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How to care for a bonsai which has dried out.

We have just received this question from Robyn about how to care for her bonsai which has dried out:

I was given a Chinese Elm for Christmas and it has been perfectly healthy, I left it with friends for 2 weeks at the end of April and it dried out a lot, Ive been tying to make up for it but I think if anything, now I have overwatered the poor thing! The leaves that remain (nothing compared to before) are all crispy, but the soil is damp, there are not signs of new buds at the moment, do you think it’s too late for my bonsai? :(

Bonsai Direct says:

Dear Robyn,

Thank you for your enquiry.
If the leaves went crispy your Chinese Elm bonsai has definitely dried out.
Your are correct; the temptation is to over water it.
Please give it a position with good daylight but out of hot direct sunlight.
Please keep the soil just damp (not too wet). If you over-water the bonsai you could rot the roots , although this is a slow process.
When a bonsai only has a few or no leaves it requires far less water.
Basically you need to give the bonsai time , it will take at least 2 months before I would expect to see any new shoots but this is a great time of year for the bonsai to recover , I just hope it did not dry out totally.
If you have a hand mister I would mist the branches daily in addition to watering.
i hope this helps
kind regards

10 replies

  1. exactly the same thing happened with me and i did exactly what Sarah has suggested. It took a while (about 3 months) then slowly but surely Barry the Bonsai has made a full recovery and hes gettting pruned on a regular basis.

  2. We have a similar situation with our Bonsai Chinese Elm – does this also apply to this time of the year? mid July – and do we need to remove all of the damaged leaves (which would leave almost barren).

    1. Hi Della,
      It is most likely during mid-summer when a bonsai could dry out if you are not careful. Yes, please remove the dry crispy leaves; they will drop off anyway.
      The information given then totally applies,
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  3. Hi there. I hadn’t watered my bonsai for a week since I was on holiday. It still has a fair amount of leaves but the leaves are now droopy and lots have fallen off. (It’s a Chinese elm) some of the leaves are green. How can I help nurse him back to health?

  4. Hi there, You’ve done a fantastic job. I will certainly digg it and personally suggest to
    my friends. I am sure they’ll be benefited from this website.

  5. Do you have any video of that? I’d love to find out some additional information.

    1. Hi there.

      I’d definitely recommend watching our watering guide video on YouTube ( ).
      This goes over how and when to water your bonsai to keep it from getting too dry or too wet.

      Hope this helps,

  6. Really informative article post. Thanks Again. Fantastic. My bonsai dried out a little on a really hot day but this worked – so thank you.

  7. It’s actually a great and helpful piece of information.I am satisfied that you shared this helpful info withus. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

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