Help! My bonsai tree is dying!

Wondering how to save a dying bonsai plant? Or are you worried that your bonsai may be dying of over-or-under watering? Find out how to tell for sure in this post!

In our experience of dealing with bonsai, We get a lot of calls and messages from concerned Bonsai enthusiasts and owners, asking why their beloved plants are dying. Sometimes there’s actually nothing wrong with their plants.

big bonsai plant

Other times, the problem is that the bonsai has been over- or under-watered and it can be hard to tell which!  We’re going to give you some helpful hints in this post so you can diagnose what’s going wrong!

Bonsai plant’s leaves looks pale and dried out

First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that dying leaves are a natural part of every plant’s life — and Bonsai are no exception. This doesn’t always mean that your Bonsai is dying, or that you’re doing anything wrong.

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As your plant grows, it creates new leaves, while the older ones die. So, if you’re seeing dry, crispy leaves at the bottom of the plant–and only at the bottom– there’s no need to worry. This is normal!

If the dry leaves start to get unsightly, just gently pluck them and throw them away. When you remove the leaves, keep your Bonsai plant potted so you don’t disturb the roots.

Over-watering your bonsai

While dead leaves at the bottom of your Bonsai are perfectly healthy, dead leaves on the upper parts of new growth are a sign of a problem–usually over- or under-watering. Soil can also cause problems for Bonsai’s, as I explain in this article.

If your plant’s leaves are starting to look yellow and transparent, it’s likely suffered from over-watering. 

Bonsai Leaves Turning Yellow

An early sign of over-watering is that leaves will start to fall off in a bunch. If you start to notice soft black spots on your plant’s leaves or stem, the over-watering is getting severe, and it may be difficult to save your Bonsai. The plant will eventually shrink and die.

Here’s a Jade Plant,  which  has been severely over-watered, and has completely rotted as a result. 

dead bonsai tree

Note : Normally ficus varieties are more resistant to over watering than the other bonsai varieties and Jade varieties are very sensitive to over-watering, and show immediate symptoms.

How to save an over-watered Bonsai 

The best way to avoid over-watering is to make sure your soil is completely dried out before watering again. Check out our article on watering a bonsai to get a clear understanding of what and how to do.

As soon as you notice the symptoms of over-watering on one of your Bonsai plants, start by cutting back on your watering schedule. Also, check if you might need to switch to a better soil mixture. 

But if you’re seeing signs of rotting on the branch, then you need to stop watering the plant pronto and expose it to direct sunlight for three to five days to dry out, then propagate it in new soil. If it is extensively rotted it is unlikely that the plant will survive, well again it’s worth waiting to see!  

Leave the bottom section as-is, and don’t water it until the soil is dry (all the way to the bottom of the pot). If you’re lucky, a few days of drying-out time will allow the plant to recover from the over-watering, and it may start to put off new growth.

Under-watering your bonsai plant

While over-watering Bonsai tree is the most common problem, many Bonsai are also sensitive to under-watering. If you plan a trip on your weekend and it unfortunately gets extended, it’s not just your boss who will be frustrated, but also your Bonsai!

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If your plant’s upper leaves are starting to be dry, crispy and a little withered out, then it’s probably time to give your Bonsai tree a little more water.

How to save an under-watered Bonsai tree

For the most part, it’s much easier to revive an under-watered Bonsai tree than an over-watered one. If yours are just starting to wrinkle, they’ll probably perk up pretty quickly after one or two watering cycles. However, if they’ve almost completely shriveled up, I’m sorry to tell you that they’re probably too far gone to recover.

To help them recover best from under watering, make sure you soak the soil really well when you water. Make sure you check out our post on how to water Bonsai trees to do this the right way.

Other problems

While over or under watering tends to be the most common problem new Bonsai enthusiasts face, there are a few more issues you may run into

  • Keeping your bonsai Indoor: Keeping a bonsai Indoors is not at all recommended . All plants need sunlight and your bonsai is no different. If you still insist , Check this article to know how to place your bonsai indoor.
  • Not repotting the bonsai:  Regular re-potting is crucial to prevent a tree from being pot-bound and ultimately starving to death. Re-potting a Bonsai will not keep it small instead it will supply the tree with new nutrients that it needs to grow and flourish.
  • Roots are rotting: This is mostly because of using a pot without a drain hole. Using a pot with out a drain hole leads to water accumulating and the soil becoming damp, leading to root rot. We always recommend our clients too invest in a good pot, Check out our post on ‘The Right Pot for your Bonsai‘.

In conclusion, don’t over-or under-water your bonsai, learn how to do it right here, and never keep your Indian Bonsai tree indoors for a long time.  If you feel that you are going to lose your plant and it is not exhibiting any of the above mentioned symptoms, Send us a detailed mail with photos of your Bonsai @ [email protected] or just drop a message  in our Facebook page. and we will get back to you very soon with a solution. 

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