Over-watering Bonsai Tree Symptoms

Overwatering bonsai tree symptoms

Overwatering bonsai treesIf the tips to the leaves on your bonsai go soft and black/brown this can indicate one of two problems:

  • Your bonsai is suffering from over-watering.
  • Your bonsai has been hit by frost or become too cold.

In the case of indoor bonsai, brown/black tips to the leaves is usually indicative of over-watering. Frequently this is also associated with the bonsai becoming loser or wobbly within the pot. Over-watering is not something which happens quickly; it is a slow degenerative issue which slowly rots the roots and the bonsai can even exhibit symptoms of wilty leaves (usually associated with lack of water). This is because the roots become weak and do not function properly.

If you observe these symptoms please place the bonsai in a cooler position with good daylight and out of direct sun. Check the bonsai daily for water and only water the soil when it is barely damp to the touch. It will take along time to see new buds or leaves; in this time you are hoping that your bonsai will re-grow the root system. It is important not to feed a bonsai during recovery.

 

 

42 thoughts on “Over-watering Bonsai Tree Symptoms”

  • Norbert

    Hi,

    My tree are over watered and half of the tree dropping leaves another half growing new once. I have not watered for 2 weeks now but still not drying up. What to do?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      I regret there is nothing else you can try. It sounds as though the roots are weak through over-watering. It will take several weeks for the roots to get stronger. When they are stronger hopefully the canopy will start to recover but this will take time.
      Kind regards
      Sarah - Bonsai Direct

      Reply
  • Heather

    I've had my tea tree bonsai for just over year. It hasn't had many new shoots and now the leaves are going brown and dropping off. I don't think it's overwatering. It's in a draught free spot with some sun, but the room temperature is not consistently 20 degrees (which I think is too warm a room temperature for people and the environment) Can you suggest a solution? I was wondering about a cloche in winter if you think this is the problem.

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Hi Heather,
      Are the leaves soft and brown or crispy and brown?
      This could be just seasonal leaf drop if it is the old leaves. Perhaps you could send me a photo so i can check this.
      many thanks
      Sarah
      sarah@bonsaidirect.co.uk

      Reply
  • Emily Lane

    I have a juniper bonsai tree (I think) and it is possible that it has been over watered but the leaves are crispy and brown they are even brown near the branches any ideas on if it is over watering and any way to fix it?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Dear Emily,
      I think the first thing to do is establish if you do have a Juniper. The advice would depend upon the variety of bonsai.
      Please could you email me a photo and I can check this for it. Please let me know where you keep it.
      Many thanks
      Sarah
      sarah@bonsaidirect.co.uk

      Reply
  • Amy

    Hi,
    I was given an oriental tea tree (Carmona) bonsai for christmas but I think it has been in normal potting soil as I have only watered once surface soil appeared just damp/dry but is now definitely showing signs of root rot which I recognise from orchids being in the incorrect soil. I've ordered a replacement soil that looks to have better drainage components but is there anything I can do to help the tree while the new soil is on its way?
    Thank you in advance :)

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Dear Amy,
      The Oriental Tea Tree has quite fine roots so sometimes growers use a peaty/sandy mix for this variety.
      When you do repot it, please do not disturb too much of the existing root structure.
      Just keep the soil damp and not wet in the meantime,
      The Tea Tree does not like to be wet, damp soil is perfect.
      kind regards
      Sarah

      Reply
  • Lono

    Hii,
    I have a Ficus indoor Bonsai.
    I overwatered it and mold (I guess) started to grow (white powdery stuff, around the base of the tree and around the pot.
    And just as he first comment. half of the tree is dropping leaves another half growing new ones.

    I removed the tree with the soil from the pot and removed the excess of water. I put news paper around the soil so it will absorb the excess of water in the soil, close to a window. No direct sunlight.

    What are the next steps?

    Many many thanks!
    Lono

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Dear Lono,
      I suspect the lower and older leaves are dropping and the new top leaves are growing; is this correct?
      Please make sure it is in a pot with good drainage hole and that the bonsai does not stand in water.
      Kind regards
      Sarah

      Reply
  • Mathew

    I have two young Japanese elms sported in June 2017. Some of the leaves have gone brown at the tips and are crispy, some have fallen off completely. What should I do? I don't think I'm under watering maybe to much how do I get them healthy.

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Dear Matthew, Black tips to the leaves is usually a sign of over-watering. The roots start to rot and then the saplings show signs of under-watering because the roots are not working efficiently.
      Please keep the soil just damp and give then 2-3 months before you will see any improvement. The roots must re-grow before the leaves can show any signs of improvement.
      I hope this helps
      The Bonsai Direct Team

      Reply
  • Brianna

    I have have a Blue Star Juniper that I just purchased a few weeks ago and the ends of the tree leaves are turning brown rapidly. I water Often and mist the leaves to keep humidity often too. The trunk and branches don't seem to be flimsy or weak.... Whats wrong ?! The tree is nearly 13 years old and the last thing I want is for it to die, send help.

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Dear Brianna,
      The Chinese Juniper does not like to be wet. It prefers the soil to be barely damp.
      Where do you keep your bonsai?
      kind regards
      Sarah - Bonsai Direct

      Reply
  • Ollie

    Hi there,

    Our bonsai is a Chinese Elm and the top half of the trunk no longer had green under the bark.... but lower half does. The bottom half however is sprouting buds. These leaves tend to go black at the tips but not across the whole leaf. They then shrivel up and drop. After taking him out the soil to check the roots we realised the soil was far too wet.

    What do you recommend we do? Any help would be much appreciated!

    Kind regards

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Hi Ollie,
      I suspect that the over-watering has caused the top of your Chinese Elm to due off.
      Basically, the roots start to rot slowly over a period of time and the bonsai slowly declines in health.
      Please only water when the soil is barely damp and then only water minimally.
      You have to let the roots regrow and strengthen before you will notice an improvement in the leaves and canopy.
      When it starts to recover you will be able to take some long shoots from lower on the bonsai and allow them to get really long.
      Ultimately wrap the around the trunk which has died off and use that as a skeleton.
      The new foliage will then establish and in time it is very successful.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards
      Sarah

      Reply
  • Beck

    I have a young Carmona retusa and the leaves have been shrivelled up for some time, most have not lost their green colour however the tree appears very weak.
    Any recommendations on what could help?

    Reply
  • Victoria

    Hi,
    I have a Satsuki Azalea bonsai tree and I am afraid I over watered it. The leaves are still green but they are all wilted. Is there anyway I can save it? The pot that it is in is already irrigated with holes in the bottom. Thanks!

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      The only thing you can do is keep the soil barely damp. I am assuming it is outdoors, so you may need to cover the pot with some polyethene so it does not get too wet.
      It will take many weeks for the roots to strengthen and you will not see any improvement until the roots are stronger.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards Sarah

      Reply
  • Rachel

    Please help. I have a Ligustrum Sinense. We have recently moved house and it started thriving, was full of new shoots and was doing great. But now its completely bare. Some of the leaves had black tips and I know thats overwatering but then some also were completely crispy and dried out like we had underwatered it. Please help!? I love treebeard dearly but cant seem to keep him happy for longer than a few weeks

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Dear Rachel,
      Is the bonsai wobbly in the pot or very firm and strong - a ligustrum is a vigorous variety so usually it is more likely to dry out than be over-watered but black tips are a sign of over watering.
      Kind regards Sarah

      Reply
  • Kristal

    I have a hawaiian umbrella bonsai. The upper stems seem to be turning black and the leaves are curling. Can it recover from whatever i did you it?

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Dear Kristal,
      Blackened on stems and leaves is usually a watering issue or due to cold. Firstly you need to find the cause. This is a variety I am unfamiliar with, do you think this could be over-watering?
      If so is the trunk wobbly in the pot?
      kind regards Bonsai Direct Team

      Reply
  • Ignacio

    Hi Sarah,

    I bought this Mandarin Ligustrum about a week ago.

    As you can see in the pictures, it looks very healthy and is growing fast.

    My concern is, that since I bought it, I have only watered it once.

    3 days after buying it, the soil was still wet and it didnt have signs of needing water.

    Yesterday I watered it because the soil started turning a bit brown, nevertheless, today the soil is still completely damped.

    I watered it by submerging it for a few seconds up to where it starts growing.

    As you can see I use a humidity tray but the water does not touch the exit holes.

    Do you know this lack of watering is normal?

    It is next to a window, facing North so it does not get a lot of direct sun light.

    Maybe I should remove the humidity tray??

    Any advice would be much appreciated.

    Regards,
    Ignacio

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Dear Ignacio.
      The frequency of watering will depend upon many things including how much light, how hot it is and what soil the bonsai is in.
      If the bonsai is potted into a compost which is not free draining you will need to be careful not to overwater it.
      A north facing window should be fine, it will still get sufficient light.
      Only water when the soil is barely damp to the touch and then when you do water please water well.
      Please ensure the bonsai does not stand in water by keeping the drip tray fairly empty.
      Kind regards
      Sarah

      Reply
  • Sophie Smartt

    Hi, I’ve had a Fukien tea since summer 2017 and have had no major problems but now it’s losing leaves faster than ever, every day there’s about 7-8 new dead leaves that are browning from the tip inwards and fall away if I touch them. It is very worrying as most of its branches are bare now and although new flower buds are growing, there is no evidence of leaf growth. It may have been overwatered as I always watered when the soil was still fairly damp. Is it too late to save it? Will new leaves grow back now that it’s winter and should I buy some bonsai food to help it? Thanks in advance xx

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Dear Sophie,
      This definitely sounds like over-watering. Please keep the soil barely damp and position the bonsai in a warm position with an even temperature.
      It will take many weeks to see any improvement because the roots have to strengthen first. Baically overwatering cuases root rot. If the roots are weak then the leaves die off.
      You need to allow time for the roots to get strong. Pleae do not feed the bonsai until it has leaves on it.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards Sarah

      Reply
  • Brenda

    Hi,
    I have a pinus aristata, and this is my first time working with bonsai. It was grown from a seed and now the tips of the needles are starting to brown, but I can see new growth in the center of the tree. Would you say this is a result of overwatering?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Hi Brenda,
      Over-watering is very common in pines; they do like to be on the dryish side,
      Without seeing it, it is difficult to say conclusively,
      kind regards Sarah

      Reply
  • Vanessa

    Hi, I was hoping to get help with my bonsai tree. I don’t know which type is it, because the card placed in it does not say, but I believe it is an indoor bonsai from what I have read. The trouble is I think I might have overwatered it and I believe it might not be getting enough sun too. Otherwise, it’s overwatered to much and is having lots of trouble. When I first got it I did not outback it in direct sun and it was starting to brown, so we moved it to an area we believed would be sunnier. It was still browning and the soil felt dry, so I gave it some water. Now the soil feels really wet and the leave are continuing to brown and develop little spots on it. It’s only been three days and I really do not want it to die. Could you please help?

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Hi Vanessa,
      You will not be able to over-water a bonsai in 3 days; it will not cause any issues at all.
      I think maybe contact the place where you purchased the bonsai - they should tell you what species it is so you can give it the correct care.
      Kind regards
      Sarah

      Reply
  • Eleanor

    Hi, I got a Chinese sweet plum bonsai from bonsai direct for Christmas. Since I got it many leaves have fallen off leaving bare branches. Also, half of my bonsai is bare with only a few new shoots. It seems that I am not watering my bonsai enough, but I can't decide if the leaves are brown from overwatering. (I make sure I water it every few days) What should I do :( ?
    Thanks :)

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Dear Eleanor,
      Please could you send some photos to me so I can be sure and give you the correct advice,
      Many thanks sarah@bonsaidirect.co.uk

      Reply
  • alana

    Hi, you seem to be very knowledgeable about bonsai trees and my tree is struggling, please help! I have a 3yr old bonsai tree named Leif Erikson. My trees leaves are starting to turn brown, from the bottom up and also on the very tips of the branches. I’ve been trying to research what the issue may be, but it is very difficult given that browning can occur with both underwatering and overwatering. I know my tree is 3 years old, but I have no idea when his soil has been changed since I got him about a month ago. I keep him indoors because i’m afraid he will get stolen if hes outdoors, but i keep him in the sunniest windowseal at my place with other plant friends. I would also love to send you a photo if that would help. Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Dear Alana,
      This does sound like over-watering but you have not said what variety of bonsai you have.
      It may be simply in the wrong position.
      Kind regards
      Sarah

      Reply
  • Andrea

    Dear Sarah,

    We got a beautiful Chinese pepper bonsai tree at the beginning of March and it has been through a lot of watering since then. First of all, we had to get rid of tiny flies which were coming out of the soil. We'd had this issue before with other plants, so we watered the bonsai with a solution containing nematodes, which do the job nicely. However, the bonsai also received a lot of water during the nematode treatment.

    A couple of days later, we noticed green lice on the branches, so the tree was sprayed with organic non-soap solution. No more lice, but again - extra water.

    All in all, the bonsai tree turned from absolutely beautiful to - not so much. The garden centre, where the plant was purchased, said to make sure the tree gets enough light and keep checking that the soil is damp, but not too wet.
    We have not watered in a few days now while the plant sits in a well-lit area and even gets a bit of sun in the morning. The soil is still damp. If we drive a wooden stick all the way to the bottom of the pot, the stick comes out lightly moist. The leaves are totally dry and crunchy (still green, no yellow or brown or black tips) - probably because the roots cannot absorb any more water by now.
    The question is - how do we keep the soil damp without giving it too much water? What is the best method? We don't want to dunk it and soak the pot as it might be too much for the plant again. Should we repot the tree?

    We are totally stumped. Any advice will be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks in advance,
    Andrea
    PS: I can send pictures if need be.

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Hi Andrea,
      I think that some photos would be useful. This is a very easy bonsai to care for.
      I think you should perhaps re-visit the garden centre where it was purchased. The small flies are nothing to worry about; they are actually soil based and are associated with damp soil - they do no harm to the bonsai.
      If the leaves have gone dry and crispy then did it dry out?
      Many thanks Sarah - sarah@bonsaidirect.co.uk

      Reply
  • Jayna

    Hi my Chinese Elm is 7 years old (but i only got it for christmas). At first it was thriving and growing a lot, now all the leaves have been turning yellow then brown and then crisping off even though i was watering regularly. There was white bits on the top of the soil and the bottom of the trunk. the trunk has also become very loose. i figured this was down to overwatering and have not been watering for some time, it has dried it seems. how do i go forward from here as it doesn't seem to be growing again? do i water or not?

    Reply
    • bonsaidirect

      Dear Jayna,
      This does sound like overwatering.
      The trouble with over-watering is that the roots rot (hence the bonsai wobbles) and they become totally inefficient at taking up water.
      The bonsai will not look any better until the roots regrow.
      I hope this link helps:
      https://www.bonsaidirect.co.uk/blog/bonsai-care-advice/trouble-shooting/over-watering-bonsai-tree-symptoms/
      kind regards
      Sarah
      ps. please bare in mind that recovery will take many weeks/months as the roots must regrow before any leaves can develop.

      Reply
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