How to Resurrect a Bonsai if it is Dying

A beautiful bonsai plant can take years to style perfectly. If you notice signs that your bonsai is unhealthy, it’s easy to panic and worry that your time and energy have been wasted.

The good news is that you can detect your plant’s warning signs early on and save your bonsai before it’s too late.

How do I know if my bonsai tree is sick?

Most plants give clear indications that something is wrong. You’ll probably notice a difference in the appearance of your bonsai. The most common sign that your plant is sick is when its leaves turn yellow or brown.

Continue reading to learn how to tell if your bonsai tree is sick and how to care for it properly to bring it back to life.

Bonsai Tree With Yellow Leaves

Don’t be alarmed if your bonsai tree has yellow leaves. Yellow leaves are perfectly natural because deciduous leaves turn colors before the trees lose their leaves in the fall.

However, seeing yellow leaves on your bonsai at other times of the year can be a red flag. Yellow leaves can indicate a variety of problems.

  1. Overwatering: Overwatering is the most common cause of yellowing leaves. Too much water can cause root rot and prevent your bonsai from getting enough nutrients. Check that you are properly watering your bonsai. The amount of water required by bonsai varies according to species and season.
  2. Underwatering: Underwatering can also result in yellow leaves. This is most common during the summer. Bonsai are typically grown in small containers that quickly dry out in hot weather. During the summer, don’t expect outdoor bonsai to get enough water from rain alone.
  3. Overexposure to sunlight: Some bonsai have yellow leaves that turn yellow when exposed to too much sunlight, depending on the species. Determine how much sunlight your bonsai requires and keep it in the proper conditions.
  4. Disease: Some plant species are susceptible to a disease that causes yellowing of the leaves. To determine if the disease is a problem with your bonsai, you must first learn about the diseases that commonly affect the species you own.

Brown Leaves on Bonsai

Brown leaves on bonsai, like yellow leaves, are sometimes natural. You can expect deciduous trees to have brown leaves in the fall. Brown leaves, on the other hand, are a problem if it does not fall or if the tree is coniferous.

The following are the most common causes of brown leaves on bonsai trees:

  1. Overwatering: Excessive watering of your bonsai allows extra water to pool and damage the roots. Because damaged roots are unable to provide the nutrients that plants require, the leaves turn brown and die. Overwatering will cause the leaves to become mushy and brown.
  2. Underwatering: Brown leaves can also indicate that the plant has been submerged. If the leaves are being drowned, they will become crispy and brown. Different plant species necessitate different watering frequencies, so you must determine how frequently your species necessitates watering in order to solve this problem.
  3. Lack of sunlight: Certain plant species require more sunlight than others. Your bonsai leaves may turn brown if they do not receive enough sunlight. Determine how much sunlight your plant requires and provide it with that amount.
  4. Improper environment: When it comes to providing the right growing conditions, make sure your bonsai has the right environment. Many of the plants commonly grown as bonsai should be kept outside. Keeping bonsai plants indoors for an extended period of time can cause their leaves to turn brown. Keeping tropical or subtropical species outside in cool temperatures can be just as difficult. Check to see what kind of environment your plants require to thrive. 
  5. Pests: If your bonsai is attacked by pests, you may notice brown spots on the leaves. Because different pests attack different plant species, you should research the most common pests for your bonsai plant. Spider mites are common pests in hot, dry weather, but they are not the only ones that cause brown leaves.
  6. Lack of nutrients: It is critical that your bonsai receives adequate nutrition. If nutrients such as iron, magnesium, or nitrogen are deficient, bonsai leaves turn brown. During the growing season, use a liquid fertilizer to ensure your bonsai gets the nutrients it requires.

Bonsai Tree With Wilting or Drooping Leaves

It’s concerning to see your bonsai tree’s leaves wilting or drooping. In most cases, this is due to poor care. Most species’ leaves will usually turn yellow before they begin to wilt or droop, so check the reasons for yellow leaves above if this is the case.

If your bonsai tree’s leaves are wilting or drooping but aren’t yellow (or brown), look at how you’re caring for it. Wilting or drooping is frequently caused by overwatering or underwatering, a lack of light, or an incorrect temperature.

Determine what conditions your bonsai tree species requires to thrive and ensure that you are providing those conditions.

Bonsai Tree With No Leaves

Don’t be alarmed if your bonsai tree begins to lose its leaves. Remember that deciduous trees shed their leaves in the fall and go dormant in the winter. It’s completely normal.

Of course, in some cases, leaf loss can indicate a problem. Trees can lose their leaves as a result of stress. Relocation and repotting are two common causes of bonsai leaf loss. If you have recently relocated or repotted your bonsai, you should expect some leaf loss. Allow your bonsai to recover on its own before attempting anything else.

Bonsai trees lose leaves for a variety of reasons, including a lack of water, a lack of sunlight, and over-fertilization.

When some bonsai are not watered frequently enough during the summer, they can quickly dry out and begin to lose leaves. Increase the frequency of watering, but be careful not to overcorrect and overwater; overwatering can also harm plants.

Some bonsai suffer from a lack of sunlight. Determine how much light your species requires in order to provide the appropriate amount of light. If a window does not provide enough light for indoor bonsai, use grow lights to supplement natural light.

Most bonsai require fertilization because they quickly deplete all of the nutrients in their small pots, but be cautious not to over-fertilize. Excess fertilizer can burn your plant’s roots and cause it to lose leaves. When fertilizing plants, I usually recommend using half the recommended amount of fertilizer. You can always add more fertilizer, but once the damage has occurred, it is difficult to repair. You can try to save a plant that has been over-fertilized by changing the soil and running water over the roots to remove excess fertilizer.

Root Rot

Root rot is a common problem with bonsai trees and can lead to the tree’s death. A root infection can occur when the plant becomes infected with bacterial or fungal pathogens that grow in wet soil, or when excess water prevents the roots from accessing oxygen.

You can tell if a plant has root rot by inspecting its roots. Roots that are healthy are firm and white or green. Roots that have rotted are mushy and brown.

Root rot is difficult to detect because it occurs beneath the soil. Before you notice root rot, your plant’s leaves will most likely turn yellow or brown.

If there is only minor root rot, you can remove the mushy brown roots and use a root supplement to give your bonsai a fighting chance. However, preventing root rot is easier than dealing with it after it has occurred. Check that you are not overwatering your bonsai and that the container has adequate drainage holes.

How to Revive a Bonsai Tree That’s Sick

Don’t give up if your bonsai tree is sick; by making adjustments, you can bring it back to life. Let’s go over the most common ways to save a sick bonsai.

Adjust Watering Schedule

The most common issue with bonsai trees is overwatering. Different bonsai species have different water requirements: some require watering when the top of the soil is dry, while others require additional water only when the soil has completely dried out.

Find out what your species requires in terms of watering and stick to it.

If your bonsai has lost some of its leaves, it will require less water than usual. Because plants release water through their leaves, there is a greater risk of overwatering plants once they begin to lose leaves.

Although underwatering is less common, the same rules apply. If your bonsai is thirsty, only gradually increase the frequency of watering to save the plant. This is especially true if the plant has already lost its leaves. Changing from underwatering to overwatering will not save your bonsai.

Ensure Sufficient Sunlight

Your bonsai, like any other plant, cannot survive in the absence of adequate light. This amount varies by species, so it’s critical to understand what your bonsai requires to thrive.

Indoor bonsai are more susceptible to light deficiency than outdoor bonsai. Sometimes the amount of light available through windows is insufficient to meet the needs of a plant. If you don’t have a location in your home that receives enough light, use artificial light to provide adequate light for your bonsai.

Remove Dead Leaves

Carefully removing dead leaves from your bonsai will allow the plant to conserve energy and aid in its recovery.

Remove the dead leaves from the container if they fall on their own. Dead leaves decompose and return nutrients to the soil in the natural environment, but they decompose too slowly in a container.

Verdict: Can you bring a bonsai tree back to life?

It is possible to resurrect a dying bonsai tree, so don’t give up on your bonsai as soon as you notice problems. Instead, observe your bonsai to determine the problem and correct it as soon as possible.

If the problems are addressed, hardy species will recover. In fact, some bonsai recover surprisingly quickly, especially if the problem is detected early.

Some delicate bonsai trees may not recover if conditions have deteriorated significantly, but it is still worthwhile to try to correct the problem. Losing a prized bonsai tree and having to start over is infuriating, so don’t dismiss an unhealthy bonsai too quickly.

FAQ: How to Revive a Ficus Bonsai Tree

Ficus are hardy bonsai that respond well to revitalization efforts. Overwatering is the most common problem with ficus, so only water when the top inch of soil begins to dry out.

If watering isn’t the issue, look at the light and temperature next. A ficus bonsai requires plenty of light and consistent temperatures. Place the ficus in an east-facing window, away from cold air drafts.

FAQ: How to Revive a Gardenia Bonsai

Gardenia bonsai are relatively easy to care for and can be revived. Make sure you’re not overwatering your gardenia bonsai; only water it when the soil is nearly dry.

Check to see if your plant is getting enough light. If necessary, relocate your bonsai to a more sunny location. Look for signs of pests or diseases as well. Gardenia pests are common, so you may need to use an insecticide to save your gardenia bonsai.

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