dry the soil by almost half. In winter, watering is reduced, soil moisture should be low, not medium, the soil should remain dry at all times, regardless of the air temperature.

Indoor elms are undemanding to air humidity. Only if the plant is in heat, it is better for it to provide a strong increase in humidity.

Growing small-leaved elm indoors in the form of a bonsai
Growing small-leaved elm indoors in the form of bonsai. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com artofbonsai

Elm bonsai food

Unlike many of its competitors, popular in the form of bonsai, elm loves fertile soils and is quite picky about feeding. The plant is fed not with special fertilizers for bonsai, but with ordinary universal fertilizers for indoor plants, alternating them, if possible, with organic fertilizing.

Top dressing is carried out throughout the year, even in winter. For elm, the classic frequency of these procedures is suitable – once every 1-2 weeks. For the rest period, the frequency of dressings is reduced to 3 time per month. Reducing or stopping feeding in August or September allows you to get brighter, not yellow, but bronze colors of autumn leaves, but you can resort to this trick only with a future winter in the cool.

Pruning elms

In indoor culture, elm needs more than just pruning at will, but regular shaping and containment. The plant withstands radical haircuts, especially if there were omissions in regular procedures and the plant was too elongated or expanded, lost its beautiful silhouette. Elms are pruned from spring to autumn, focusing on the growth rate of the plant itself, but such regulation is permissible only for young shoots. Older, thicker twigs are only pruned in late autumn or winter. For an elm, each shoot is allowed to grow no more than 4 internodes, after which it is shortened to the first or second leaf.

The silhouette, direction of growth, curvature of branches and trunk are controlled using stretch marks and wire wrapping. On elms, wrapping and limiting is not traumatic, therefore, during the period of active growth, it is carried out at its own discretion. Wire or stretch wires can be used during the dormant period, from November to March.

Transplant and substrate

Elms, even at a very young age, are not transplanted annually, but every two years. Mature plants are transplanted as rarely as possible, waiting for signs of a lack of free soil.

Small-leaved elm in the form of bonsai can be transplanted only in spring.

For this plant, as in the case of fertilizers, it is not necessary to look for a special substrate for bonsai. Elms are grown in a universal substrate – light, friable, nutritious and of high quality.

When transplanting for any Chinese elm, root pruning is required. The roots of an elm tree are very dense and tangled. They are pruned to restrain their size, growth and give them a beautiful shape.

Diseases and pests of small-leaved elm

Pests of small-leaved elms are considered atypical for indoor crops. The greatest danger to bonsai is represented by grinder beetles and graphiosis, which are almost impossible to combat in indoor plants. Infections almost always occur prior to purchase. Much easier to deal with red root mites, rust, caterpillars, which are fought with standard insecticides and fungicides.

Elm bonsai
Bonsai from small-leaved elm. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com Etsy Studio

Small-leaved elm propagation

Indoor elms are propagated only by cuttings. Regular pruning allows for continuous rooting. Elm cuttings are traditionally treated with growth stimulants, planted in a nutritious moist substrate at an angle and rooted in the warmth under a hood. Rooting is not a quick process, but young plants develop very actively. Formation begins after the elm has formed the third pair of leaves. Cuttings are planted in individual containers with control of the size of the root system immediately after rooting.

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Anna Evans

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