New Cork Bark Chinese Elm

I purchased an incredible CBCE on July 4th from Bonsai West in Boston. Shockingly affordable

It was completely defoliated and pruned heavily one week prior. I’ll be building pads from scratch. It has many locations with structural flaws and 3+ branch junctions I want to eliminate, but don’t want to prune branches off so soon after a major prune on a weak cork bark tree. It’s already sent energy to all branches in response to the prune.

Can I prune branches to eliminate some of those 3-5 branch junctions now so soon after a big prune, or should I wait til late winter 2021?

Also, do I need to choose between making these branch decisions and a repot 2021? I would only consider it if the tree is growing strong and very healthy through fall this year.

Another issue is wiring. The extremely delicate cork bark makes it impossible to wire the lower trunk branches in a traditional way. Am I going to have to use rubber-protected tie-downs to the pot for these?

Anything I should know about Chinese elms especially in this stage of development? I’ve seen and will be rewatching all Mirai videos on Chinese Elm.


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I would let it recover from the complete defoliation since that is very stressful to the tree. I have used a bright colored pipe cleaner to mark branches for later removal when it is easier to see them. This would allow you to take them out once the tree pushes out strong growth later this summer before it goes into the fall vascular growth phase.

I purchased a similar tree from Bonsai NW last year and repotted it this spring to get it out of the oversized container and be able to have a decent view of the structure. Even though it is growing like weed (the picture is from 5/21/20) all I have removed are some very long shoots for cuttings (1 of 6 are still alive). I plan to do some cut back in late summer so I can better see the structure, but will wait until late winter to style it.


Nice tree! I would wait because of the recent pruning/defoliation . Grow the rest of this year to build up strength for a prune/repot late winter/early spring. This would give you time to acclimate to the tree. Tie downs would be a great way to set the primary branches now while preserving the bark. Use the rest of this year to explore style decisions for the heavy work your hopefully able to do at the beginning of next year. The more health and growth you create now powers that big spring push that would set you up for a successful repot, faster wound healing and stronger secondary branch growth. If everything goes well you will have grown quite a few options by this time next year.

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Thanks for the replies and examples from your collection!

I’ve applied a conservative, light to moderate fertilizer dose (6-7 bio gold pellets per location) and I’ll be leaving it alone. It’s pushed an impressive amount of growth for 10 days after complete defoliation, so I feel comfortable fertilizing.

Tentative plan is to let it run and come back early spring just as it starts to swell with a repot and prune. Wiring it will be a challenge, but I’ve learned some cool tricks from Ryan’s content, and I’m gaining skill with every tree.