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Tip of the Week


Tip of the Week  #28
Moving your Sub-Tropical Bonsai Indoors In Autumn

Welcome to our next installment of  "Tip Of The Week".

 This feature is for the benefit of visitors to this site, If you look in this "Tip of The Week" section for answers to a specific question, and don't find an article that covers it, send an e-mail with your question to and you'll get a personal reply.
Please direct your E-mail to
If your topic is chosen, we will include your first name and city on the page.

Interested in past articles? There's a list at the bottom of the page.
Deborah from East Brunswick, NJ writes about a common problem.   Bringing a bonsai from outside to inside, and the accompanying problems.
She writes "In January, I brought home a Serissa from a wonderful bonsai place in Wilmington, N.C.  It did not do well last winter.   The transition from a lush greenhouse in N.C. to a winter house in N.J. was a lot to ask, no doubt.   It thrived this summer outside.  It was so happy that I felt terrible when it recently came time to bring it inside.  I have done so, and have it with a humidity tray under it and a light above it - although as I have read today, probably too high and not the right kind (I have one of those plant lights about 2 feet above it.)  So today I will get a full spectrum florescent and suspend it from the ceiling at the right height.  Thank you for your detailed help.  Even as it bloomed its first two flowers, many leaves towards the center are yellowing.  I want so much to do everything I can.  If you have any other suggestions, I would be most grateful."

My answer was as follows.
It's normal for a Serissa to start dropping leaves when brought inside in the fall.  It is going from full, unfiltered sunlight, high humidity and high temperatures to light through a window, dry air and much cooler temperatures.  The trick is to get it adjusted to it's indoor environment as quickly as possible so that this will be a period of transition rather than a period of permanent damage.   To accomplish this, you need to deal with each of the potentially damaging changes individually, in order of their importance.  The following will not apply much to people who live in the deep south because it's warm year-round, and a bonsai such as a Serissa can stay outside all year.  The further north you go, the more important the following points are to your sub tropical bonsai.   First, you need to improve the available light.  In the north the length of the day varies greatly from June 21st (the longest day of the year) to December 21st (the shortest day of the year.   In addition to the days becoming shorter, the angle of the sun becomes more shallow and less beneficial to bonsai, and there are many more cloudy days in winter than in summer.  The result is that you have fewer sunny days, less hours of sunlight when it is sunny, and what sun you get is weaker.   Looking at it from this prospective, it's easy to see why bonsai (all plants for that matter) suffer when brought in for the winter.  The solution for bonsai is to supplement the available sunlight with full spectrum light.  Details on how to best accomplish this can be found in "Tip of The Week" #11.
The average heated home has a humidity level in winter that is extremely low.   Where "forced hot-air" heat is used, the humidity level is even lower.  A sub-tropical bonsai cannot "function" properly in this environment.  The best way to combat this dryness is with a "Humidi-Grow Tray" where the bonsai sits on a grid over a solid sheet of water.  As for temperature, make sure to place the bonsai away from cold drafts such as exterior doorways and drafty windows.   Air circulation is a good thing, but cold drafts are not.  In addition to all the above, like people, bonsai will benefit from supplements to boost their ability to deal with a less than perfect environment.  In the case of a bonsai, the best way to accomplish this is by using Superthrive Vitamins/Hormones at the rate of one to two drops per gallon of water in all water you give your bonsai.
As with most things in life, when you understand the problem, you can better deal with it.   I hope this has helped you to understand why your bonsai "falters" when it is brought indoors, and I'm sure that if you follow these points, you will improve it's overall condition.

Interested in past articles? Click for your choice below.

#1-Things to do in the spring

#2-Forest Plantings

#3-Planning a trimming schedule

#4-Trimming Japanese Maples (And other trees with opposing Buds)

#5-Trimming Chinese Elms (And other trees with alternating Buds)

#6-Trimming Conifers (Such as Pine, Juniper and Cypress)

#7-Improving Your Bonsai Skills

#8-Things to Remember During the Winter Months

#9-Some Thoughts About Tree Roots. Their Strengths & Weaknesses

#10-Potting Medium: The Foundation of a Bonsai

#11-Growing Bonsai Under Artificial Light.

#12-The Importance of Moss, How To Get It & Put It On a Bonsai.

#13-The Right Tool For The Job.

#14-Root Over Rock Planting.

#15-Wiring - Copper or Aluminum?

#16-Wiring - Basic Techniques

#17-Using A Cold Frame, Garage, or Tool Shed For Wintering

#18-Making A Cold Frame For Wintering Temperate Bonsai.

#19-Wintering Temperate Bonsai Indoors.


#21-Sunlight - Some Further Thoughts.

#22-Is It Really A Tree?

#23-Repotting a "Department Store" Bonsai


#25-Getting Started: Too Much Too Soon?

#26-Wintering Temperate & Sub-Tropical Bonsai.  What Needs What?

#27-Plant Food & Supplements