Bonsai Losing Leaves? 3 Reasons Why & What You Should Do

Is your bonsai tree shedding leaves at an alarming rate? Don’t panic, and keep reading!

This could be a perfectly natural event, or it could indicate a severe problem. Your first step should be to figure out why your tree is losing leaves. Then you can take appropriate action.

You should act quickly to intervene in case the loss of leaves is due to a severe problem that you will need to correct immediately. Or it could be as simple as going into dormancy for the winter – something that Chinese elm bonsai trees are prone to.

Top 3 Reasons Your Bonsai Is Losing Leaves

You should act quickly to intervene in case the loss of leaves is due to a severe problem that you will need to correct immediately. Or it could be as simple as going into dormancy for the winter – something that Chinese elm bonsai trees are prone to.

Reason #1: Overwatering – Or Forgetting To Water

Improper watering is the leading cause of death for indoor plants. Overwatering will cause a gradual decline followed by the death of your prized plant. Forgetting to water can also be fatal. However, it happens much more quickly.

Many beginners at growing bonsai are thrilled with their new companion and fuss over it by watering it constantly.

Please don’t do that. Water thoroughly and then give the plant time to dry out. Check the soil an inch deep every few days to see if the soil is dry or moist. If it is dry, it is time to water.

Saturated soil can lead to a nasty fungal disease called root rot. This doesn’t happen immediately. Over time, the infection becomes entrenched, and your bonsai will start dropping its leaves. You may be able to save it.

If you are not used to taking care of plants, you may forget to water the plant. It will respond by shedding leaves.

Unfortunately, this is a much more difficult problem. Water your bonsai tree immediately, and hope for the best. However, if the roots are totally dry, you will lose your companion.

Don’t give up on growing bonsai trees! View it as a learning experience.

Reason #2: Not Getting Enough Light

Choosing where to put your new bonsai tree can be a surprisingly difficult decision. Beginners tend to want the place the plant in the perfect aesthetic spot.

However, if that spot is far from a window or in a bookshelf, your tree will show its displeasure by dropping its leaves.

Bonsai trees need a lot of light. A sunny window is best in many instances. However, location can be a factor. Full sun in the UK is different from full sun in Tucson.

At the least, your bonsai tree should be near a window if not placed on a windowsill.

If you do not have the proper lighting for your tree, you can grow it under fluorescent grow lights.

Once you place your plant in a location with more light, its leaves should grow back.

Reason #3: Pests And Diseases

Except for root rot, diseases are rarely a problem with indoor bonsai trees.

Pests, on the other hand, seem to materialize out of nowhere.

Sap-sucking aphids and whiteflies, fungus gnats, and spider mites can move onto your plant, which responds by – you guessed it – shedding leaves.

You should treat your plant ASAP if you see insects on it. Try neem oil – a natural, nontoxic, and highly effective insecticide – that is available at most garden centers.

How To Revive A Bonsai Losing Leaves

To revive your bonsai, make sure you know what kind of bonsai you have. Once you’re sure, use this guide to determine if your plant can be saved.

Step 1: Determine Why Your Bonsai Is Dying

The first step to rescue your plant is to figure out why it is dying. Different problems have different solutions and treating the wrong problem might make everything worse. Once you’ve determined the problem, you can take steps to correct it.

Step 2: Remove Any Dead Parts

To give your plant the best chance of recovery, it is advised to remove any dead parts. Your bonsai will continue to try to revive any dead leaves, stems, and branches which puts your little tree under a lot of stress. By removing the dead foliage, you give your bonsai a chance to focus its energy on helping the living parts to recover.

If you want to know if your tree stands a chance of recovering, check the cambium. The cambium is the green growth tissue directly below the bark. If the cambium of the areas you cut appears fairly green and healthy, you have a good chance of saving your bonsai.

Step 3: Prune Any Dead Roots

Just like removing dead foliage, it’s a good idea to remove any dead roots. Part of nurturing your bonsai back to health is repotting it. You can use this opportunity to inspect the roots and remove any wilted, dead, or diseased roots. Doing so will slow the spread of diseases and give your plant the best chance of recovery.

Step 4: Place Bonsai In Temporary Container

While you clean and prepare your bonsai pot, it’s a good idea to place it in a temporary container only filled with tepid water. The water should reach just above the root system. Doing so will rehydrate your plant.

Step 5: Wash Container And Change Soil

In many cases, the soil creates the perfect environment for pests and diseases to thrive. Remove the soil left in the pot and sanitize it with a mild detergent. Make sure to rinse the pot properly before refilling it with new soil.

To prepare the soil, mix equal amounts of nutrient-rich potting soil, perlite, and sphagnum moss together. Doing this will create a light soil mixture that drains well but still retains moisture for your bonsai.

Step 6: Repot And Relocate The Bonsai

Part of helping your bonsai recover and keeping it healthy is to make sure that it‘s placed in the right location. When you repot your bonsai, make sure the roots are covered in the soil and water it thoroughly by giving it a good soaking in tepid water. Once ready, relocate it to a sunny area that’s protected from the wind. If you have an outdoor bonsai, it will be best to place it outdoors where it can experience a range of temperatures. Indoor bonsai do well near a sunny window.

Step 7: Water The Bonsai

As the soil dries out, you will need to water your bonsai again. You can determine when to water by doing the finger test. If you stick your finger into the soil about one inch (2.5 cm) deep and the soil feels dried out, it’s time to water your bonsai. If the soil still feels moist, it is better to wait for a day or two before doing this test again. Take care not to overwater your plant.

Step 8: Be Patient!

A sick bonsai won’t recover overnight. You will need to be persistent and patient to get your precious little tree back in shape.

It is all a learning experience so don’t be disheartened if your bonsai doesn’t make it. Learn from your mistakes and try again, that is the only way you’ll become a successful bonsai grower. Have fun and try your best, I’m rooting for you!

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