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bonsai plants & tree shedding leaves

Bonsai Plants Common Problems & Solutions

Growing a bonsai tree is like raising a child. Children tend to get sick sometimes. We diagnose the issue and treat their ailment. The same thing happens with plants as well. 

But don’t worry if you are a first time plant parent. We have you covered! Here, we have covered the most detailed care instructions for bonsai plants & trees. 

Top Six Most Common Issues that a Bonsai tree may Encounter

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Common Symptoms of the Pests on Bonsai.

1. Visible Spot on the Leaves

Usually, the spots are red, brown, or black. This is a sign of a fungal infection. However, you need to treat them right away! Remove any affected leaves and treat the tree with fungicide. You can get the fungicide from a gardening store.

2. A Loose or Wiggling Tree Trunk

The trunk of a healthy bonsai usually sticks to its soil no matter how much you move it. Yet, when it moves freely, that indicates poor root growth, which can cause a tree to suffocate.

Also, a common cause of this problem is over-watering. To fix these problems, add bonsai fertilizer to the soil

3. Swollen Bark

Bonsai plants can also develop “under the skin” diseases. This is especially true if the tree has not fully recovered after trimming.

Identify the infected branches or trunks and remove them. For healthy healing, use the cut paste method.

4. Off-Season Loss of Leaves or Needles

It is a sign of mold or fungal infection if the bonsai tree is losing its leaves in the wrong season.

To save the tree, a round of fungicides is the best option. Additionally, you should act quickly since such infections spread fast and may leap from one bonsai to another.

Bonsai Problems and Solution for Specific Plants

Bonsai trees such as ficus, Carmona, and jade are some of the best you’ll find. But when their leaves turn brown, or fall, it can be very depressing. Even worse is when your favorite bonsai dies.

Fortunately, that won’t be the case anymore. In this section, you will learn how to solve problems with your beloved bonsai. 

Ficus Bonsai 

Why is my ficus bonsai losing leaves

The most common reason of ficus tree dropping leaves is a change in their environment or a change in the season. 

In addition, humidity and temperature in your house can also change at this time, which can cause ficus trees to lose leaves.

How do you revive a dying ficus bonsai tree?

Step 1: Get sharp pruning shears and remove all dead leaves. 

Step 2: See if there are any signs of life (In the case of a green cambium, your ficus will have a better chance of surviving).

Step 3: With sharp root scissors, trim away any dead roots.

Step 4: Get a fresh container ready

Step 5: As you prepare the container, submerge the roots in water to prevent them from drying out.

Step 6: It’s time to repot your dying ficus bonsai.

Step 7: Next, place the ficus in an ideal location.

Step 8: Thoroughly water your ficus bonsai.

Carmona Bonsai

My Carmona is dying and I don’t know why….

First of all, bonsai trees rarely die overnight. Before your Carmona bonsai tree dies, there are several warning signs that tell you something is wrong. When you are trying to figure out if your bonsai tree is dying, you should look for discolorations or brittle branches and foliage.

There are many reasons why your Carmona might be dying, such as

  • Underwatering 
  • Overwatering
  • Lack of sufficient light
  • Pest infestation

Why did my tea Fukien bonsai lose all its leaves?

Poor soil that retains too much water can cause overwatering in indoor tea Fukien (Carmona bonsai). After a few months, overwatering will lead to root rot, which causes the tree to lose its strength and leaves.

Chinese Elm bonsai

Why is my Chinese Elm bonsai dying?

In small pots, bonsai trees have little room to store nutrients or water. In case you forget to water your Chinese elm Bonsai and the soil dries completely, the roots will dry out quickly and your bonsai will die.

Why is my Chinese Elm bonsai leaves turning brown?

If your Chinese elm bonsai does not receive enough water, its leaves will turn brown and die. If you see brown branches on your Chinese elm bonsai plant, prune them away immediately. Additionally, water your bonsai regularly. And remember to mist your plant at least once a week.  

How To Revive An Overwatered Chinese Elm bonsai Tree?

Step 1: To recover your Chinese elm bonsai, remove the dead parts. 

Step 2: Before repotting a bonsai, thoroughly wash the pot to remove any fungus. 

Step 3: Once you have pruned the roots and washed the bonsai’s pot, it’s time to repot it. 

Step 4: After repotting, you will need to keep a close eye on the bonsai tree. 

If the Chinese elm is overwatered, it will take a few days for it to recover. It usually takes less time in the spring and summer. However, in time, your Chinese elm will flourish again.

Jade bonsai

How to Revive a Jade Bonsai with Leaves Falling Off?

In the absence of sufficient water, jade plants tend to shed their leaves naturally. If your plant’s leaves start falling off, check the soil first. Watering the Jade lightly two or three times in winter is the best method of reviving it. 

Additionally, soak the soil thoroughly in spring, summer, and fall as at this point the plant needs the most moisture. 

Juniper Bonsai

Why are my Juniper Bonsai leaves Turning Yellow/ Brown?

When the plant receives enough sunlight, it produces chlorophyll. When sunlight isn’t available to a plant, chlorophyll production decreases, resulting in yellow/ brown leaves. 

Hence, in the absence of direct sunlight, your juniper bonsai leaves are turning yellow due to a lack of chlorophyll.

Why does my Juniper bonsai tree have Visible spots on the leaves?

It is usually a fungal infection that causes visible spots on Juniper leaves. However, they should be treated as soon as possible. So, if the leaves on your bonsai show spots, remove them completely.

How do you revive a dying juniper Bonsai?

Step 1: Get sharp pruning shears and prune all dead leaves. 

Step 2: Look for any signs of life.  

Step 3: With sharp root scissors trim away any dead roots.

Step 4: Get a fresh pot ready

Step 5: As you prepare the pot, submerge the roots in water to prevent them from drying out.

Step 6: Next repot your dying juniper bonsai.

Step 7: Place your bonsai juniper in the ideal location.

Step 8: Thoroughly water your bonsai.

How do you save an overwatered juniper Bonsai tree?

Let your juniper bonsai dry outside. In a hot climate, you can simply leave your juniper outside to dry if your bonsai is overwatered. As a result, your bonsai will drain naturally, and the heat will help to evaporate some of the excess water.

Maple Bonsai

Why is my maple Bonsai dying?

Since bonsai trees are planted in pots, they do not have much room for nutrients or water reserves. A Maple Bonsai will die quickly if you fail to water it and the soil completely dries out.

Interested in learning more about how to take care of the bonsai tree? Here are the list of preventive measures or the right ways to care for and grow the bonsai tree.

Pine bonsai:

Why is my pine bonsai dying?

Pine bonsai trees can be hard for bonsai practice, and that’s usually because their growth flushes, which indicates it takes more time and patience to style the species than it does a juniper tree, for example. Other than that, a dying pine bonsai might show some signs, like;

Yellow needles:

The most common sign is yellow needles. Old needles turn yellow before falling off, which is natural, But here are some yellowing patterns that will imply that they need some fixing or will end up dying. These are;

Newer needles that are yellow more towards the bottom than the tip may indicate the bonsai is being overwatered, so you should let the soil of the tree dry out.

Yellow bands on the needles may signify physical injury or the existence of a fungal disease. Check for any fungus coating, if notice any use fungicide and place the bonsai somewhere with more air circulation. 

Yellowed needle ends could imply the bonsai tree is getting too much light. A shade cloth over their head would help.

Dying Particular Branches:

Branches may have been physically harmed giving a yellow part of the tree, and there may not be an underlying cause for the issue. Or, some branches may not obtain sufficient light resulting in blackening or failing. The last cause could be tree boring beetles or flathead borers causing devastation with your pine bonsai. If there is borer damage, the bonsai may not be worth rescuing. Control forthcoming infestations with wound paste after pruning. 

Interested in learning more about how to take care of the bonsai tree? Here are the list of preventive measures or the right ways to care for and grow the bonsai tree.

How To Water Bonsai Trees?

Water your bonsai by checking the soil moisture and water it if it feels dry to the touch. Make sure to water thoroughly. For tips on watering bonsai, click here

How to Repot a Bonsai Tree?

For repotting a bonsai tree, adding lava rock, grit, or akadama as a drainage layer is the first step. Then, add a thin layer of Bonsai soil. Now, put the tree back in its pot. To secure the tree, use the wires. Here is a detailed guide on repotting.

How to fertilize bonsai?

Putting a schedule on the calendar is the best approach to fertilizing bonsai. But remember to be careful of fertilizers that are stronger. Don’t overfeed your bonsai (fertilizer burn). Lastly, be sure to follow the fertilizer package instructions. However, if you’re just starting out, check out this article

How do I provide essential humidity to my Bonsai tree?

You can easily provide essential humidity by placing bonsai on a tray with a layer of decorative rocks. Water your bonsai from above. As excess water collects in the tray, it slowly evaporates, increasing the humidity surrounding the bonsai. 

This makes your bonsai more conducive to growth. In addition to these steps, you may use a humidifier or a spray bottle.

How to prune bonsai plants?

Prune off any rubbing, crossing, or awkward branches. In addition, it is important to remove branches that are out of proportion (too thick, too long, etc.). You can read our detailed guide on how to prune here.

How to wire and shape a bonsai?

Whenever you are wiring a Bonsai tree, start by wiring the trunk and then proceed to the secondary branches. To wire a branch, use wires that are 1/3 the thickness of the branch. 

Ensure that the wire is thick enough to hold the branch firmly in place. For detailed wiring and shaping techniques, check out this article

How to choose the best bonsai Soil?

Choose the bonsai soil that is having Akadama, pumice, lava rock, organic potting compost, and fine gravel. These are important ingredients in bonsai soil. 

Ideally, the bonsai soil should be pH neutral, meaning it should not be acidic or basic. Thus, it is ideal to have a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. Check out this guide to bonsai soil for a more in-depth look.

How to Pick the Right Position for Your Bonsai to Grow?

For bonsai trees to stay healthy, sunlight is the best light source. Hence, the brightest window in your house is the best place for an indoor bonsai tree. To learn more about the right bonsai position, click here

How to choose a bonsai pot?

The first thing to check is the size of the bonsai pot. While repotting a bonsai, it is usually recommended to make the new pot 5 cm longer and wider than the old pot. In addition, make sure your bonsai pot has drainage holes at the bottom. 

Drainage holes prevent the bonsai soil from becoming waterlogged, thereby preventing root rot. If you want help choosing the right pot, click here.

How to Prune Bonsai Roots?

Take your bonsai out of its pot and use a root hook to comb out its roots. When pruning your bonsai roots for the first time, you will have to severely cut the tap root. 

Also, keep younger roots and remove older, thicker ones. Make sure your tools are disinfected and don’t remove more than two-thirds of the roots at once. Here’s more information about root pruning.

How To Protect Bonsai In Winter? 

During the winter, bonsai trees require very little light. In fact, too much winter sun can dry out evergreen foliage and the bare branches of deciduous trees. Hence, it is best to keep your bonsai in a shady or partially shaded location throughout the winter.

Dry wind in winter is the most destructive part of winter as freezing air can dry out trees fast. Trees that dry out in winter have more potential to shed branches or die than trees that are harbored from the wind.

Dormant trees don’t fully close down in winter. As such, they will still continuously require moisture. Trees in warmer and brighter sites may need moisture up to one time a week; in colder spots, watering once a month will be suitable.

Winter care Tips:

  • Heat pads or heat coils can help keep the root temperatures high indoors, but remark that trees preserved on heat pads may need more regular watering.
  • Numerous species will benefit from light in winter. Grow lights on timers are a favored alternative for trees kept indoors as they produce little heat.
  • Rats, mice, voles, deer, and gophers have been known to nibble on bonsai over winter. Wire mesh can save the tree by keeping the creatures away from trees in the garden, and bait or traps can be useful indoors.
  • When using heaters to control temperatures indoors, use standalone thermostats they can deliver more flexibility and are more trustworthy than those thermostats that have in-built heaters. 

How To Protect Bonsai In Summer? 

Protect bonsai trees with shade cloth that covers their tops and sides. Moreover, use larger containers for growing trees. Additionally, an extra layer of pumice on a tray provides extra water and keeps pots cool. Click here for more amazing summer bonsai care tips.

What are the common issues and solutions for Bonsai Plants?  

Among the most common problems, people encounter with Bonsai trees are overwatering, underwatering, too much or too little sunlight, temperature, over-pruning, soil issues, fertilizing, and pests and diseases. In most cases, a simple fix can be found if the problem is identified in time.

Bonsai Plants disease

  1. Aphids
  2. Caterpillar
  3. Mealybugs
  4. Mildew
  5. Red Spider Mites
  6. Root Rot
  7. Rust
  8. Vine Weevils
  9. Scales
  10. Slug or Snails
Pests and disease Symptoms Treatment 
AphidsTheir bodies are shaped like a pear, and they feed on bonsai sap.

Under the leaves, aphids are usually crowded together. 

They also secrete sugary “honeydew” drops that attract mold and ants.
Avoid underwatering. 

A strong spray of water will kill all the aphids. 

A lady beetle is a natural enemy.

Neem oil, horticultural oil, and insecticidal soap can also be used to control aphids.
Caterpillar Leaves have been eaten or there is silk between the branches.Occasionally spray the leaves with soap water and use more neem oil.
Mealybugs They are oval-shaped and hide in any cool, dark spot on a bonsai tree. 

Their hiding places include the root system and the nooks between leaves.
Mix rubbing alcohol and dawn dish soap together. Spray the entire plant with this solution.
Mildew During humid weather, this type of fungus grows on bonsai leaves and branches. 

It is powdery and white and can weaken your bonsai.
Move the affected bonsai to a lighter area and make sure the foliage does not become too wet to eliminate mildew. 

Also, systemic fungicides may be helpful.
Red spider mitesSmall red spiders are found mostly under leaves. 

Additionally, they spin a fine silky web at the bottom of the leaf to protect their tiny white eggs from predators.
Wipe the infested area with rubbing alcohol-soaked cotton balls. 

Rinse the plant with water after letting it sit on it for a few hours.
Root rotOverwatering and poor drainage cause this problem. 

Fine white roots become brown and soft. 

Bonsai leaves get discolored Weaken branches

Growth of the plant is stunted.
Take the plant out of the soil and wash the roots. Gently wash away soil and affected roots. Trim away the remaining affected roots with a sharp, clean pair of scissors or shears.
RustUnder the leaves, these fungi cause orange and brown spots. 

It looks like rusted metal and causes bonsai to lose leaves.
Sulfur is the best solution for preventing rust. Sulfur can be sprinkled on the plant weekly. 

Additionally, neem oil, fungicides, and pesticides can control rust.
Vine WeevilsIt is a small bug about 10 mm long with yellow or white spots on its back. 

Vine weevils can be found burrowing in the soil and eating plant roots.

The adult vine weevil leaves “notches” around the edges of the leaves, and holes in the center.
Apply a vine weevil chemical. 

Insecticide is also an option.
ScalesA scale is an oval-shaped brown insect that looks like bumps on the bark. 

On the underside of leaves and along the edges of bark, they form a crowd.
Scale insects can be removed by pruning and disposing of infested branches. 

If low in numbers, they can be hand-picked or rubbed.
Slug or SnailsIt spreads fungus, mold, and disease to bonsai trees. 

On leaves and branches, these creatures leave slime trails.
Slugs and snails can be removed by wrapping copper wire around the bonsai trunk’s bottom. The slug’s nervous system will be impacted and it will not be able to scale your bonsai.


Every bonsai is different, and even though their care and needs are the same, they may have different issues. Follow this guide to help you navigate your life as a plant parent. 

We hope these solutions have been helpful for you. In case you have any other questions, let us know in the comments section below. 

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