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Question from Simon about leaf drop on a Chinese Elm bonsai

We have just received a message from Simon about his large Chinese Elm indoor bonsai.
It was delivered a few days ago and some of the old leaves are dropping.
We just wanted to give you all reassurance that this is nothing to be concerned about.
It is perfectly normal for a Chinese Elm to drop the old leaves during the first 3 weeks of delivery. It just re-acclimatises to its new position and is nothing to be concerned about.
Another reason it may drop more leaves in September or October is that the days are getting shorter so it feels a bit autumnal.
It will stabilize and in 4-5 weeks lots of new buds will emerge and then it will get going again.
The Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia) does this far more dramatically than other varieties (some bonsai, such as the ficus, barely drop at all). However, it buds back quickly and makes a beautiful bonsai. Please do not let this put you off growing a Chinese Elm, in our opinion the character and beautiful proportions (combined with the ease of care) make it one of the best indoor bonsai varieties.

Enquiry about over-watering or under-watering a bonsai tree and trying to determine what the problem is

We have received an email from James about his bonsai. It is obviously suffering from a watering issue and I have been trying to help him determine the cause of the problem. I thought the following information may be of interest to other readers.

It is not always easy to determine if the bonsai is suffering from over or under watering.
In principle over-watering is a slow deterioration where the bonsai is over-watered for many weeks, the roots begin to rot and then become inefficient at taking up water , you then see symptoms which look similar to the bonsai drying out. (ie. Dry and crispy leaves).
Minor over-watering is often characterised but soft black tips of the leaves.
Another indication of over-watering is the trunk of the bonsai can becoming loose in the pot and it may wobble.

The symptoms of lack of water (under-watering) are rapid, the leaves wilt and go dry and crispy and drop off.
The subsequent bonsai care is different.
If you think your bonsai has been under-watered and allowed to become too dry please stand the bonsai in water so that the water covers the entire pot. Leave for 5 , 10minutes and then allow to drain.
This will evenly re-wet the soil. You can then check daily and keep the soil damp (not too wet). A bonsai without leaves requires less water.

If a bonsai has been over-watered it will take many weeks to see any improvement. The roots must re-grow before you see any signs of new shoots. It is important to keep the soil just damp and not wet. Please do not feed a bonsai until it shows signs of recovering.

I hope these tips help.
Sarah – Bonsai Direct

New Bonsai Care and Advice Section

Bonsai Tree Care & Advice

Do you need help and advice on looking after your bonsai tree?
We are in the process of building a whole section on our website which is dedicated to giving you the very best help, advice and inspiration about all aspects of growing bonsai.


All topics of bBonsai Care and advice pageonsai care including watering bonsai, feeding bonsai and pruning bonsai are covered.

We also discuss the attributes of different varieties if indoor bonsai trees.
We hope this will help you choose the perfect bonsai!

Indoor Bonsai Trees

Bonsai Tree Care Videos

Lloyd Noall has been growing bonsai for over 20 years and is considered to be one of the top bonsai masters. In this DVD Lloyd shares his passion, knowledge and expertise with you. Lloyd teaches the basic principles and techniques for those new to the art of bonsai, but includes much additional information to inspire and inform anyone already embarked in the bonsai journey.

Bonsai Tree Care Videos

Question from Neil about grit/pebbles in the soil of his bonsai.

Neil says:

Hi. On inspecting the soil in my Bonsai pot today (which was rather hard and dry, even with daily watering), I discovered several small stones/pieces of grit. What is the purpose of these stones? I removed some of the bigger ones and turned the surface of the soil over a little, before watering again. My Bonsai is a Podocarpus. Many thanks.

  • Bonsai Direct says:

    Hi Neil,
    This is a great question. Bonsai like a free draining soil , the grit is added to the compost to open the soil so that more air can get to the roots.
    This encourages the small fibrous feeder roots which all bonsai growers are looking to develop.
    The grit also helps prevent the bonsai becoming over-watered , although it does sound as though in your case this is not an issue , it may be getting close to the time that it needs repotting.

    If the soil is hard and dry i would recommend watering by standing the bonsai in a sink with a few inches of water in it, for about 10 mins. This will re-wet the soil and make it easier for you to water.
    I hope this helps
    Kind regards


Chinese Sweet Plum (Sageretia theezans) Bonsai Care Instructions

These are our new bonsai care instructions which will be included with all our Chinese Sweet Plum (Sageretia theezans) bonsai trees. There is even space to leave to add your personal greeting!

Oriental Tea Tree (Carmona microphylla) Bonsai Care Instructions

These are our new bonsai care instructions which will be included with all our Carmona microphylla (Oriental Tea Tree) bonsai trees. There is even space to leave to add your personal greeting!

Serissa foetida (Tree of a Thousand Stars) Bonsai Care Instructions

These are our new bonsai care instructions which will be included with all our Serissa foetida (Tree of a Thousand Stars) bonsai trees. There is even space to add your personal greeting!

Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia) Bonsai Care Instructions

These are our new bonsai care instructions which will be included with all our Chinese Elm Bonsai trees. There is even space to add your personal greeting!

Bonsai help – Question & Answer – New enquiry

Hi there, I recently bought a Chinese elm of you guys. The tree is great and is doing really well. I have one query the tree is expanded a lot over a 3 week period huge shoots have grown now I have done a lot of reading about my tree I have bought various tree books and in each book it explains prune only in early spring to encourage new growth. Now with it getting so out of control do I just leave the tree to its own devices and prune in early spring or do I prune the new shoots:/? I feed the tree on rain water although its indoors. I believe this enhances growth also please can you shine some light on mine and my trees situation
many thanks


Hi Dean,

Thank you for your e-mail.

I wondered if you would mind if we used your e-mail on our website because I think other readers may have similar questions.

What you have read is incorrect.

The Chinese Elms grow all year, but faster in the spring.

You need to prune it when it needs it, to keep the shape.

If it is out of control please hard prune it , back to about 4 new leaves.

It will look bare to start with but will encourage new buds very quickly and will promote dense foliage pads rather than long straggly shoots.

Chinese Elms are great and respond really well to pruning.

Rain water is great but I would recommend feeding it once a week with bonsai fertiliser too.

Please bear in mind that if you hard prune your bonsai it will not require as much water initially,

I hope this helps

Kind regards



Great question from Daisy – symptoms of over-watering a Chinese Elm indoor bonsai tree.


Please could you give me some advice?
I bought a bonsai from you back in March and until about a month ago I had no problems, now it has started to lose leaves, with them turning brown/ black on the ends before falling off. It started in just one small area (branch) but now seems to be spreading across a larger area. The bonsai has continued to produce new shoots in these areas but the leaves don’t seem to mature and just fall off, with some branches now almost bare! I have been regularly feeding and have just bought some plant invigorator in case this helps.
I would be grateful for any advice, I have attached some photos
With Thanks

Bonsai Direct reply:

Dear Daisy,
Thank you for your e-mail and photos.
I can see exactly what the problem is , slight over-watering.
The symptoms are classic , slight browning of the leaf tips and then they drop.
You may find the bonsai is a little more wobbly in the pot.
I am so pleased you have asked for advice at this early stage because all you need to do is reduce the watering a little.
Only water your bonsai when the soil is barely damp to the touch and then water well.
I would think that as the temperature has dropped the bonsai is using less water and so the roots are beginning to rot.
Please carry on with the same position and feeding, generally the bonsai looks great.
The SB Invigorator is very good. We use it weekly to prevent pests but it also feeds the bonsai and keeps it strong and healthy so please continue with this too.
I hope this helps
Kind regards

The symptoms of black spot on a Chinese Elm Bonsai

We have just received this enquiry from Dave Barden on our Facebook Page and thought readers may find it helpful in identifying early stages of black spot on Chinese Elms. Please click on this link if you would like to see the conversation:

Hi there,
Hope you don’t mind me mailing you, I have a Chinese elm about 8 yrs old, been growing well, pruned nicely etc, this past week / fortnight alot of its leaves are going yellow and dropping off, can you tell me why or give me any advice please. this is quite new to me ive had the tree about 4 months and its been ok up until now.

Dave has also sent us some photos.

  • Hi Dave, thanks for the photos. I believe this is one of 2 things.
    It is most likely to be the early stages of black spot ( a fungus). The spores are in the air and Chinese Elms are susceptible. It is easily treated, you can buy a fungicide which treats for black spot and spray ASAP and again a week later. I would then use it once a month as a preventive measure. We spray weekly as a precautionary measure.
    The only other thing it could be is red spider mite (but I cannot see any signs of very fine webbing or leaves which are hanging off the branches).
    Both black spot and red spider mite show the mottling of the leaves as in your photos in the early stages; this is why I am slightly unsure.
    I hope this helps,
    all the best

Which indoor bonsai would you recommend for a beginner?

We have received this great e-mail from 13 year old Jesse. It is a really sensible question and one which comes up quite frequently.

For my 14th birthday this year I would like an indoor bonsai tree and I am allowed one. Even though my birthday is in December I thought I would do some research and I came across this website! It has been really helpful but I am still lost about what “breed” of bonsai I should go for! I don’t really want it to be bare, I like them thick. I quite like the look of the Azalea, what do you think? I am completely new to Bonsai Trees so I need something fairly simple. Any suggestions?
Jesse Dunnell 🙂
Age 13, female

Bonsai Direct Reply:

Dear Jesse,
Thank you for your e-mail. Azaleas are outdoor bonsai; they are lovely but are not the easiest for a beginner.


I would recommend the Chinese Elm as a good indoor bonsai for a beginner. If you put the word ‘elm’ into our product search and press go, then our website will show you the different options. The Chinese Elm makes a fantastic bonsai. It has naturally small leaves, it is evergreen if kept indoors and it has great character. It is an easy bonsai to care for so is perfect for beginners. It does not flower, but in my opinion is still the best option for a beginner. Chinese Elms grow quite quickly so they are fun to prune and they are not overly fussy about position but do benefit from quite good daylight (but not of direct hot sun).
My daughter is 11 and she has a Chinese Elm and it is doing really well.

The other really lovely thing about the Chinese Elm is the character; they form lovely twisty trunks and are perfectly proportioned. If you have any other questions please ask, Kind regards Sarah

Chinese Elm Description:

The Chinese Elm (Ulmus parviflolia) makes a truly beautiful bonsai with small bright green leaves. The tree has excellent twig structure and has great character throughout, making it the perfect representation of a woodland tree. In our opinion the Chinese Elm is the most perfectly proportioned, easy to care for and adaptable tree and makes a superb bonsai; which can be grown either indoors or outdoors.

How do I prune my Chinese Elm Bonsai Tree?

We have just received this question from Tom Currie about pruning a Chinese Elm bonsai…
Hello. I recently bought a Chinese Elm from you and I must say I was very pleased with what I got. It has adapted well to its new environment and is growing happily. It is growing so well in fact that I now need to give it a bit of a pruning but I’m not exactly sure how to do this. I want to make sure that I make the right snips in the right places. Could you please lend me your knowledge and guide me through this new and enjoyable process?

Bonsai Direct Reply:>

Dear Tom,
Thank you for your e-mail. It is lovely to know that your bonsai Chinese Elm is thriving.

Your question is a really good one and we thank you for allowing us to use it on our website because I am sure other bonsai growers will have similar questions.

In answer to your question about pruning the Chinese Elm Bonsai:

The bonsai will have been styled and pruned prior to dispatch so you should notice that the new shoots are a slightly paler green colour.

The leaves grow in pairs either side of the small shoot.

You ideally want to leave one pair of new leaves on each shoot and prune off anything longer than this.

This stops the bonsai getting straggly and out of shape and maintains the shape of the bonsai but also allows it to grow slowly.

When pruning please use a very sharp pair of scissors or a pair of bonsai pruning scissors.

Sharp cuts heal quickly and prevent disease.

If the bonsai gets out of shape, spring and summer are good times to hard prune , the Chinese Elm is great at budding back.

Usually you will notice lots of new buds further back down the branches about 6 , 8 weeks after pruning.

The buds open and form the dense foliage pads that you are looking to maintain.

We do sell a bonsai DVD which is on special offer until the end of the day. There is a lot of information about bonsai care and pruning on this DVD.

If you enter the offer code ‘LLOYDOFFER1’ at the checkout the price of the DVD will be reduced to £5.99.

I hope this helps

Kind regards


Which indoor bonsai would be suitable for a shady living room?

We have been sent a great question by Paul Redding this morning:-

Hello, thinking about having one of your premium bonsai trees for my birthday soon. I want to give it as much care as you will have done. Could you recommend any trees that would be suited to shade. I would like it in my living room but as its at the darker side of the house I would be lying in saying its going to see sunlight. Don’t get me wrong, you can sit in there without the light on but there is no area in which any sun light comes through directly.
Hopefully you may have something I can buy?
Kind regards,

Bonsai Direct Reply:

By far the best bonsai for your living room would be the Fig /Ficus.
This is an absolutely stunning bonsai with deep green glossy leaves and lovely ariel roots which develop as the bonsai matures.
It is easy to care for and will thrive in shade.
Please see the link below:

I hope this helps
Kind regards

Fig (Ficus retusa)

The fig has dark green glossy leaves and is unusual in that it will tolerate lower light levels. The fig makes a fantastic indoor bonsai and should be protected from the frost. It buds back very quickly after pruning and has an immense amount of character in the truck and aerial root system. A very powerful bonsai, fun and easy to care for. It is also less susceptible to pest attack. Protect from cold (min 10oC).


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