Thursday, 11 August 2016

Transforming a House Plant

I don't remember when we acquired our first schefflera, but it was almost certainly over a decade ago. Technically it wasn't my plant, though I was always the one tasked with caring for it, and it was never intended to become bonsai. Even now I'm not sure it ever will be, but it's certainly benefited from the bonsai skills I've learnt along the way.

The schefflera spend the first few years of its life living in our entrance hall, a room which gets very little natural light and no sunlight at all. It's a testament to the species that it survived in that environment, but somehow it did. Originally it had three thin trunks with foliage high up, but one day I discovered that it was possible to do a trunk chop on schefflera to encourage branching, so I decided to experiment with one trunk. Sadly my experiment didn't have a happy ending as, in my ignorance, I covered that trunk with plastic and misted it frequently. With the benefit of experience I'm sure that trunk died of root rot. Fortunately the other two survived.

Some time later I decided to try again, but this time I left them uncovered and didn't give them excess water and in due course they started budding again. The only photo I could find from that period was this one, taken in November 2008:


November 2008

Although they were growing back fairly well, the foliage looks rather floppy and weak. Hardly surprising given the fact that they were still in the same dark position that they'd inhabited for several years.

By then I'd joined my bonsai club, and one day it occurred to me that they might benefit from a bit of time outdoors with my other trees. Somewhere along the lines I also moved them to a bigger pot.

In the end that move turned out to be permanent as it was impossible for me to impose darkness on them again once I'd seen how much they benefited from their time outside. Not only did they firm up pretty nicely but they have since produced several branches and even one rather strange aerial root:

Roots - August 2016

The biggest surprise however, was when they produced flowers and berries for the first time two or three years ago. I've never seen that on another potted schefflera before or since.

This is what they look like today, full of flower buds waiting to open:

August 2016

Sometimes I'm tempted to turn them into bonsai, but they have terrible nebari and I'm reluctant to sacrifice the flowers, so my pruning is always restricted to those areas which don't have flower buds. As a result the prospect of them ever becoming bonsai seems unlikely. But, like my indoor vs outdoor experiment with ficuses, this is a clear illustration that even plants which can survive indoors will be a lot happier outside.

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