Call for help. In over my head. Junipers, Pine, Ficus, Zelkovo, Bald cypress

So as the title says, I got in over my head. I was volunteering at a local nursery to get some experience. A month ago the owner got in a bad accident and has been more or less bed ridden. He has basically asked me to care for the trees in his stead. Mostly I am just watering. But a lot of trees seems to be in not so great shape.

I say I’m in over my head because i am a beginner. I have been at this for 3 months. While I have watched well over 200 hours of videos on bonsai, most of that does not cover the daily maintenance of trees over a prolonged period and dealing with treatments for pests and diseases. Often times disease comments are quickly covered and so it is hard to retain. I always figured I would deal with that one at a time with my very small personal collection. I have tried to look up a lot of these issues with only some success.

I will attach some photos to see if anyone can help me figure out what might be happening to these few trees. For reference I am in South Florida. It has been hot these past several weeks. I have been watering everyday but only once a day. Nothing is in Akadama. The potting soil is pine bark, lava rock, and some other organic mix.

Thank in advance for any help.

  1. This juniper is not secured into the pot as he does not tie anything into a pot. It tipped out once. Not sure if that would have caused this or if this is tip blight.

  2. These junipers have yellowing of the inner foliage. I think this from over watering? Or is it not enough?

  3. These are zelkova or maybe Chinese elms not sure exactly they are imports. I think this is heat damage and under watering. I am fairly certain they will recover. These are also under 30% shade cloth.

  4. This pine was looking bad so I also moved it under the shade cloth. Is this from too much heat? Will it recover?

  5. This is a huge ficus of some kind. I noticed this on the leafs. Not sure if this is a fungus or what. I have no idea how to treat this.

  6. This Chinese elm/Zelkova I had moved to shade cloth. It seemed to have heat damage. Even dropped older foliage in favor of newer foliage like in Ryans heat damage video. But another guy who is kinda volunteering did a major cut back the other day. I have no idea if it will survive that.


  7. Lastly, there are some browning bald cypress. I am almost certain this is from lack of watering.

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Hey Alx,
Yeah, you seem to have some problems…
1 Tipping could cause issues like this, especially if the roots dry out a bit.
Look for black spots on the dry, dead areas, at the base of needles if there are some it’s fungus if not it was the tipping.
2 Yellowing on third year needles is normal towards the end of the growing cycle.
If the new growth s also yellowing, you got a problem.
3 Those elms look pretty bad, I think it might be root related, over or under watering, carefully lift one out of the pot and check the roots for rot. If that’s the issue hold back on watering, tip the pot for water-oxygen balance.
4 That pine looks pretty weak, watch watering, don’t keep it to wet, if its growing new shoots and only the old foliage is damaged it should make it. Could be to much sun or heat if you had crazy weather.
5 The ficus looks sun burnt to me. Should recover just fine.
6 Yeah, don’t work on trees in extreme weather, be it hot or cold. If it’s hot don’t wire or prune.
Other then that leave it as is for now, maybe cut it back in fall when it stops growing or better leave it 'till spring.
7 don’t have a lot of experience with BC, it looks to me that eighter it was a bit to dry or those lower leaves were shaded out and were naturally shed by the tree.
Most of these problems could be caused by extreme sun/wind. Check all the trees for pests, diseases, if ya find any treat it accordingly if not watch the watering.
Good luck!


Thanks a lot. You cleared up most if not all my concerns. Seems I was thinking in the right direction for a lot of the issues, while some I just didn’t even know normal growth patterns. I will check the pots as suggested.
As a side note, the owner was able to make it out today and was unconcerned by most of the issues, and was simply glad I had kept almost everything alive and well. In some cases better than when he left.
Thanks again.


Well done Alx. Kenez is spot on with their notes IMO. Water balance is the key. Wind is the enemy. Glad to hear the owner was back on his feet. Based on the size and the location of the leaves on that BC I would say the same. Lower and interior leaves that don’t become shoots are typically the first to shed. BC are water hogs in hot summer months.


Owner is still fighting an infection in his foot. It was a bad car wreck so it will still be weeks before he is capable of getting to nursery regularly. He has to use what I can only describe as a cart for his knee to the rest on to move about. He was in a fair amount of pain the day he stopped by.

I’m again thankful for the help. This forum got me on the right track while researching information.

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Hey @Alx - just wanted to acknowledge your generosity in being able to help the owner with his trees and also acknowledging the difficult in learning how to water. I panic when I think about taking a trip in the summertime for a few days and how to address my collection. I’m sure the owner was thankful to have someone to step up and help. I think you got a lot of great advice on this thread - watering is so essential to these trees but it takes a lot of experience to understand the signals and information that they are giving you.

I’m well over 10 years into this hobby seriously and still have issues related to watering more than you’d think. We all make mistakes and flubs no matter what level of experience we have. Hopefully these experiences here will give you something to reflect on and help to deepen your knowledge of watering and overall plant health.