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Bonsai Mistakes

16 Bonsai Mistakes That Are Killing Your Tree

Are you killing your bonsai tree?

Well, unknowingly, you might be Killing your beautiful bonsai tree.

Beginners tend to make the same mistakes repeatedly, which leads to their trees not growing as well as they would like.

Moreover, growing a healthy bonsai seems pretty straightforward, but we all make bonsai mistakes.

Also, beginners often feel frustrated and discouraged regarding the learning curve.

Worry not! Because this article covers 16 mistakes that you might be making that could spell the demise of your lovely miniature tree.

Besides, the bonsai trees can be very easy to care for as long as you know how to maintain the plant.

16  Bonsai Mistakes

1. Watering

Water is the basic need for keeping the bonsai tree alive, and it seems like a very simple task. But very often, it is done incorrectly, which leads to the plant’s death.

The biggest mistake growers do while misting their bonsai plant. Misting is fine, as it can benefit the plant. But you need to make sure that your bonsai plant roots are thoroughly watered, and this will not happen by just misting the tree.

Another common problem is creating a balance between underwatering and overwatering because both will eventually damage the bonsai plant. Hence, while watering maintain the balance.

2. Positioning

No one can explain the best location for your bonsai tree.

Therefore, make sure to place the bonsai tree where it can get enough light and also not expose it more to sunlight.

Again, it is about balance. If the tree is exposed more to sunlight, it will not thrive well.

Also, this balance of sunlight depends on the tree species. Some trees need more sunlight, while others can thrive in the partial sun.

3. Too much pruning

No doubt that the bonsai tree needs pruning to stay small.

But they also need to be left to grow at times. Too much pruning can be detrimental to plant health. Whenever pruning is done on the tree, it takes energy away from it. So the only way to regain the tree’s energy is to allow it to grow out.

If you keep on pruning new leaves, the tree will never regain its energy and will become weak.

The only problem is that if you leave a branch to grow out for too long, it will become too thick and lose the tree’s shape.

So, a bonsai tree is all about learning the balance between when to prune and when to leave the plant to grow. You need to learn this skill.

Also, each tree is different, so you need to pay attention to the growing habits of your bonsai tree.

It would help if you allowed the tree to grow out and then cut it back before it gets too out of control.

4. Inefficient fertilization

Many growers of the bonsai plant make the mistake of avoiding fertilization. However, it is a grave mistake! 

The trees that grow directly on the ground absorb nutrients using roots from the deeper soil layers. But in the case of indoor bonsai trees, it is not possible as the tree gets a limited supply from its small pot of soil.

A good fertilizer provides the plant with the necessary nutrients. If you think of leaving them to depend only on their potting soil, the nutrients will deplete too soon. Also, such plants may die from a lack of nutrients. 

So to avoid this, provide your indoor bonsai tree with sufficient nutrients by feeding them fertilizer. You can fertilize the plant in small quantities but do it periodically.

Moreover, excess fertilization can damage the bonsai. So, follow the fertilizer instructions to give your bonsai tree the right quantity at the right frequency.

5. Using the wrong bonsai tool

Special tools are required when it comes to grooming and trimming indoor bonsai trees. Some of these include bonsai scissors, wire cutters, and leaf trimmers. Your precious bonsai can be permanently damaged if you choose the wrong tools.

Remember not to use standard tools like a regular pair of scissors to trim the bonsai plant. As it can crush the bonsai plant, and eventually, it will affect the plant growth. And once your bonsai starts to grow older, you need sturdier tools.

So, make sure to use the right tools while tending your indoor bonsai, as it is an essential part of the proper maintenance of the bonsai plant.

6. Potting into bonsai pot too soon

Some people make this huge mistake of potting a bonsai into a pot too early.

This is not an actual mistake; the real bonsai mistake is when you do bonsai potting too soon and expect it to grow quickly.

Potting a bonsai tree that is not ready to be in a bonsai pot will slow its progress dramatically. So you need to be aware of this if you are thinking of doing this.

Firstly, you need to develop your bonsai tree in a big pot to grow well and reach the size you want. After that, you can put the bonsai tree in a small container and carry it on from there.

7. Using the wrong technique for the species

As a beginner, you might be unaware that different types of work are carried out at different times of the year and at different stages of bonsai tree development. You might also be unaware that this varies from species to species.

The only solution to this bonsai mistake is to do your research, read as much as you can about your tree species, and you may ask people questions to make sure you are using the right technique for your species.

Also, it would help if you worked out the goals you have for your bonsai tree. Because without this, you will have no idea about what techniques to use and why.

This will be like doing a bonsai tree in the dark, which will never end well for your bonsai tree.

A well-researched plan will make sure you are taking the right steps to grow your tree and reach the goal each year.

8. Lack of patience

Most bonsai mistakes are fixable; patience is not.

Bonsai is the art in which trees are trained over years and even decades. 

You must have seen the bonsai tree online that looks jaw-dropping, and looking at your bonsai tree; you must be wondering, “ why can’t your tree look like that?”

Bonsai is the reward for the owner’s patience, effort, and care. It would help if you accepted that the bonsai tree grows slowly, and growing from a young tree to a jaw-dropping tree takes a long time.

For this reason, bonsai enthusiasts have many bonsai trees in their collection, so they always have something to work on while other bonsai trees are in the development stage.

9. Keeping tropical bonsai indoor

Most bonsai should be grown most of the year outdoors; usually, it depends on the location. Whereas, keeping tropical bonsai is never a good idea to keep them indoors, except in extreme weather conditions.

The reason tropical bonsai should not be kept indoors is that there is not enough light or humidity to thrive well in the long term.However, you can occasionally bring them for a few days if it gets cold or snowy outside.

While it is also a good idea to put them in areas with high humidity or place them under some artificial light.

10.  Not Repotting Rootbound Bonsai Trees

The plant should be repotted on occasion, and its roots should be trimmed in repotting.

If the tree is younger, repot it every 2-3 years, depending on its soil and root condition.

Whereas mature bonsai trees can be repotted for up to 5 years.

Repotting may seem time-consuming, so get a root hook to ease your work.

11. Working on bonsai tree too early

Always wait until a bonsai sapling begins to look like a tree before working on that. Also, this varies by tree species and their growing conditions. 

But it is always a good idea to allow the tree to grow for at least 4 years before working on it.

I know it’s a long wait, but it will grow a healthy bonsai plant for you.

12. Doing root work out of the season

Avoid rootwork out of season; you can start doing rootwork at the beginning or end of winter.

Usually, roots grow mostly in early summer and have a shorter growth in autumn.

Also, roots do not go dormant for winter like the above-ground part of the tree does.

Roots may not grow fast compared to other parts, but they remain ready and willing. So, try to do the work while they don’t have to support the dormant above part.

13. Not winterizing bonsai correctly

Always make sure to winterize your bonsai tree.

It is crucial to winterize the bonsai plant when the weather gets around freezing. The temperature of 23℉ is fatal to most bonsai plants.

To protect the tree from frost, you can plant the tree in the ground to protect the roots. An easier method would be to place bonsai under a shed or roof with blankets or insulation.

Moreover, make sure to keep it inside at night in case of lots of rain or snow.

14. Ignoring the “One Insult per Season” Rule

If you want to have a healthy plant, stick to this rule.

Also, a point to remember here is some give and take rules because all insults are not equal. 

For instance, in spring, if you have just repotted your bonsai tree with strong roots, then it is ok to trim them slightly. Whereas if you have a root-bound bonsai tree in old dirt and you have to trim more roots than you would normally do, in that case, it is a good idea to let your plant rest for a season.

It might sound challenging to you but think like it’s surgery and the amount of trauma your bonsai tree can handle.

15. Not Addressing pests in time

Pests are a constant problem in the bonsai tree. If you don’t pay attention, your bonsai tree will be getting damaged in no time. Because pests can do damage, also they can kill your bonsai tree. In addition, they can be spread to other surrounding plants.

16. Forget bonsai on vacation 

The excess water can kill the bonsai plant. Hence, you need to ensure that it will be watered in due course. If you have automatic irrigation, make sure that it works well.

However, you do not have automatic irrigation days before leaving, give precise instructions to the person you are leaving in charge of watering your bonsai tree.

But if you do not have a family member or friend who can look after your tree during the days you are away, the best option is to take them to specialized centres with childcare services where they will take care of your tree while you enjoy your vacation.


1. Should I rotate my bonsai tree?

Suppose your bonsai tree is not getting full sun, 360 degrees around the tree. You need to rotate your bonsai tree every week to ensure that all foliage receives equal sunlight.

2. What does an overwatered bonsai tree look like?

When the bonsai tree is overwatered, its leaves start to turn yellow, and branches get shrivel.

3. How do I know my bonsai tree needs repotting?

when the roots get pot bounded it’s time to re-pot the tree.

4. Can I use regular potting soil for the bonsai trees?

It is not appropriate to use regular potting soil for bonsai if you are serious about your bonsai tree. You will need a substrate that drains well and does not stay wet too long.

5. Can I water my bonsai tree with tap water?

Yes, if you can drink your tap water, you can use it for bonsai trees.

6. Where do I cut the bonsai tree?

Identify the main branch and prune long shoots back to the main branch to form neat foliage.

7. How old should the bonsai tree be before wiring?

You can wire the bonsai plant when it gets about 3-5 years old.


It is easy to fall into the trap of common bonsai mistakes discussed in this article.

But don’t feel bad because we all end up making these bonsai mistakes.

The most important thing is to learn from these bonsai mistakes and avoid making such in the future.

The majority of mistakes happen due to a lack of knowledge. Take the time to learn, and your tree will thank you for avoiding these mistakes.

Before you go, check out our other post.

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