The Chinese Elm (Ulmus Parvifolia) is a slow growing semi-evergreen native from South-East Asia. It is very tolerant and adaptable, and with a highly predictable growth pattern. If you are a beginner in bonsai, this is an excellent species for you to start with. It is easy to grow and you won’t need any complicated instructions; you just need to know the basic rules and you will have an absolutely splendid tree.
This bonsai tree has a distinctive trunk that produces mottled orange-brown or dark-grey bark patterns. It grows fissures and turns corky when aged. Its leaves are beautiful and tiny, oval shaped with toothed margins.
The Chinese Elm bonsai can be grown as both outdoors and indoors bonsai, however, they do love light, so if kept inside, place them close to a window. A temperature of 60-70°F (15-20°C) would be preferred if inside. You might see leave shedding starting sooner if you place them in a shady dark area during summer.
If temperatures go below 40°F (4°C), it is time to move them inside, as they don’t tolerate freezing temperatures. They will naturally be in a dormancy period during winter, thus they need to be placed in a colder and slightly darker place of the house.
Your bonsai tree should be watered as soon as the soil gets dry. Don’t let it sink in water, as it will damage the roots. It needs more watering during summer than winter.
Fertilizing is done monthly (except winter when in dormancy), by using a general purpose liquid fertilizer. Use only half of the dose recommended on the instructions. You can even use a water-soluble fertilizer for foliar spraying.
Any standard mixture of soil can be used, as long as it is well-drained.
Chinese Elm trees have developed a resistance to Dutch Elm disease. However, if they are struck by it, you may notice the leaves turn yellow and then shedding.
If you notice your tree having discolored or drying out foliage, or even losing leaves or a sticky secretion on them, you need to promptly react and use a spraying fungicide, as they might be affected by anthracnose or other fungi. The solution used might need rinsing (check the instructions before applying).
Pruning can be done all across the year. Do not remove all the new growth. Let the branches of Chinese Elm bonsai grow 3 to 4 nodes, then prune as far as safe, leaving at least 2 leaves on the branch.