Knowing when to begin fall maintenance

Posted by Rick Garcia on

Hello October! At last, we may seriously consider when to begin working on our satsuki.

Fall in Indiana is markedly different from California. For me, this is a good thing! There are so many great fall festivals and Oktoberfests to attend and the beautiful foliage and lower temperatures are more to my liking. But, more to the point, I can begin working on my satsuki sooner than when I lived in California. Here we arrive at the principal topic of this post: how do I know when to begin working on my satsuki bonsai?

How to determine when to start fall maintenance on your satsuki is refreshingly simple. Your trees tell you when to begin. All you need to do is watch the leaves. As they begin turning a lighter shade of green, ultimately transitioning to yellows, browns, or reds, you are witnessing the trees signaling their readiness for the work to commence. Your ability to remain patient is now the only hindrance to beginning your work. As for me, I am dying to work on trees so I’m going to start as soon as the first tree turns color.

Yata-no-kagami has striking fall leaf color.


Before going any further, please allow me to suggest reviewing the book sections mentioned below because of their relevance to this time of year.

  • Chapter 2, page 25: overview of fall activities
  • Chapter 5, page 86: fall watering adjustments
  • Chapter 6, page 106: fall fertilization
  • Chapter 7, page 124: fall maintenance

Pictured below is a Shugetsu beginning its transition to dormancy. Being a southern variety, it will change color sooner than other varieties as the temperatures slowly decrease and days grow shorter. The subtle indicators are leaves that are a lighter shade of green, some of which are showing yellow, while others have turned brown. Shugetsu does not have an attractive leaf color, so I am not concerned with allowing the leaves to remain. Their habit is to turn yellow, then rapidly turn brown. Blah! So, I will begin my fall activities with this tree. I’ll post photos of the tree after completing the work.

Leaf color is a mix of dark green, light green, with a few yellow and brown leaves as well.
Let’s contrast the appearance of Shugetsu with that of a northern variety, Hime Korin. Notice that Hime Korin continues to display leaves that are deep green. Because northern varieties tolerate colder climates than southern varieties, they will transition to dormancy later in the fall or early winter. I’ll have to wait longer before working on this tree.
Still lots of deep green leaves on this Hime Korin.


On a separate note, I successfully completed a few beta tests on the quality of my internet connection for video consultations. I am happy to say things went great! Therefore, to anyone who might be interested, be on the lookout for a notification where I will open my calendar to video consultations on your satsuki. I am looking forward to opening that service up soon!

Take care folks.