How do I water my Indoor Bonsai Tree?

We are frequently asked advice on watering indoor bonsai trees, such as the Chinese Elm Bonsai (Ulmus parviflolia), Chinese Sweet Plum Bonsai (Sageretia theezans), Oriental Tea Tree Bonsai (Carmona microphylla), Fig Bonsai (Ficus retusa), Tree of a Thousand Stars (Serissa foetida) and Aromatic Pepper Tree Bonsai (Zanthoxylum piperitum).

Watering is the most important part of growing bonsai.
Check your bonsai morning and evening to see if it needs watering. If the soil looks dark and feels wet then it will not require watering. Only when the soil looks light brown and feels BARELY damp will your bonsai require more water.
When the soil is barely damp to the touch pour water evenly all over the soil surface until the water drains through into a tray or saucer.
It is important to never let your bonsai dry out and avoid keeping it constantly wet. The soil should go from wet to damp between watering. Remember the hotter the position the more water your bonsai will use.

If the soil surface becomes hard during hot weather simply submerge your bonsai in water, to cover the soil surface, for about ten minutes.

Please do NOT allow your bonsai to stand in water. A little water in the drip tray is beneficial to increase the humidity but if a bonsai stands in water it will cause root rot.

Symptoms of under-watering your bonsai.
If your bonsai does dry out the leaves will become crispy/papery and dry and begin to drop off. Total dehydration will kill any bonsai or houseplant. However, if only slightly dehydrated please stand in water for 10 minutes to re-wet the soil evenly. Then you need to be patient - it could take 4-6 weeks for your bonsai to re-bud. During this period do not be inclined to over-water. Your bonsai will have less foliage so just needs to be kept slightly damp. New green buds can be encouraged by misting the branches with water using a mister.

Symptoms of over-watering your bonsai.
Over-watering your bonsai for a long period of time can result in root rot; this results in the roots becoming compromised and inefficient at transporting water to the tips of the leaves.
An over-watered bonsai can look wilty (not dis-similar to one which needs watering) but this is usually preceded by indications of black tips to the leaves. Please ensure you ONLY water your bonsai when the soil is barely damp to the touch.

Watering Indoor Bonsai Trees

4 thoughts on “How do I water my Indoor Bonsai Tree?”

  • madeleine

    Hello! I recently got my bonsai and watered it for the first time. However I read applying boiled water as boiling water! Will boiling water kill the bonsai?

    • bonsaidirect

      Hi Madeleine,
      I suspect if the water is boiling in temperature that it will kill the bonsai.
      You will need to give it 3 months to be certain.
      I'm not sure why you advised to use boiled water - seems a strange thing to do - it's not as though you need the water to be sterile!
      kind regards Sarah

  • Shaun Owens

    Sorry to jump in here but I have heard normal tap water isn't the best for my Chinese elm so I have been collecting rain water but run out.
    Is normal tap water ok or should I invest in ro water maybe?
    Hope someone can help!

    • bonsaidirect

      Dear Shaun,
      Rainwater is preferable but tap water is absolutely fine. It will not have any issues at all when you run out of rainwater.
      I hope this helps.
      Kind regards
      Bonsai Direct

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