Hopefully someone here will know the answer to this

This is really more of a bonsai question, but the bonsai group seems dead.
Do deciduous trees need any light during the winter after their leaves fall off? The reason I ask is I want to get a bonsai tree that isn't suitable for my zone. Rather than wintering it outside where it will likely freeze and die, I want to have it go through dormancy in a refrigerator (or maybe my garage). It would be dark in there, but then the tree wouldn't have any leaves so I'm kind of thinking it wouldn't matter.
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On 23 Aug 2006 15:40:57 -0700, "Scooter the Mighty"

There's summer dormancy where nothing grows or if it does it's very slow growing. And winter dormancy, which requires two things, temperatures, but more importantly, light or foot candles.
You may want to do more research about the specific species you are attempting, but trees start going dormant and foliage turns autumn colors when light is low in the sky.
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Scooter the Mighty wrote:

more likely it would be better if you wintered it in your garage if it has a window and doesn't freeze but stayed around upper 30's or lower 40's. The fridge would be the death of it because there'd be too much dark. Think about that one for a second........it WOULD matter, as the sun still shines during winter, as well as moisture, etc......you'll have to cut back on watering, but not stop completely. What is the tree by the way? Best thing is to put the bonsai in front of a southern exposure window in the garage, or a colder room in front of the window. Water once a month, unless it's warmer than 45 degrees, and if it is, test the soil's dampness with your finger. Do you have a back porch the bonsai could winter over? maddie
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madgardener wrote:

Well yes, but if the tree has no leaves, does it know there is light out? I'm not trying to be argumenative, if you know that it matters I'll take your word for it. I'm just not sure that the fact that the sun shines in winter necessarily means the tree needs that light, or that it can't do without it for long enough to meet it's dormancy requirements.

The main one I was thinking of is a Crape Myrtle.

Unfortunately, my garage doesn't have a window.

I have a back porch but it's not enclosed.

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Scooter the Mighty wrote:

etc>>>>>>>>>

yep. I'm sure it is dormant but it's aware there is sunlight. And it needs some sunlight even when it's dormant. I don't know any plant that lives totally without sunlight during winter months. yes, I know bulbs are underground, but those are bulbs and they're feeding off the starch of the bulb and have roots to access moistures during the dormant time. I'm not trying to be argumentative, if you know that it matters

you're not being argumentative, not in the least. how would we learn if we didn't ask? this is how I've learned and read and watched garden shows and such. to make sure, I will look it up tomorrow in my books and confirm this better. I'm pulling memory of past stuff I read about this. But I'm sure about plants needing SOME sunlight during winter. I will get back to you about the book explanations, and hopefully someone else will jump in here that grows bonsai......and give their's quarter's worth! <G>

well, a Crape Myrtle eventually drops it's leaves for winter. where are you at? Here they can be left outside and it gets as low as 0o sometimes. Tennessee has snows too, and crape myrtles survive. I would think Chicago or a zone 5 would be the end of a myrtle and a bonsai would suffer. hell, ANY bonsai would suffer from not enough winter light and minimal water as the roots are more compact and bound. Come Spring you'd have to lift it and root prune it anyway when it started active growth to maintain the shape and encourage blossoms.

hmmmmm, well, are you opening and closing it often? if so, that might provide enough light. What growing zone are you in, and if you don't know, basic location. Colder than 6 and deffinately more winter would mean protection from winter drying out and extreme freezing of the roots. You could even build a hay cold frame around it for winter and leave it out if you wanted to. bales of hay encircling it with leaves piled up to insulate if it gets bitter where you are. or throw a piece of glass over the top if there's going to be below zero temperatures and lots of snow. I need some affirmation here, people on this. I don't want to advise him wrongly about this. but I've had luck in a colder climate with building a straw bale greenhouse to insulate (even used bags of leaves to encircle a tender pot of something I forget what it was until I got it into the ground and it survived a rather cold and snowy winter when I lived in Nashville)

well, what side of the house is it on? if it's south or west, that would be enough light and protection from freezing. if it's eastern and north then no, it will suffer, I'm pretty sure about that one from experiences I have with perennial container gardens and winter here. AGAINST the house on the porch if you pay attention and watch it would possibly work.

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<snip>

You know, I think I was given some bad information. I live in Seattle and have been told that we're zone 5 by several different people. I was puzzled by you saying that crape myrtles do OK down to zero, because it never gets that cold here. I looked around online and apparently we're zone 8. Never mind, a crape myrtle should be fine.
Thanks!
Adam
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Scooter the Mighty wrote:

good deal then! just check it occaisonally during the winter to make sure it's not TOO wet or bony dry (I understand you have a rainy season during the winter with drought periods during part of summer.....your crape myrtle will be fine. do you know when to prune the spent blossoms to encourage more flowers next year and when to NOT prune it to not cut off the next year's buds? it only needs minimal pruning to cut out crossing branches. they are easily shaped and can even withstand harsh coppicing. in the case of your bonsai, just branches that are crossing will be fine to trim out. if it has bloomed for you, you can cut the ends of the branches after the blossoms are spent, unless you like the seed pods. I have a white, a watermelon pink one and a Cherokee red with darker leaves. Also have a dwarf one that won't get more than three foot tall at best. And this year snagged a true red one that I have yet to plant as I need to remove the vinca that will strangle it. It will go near the rest to make a cluster of them. right now my watermelon colored one is loaded with HUGE blossoms. I've actually had storms rip through here and break my white one off at the ground and it regrew back fairly well. Glad to see you're in a climate that it will flourish in. maddie
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yes... notice the green in the twigs and stems, and if you scratch the twig you will see green underneath. the chlorophyll is withdrawn from most leaves in fall (which is why they turn color) and stored, and it is responsive to light. one reason they know when to "start their engines" in spring at the correct time is photoperiod, the length of the day. Ingrid

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