Your Cart

Use Coupon WELCOME for Additional 10% OFF

How to Revive a Bonsai Tree

Revive Your Bonsai Tree with These Proven Techniques!

Even if we wish it weren’t so, sometimes trees die. This is one of the most challenging lessons in bonsai and something you will likely encounter on your bonsai journey. It can be especially heartbreaking if you have been working on the tree for a long time.

Many different factors can lead to the death of a bonsai. From neglect to infection to improper care, these can cause the plant to die. Still, there is hope. Depending on the bonsai tree species, there are several ways to revive a dead tree.

You will find a few steps shared in this article that you can use to revive your bonsai tree.

Why my bonsai tree is dying

Before we learn how to revive the bonsai tree, it is important to know the reasons why your bonsai tree could be dying. This is essential as you want to know why your tree died to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

It’s a learning curve to master the art of bonsai, and everyone takes the journey in their way. For example, some people may kill trees along their journey, whereas some might not. But the important thing is to take those lessons and use them in the future. 

Like life, everyone’s journey is a little different, and that’s one of the most rewarding things about bonsai.

Let us look at some reasons that can lead to a dying bonsai.

Ceramic pots for sale come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, making it easy to find the perfect fit for your plant and home decor. Whether you’re looking for a simple and classic design or something more unique and artistic, there are many options available online or at your local garden center. Remember to choose a pot with proper drainage to keep your plants healthy. 

Reason 1: Forgetting to water

All of us know how vital watering is. Plants need water to thrive and remain healthy. 

However, sometimes it isn’t easy to decide how much water your bonsai requires. In addition, the amount of water a tree needs to remain healthy can differ from species to species.

For instance, a Weeping Willow will need more water than a Baobab. Therefore, it is crucial to understand your tree type and how much water it requires.

Moreover, bonsai containers tend to be shallow, small, and with drainage holes. As a result, they’re different from other garden pots. Plants grown in bonsai containers tend to dry out faster than those grown in garden pots because they have less moisture available.

You can see signs of drought in the leaves of trees that haven’t been watered. The leaves will begin to droop, wilt, and eventually fall off.

Reason 2: Overwatering

Overwatering is another significant reason for a dead and dying bonsai. Unfortunately, sometimes bonsai growers are so focused on not forgetting to water their bonsai tree that they don’t realize they are overwatering it.

And most bonsai trees do not like to have their roots constantly submerged. Moreover, this leads to root rot, which sometimes travels up to the tree’s trunk, eventually killing your tree.

The major problem with overwatering is that it happens slowly and gradually. Usually, by the time you see signs, it is too late. However, some bonsai trees’ leaves can generally give you a good indication of the tree’s health.

The most common signs of overwatering are yellowing and wilting of leaves. Also, don’t mistake this sign with the changing season’s effect on certain tree species that turn leaves yellow.

Yellowing leaves can also indicate other problems, such as a lack of nutrients. Therefore, check if your soil is wet before attributing the leaves to one cause.

Reason 3: Wrong Location

Some of the trees used in the bonsai art are not meant to be grown indoors. As a thumb rule, most bonsai should be grown outside. However, this is not always possible, and few people know this.

Unfortunately, it does happen that people purchase a beautiful bonsai for their desks at work, and soon the plant starts to die. That’s because the indoor growing conditions are not optimal to sustain the tree’s health.

But certain bonsai species can be grown inside, and most others can also be kept indoors if you have a good setup with enough lights available.

So, the most important thing to know is what species of bonsai you have and what are their growing requirements. That way, you can locate it in the best spot to keep the bonsai tree healthy and thriving.

Reason 4: Insufficient sunlight

To grow and remain healthy, the bonsai tree needs sufficient sunlight. Depending on the bonsai species, they may require sunlight between three to six hours daily. 

So, the best place for a bonsai tree is a spot that receives a few hours of the morning sun and shade in the afternoon. Also, check your bonsai species guide for their requirements.

Moreover, it is not the UV in sunlight that plants need. All glass blocks a lot of UV from the sun, so if the plants needed it, they would not be able to survive at all indoors. Plants need red and blue light for their development. 

Blue light encourages chlorophyll production in plants, leading to strong stems and leaf development. And the red light is important for germination, root growth, flowering, and fruiting.

Reason 5: Rushing the process

Beginners often make this mistake. With a new bonsai, you get so excited and over-enthusiastic. However, it could lead to a few mistakes and may kill your tree.

You tend to rush the process when you are very excited to work on a bonsai. As a result, you may prune away too many leaves or roots of the bonsai. Or you may re-pot at the wrong time of the year just to fit it into a nicer pot. 

You may even decide to style the tree with wire and then a few days, change the style. However, these are very stressful for the bonsai tree; it could be too much, and the bonsai can die.

So, take the process in stages and enjoy your bonsai journey.

Steps to Revive a Dead Bonsai

As you know, some of the common reasons why a bonsai can die; we can get into what you can do to revive a dead bonsai.

Step 1: Pruning

The first thing is to remove any dead foliage. So, use sharp pruning shears and remove all dead leaves. This will ensure that the dead leaves do not take unnecessary energy from the tree that can be better used to save the bonsai tree. Pruning also involves cutting the tips of the live branches 1 inches from the top to promote the new growth. Hence, it is one of the most essential steps in saving the bonsai tree from dying.

You must use the pruning sheers / scissors even if you are a beginner. This is the one tool that you will need for a lot of purposes which lead to grooming the bonsai tree.

best pruning shears for bonsai tree

MADE IN JAPAN 7inch(180mm), Japanese Bonsai Garden Tools, Hasami Pruning Shears


  • Japanese Garden Tools – Known for the Supreme Quality.
  • A must have tool for anyone who is into bonsai or the gardening. You can use any where.


  • Not easily available everywhere. So you’ll have to buy it online and price goes up and down.
Running a discounted deal that saves 25%. Check now.

Step 2: Observe the signs of life

Monitor the area where you removed the foliage. See if the cambium, the growth layer of the tree, is green. If the cambium is still green, then you have a better chance of saving the tree.

It may be too late if the cambium is dark or greyish. Do not lose hope. Continue with the rest of the steps, as your bonsai tree might still hang on.

Step 3: Root Pruning

Carefully comb out and clean the roots. Start to trim any roots that are dead with sharp root scissors. Dead roots look dark brown/black, and healthy roots are lighter.

Here again, you are going to need the pruning sheers. The same sheer will work.

You can get the same bonsai pruning sheers here.

Here is a detailed guide on how to prune and comb a bonsai roots..

Step 4: Submerge the roots in water

In water, submerge the roots, so they do not dry out while preparing the pot. In addition, you can use a damp cloth placed gently over the entire root system.

Step 5: Prepare a fresh pot

You can also use the same container if you wash it thoroughly. However, a bigger pot works best, such as a garden pot, while the tree is recovering.

Once the tree has recovered and is healthy, you can re-pot the tree into a bonsai pot before the next growing season, usually in late winter or early spring.

Set of 3 Professional & Highly Affordable Bonsai Pots with Tray

Built in Mesh, Six Inch Large Planters + Made from Durable Shatter Proof Poly-Resin

Running a discounted deal that saves 25%. Check nowJUST $14

Looking for the bonsai pot, you can check these highly affordable and profession bonsai pots.

Step 6: Repotting

Repot your bonsai tree in a healthy soil mix of nutrient-rich potting soil, sphagnum, moss, and perlite, in a ratio of 1:1:1. Fill the pot one-third of the way with this recovery soil. 

Place your bonsai tree in the center of the pot and cover all the roots with soil. While working with soil, use a chopstick or similar device.

Some bonsai growers prefer to place the bonsai tree and pot in a sink, with tepid water reaching just above the height of the pot and waiting for the bubbles to stop rising from the pot.

You can get the best in-class bonsai soil that we use in our nursery here.

We use this product

Bonsai Soil by Perfect Plants – 2qts. | Premium All-Purpose Mix Bonsai Tree Varieties

Well Drainage and Nutrient Rich Soil – Suitable for all house plants & potted plants.

Available on a deal price.

Step 7: Place the tree in an ideal location

Place the bonsai tree in an ideal location to ensure its best healing. Check the species care guidance for your bonsai to know which location is perfect for your tree.

For most bonsai, a perfect spot is the one that gets morning sun for at least four to six hours every day and shade in the afternoon.

Moreover, an ideal location requires good ventilation for good cell development. 

Step 8: Water thoroughly

Deeply water your bonsai with tepid or lukewarm water whenever the topsoil is drying. Also, remember to give a little drying time between watering to ensure you aren’t overwatering.

Moreover, there will be days when you might need to water multiple times, for example, when it is very hot or even when it is very humid or windy, as these weather conditions quickly dry out bonsai.

You should consider getting a the watering can if needed. That makes the watering easier, even and protect from soil erosion.

We use this product

Watering Can Indoor Plants with Removable Long Spout and Sprinkler Head, Plastic Large Watering Can for Garden

  • Perfect Watering can for all garden needs
  • Easy to use – very lightweight
  • Sturdy Material and Durable for Long Use.
#Deals Of The Day

What If None of This Works?

Depending on the tree’s condition, sometimes nothing works on them. Unfortunately, no repotting can save the tree if your tree is deeply infected or the root system is completely dead. After repotting, wait for a few weeks with the tree placed in partial sunlight to see if your tree’s health starts to pick up.

Usually, after repotting and pruning, the tree is weaker for a short time. Then, a short while later, the pruned roots regenerate and strengthen again. If this is not happening, there is likely nothing that can be done to save the tree.

So, at this stage, especially if you are thinking of owning another bonsai tree, it is very important to know why your previous tree ended up dying. It is due to disease, over-watering, under-watering, being in the wrong growing conditions, or not getting enough natural light.

By knowing why your tree died, you would be able to get another tree and keep it alive this time.

If you cannot find out through online research, you can consider visiting a local bonsai nursery and taking your tree for inspection. They surely will be able to identify the root cause and explain how to avoid the situation again with another tree.

How do I know if my bonsai tree is sick?

Many plants give signs that something is wrong. You would probably notice a change in your bonsai tree’s appearance, such as leaves turning yellow or brown are the most common sign that your plant is sick.

Yellow Leaves

Do not panic immediately if you notice yellow leaves on your bonsai tree. Some deciduous leaves turn colors before the trees lose their leaves in the fall, so in that case, yellow leaves may be perfectly natural.

That said, yellow leaves on the tree at other times of the year can be a warning sign that your tree is sick. The following are the reasons for yellowing leaves.

  • Overwatering
  • Underwatering
  • Overexposure to sunlight
  • Disease

Brown leaves 

Just like yellow leaves, brown leaves on bonsai are sometimes natural. During fall, you can expect deciduous trees to have brown leaves. But brown leaves are a problem if it does not fall season or if the tree is coniferous.

Common reasons for Brown leaves on bonsai

  • Overwatering
  • Underwatering
  • Lack of sunlight
  • Improper environment
  • Pests
  • Lack of nutrients

Wilting or drooping leaves

Wilting or drooping leaves on bonsai are alarming. In most cases, this is due to improper care. Most leaves turn yellow on most species before they wilt or droop. Therefore, check the reasons for the yellow leaves.

If your bonsai tree is wilting or drooping leaves, but they aren’t yellow or brown, then check how you care for your plant. Wilting or drooping is often caused because of,

  • Overwatering 
  • Underwatering
  • Lack of light
  • Incorrect temperature.

Losing of leaves

Not to worry if your tree loses leaves. Remember that deciduous tree loses their leaves each fall and go dormant in winter. That’s perfectly normal.

Of course, this is a sign of a problem in some cases. Stress causes trees to lose leaves. The other two common reasons are relocation and repotting. If you have recently moved your bonsai tree to a new location or repotted it, expect some leaf loss. Allow your bonsai to recover on its own before trying anything else.

Here are some more reasons why bonsai trees lose leaves. 

  • Lack of water
  • Lack of sunlight,
  • Over-fertilizing  

Root rot

This is a common issue with bonsai trees, which can kill your tree. A root infection can occur when the bonsai tree gets a bacterial or fungal infection from pathogens that develops in wet soil or when overwatering prevents the roots from accessing oxygen.

To determine root rot, check the plant’s roots. Healthy roots are firm and white or green. Whereas rotted roots are mushy and brown. 

Moreover, it is difficult to discover root rot as they happen below the soil. So, chances are you will notice your plant’s leaves turning yellow or brown before you notice root rot.


1. Can Ficus bonsai leaves grow back?

It depends on the extent of damage to your Ficus bonsai tree. If your bonsai tree is still alive, the leaves will grow back quickly with good care. But if the tree roots are dried up completely, the chances of leaves growing back are less.

2. Is it possible to revive a bonsai tree?

Don’t immediately give up on your bonsai when you notice problems. A dying bonsai tree can be revived. To solve the problem, observe your bonsai.

Some hardy species recover if the problems are soon corrected. For example, some bonsai trees recover surprisingly fast if you catch the issue early.

However, some delicate bonsai trees may not recover if the damage is too much, but it is still worth trying to correct the problem. On the other hand, losing a prized bonsai tree is frustrating, and having to start over from scratch, so don’t discard an unhealthy bonsai too quickly.

3. How do I revive a bonsai gardenia?

Gardenia bonsai is easy to care for, and it’s possible to revive them. Ensure not to overwater; only water your gardenia bonsai when the topsoil is dry.

Check that your bonsai plant is getting enough sunlight. Move your bonsai to a bright location. In addition, look for signs of pests or diseases.

Sadly, pests are known to attack gardenia, so an insecticide may be needed to save your bonsai.


Most beginners go through this stage when their bonsai tree seems unhealthy and almost dies. However, if you don’t give up and take care of it, then it might make a full recovery.

Therefore, I have provided all the information on what to do with a dead bonsai tree. All being well, your tree should recover and thrive without a problem.

Most importantly, give your bonsai tree time to heal. Your tree may even take a lot longer than you expect before you start seeing any signs of life. In addition, some recovering bonsai might only show signs of healthy life in the next growing season. Therefore, patience is needed, and they keep looking after the bonsai.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

× Chat