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.

6 thoughts on “Question from Simon about leaf drop on a Chinese Elm bonsai”

  • Scott Foley

    I have a problem with lost leaves on my chinese elm too. I've actually had it a year and it was doing well, but around late Oct/Nov it dropped most of its leaves when it suddenly went colder. It revived a bit initially and some new growth was coming through, but then that went and it lost all its leaves. I've been careful not to under or over water, it's indoors and I've used bonsai feed when it was actively growing (though not over winter) but several months on I'm wondering if it's dead. I made a few nicks in the trunk however and there's still green underneath. When (and if!) can I expect to see leaves growing again? Thanks

    • bonsaidirect

      Dear Scott.
      If the cambium layer is green then the bonsai is alive. When the leaves drop are there any symptoms of colour change, small spiders webs, mottled or crispy leaves?
      Please keep the soil damp (not wet) whilst it has no leaves on it and when you see new leaves emerge I would start feeding regularly with a bonsai feed.
      I shall wait to hear from you. Kind regards Sarah

  • Michael

    Hi. I live in zone 9 (NC, USA). Within one week, many of the leaves on my Chinese Elm have turned yellow and are starting to drop. I’d say ~75% have now dropped. However, new buds are also sprouting throughout the tree. I do know that Last week it rained hard for a couple days, and due to being on the side of my house, the overflow from the rain messed with the soil (akadama mix) a lot. Before this began it was hot, humid, and muggy for ~1 week. I ended up moving the location of the tree. I’ve been giving it organic feeding approximately 1 to 2 times biweekly. Also, it doesn’t seem to be taking as much water right now. The other night I took out of pot to check for root damage but all looked well. I also sprayed with triple action neem oil.

    • bonsaidirect

      Hi Michael,
      The leaf drop is probably seasonal. This would not affect the new growing tips.
      Please take care not to over-water. When leaves drop the requirement for water is also reduced.
      It is great that you have new buds - please give them 3-4 weeks to fully open and continue with the feeding,

      I hope this helps
      kind regards
      Sarah - Bonsai Direct

  • Benjamin Symons
    Benjamin Symons 4th October 2018 at 9:41 am

    Hi, I bought a Chinese elm tree in July and now all the leaves have gone off the tree. It has new buds coming through however these eventually die off also. I'm unsure what to do at this stage.

    • bonsaidirect

      Hi Benjamin,
      Please could you email some photos to so I can check them symptoms and we can go from there.
      kind regards

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