Reasons Your Bonsai Tree is Dying
A bonsai tree dying is the nightmare of every bonsai enthusiast.
If your bonsai tree is looking particularly brittle you might be asking yourself, “Is my bonsai dead?” Most bonsai are usually quite resilient if provided with good care, but sometimes things take a turn for the worst and trees die. In this article, we’ll look at six common reasons why your tree might not be doing well, as well as how to save it.
Why is your bonsai tree dying?
First things first, bonsai trees generally don’t die overnight. There are a number of warning signs that will tell you that something is wrong before your bonsai tree dies. Discoloration for no apparent reason or brittle branches and foliage are the usual red flag you should be looking for if you’re trying to determine if your bonsai tree dying. The sooner you manage to notice that your tree isn’t flourishing, the higher chance you have to prevent it from completely withering away.
Forgetting To Water It
One of the most common reasons for bonsai tree dying is not watering it often enough. Bonsai are usually planted in smaller pots, which means they don’t have a large nutrient and water reserve at their disposal. If you forget to water your bonsai before the soil dries completely, the roots will start drying out and eventually die. After a few days, you might notice the leaves withering and falling off.
As long as the roots have not completely dried out, you can save the tree by watering it properly as soon as possible and adding some bonsai food to the soil to help it recover nutrients.
There is no universal rule as to how often you should water bonsai trees because it depends on the type of tree and the soil it’s planted in. You have to check the moisture content of the soil, don’t water until the soil starts to dry out a bit.
Most bonsai that are imported from China are planted in soil similar to clay in order to be transported safely. This soil does not absorb water quickly, so if you water your tree too quickly there is a good chance the water will end up under the pot rather than n the soil. A good practice when watering your tree is pouring a bit of water then waiting a few minutes and watering it some more to ensure that all the soil is moistened.
Watering It Too Much
We already mentioned that some soil does not retain water very well, but the opposite is also valid. Some types of soil retain water in which case overwatering can be a big issue. If your tree is planted in soil that retains water or its pot does not drain properly, the roots will be constantly wet and begin rotting as a consequence, which will result in your bonsai tree dying.
Lack of water can leave your bonsai tree dead in a few days, while dying from overwatering generally takes a few weeks so you have a higher chance of saving it. Inspect the soil and if it looks too moist you have to stop watering your tree for a few days and see if the soil is drying out.
If it is still wet you should take your bonsai out of the pot, clean the access soil from the roots and assess the damage. If the root system hasn’t been too damaged by rotting you could be able to save your bonsai by cutting the damaged roots and repotting your tree in fresh bonsai soil.
Putting An Outside Bonsai Tree Indoors
Certain tree species can only be kept indoors, while others need to be outside and if you keep them in the wrong environment they will slowly die. When purchasing a bonsai always check what tree species it is and ask if it should be kept indoors or outdoors.
Lack of Lighting
Most indoor bonsai trees are tropical and subtropical species. This means they need a lot of light and most homes are simply not bright enough for them.
In this scenario there is not much you can do. If you’re lucky enough to have a south-facing window you should always put your bonsai tree near it so it can get as much natural light as possible.
Lack of Patience
Growing a bonsai is a form of art so you have to take your time with it. Many beginners try reshaping their tree very frequently, which can stress out the bonsai tree.
Taking care of your tree by pruning dead branches to maintain its shape should be done all year round, but major changes should not be done more than once a year unless extremely necessary. Repotting or cutting back your tree in order to reshape it should only be done at the right season. This varies between species but in general, the best time to prune your bonsai is when it’s producing new growth.
You can find answers to all the frequently asked questions regarding pruning your bonsai in our pruning guide.
This one happens very rarely but a mite or spider attack can sometimes cause a leaf problem on your bonsai. Luckily, these parasites are easy enough to identify if you notice spiders, webs, or small black dots on your bonsai. The best way to get rid of them is to thoroughly shower your tree for a few seconds.
If the problem persists, you will need to get adapted bug repellent products that can be found in most garden centres. Before applying the treatment make sure you read the instructions carefully and do not ask to ask a professional for advice.
Is your bonsai tree dead or doe it look like it’s dying? The first thing to do is check the soil and make sure your bonsai is living in the correct environment for its species. Sometimes it’s just inevitable to prevent your tree from dying, but if you notice the warning signs early enough you could try to save it with the proper measurements and care.
If you need more advice on bonsai upkeep you can visit our care hub. There you can find guides and answers to the most frequent question regarding common bonsai care topics.