American hornbeam

Hello everyone,
I was fortunate enough to root a cutting from a neighbor’s American Hornbeam tree in the fall and I planted it in bonsai soil in January after the leaves developed. In the last week, the leaves are now weak and curling up. I haven’t changed anything with it’s watering schedule. I live in Virginia and the cutting has been inside the entire time. Can anyone direct me in the right direction?

I think potting it in bonsai soil was a mistake.

Since the cutting only developed roots in the Fall, the roots in January were still very immature. Bonsai soil can be a bit course and abrasive to such tender roots. Older plants survive the repotting process because of their extensive and fully mature roots. I’m thinking if I repotted a bonsai and gave it a good root pruning in the Fall, then repotted it again (no root trim) in January, I’d be doing much the same damage to any new roots on my tree. Given that the cutting has nothing but new roots, there’s no backup reserve to recover from damage.

Also, well draining bonsai soil may be a little too dry for such a fresh cutting. That really depends on the type of soil used.

I would recommend putting this plant into potting soil. Maybe dust the roots with rooting hormone or water the plant repotting with a mixture Miracle Gro Quick Start.

My personal approach with cuttings is to let them root for at least a year and repot at the appropriate time for that species. If I’m looking to get a great deal of growth, I’ll over-pot it and use a mixture of haydite (or lavarock) and potting soil. I want the cutting to get as much going in the roots as possible. The amendments are there to help with root ramification. If you want to get a jump on root depth, place a 4"x4" tile a few inches beneath the plant. The roots will still grow all around the pot, but should any heavy roots develop, they’ve already taken a turn at the tile. The earliest I will move a tree to a bonsai pot is when I’m happy with the trunk and the first few branches.


inside may be the problem? what has the light source been? also the loss of leaves does not necessarily mean the loss of a tree…

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It certainly sounds like your cutting has gone into shock.
Remember that ‘water’ grown roots uptake water, oxygen etc very differently to ‘soil’ grown roots, so your transition into a pot needs to be quite gradual.
As Bill suggests, I would move your cutting into a normal potting soil and keep it really quite damp. Try not to change any other growing conditions, keep the potted cutting in the same location it was in when it was in water. You should start to see signs of growth again soon.
Good luck :slight_smile:

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Thank you for your help and direction. How long do I wait to see if new growth comes back or is it dead? The roots looked somewhat healthy when I put it back to the regular soil. All of the foliage has died back.