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Bonsai tree care

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226 replies

  1. I have a Sageretia species bonsai which is showing signs of becoming pot bound. I read in your care booklet that fresh soil is required on re-potting, but what kind of soil should be used.

    1. Dear David,
      Thanks for your question.
      You need to use a free draining soil for re-potting all bonsai.
      We tend to use the Japanese Bonsai Soil Akadama (please see the link below).–t79-
      Alternatively you can make your own soil by mixing equal parts of John Innes No 2 with horticultural grit.
      Once you have re-potted a bonsai please do not feed it for at least one month.
      I hope this helps,
      Please be careful not to disturb the root ball too much.
      Best wishes

  2. New to Bonsai, how do I care for a small plant.

    1. Dear Dennis,
      Thank you for your enquiry. The basic care instructions for a typical indoor bonsai, such as a Chinese Elm, can be found in the link below.
      I hope you find it helpful,
      We will be producing some bonsai care DVDs in the future.
      kind regards

  3. Hi there , I have recently purchaced a Chinese elm from your store , due to storage space in my room the only decent place for sun light is the windowsill however there is a radiator under this , I understand the books tell you not to place trees near radiators but is it essential that you can’t ? I’m rather worried .

    1. What you need to do is stop the foliage from drying out. Try putting your bonsai on a tray and make sure the tray has water in it. This will create some humidity around the the leaves. Also misting daily will help and make sure the soil does not dry out. Don’t worry about sunlight just make sure your bonsai gets daylight so a table near a window will be good. Turn it every week and it should be fine.
      All the best

  4. Hi, I have an indoor Chinese Elm which is about 12 years old but I have had it for 2 yrs. Fro mid September the leaves dried up and went brown. Now all fallen off. I water it once a wks and feed it every 10 days advised by a bonsai expert who has recently passed. Central heating not on yet so I know it’s not that. I’ve been feeling soil regularly and that feels slight damp not soaking or really dry. Any advice why no leaves please? Is it dead? How can I tell or is it an autumn thing? I can send photos if needed.
    Regards Sally

    1. Dear Sally,
      It sounds as though something has shocked your bonsai back in September – could it have dried out for a short period. Crispy and brown leaves are usually an indication of scorch or not enough water.
      To see if the bonsai is alive please make some small nicks in the bark with a sharp knife – if the layer beneath the bark is green then the bonsai is alive. You may need to makes nicks in several places.
      Chinese Elms recover very well but at this time of year will take several weeks to re-bud.
      During the summer we were watering daily; this summer was hot and once a week would not have been enough.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  5. I hope you can help,
    my husband and I have tried to grow a number of indoor bonsai over the years, but they have always developed a fine spiders Web and a large amount of micro spiders/bugs all over them. I have been told once they get this, that the bonsai needs to be got rid of. No matter how much I clean and sterilize the area, when we get a new tree it always happens. What can I do, as I want to buy my husband a bonsai for his 40th birthday.

    1. Dear Rachel,
      Thank you for your enquiry. All plants can get pests and it sounds as though you are having a difficult time.
      I am wondering if these are just normal spiders and perhaps not the cause of the problem, just a coincidence.
      If you think this may be the case please could you let me know the symptoms.
      Chinese Elms can get Red Spider Mite but although in severe cases you can see fine webbing; it is virtually impossible to see the mites.
      I do not want to put you off Chinese Elms because I think that they are fabulous bonsai.
      There is a solution – Spray every week with a plant invigorator – this will feed the bonsai and stop pests like red spider mite and it works really well.
      It is also organic so you are not spraying anything harmful! We use:—500ml-ready-to-use-trigger-spray
      Some bonsai seem to suffer less – The Ficus (Fig) is an amazing bonsai and is very easy to care for.
      Please see the link for some examples – we do have some smaller Figs – please let me know if you wish us to photograph some for you.
      kind regards

    2. It does sound very likely that it was red spider mite. I would not be too concerned – the SB Plant invigortor is organic and not harmful and it works! So just go with a weekly spray and it will help with feeding too. The glasshouse will be fine providing it does not get too cold.

  6. morning, I have just bought a ficus ginseng from the local supermarket, the pot it is in doesn’t have any hole in the bottom for the water to drain, should I repot it?

    1. Dear Susan,
      You are correct; you definitely need a pot with drainage holes otherwise the bonsai could suffer from root rot.
      Happy potting,
      kind regards

  7. Thanks for your reply, sorry I haven’t got back sooner.
    I can’t give you the symptoms, as it has been a long time since we had them, but the webbing was very fine and the spiders were very hard to see, but because there were so many of them crawling over the plant and shelf, they were easier to see.
    I was wondering if putting the bonsai in a glass house would stop the problem happening again? Thanks again

  8. Hi, I am new to keeping bonsai trees so was wondering when mixing the bonsai direct feed with 1 litre of water. Would I give the full amount of 1 litre to the bonsai or just some of it? Also is it just poured on to the soil until it reaches the drip tray? Thank you

    1. Dear Billy,
      Thank you for your e-mail.
      I would recommend making up a stock solution in an old labelled fizzy drink bottle.
      Add 5ml of the feed to one litre of water.
      Keep out of the reach of children and label it clearly.
      When the bonsai needs watering use the water with the feed in it once a week. At other waterings use normal water. Pour the diluted feed over the soil until it runs through the holes in the bottom of the pot.

      Only water when the soil is barely damp to the touch and then water well until the water runs through the holes in the bottom of the pot.
      You will only need to use a fraction of the stock solution.
      I hope this helps
      Kind regards

      1. Hi, thank you for your reply it has been a great help to me.

      2. You are most welcome!

  9. Hi, I have a couple of Chinese Tea Trees that are suffering with greenfly, can you advise me on how I can get rid of these please ?

    Many thanks


    1. Hi Justin,
      Any good pesticide (which treats aphids) should work – you will need to spray two or three times at weekly intervals to make sure any young which hatch from eggs are also treated.
      We use the plant invigorator in the link below – we spray weekly – it is organic and keeps pests at bay and feeds the bonsai too.—500ml-ready-to-use-trigger-spray
      Greenfly is very easy to treat.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  10. I clipped these off my Chinese elm, can you tell me what’s wrong ?

    Had the tree for a little over a month, everything seems fine other than this. Lots of new growth, watering every 2-3 days as required. Is currently sitting in my window so gets plenty of light.

    1. The bonsai is in good condition. The slight marks on the leaves you have pruned off are caused by scissor marks – we have to prune very fast because we have thousands of bonsai to prune. You are doing exactly the right thing – keep pruning the tips.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  11. Good Morning,
    I received a Serissa Foetida for Christmas (2013) from you.
    I have noticed that it drops small amounts of leaves most days. Is this normal or should i panic!!!
    many thanks
    Matt Jardine

    1. Hi Matt,
      It is not uncommon for bonsai to lose leaves at this time of year – it should be the old leaves and not the new growing tips.
      You can also experience a little leaf drop 2-3 weeks after purchasing a bonsai whilst the bonsai re-acclimatises to its new location.
      If you are worried please send us a photo.
      many thanks

  12. Do your bonsai trees come all-ready grown or do they come as seeds ?


    1. Dear Lucia,
      All our bonsai are sent ready grown as shown in the photos.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  13. I have a fukien tea bonsia. .the leaves were turning yellow..I knew this meant too much water so I slowed the watering down. It was looking great..i noticed a lot of new growth showing..then all of a sudden some of the leaves are turning light green and brown..can you tell me what this means?

    1. Dear Joyce,
      Please could you send us a photo.
      Many thanks

  14. I planted Chinese Elm seeds about 4-5 days ago and I was just curious to ask, how long will it be before I see the first signs of growth? Many thanks.

    1. Hi Ryan,
      Thanks for your enquiry.
      I am really sorry but we have no idea.
      All our Chinese Elms are propagated by taking cuttings – it is so much quicker and more successful than sowing the seeds.
      Has anyone else tried this and can offer Ryan the advise he is seeking?
      all the best

  15. Any advice on the intermediate care of a Chinese privet, got today from a garden centre as new to looking after bonsai covered in a lot new growth it looks more like a bush.

    1. Dear Kimberley,
      If you follow the instructions for the Chinese Elm bonsai they are very similar.
      The Chinese Privet (Ligustrum) is a hungry bonsai special offer please make sure you feed it with a bonsai feed.
      It puts a lot of root growth so will require repotting or root pruning every year.
      I hope this helps,
      Kind regards

  16. Hi, I have a pepper tree bonsia which i got just over a year ago and is my first tree. It was quite poorly (droopy, yellowing and dropping of leaves) over autumn but has picked up in the last couple of months. the leaves are only growing back on one side though, and though i turned it round this doesn’t seem to be helping. what can i do to help this?

    1. Dear Jay,
      It is likely that in the spring/summer months this will recover naturally but please do e-mail a photo and I can check this for you.
      Many thanks

  17. Dear Bonsai Direct, I have emailed you before and your advise has kept my carmona very happy for over a year xx unfortunately Derek(my tree) has very yellow leaves at the mo and has afew black spots on some!!! (At first I thought the yellow leaves was the lack of sun over the last few months ) he does have green leaves as well but they are looking like they may turn yellow to, he is still flowering for me not as many flowers as usual around 5 when he normally have around 12 a time,, not sure what to do for the best. Ive ordered some sb plant invigorator,, can you help? very kind regards Becki x

    1. Hi Becki,
      It sounds as though Derek may have Black Spot – this is a very easily treated fungal disease but you would need to buy a fungicide which treats black spot from your local garden centre.
      You need to spray and then repeat the spray – please follow the instructions on the bottle.
      It may be worth uploading or e-mailing me a photo so we can check this out ([email protected])
      many thanks

      1. Thanks for the photo Becki – I would definitely spray for black spot.
        Also, be careful with the watering; only water when the soil is barely damp.
        If you have a warmer position please move Derek to somewhere a little warmer – it will recover more quickly.
        Carmona like a warm position.
        I hope this helps

  18. Hi Sarah
    Thanks for the advice I will go out and get some treatment asap,, should I remove the leafs that have spots om them? Someone said thats whatyou should do but im uunsure about doing that as I dont want to stress Derek out
    Thanks again Becki xx

  19. hi sarah.i feed my bonsai’s with a mixture of baby bio and rain water,can you tell me if this method is o.k or should I be using bonsai feed?also,do I need to spray the leaves to keep them moist when they are at room temperature or do I just concentrate on the roots?

    1. Hi Sally, I am not sure if you got my reply.
      Please do not use Baby Bio. Please use a bonsai feed. You should have received an e-mail about the watering,
      all the best

  20. thank you sarah for your advice.i never received your e-mail on watering,please can you tell me again if I should spray the leaves on my bonsai’s or just concentrate on the root’s?

    1. Hi Sally,
      You need to check the soil daily for water. Only water the soil when the soil is barely damp to the touch.
      If the soil is wet please do not water; over-watering can cause the roots to rot.
      If you would like to mist the leaves in addition to checking the water this is great and can be done daily.
      I would recommend you use a bonsai fertiliser. Baby Bio is too strong and can result in the roots burning.
      I hope this helps

  21. thank you sarah you have been most helpful.i will put your plan of action in to use straight away.

  22. Hi, My Wife bought me a Carmona Micropylla for Christmas from yourselves. At first it thrived, a hole tree of new leaves. I have fed it twice with Bonsai feed. I started to use a Galvanised Mini Watering can and it has now dropped all of its leaves and looks a bit sorry for itself. Could the galvanising in the can have caused damage? I have gone back to a plastic pot. I have not overwatered.
    Thank you for your advice.

    1. Hi Dave,
      Thanks for your enquiry. The galvanised watering can will not cause any issues.
      When the leaves started to drop did they change colour or go crispy?
      please could you send us a photo [email protected]
      we can then advise you.
      kind regards

  23. Hi Sarah, thank you for your quick reply, the tree had dark green leaves when it arrived. these dropped and a lovely covering of new bright green leaves sprouted but these have mostly dropped but without browning/crisping etc. I will send you an image tonight.
    Cheers, Dave.

  24. Hi I have a Chinese Elm, up until winter it was flourishing but lack of sunlight over winter all the leaves fell off. Occasionally it would still produce a couple of leaves so I wasn’t to worried just thought spring is around the corner. But it hasn’t produced any leaves in a month, I’m still watering it, but how do I check the bonsai is still alive?

    1. Hi Ellin,
      To check if your bonsai is alive please make some small nicks in the trunk and branches with a sharp knife.
      The layer just beneath the bark should be green.
      If it is please send us a photo and we can check it out.
      many thanks

      1. So sad I think it’s gone, where can I send the pictures too?

      2. Please send photos to [email protected] but if the cambium layer is brown then I am afraid there is nothing I can advise,
        Kind regards

  25. I have a large white pine, with a long “welcoming arm branch”, which is dieing back along the left hand side of this branch.I have owned this tree for 2 yrs, and it has constantly lost the odd branch here and there.But now the situation is getting out of control, it is in the process of losing 4 branches all on the L/H side and in the middle of the branch.The branch is nearly 5ft long and as it stands I will lose about a foot wide expanse of branches, thus altering the of the tree completely.I have dosed it once this year with sequestered iron about a week ago, and water it from a water butt, filled with tap water which is left for at least a week before using, I live in a hard water area.The rest of the tree looks healthy to me, please help.

    1. Hi Derek,
      This sounds like over-watering.
      White pines like to be on the dry side and we have had a very wet winter. they hate to be wet!
      Please could you send me a photo.
      If you are unable to upload it please could you e-mail me [email protected] and we shall take a look at the symptoms.
      best wishes

      1. Hi Sarah, This tree was kept under a lean to shelter over winter, so it did not receive any rain water all winter long.It was watered about 5 times in all.My five other pines were all kept in the same place, and they all look OK.The side of the tree that is affected would have got any winds that’s were blowing, could this have been a problem.I will try to send a pic later.thanks Derek

      2. Hi Derek,
        Thank you for the photo. This could well be wind damage.
        You could not have over-watered the bonsai; the shelter is ideal.
        It is very difficult to maintain such a long branch but in general the bonsai looks very healthy.
        The only other possibility is that it got very slightly too dry but this is unlikely,
        I think it is most likely to be environmental,
        kind regards

      3. Hi Lloyd/Sarah,
        Thanks for your feedback,I think the problem is down to lack of water.This tree has always been hard to water, the top surface soil has always been solid.I decided to knock it of the pot to inspect the roots, and to say that it was potbound is an understatement.The root ball is like a brick, and the top 1/3rd of the Akadama it is planted in is like dust.No wonder it was hard to water.Any way I have now put it in a large tub and backfilled with a good quality pine mix.There was very little mychoriza present on the roots, so I have added some rootgrow beneficial fungi as well.At least now I should be able to tell how much water is in the pot.Hopefully it will now thrive, I intend to fertilise it with Naruko, any ideas ?.

      4. Hi Derek,
        You have done exactly the right thing. It certainly sounds as though it was pot bound!
        I would recommend that you do not feed your pine for at least a month – there will be enough nutrients in the soil for the next few weeks and it is best not to over-fertilise when you have disturbed the roots.
        Pines are always top dominant – they put all their energy into growing up (at the expense of the lower branches).
        If possible, I would advise you to tilt the pot for the summer months, to about 45o and place the main branch out towards the light.
        This should enable this lower bonsai branch to become stronger.
        I hope this makes sense,
        all the best

      5. Hi Lloyd, thanks for the latest info,I shall definitely incline the pot, and point the long branch into the light

  26. I have recently come across in inline filter, which fits on to a standard hose pipe used by Koi keepers, to fill their ponds.It claims to take out all sorts of impurities in the water such as heavy metals and I think from memory chlorine as well.would this be beneficial when watering my trees using water straight from the tap.

    1. Hi Derek, I have no experience of these devices. I would be concerned that the micro-nutrients may also be removed. Do you have any rainwater? That would be the best on a bonsai of this standard.

  27. I hope you can help My son bought me a sweet pepper bonai tree for Xmas and its been happy on a sunny windowsill I stand it in water a coupls of times a week however this last week the leaves are drying out and the tree appears to be dying – do you think the sun may now be too strong and what can I feed it to revive it and should I cuttof what appears to be dead Thank you

    1. Dear Lynn,
      It sounds as though your bonsai has dried out during the warmer weather over the past couple of weeks.
      Watering twice a week at this time of year will not be enough.
      I think most of the old leaves will drop off.
      Please ensure the soil is kept damp at all times,
      All you need to do is water slightly more frequently,
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  28. Hi I recently received a Bonsai tree for my birthday. Now because it was a present it arrived early (last Tuesday) and it was kept in the box it was sent in until my birthday which was (last Sunday) now it was all fine until about last Tuesday when I started noticing the leafs had brown spots on them like dead spots and some leafs had lacerations but where it had died. I have recently purchased SB invigorator to combat the problem as I believed it to be a fungal infection maybe being in a damp dark environment but I have used it and nothing has changed or is getting better. Now I was wondering what are these brown spots on the foliage and how do I keep it from killing my plant. I can include pictures and please get back to me as I’ve already wrote to you with no reply and my problem is getting worse!!.
    Thank you for your time reading this.
    And really hope we can sort this. Thanks
    Kind regards
    Simon Fisher

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. Just to clarify I got the tree (Tuesday) 13 and opened it (Sunday)18 and used the invigorator Satuurday just gone.

  29. Hi there

    Two of my bonsais are not very happy lately. The apple bonsai has white dots that look like insect eggs all over and the Chinese lemon’s leaves are starting to fall off and they are brown rather than shiny green.
    How can I save them?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    1. Dear Marta,
      Would it be possible for you to send me some photos please – my e-mail address is [email protected]
      I have no experience if a Chinese Lemon – are your bonsai kept indoors or outside?
      kind regards

    2. Dear Marta,
      Thank you for the photos.
      I think you need to get a general insecticide from your local garden centre and spray both bonsai.
      Repeat the spray according to the instructions.
      The apple definitely looks like it has a pest.
      The apple bonsai needs to live outdoors; especially during the autumn and winter – it needs a period of dormancy when the leaves drop off.

      I think you are correct – both bonsai need re-potting.
      The best time to repot the apple is February, when it is out of leaf.

      The second bonsai is an Aromatic Pepper Tree. Please see the link below:

      You can certainly re-pot this now – it is the perfect time to do it.
      It looks very dry and hungry – do you feed the bonsai with bonsai feed?
      For now – please stand the pepper tree in a sink with water for 5 mins, just to ensure the root ball is damp throughout.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

      1. Thanks Sarah for taking the time to look into this. I really apreciate your advice. Will follow-up on all instructions.

  30. Hello there!

    I am new to Bonsai and I have just started this week. For my birthday I was given a Sageretia (8 years old) and a Fukien Tea (3 years old).

    I have done thorough research for both trees and I am looking after them in the way that is generally mentioned on websites and books.

    I have two questions:

    1) Can I use general feed for both Bonsai trees or do they each need a particular feed? And how many times a week should I feed each?

    2) On the Fukien Tea, there is a green powdery substance on the trunk, it looks like fungus. Should I remove this with a toothbrush dipped in chlorinated water? Or should I just leave it?

    Many thanks for your time!


    1. Dear Jean Michel,
      A general bonsai fertiliser is ideal for both your bonsai.
      If you are using a liquid bonsai food such as shown in the link below, then please feed weekly.–t92-?ref=3177

      You need to dilute the fertiliser in water and once a week water with this solution.
      The remaining solution can be kept until the following week in a well marked bottle.

      It will be a form on lichen on the trunk of the Fukien Tea Tree. It will do no harm at all but by all means remove it with an old toothbrush and water.
      This is not necessary but can often make the bonsai look more aesthetically pleasing.

      We have lots of care advice and 16 dvd chapters on our website which you might find interesting.

      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  31. Hello, I was wondering if you could help me with my possibly dead cotoneaster Bonsai. All the leaves and flowers are completely dry and shedding. When I scratch the bark, however, it’s still green. I read in one of your earlier posts that this means it’s still alive and can be revived. If so, what sort of feed should I be giving it (at the moment I use fully balanced nitrogen, potash and phosphate feed), how often should I water and feed it, and how much sun exposure should it have?
    I’m relatively new to bonsai trees, so any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks in advance for your time

    1. Hi Lucy,
      I am sorry that your Cotoneaster is not thriving.
      You are correct it is alive but please do not feed it until it has new leaves; more fertiliser could make the symptoms worse.
      Please could you let me know where you are keeping the bonsai?
      We need to try and establish what has caused the leaves to drop.
      Did it happen suddenly? Are the leaves crispy and brown?
      Do you think the bonsai could have got very hot or dried out? The weather has been particularly nice.
      I hope to hear from you soon,
      kind regards

  32. Dear Sarah,
    At the moment I’m keeping it indoors, and it hasn’t been fed for a while (just watered every few days). I left it outside during a very hot weekend which I’m sure is the reason for its decline. Would it help if I sent some photographs?
    Thank you again,

    1. Hi Lucy,
      I would put the bonsai outside in a sheltered semi- shaded position. It really needs to be outside all year round but not allowed to dry out.
      It sounds as though it got hot and dried out but actually you have just been unlucky and outside really is the best place for a Cotoneaster.
      Please keep the soil damp and you will need to give the bonsai at least 8 weeks to see any signs of improvement.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  33. HELP!
    I got a sublime Elm with 25 ,2 foot long shooters on her. I am not sure where to trim exactly nor what time of the year is best. Please help ASAP!

    1. Dear Sean,
      Would it be possible for you to send a photo to [email protected] so that we can see the bonsai.
      Are you keeping it indoors or outdoors?
      Are you in the UK? Different climates affect when to re-pot.
      thanks Sarah

  34. I am repotting also any tips. I have to go bigger and would like to create more depth as well.???? Fertilizer as well?????? I have her submerged soaking right now.

  35. My boyfriend bought me the beginners kit – chinese elm bonsai tree this week. Its very small but the bottle of food says to mix 5ml with 1 litre of water?!?!

    I really don’t want to feed it 1litre of this food mix – does anyone have any advise on how much I’m supposed to give it?

    I know its a novice question but I want to do things properly

    1. You can make up a litre and store the diluted feed in an old, clearly labelled bottle,
      Use this feed next week and the week after etc.
      Then there is no wastage!
      Hope this helps

  36. SOS!
    Hi. .. I bought a Chinese Elm from you last year on line – fabulous! But I may have killed it? Practically all the leaves have dropped off, like it was Autumn/Winter. The trunk and curved branches are still magnificent but the rest is just twigs. It is well watered and I use Baby Bio to feed. Can you help please?

    1. Hi Christopher,
      When the leaves fell off had the bonsai dried out or did the leaves go crispy or brown or change colour?
      We need to tray and work out what has caused the leaf drop so that we can advise you on what to do next.
      When did this happen? How long ago did the leaves drop off?
      Please keep the soil just damp (not wet) and please do not use baby bio – it is too strong and can scorch the roots on a bonsai.
      A bonsai feed would be much better.
      If you would like to send us a photo then please e-mail [email protected]
      Hope to hear from you soon,
      kind regards

  37. Hello,
    I have an indoor bonsai. I’m not sure what type, but it looks like a type called Fukien. I’ve had it for almost a year with no problems and when I moved (the plant was still indoors) I started noticing some small white mite insects. I started spraying it with an insecticide for indoor plants, but then after about a week decided to repot it (I had never repotted the plant so I figured it was about time and would get rid of the bugs completely). I repotted it last night and today all the leaves are yellowing and wilted. I’ve plucked off about 2 handfuls of falling/withered leaves… I’m not sure what made this happen… mayve the type of soil I used? Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

    1. Dear Melanie,
      I think you are correct – your bonsai probably did need re-potting and I am pretty certain that this will not be caused by the soil you have used; it is too quick.
      When you repotted the bonsai did you remove much of the old soil and disturb the root ball?
      When we re-pot we stand the whole pot/root ball in water for 5 mins so that the old and new soil are both wetted.
      I shall wait to hear from you,
      kind regards

      1. Thanks so much. When I saw it happening I thought it might be a drainage problem (because my old soil had more gravel/small rocks in it) so I repotted it again just to mix more rocks into the soil. While i was doing this though, I had the roots soaking in water and for the past two days I’ve been making sure the soil gets enough water.
        Leaves are still falling off a little, but I think it’s improving. The leaves became a little darker green and don’t seem to be wilting as much.
        How long does it usually take for the plant to recover? Is there anything else I should do?

        Thanks again!

  38. Dear Bonsai Direct,
    I have a Serissa foetida that has been seemingly in good health until now!
    it has some green but lots of branches that appear to be dry and dying.
    I have been very disciplined in looking after it and am at a loss as to what has happened.
    Can you help?

    1. Hi Matt,
      Would you be kind enough to send us a photo ([email protected]) and we shall check out the symptoms and get back to you,
      kind regards

      1. Hi Lloyd,
        thank you for getting back to me. Yes I will, which address would you prefer me to email it to?

      2. just seen the e mail address Lloyd!! Sorry. Will do now.

  39. Hello, I’ve been gifted a Thousand Stars indoor bonsai and I’m a little confused by the care sheet with it. It’s not clear how much food I need to give it weekly. It says on the bottle one capful to a litre of water, but how much of that solution do I give the tree? Also, re. watering, it says to keep the soil constantly wet but not to overwater as it prefers to be on the drier side. I don’t want to overwater it, I hope you can advise me. Thanks, Iona.

    1. Dear Iona,
      You make up the stock solution of bonsai feed (5ml to 1 litre) in an old bottle – water with a small amount of this solution once a week until the water runs through the holes in the bottom of the pot.
      The soil needs to be maintained damp (NOT wet) and only watered when the top of the soil begins to get dry – Serissa do not like to be over-watered – the tips of the leaves will go brown.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  40. I think I need to root prune and re-pot my Chinese sweet plum – what soil should I use in the pot?

    1. Hi Mike,
      You need a free draining soil like akadama–t79-
      You can make your own bonsai soil from equal proportions of John Innes No 2, Horticultural grit and multipurpose compost.
      I hope this helps
      I think you might find chapters 12 & 13 of our bonsai DVD useful too.
      The link is:
      kind regards

  41. The baby Chinese elm I recently bought has started to get – what looks like – tiny white fungi at the base and parts of the soil.

    Am I going to have to put the little fella down?

    1. This is probably a sign of slight over-watering. Please could you send me a photo.
      the white fungus will not harm the bonsai and can be brushed off with an old toothbrush,
      My e-mail address is [email protected]
      kind regards

  42. Help! My dad bought me a Oriental tea Tree Bonsai for my birthday in May and it is just dying. It has never really thrived and now the leaves have gone pale and brittle and are all falling off. I even took it on holiday with me to try and nurture it back to health. Does it need repotting into something bigger as the roots seem to be in a lump with a crack across the soil? I love this tree, please help! Thanks

    1. Dear Brigette,
      Thank you for your enquiry.
      Please could you send some images to me at [email protected] so we can advise you further.
      many thanks

  43. I have been away and left my bonsai zanthoxylum in the care of a neighbour. I have noticed now that the bark is white a bit like cotton wool any ideas why

    1. Dear Christine,
      If it is powdery it could be slight over-watering and it will brush off with a old toothbrush – this would be towards the base of the trunk.
      If higher and more cotton wool like it sounds like it may have a pest – wooly aphid – you would need to get an insecticide which treats wooly aphid.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  44. Thank you for your prompt reply I will try both and hopefully all will be fine

  45. I did have a Bonsai tree it was a fictus, but I couldn’t bring my self to prune it so put it in a big pot and it has been happy as larry all the summer, but now do I bring it in to the conservatory, which gets warm in the winter or wrap it up in white flossie stuff and put it in a sheltered spot? Hope you answer awful questions like this, I know I am a Philistine

    1. Dear Ann,
      Thank you for your enquiry.
      Please bring your Ficus bonsai indoor now – it will not stand up to the frosts. It can go back outside from the end of May (assuming you are in the UK and it is warmer).
      If you need advise on pruning please send us a photo.
      Many thanks
      [email protected]

  46. have you a video of how to prune pepper tree leaves and branches

    1. Not yet I’m afraid but it is on our to do list!

  47. I have a small Buddhist Pine that I keep in doors. I was away for a month and it was neglected. Many leaves and branches have dried up and died so I wondered whether it would do to remove the waning shoots now or wait until after the winter. Thank you!

    1. Dear Elliott, I think I would be inclined to brush off any dead leaves but leave the branches and hope that you see new signs of life in the spring.
      Please give it plenty of daylight and try not to over-water it – just keep the soil damp (not wet).
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  48. Hello 🙂
    I have just moved to university and bought a bonsai tree about maybe a month before. A few weeks ago there was some new leaf growth on the top but then suddenly all the older leaves started turning from green straight to black and falling off – they had been doing it a little bit before the move to university but only a few leaves fell off then.
    I was watering and feeding it every week but started doing it every couple of days in the past week – I was wondering if this is the right thing to do? Also the moss around the base started going mouldy so I just took it all off which was possibly a wrong decision…
    I looked up stuff online and I thought that either it has some sort of fungus, or I’m watering it too much/too little, or it’s not getting enough light. But I have no idea which thing is right – my room at university is pretty dark most of the time and I don’t know if I should put my tree by the window because there’s a radiator underneath.
    Help please! 🙂

    1. Dear Mabel,
      Black leaves are usually a sign of cold or over-watering. If they are crispy too then this could be an indication of it drying out. I think it would be a good idea for us to see a photo and check out the symptoms. Please could you e-mail me a photo ([email protected]) and I shall take a look.
      Moss does not thrive well indoors – it sounds as though your bonsai may have been grown outside during the summer. Removing the moss is absolutely fine.
      If you could send a photo we could identity the bonsai too and then be able to help you,
      all the best

  49. Hello,

    I’ve got Ficus microcarpa Ginseng and it looks like it’s dropping much more leaves recently. I have it for few months (3-4) already (indoor, temperature around 25 degrees) and haven’t fertilized yet. Do you think I should do that ? If yes, than which fertilizer should I choose?

    1. I think your bonsai will need bonsai fertiliser; we recommend the one in the link below:–t92-?ref=3177
      I do not think this is the cause of the leaf-drop.
      Is it the old leaves or the new growing tips too?
      If it is just the old leaves (and not the growing tips) then I think this is just seasonal with going into autumn.
      Do you prune out the growing tips?
      kind regards

  50. hi can you please helpI have an 8year old Bonsai Carmona, it’s been beautiful all summer. but just recently it has had sticky leaves with what looks like tiny whitefly. I sprayed with an organic spray and it seemed to clear. But after being on holiday and someone else watering, which I’m sure was ok really, It’s still got slightly sticky leaves but there going brown and dropping off. but at same time new ones are growing. it’s been fed through summer, should I continue?

    1. Hi Lynn,
      If you use an organic insecticide you need to keep using it according to the instructions, (eg. 5 sprays a week apart).
      You can then use it preventively on a fortnightly basis.
      The brown leaves could be seasonal leaf drop or could be an indication of a watering issue or it getting cold.
      Please could you send me a photo so we can advise you further?
      many thanks
      [email protected]

  51. Thank you Sarah for your help so far I have emailed you a couple of pictures. do I need a special insecticide for Bonsia as I used a general garden one? If so could you please advise.


  52. Hi Lynn, I cannot find a new e-mail with any photos. Yes of course you can use a general insecticide. I hope this helps.
    Kind regards

  53. Hi,

    I have recently been given a Tea Tree Bonsia as a gift from yourselves. I am little concerned, it has dropped around 10-15 leaves over the last few days, the leaves are going yellow, then black. Really want to do something to help the tree. I have read in your leaflet to expect this but it seem more leaves then i would expect. I have been watering it every morning, have it on a tray of rocks with water in the tray. It is kept in a office (window is around 3-4meters away, with A/c around 18C most of the time.

    Any advice what to do?



    1. Hi Matthew,
      Thanks for your post. The Tea Tree does not like to be over-watered.
      Does the black start at the tips of the leaves and work up?
      It could simply be reacclimating. I would expect it to lose at least 10-15 leaves.
      Please could you send me a photo and I shall check it out?
      Are the leaves which are dropping the old leaves or the new growing tips?
      many thanks

  54. Hello,
    I have 3 Bonsai, Chinese elm, sweet pepper tree and a Ficus Retusa. I am new to the art and my question is this, now that frosts are now starting to settle should I bring my trees in to the house ( I do have a south facing window with no radiator) I do not use the central heating and I do have a humidifier. At the moment all three are in the conservatory but I don’t know if this is to cold for them. Thank you.

    1. Hi Arthur,
      This is a great question and one which depends upon the night time temperature of your conservatory.
      If your conservatory is unheated I think they would be far better for the winter months in your south facing window.
      An unheated conservatory is too cold for the Pepper and Ficus.
      The Chinese Elm would be fine but probably drop its leaves if left in an unheated conservatory but would re-bud in the spring,
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  55. Thank you for your reply. Just another small point, I do not have my fire on all day as normal activity in the house keeps me warm enough so the fire is only on for an hour at lunch and maybe 2 hours in the evening.

    1. That will be fine – you need to keep the chill off!

  56. pleaseeeee help me i over water my ficus bonsai i clean the roots dryem and repot put just a little bit of water and im waiting is there anything else i can do to get the leaves to be green and strong again? and how long should i wait to put some more water in it ? should i put it in the sun? thank you very much

    1. Hi Frank,
      An over-watered bonsai takes many weeks to recover.
      Basically it is suffering from root rot and needs to grow new roots.
      Please keep the soil just damp (if totally dry the bonsai will die).
      An over-watered bonsai has a similar appearance to one which does not have enough water – this drying of the leaves is caused by the roots not being efficient at translocating the water.
      You could try misting the foliage daily.
      But please do keep the soil just damp.
      You need to be patient – it will take a long time to see any improvement.
      I hope this helps – happy Christmas

  57. Dear Bonsai Direct,

    I purchased a lovely bonsai off your website back in January ’14 (order no: Bonsai_8486). It was quite happy up until the temperature started to drop – around Sept / Oct. Since then, its leaves have been slowly but steadily shedding, with little to no new shoots coming through. It’s now looking so bare than I’m beginning to worry for its welfare! I suppose my question is: should I expect this to happen in the Winter months? I’ve been following all the care instructions on your website. Apologies for sounding like such an amateur! I’m happy to send photos to aid any diagnosis.

    Many thanks indeed, Luke

    1. Dear Luke,
      it is not uncommon for a Chinese Elm to drop some of the old leaves at this time of year.
      It should not affect the new growing tips.
      When the leaves drop do they change colour or go crispy?
      I think if you could send me some photos that would be great.
      Do you feed the bonsai (with bonsai feed)?
      Happy Christmas
      [email protected]

  58. had bought few Bonsai’s just before christmas have only watered them as and when needed but they are starting to get mould on top and when i have looked at the bark cut it a little they dont seem green are they going to die or just need re potting please help


    1. Mould can be associated with over-watering.
      Please could you send me a couple of photos and I shall check this out. It would also be helpful to see what type of bonsai you have.
      many thanks
      [email protected]

      1. Afternoon Sarah

        have you got another email address i can send the pictures to cause i have tried twice and both have came back saying unable to deliver.


  59. Hi,

    I have a Chinese Elm bonsai ordered here Feb 2013. At first it was growing fine but since last year all the leaves have fallen and not green back it’s been a few months now. I have been watering it, spraying and giving it food but no growth. The leaves started going brown then it all fell off.

    I also put a few nick onto the bottom of the bark and it’s brown underneath not green. It’s a 13 year old tree. Is my bonsai dead?

    1. Regrettably if the cambium layer is brown (the layer beneath the bark) then the bonsai will not survive. Please check a few places.
      I believe this to be a watering issue – if the leaves went brown and crispy could it have dried out, even for a short period?

  60. Hi, please help with revival advice! I’m a new owner, received a Chinese Sweet Plum bought here as a gift. It’s obviously dried out before it got to me (probably with my Dad) as it was crispy and dropping leaves already – this has just worsened over three weeks. (It also got knocked and snapped the top branch off).

    I know it’s not totally dead, there are several new shoots coming from the base of the trunk (and the break at the top). I know advice is usually to trim these off to maintain shape, but wondering:
    a) if i should leave them growing to help it try and revive, until new leaves grow everywhere else
    b) should i aggressively prune crispy leaves that i don’t think are going to come back to life, or leave them? Should you cut just the leaf, or the mini branches too?

    I am following all guidelines on watering, position etc. I really want the little guy to live! Can send photo if helpful, advice appreciated

    1. A photo would be great, thanks.
      Please send to [email protected] then I can offer some advice,
      Many thanks

  61. Hello, My Wife got a Oriental Tea Tree Bonsai for Xmas, It lost many of its leaves even though it was regularily watered, now it is thriving with many new leaves & flowers.
    Is it growing too fast. The leaves are large & bright Green & very healthy. It is in a good position. Should we trim the new secondry growth when it occurs to keep its shape? Thank you

    1. Yes, you need to prune the tips of the foliage to keep the shape and encourage new buds to open further down the branches.
      The new leaves will also be smaller; the more you prune the smaller the new leaves.
      I hope this helps

  62. Hi, my bonsai tree recently got white fly so I treated it and they’ve have now completely gone however my tree doesn’t look well at all. I have kept it well watered however the branches are starting to look bare and my green leaves are starting to wither up. I’m not sure what to do?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Abby,
      Do you think you could have over-water it?
      I am not sure what sort of bonsai you have – does it have any black tips to the leaves?
      It may be best to send a photo to [email protected] so we can check it out,
      kind regards

  63. Hello,

    I am very concerned about my indoor oriental Bonsai tree! It has lost all it’s leaves which have turned brown and withered and there is mould growing around the bottom of the trunk.

    I have followed all of the instructions which were given in the pamphlet. I have kept it indoors and in a sunny place away from radiators. I have watered it once a week with a litre of water containing the correct measurement of fertiliser specified.

    It was a gift from my boyfriend who told me that he had the bonsai for two weeks and kept it in his garage. He has also said that he watered it every day! I’m a bit concerned that this might be something to do with why the tree is looking so unwell, when I received it, it was starting to lose it’s leaves and a few of them had brown spots on them. I really want to save it! Please help me!


    1. Hi Bex,
      Please could you send a photo to [email protected] and we shall take a look at the symptoms and advise you further.
      I am concerned that it got very cold in the garage to 2 weeks – Oriental Tea Tree do not like to be cold,
      many thanks

  64. Hi,

    I have an indoor Chinese elm that has been shedding its leaves in a way I have not seen before.

    The leaves get ‘soggy’ (i.e. soft to the touch) and just shrivel up. It happened after repotting and root prunning, about 3 weeks ago.

    Any ideas?

    1. Hi Adam,
      It sounds as though the roots have become compromised after root-pruning.
      What proportion of the roots did you remove.
      Please ensure when you do water that you water bother the new and old soil – the roots will not have grown into the new soil yet so you need to make sure your water the original root ball too.
      Do you think this could be the issue?

      1. Dear Sarah,

        Thanks for your swift reply. Below is a more concise account of my Chinese Elm problem.

        Basically, it has lost most of its leaves and I am not sure what is going on. Also, on a separate note, I initially thought that the slow growth of this Chinese elm of mine was normal. But since getting another elm (which has been growing really vigorously), it dawned on me that something isn’t quite right.

        1) It was fine and leafy in Sep/Oct/Nov.

        2) When winter came and the temperature started dipping, some of its leaves turned yellow and began to drop (I had not changed watering pattern or physical location of the tree). As I put it right beside a closed window, where it’s cold, I assumed the tree took it to be winter and wanted to go into dormancy or something, so I let it be.

        3) By January, it has lost about 70-80% of its leaves. I thought something must definitely be wrong so I brought it ‘deeper’ into my room, where its warmer, but it was still able to get as much sunlight as possible. In about a week, it started budding.

        4) In late January, I decided to re-pot the tree for the first time (I also wired some parts of it). At this point, some of those new buds have already leafed. So I changed the soil, and did some root pruning (it was almost fully pot-bound before that). I also scattered a bit of the fertiliser at this point. (Was this a mistake? Might have caused root burn, I don’t know). I also experimented with a bit of moss I collected from a random pavement in London. All this while, I kept the tree slightly further away from the window (but where maximum sunlight is still available. Basically, it’s the spot where the tree started budding again)

        5) Immediately after this root-pruning, re-potting, and feeding, the tree stopped budding and the leaves started falling again. But this time, it was in a weird fashion. Instead of just yellowing and dropping, the leaves would get ‘soggy’/soft and curl up (very different from getting crispy and curling up like when I first didn’t water properly when I got the tree), as I mentioned in my last post.

        6) I fear there is something wrong with the roots, but I am not sure. I was afraid of having fed it prematurely as well. So when a friend got me an Akadama/Kyodama 50-50 mix and some micorrhizal fungi, I took the chance to do another re-pot a few weeks ago. Now the leaves seem to have stopped getting soggy and falling off, but it still seems to be dormant as a whole. Also, just to give you more detail to help with your diagnosis, in the past 3 weeks or so, I have pruned some secondary and dead branches in hopes of re-invigorating the tree. But nothing seems to be working.

        Sorry this has been loong! I wanted to give you as much information as possible so you can give the best diagnosis. Thank you very, very much! I would really appreciate your help.


      2. To answer your question, I think during the initial root pruning, I removed about half of the roots and all the ‘harder’ roots.

        In any case, what would be the solution to overpruning of roots or root rot?


      3. Hi Adam,
        I think you have pruned off too much of the main root system and compromised the transpiration.
        Please keep it somewhere cool (out of stress) and keep the soil damp.
        All the leaves may drop off but basically you need to give the bonsai time to re-establish its root system.

  65. Hi

    We recently bought an Oriental Tea Tree from you. The leave seem to now have a sticky substance on them. It is not on all of the leaves and has come in the last week.

    Can you confirm what this means and how wendeal with it.



    1. Dear Jon,
      Sticky leaves can be an indication of aphid. Can you see any small flies under or on the leaves?
      It is that time of year when they are just getting going.
      kind regards

      1. Yes I can see those flies. How do I get rid of them?


      2. You just need to spray with a general insecticide – this is available from all garden centres. Just follow the instructions on the bottle. Aphids are easy to get rid of – you maybe just able to pick them off but an insecticide would be better. Once you have got rid of it use the insecticide once a month as a preventative measure. I hope this helps.

  66. I’ve had a Bonsai tea tree that’s been inside and in perfect health. During the last month (Feb-March) it has lost las of it’s leaves except for one lowere limb which still appears healthy. What can I do? Is it dying? We’ve had a very long and wet winter.

    1. Dear Ann,
      I would expect some leaf drop of the old leaves as we enter spring but to me it sounds like a watering issue.
      If the leaves have gone crispy then the bonsai could have dried out at some point but it sounds more like over-watering.
      If the leaves have gone soft with brown tips then this could be over-watering – you are welcome to e-mail us a photo so we can check this out,
      kind regards

  67. Hi,

    I know you have not replied to my initial question but the leaves are still dropping off and do not want to leave it to late I case I need to do anything. I keep checking the soil beneath the gravel and and it is definitely damp enough as suggested in your FAQ. But the leaves are still dropping off is this supposed to be happening? The leaves seem a little crispy that are dropping off and the have little brown spots on them, these were already on the leaves when I received the bonsai. There are some new leaves which do not have the spots, but @ the current rate the leaves are coming off there will not be any left soon.

    Any advise will be greatly appreciated thank you.

    1. Dear Aaron,
      Thanks for your enquiry.
      The leaves with the small dots on are last seasons leaves. They will drop off as we enter spring (this should not affect the new growing tips).
      Over the next 3-6 weeks new buds will develop and open giving the Sweet Plum bonsai as whole new canopy.
      You have done the correct thing; Sweet Plums do not like to be overly wet; just damp.
      You can feed once a week with a liquid bonsai feed such as the one in this link:–t92-?ref=3177

      This is a seasonal change and will probably occur every spring.
      If you would like to send us a photo by e-mail please do and we can make sure everything is ok,
      Many thanks
      [email protected]

      1. Hi Sarah,

        Thank you for the response that has set me @ ease and from your comments know that the bonsai prefers the drier side of things as a lot of problems that I have read about are due to overwatering so did not want to make that mistake!
        I have a bottle of the Bonsai food which came with the tree. I assume I make up the quantities and just water the Bonsai until water runs through the drainage holes?

        Again thank you for the help and should I need any more advice I will be in touch.

      2. Yes that’s correct,
        kind regards

  68. Hi Bonsaidirect,

    I’m wondering if you can help me with our bonsai. We are complete novices when it comes to most things green but were bought a bonsai from Ikea from my mother in law just over a year ago. The info provided with it from Ikea was total rubbish so I came online to try and find out a bit but was so overwhelmed with all the different information I got a bit confused! The tree lost most of it’s leaves but I read this was common amongst them when they are moved places.
    So a few months go by and the leaves start to shoot and new branches grow. We were very excited at seeing wee green leaves everywhere so happily let them sprout from wherever.
    I watered it occasionally but had no idea if what I was doing was right. Winter came and we lost all the leaves again. Came back online and read not really to water it over winter so backed off. Now spring is here there are quite a few new branches growing from the base of the tree and further up but the growth has stopped just over halfway up the main trunk.
    I have been adding a small amount of liquid bonsai fertiliser to the water. Is this the right thing to do? I know bonsai growth takes along time but I’m concerned I’ve somehow killed half of the tree!
    If you’ve got any thoughts or can tell me where to go for more information I’d be eternally grateful. Thanks very much
    I’ve added links to a few pictures to try and help my explanation..

    1. Hi Maggie,
      It sounds as though you have had some watering issues.
      I am not sure if the top will recover – you can check this by making some small nicks with a sharp knife and seeing if the layer beneath the bark is green.
      I hope the information in this link will help:
      This covers the fig bonsai, the basic care watering and feeding.

  69. Dear Bonsai Direct,
    A few months ago I left my wild olive bonsai in the care of a friend who didn’t water it correctly. As a result, all the leaves dried up and eventually fell off. I continued watering and feeding it in the hope of recovery, with no results. However, when I scrape the bark, I can still see green – does this mean that it is still alive? I have added links to images in the hope that helps.

    1. Dear Anya,
      Thanks for the photos. Whilst the cambium layer is green the bonsai is alive.
      If the leaves went crispy and dropped it sounds like it has dried out.
      I would expect if it is strong enough to recover for you to see new buds over the next 2 months now we are in early summer.
      If you have a garden please put it outside and keep the soil damp. It will recover more quickly outside.
      I am not certain that it will recover but there is definitely hope.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

      1. Thank you. How often would you suggest I water and feed it?

      2. Dear Anya,
        I would not feed it at all, until the bonsai has leaves on it.
        Please just keep the soil damp to the touch – how frequently will depend upon how hot it is.
        i hope this helps
        Kind regards

  70. the leaves of my chinese elm bonsai tree are sticky. Is this a sign of something?

    1. This can be a sign of aphid – please take a look at this advice and description; I hope it helps
      kind regards

  71. hi,
    I have a Chinese holly bonsai. I left it outside in the garden
    In sunlight for a week, whilst I went on holiday. When I got back all the leaves were brown and have now dropped off. Do you think it has died? Can you please give me advice on where to place it and how to care for it?

    1. Dear Suzanne,
      Your bonsai has obviously dried out; it will drop all the leaves to try and save the roots and trunk.
      If it has been hot (not sure where you are in the world) for a week then it is unlikely to recover.
      You need to make a few small nicks in the trunk and branches with your thumb nail or sharp knife.
      If the layer beneath the bark is green then it is still alive.
      Please soak the soil and then return to watering when the soil is barely damp to the touch; it will require less water because it has no leaves and all the leaves will drop off.
      The Chinese Holly is very slow growing so you need to give it at least 3 months to see any sign of new shoots,
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  72. Hi, I’ve been collecting bonsai for a couple of years and by and large I don’t have too many problems, but some species I find particularly hard and would appreciate your advice please.
    I have a Chinese privet which was root-pruned a few months ago and was doing well but in recent weeks some of the leaves have turned brown at the tips and are now turning yellow. The tree is still producing lots of new shoots but I’m concerned about this sudden change.
    Likewise, my Chinese elms have a habit of suddenly turning yellow and dropping several leaves. Could this be overwatering or under watering? I try to let the surface dry out before I water them.
    Kind regards,

    1. Hi Emily,
      Brown tips to the leaves is usually a sign of over watering. If the leaves go crispy and dry this usually indicates under watering.
      I hope this helps
      Kind regards

  73. Hi, we were given a Bonsai tree about 6 months ago, we think it is a Fukien Tea. It was thriving for ages but over the past few weeks the leaves have yellowed and dried out and this morning I noticed there was a white fungus growing on some of the leaves. It sits next to a window as we read they like to be in a sunny place. We water it when the soil starts to dry out and we have recently bought some bonsai tree food but this hasn’t made a difference. Any advice?

    Kind regards


    1. Hi Jenny,
      it sounds as though it may have powdery mildew, but I have never seen mildew on a Fukien Tea tree ever!
      If it does I would recommend spraying with a fungicide.
      It may be worth sending a photo to [email protected] so we can check this out.
      Dry leaves are usually an indication of it drying out so I think we should follow this up,
      many thanks

  74. I have an oriental tea tree bonsai which was a gift December 2014. It has thrived all year but now I find that many of the leaves are turning yellow, then brown and dropping off. Some of the yellow leaves have brown dots on them. Is this something that happens in autumn. Is it likely to loose all of the leaves and should I continue to water and feed to see if it starts to grow again? No new leaves forming.

    1. Hi Susan,
      I am not totally sure of the cause of this; if it is just the old leaves and not the new growing tips then I would think this is caused by autumn.
      Please keep the soil just damp (Oriental Tea tree bonsai do not like to be wet).
      If it has brown spots there is a chance it may have a leaf spot issue, but they could just be old leaves. It would be beneficial to spray with a fungicide as a precaution.
      Please keep the soil just damp, keep in a bright position but stop feeding until you see new signs of growth.
      This bonsai is slow to grow and at this time of year will take a while so please do not expect any change for a few weeks.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  75. Query: Have a bonsai tree, about 30 years old, think it’s a kind of privet. Didn’t know how to prune it, so have not done so for about ten years. It is very healthy, but now I have long branches with leaves just at the ends. Can I prune it hard or should I do it bit by bit? Or is it too late to do anything?

    1. Hi Sue,
      Privets can be pruned hard but due to the fact it has not been pruned for many years, I would be inclined to try and bit and if it buds back well be more drastic on the second pruning.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  76. Hi I have a Chienese Elm which i just got in August of this year, it had done very well up to last month, but now his leaves have started to turn a tan/brown colour on the tips, at first I thought the colour change was because of the season change, but now i feel it could be a watering problem. Have I over or underwatered him, is there a way to fix it?

    1. Dear Reilly,
      Would it be possible for you to send a photo of your bonsai please. A Chinese Elm often does have a lovely red/tan autumn colour.
      If the leaves are brown/black on the tips this is an indication of over-watering. The bonsai will usually become a little wobbly in the pot too.
      I think we need to be sure of what the problem is before we offer any advice,
      kind regards
      Sarah ([email protected])

  77. Hi there

    I have recently inherited a good number of bonsai trees that range between 15 &3 30 years old. Some do not look like they are in good health and I’d really like assistance with making them look good again. I do not know what trees they are but are indigenous to South Africa. Would you be able to assist and advise if I sent photos?

    Kind regards,

    1. Dear Stephanie,
      I regret we are not familiar with bonsai indigenous to South Africa,
      I am sorry,
      Kind regards
      Bonsai Direct

  78. My girlfriend got me a bonsai from your site and everything has been fine so far a few of the larger leaves fell off but plenty of new healthy ones are budding. But yesterday while I was cleaning the area around my tree a worm fell out the pot! is this something I should be worried about? how did a worm get in the pot??

    1. Hi Kam,
      I am so pleased your bonsai is doing well. A worm is absolutely nothing to worry about, we seem to get slugs and snails occasionally too but have not idea why they don’t prefer to stay outside!
      Kind regards

  79. Hello,
    I was gifted a Podocarpus for Xmas, my first ever Bonsai. Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed a white powdery substance on the leaves and thought it may have been where I’d misted it and the water had dried on the leaves like this. I’m now thinking it’s got mildew. I’ve read that one should remove the infected leaves and treat with a fungicide. However, as all leaves appear to be affected, if I were to remove all the leaves would this kill the bonsai as it can’t photosynthesise? Any advice would be much appreciated.
    With kind regards,

    1. Dear Spencer,
      This is most likely to be a water residue, it is dry and powdery?
      Perhaps you could e-mail a photo because it is unlikely that the best advice is to remove the leaves.
      If it does have powdery mildew then a fungicide would be the best treatment,
      Kind regards
      Bonsai Direct
      [email protected]

  80. Hi guy’s, we had a bonsai ligistrum as a gift for christmas, very healthy too. We kept it near normal light and sprayed the leaves. We went away for 2 weeks and noticed leaves shrivelling and dropping. We moved it to our kitchen a darker and cooler area. Some leaves were still healthy, however we had to move again to a different kitchen location, it dried out quickly, and the remainder of the leaves withered and dropped off. We continued to spray it and after a few days we aggitated the soil and watered. We’re not sure if it’s died or not. Hope I’ve explained it all ok? Many thanks

    1. Dear Nigel, It sounds as though the bonsai has dried out.
      Please make some small nicks in the trunk and branches to see if the cambium layer, just beneath the bark, is green.
      If so then your bonsai is alive.
      Please stand the bonsai in water so that it overs the whole pot, for 10mins. The allow to drain.
      This will evenly re-wet the whole root ball and make future watering easier.
      This is a hungry and thirsty bonsai; do you feed it with bonsai feed?
      Please check the soil daily and keep it moist.
      If you are still concerned please e-mail a photo to [email protected],
      many thanks
      Bonsai Direct

  81. Hello, I am new to bonsai and i think i am doing something wrong. I got two trident mapple sappling for my birthday in the hope to grow them into a twin trunk bonsai in the future. I’ve had them since February and they started to leaf out already. The two trees seemed to be doing good forcthe first month in a half, but now they seem to be struggling. The leaves are starting to dry up around the edges and the stems seem to be withering away. At first i thought it was maybe root rot but i just checked snd the roots were fine. I have no idea what im doing wrong and really don’t want to kill my trees.
    Please help .

    1. A day has passed and the dry leaves aren’t really dry anymore now they are just withering and limp is the only way i can put it.

    2. This sounds like a watering issue, where are you growing the maple saplings?

      1. They are in side next to a window do to temps out at night getting below freezing but are out side during the day.

  82. I purchased a Ficus burtt-Davies March 1st. It was is very good shape. It even had fruit on every limb. I am growing the medium – large size bonsai under grow lights.
    The fruit started to dry out and drop. But now suddenly in the last two days I have lost 2/3 of the leaves. The leaves seem withered but green- no spots no yellowing. There are a sparse leaves mostly at the top. There are seemingly buds at the end of all the branches and even a few new small leaves spotted around the tree. Admittedly, I did not water the tree for two weeks. There is no evidence of pest or disease problems.
    The seller told me the tree liked to be dry. Being a cactiphile with experience with growing cactus, I took that to mean a week or two. Wrong. How do you help a tree recover from leaf loss and the problems associated with under watering. What about fertilizer. What is available in the U.S. that is best. Should I fertilize under the current condition of my tree? Thanks a bunch.

    1. Dear Juanita,
      I think you have been ill advised or mis-understood about the watering. Depending upon the pot size I would expect to water the bonsai every 2-3 days (approximately) so I would suspect in a two week period the bonsai would have dried out severely. Obviously without seeing the bonsai it is impossible to tell if it will recover. Please check daily and keep the soil damp (not wet because the old foliage will drop off and it will not need much water).
      Please do NOT feed your bonsai until it has new leaves growing.
      You will need to give the bonsai 2-3 months to begin to recover,
      I hope this helps
      kind regards
      Sarah – Bonsai Direct

  83. Hello,

    I received a Bonsai from you guys in February that’s been doing well up until a few weeks ago and it’s now unfortunately covered in White Fly, or what i think is white fly. The tree has gone really sticky, as well as the surrounding area. I’ve been watering weekly as well as spraying it daily. Not sure what to do, whats the best cure for getting rid of the fly?

    Many thanks

    1. Hi Jon,
      A general insecticide will treat either whitefly or other aphida. You can get this from most garden centres or DIY stores. I think there have been more aphids around this year – perhaps because we had a milder winter!
      We use a plant invigorator (—500ml-ready-to-use-trigger-spray) because it is organic but you need to use it at least once a week.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

      1. This is brilliant, thanks very much for getting back to me. Regards watering, i spray the leaves every morning and tend to immerse the bottom in water once a week but i feel it might be drying out a bit too quickly. Should i water it more often?

      2. At this time of year you will need to water more than once a week. Please check the soil of your bonsai daily and water well when the soil is barely damp to the touch. I hope this helps.

  84. Hi
    My daughter has bought me a bonsai tree for a gift but I’m notsure of the species as I’ve never owned one before. Would it be possible for me to take a picture of it and send it to you for ID? I would like to do this to find out the best way to care for it so need to know wihich species it is.

    Many thanks

    1. Dear Stuart, Yes of course, that would be fine. If you could email the photo to [email protected] that would be perfect,
      many thanks

  85. Hi there
    Last November I bought a Chinese Elm.
    since early this year I re-potted it and put it in a sunny spot in the garden, it is flourishing and doubled in size, my question is will it be safe to leave it outside during the winter months?
    I live in the West Midlands.

    1. Hi Lynn,
      This is a good question and it does depend upon how cold a winter we have. I suspect the Chinese Elm was originally grown as an indoor bonsai tree so it will not have been hardened off. If you want to keep it outside choose a very sheltered spot and if the weather drops below freezing pop it in the shed or an unheated room for a short period. It is a deciduous/semi-deciduous bonsai so it may lose most of its leaves, but that is fine.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  86. Hi

    My tree is about 4 weeks old it was doing very well and lots of growth but the leaves have dropped off and the new ones are turning dark and curling at the ends.

    I’m not sure if this is because of lack of water or what but coincidentally it started happening after I trimmed the new leaves. It has new growth so I know it’s not dead. Just can’t figure it out. Can you help?

    1. Dear Paul,
      It is very difficult to advise when we do not know what variety of bonsai you have.
      Please could you send a photo to [email protected] and we shall check the symptoms,
      many thanks

  87. Hi there, I’m in a bit of a pickle. I have a Chinese elm bonsai that is rapidly losing its leaves. It’s gone from having a crown full of healthy looking green leaves to a miserable looking deciduous tree in winter. It does still have a few green leaves scattered over its limbs but the leaves are falling off daily. The leaves are also susceptible to movement. It’s current position is on the window ledge of a bay window facing eastward. It gets a fair share of morning sun and I water the tree (by submerging it in water for less than five minutes) as soon as the soil starts looking a little dry. I have bonsai focus which I’ve added to the submerged water twice. I believe the reason behind the tree dropping its leaves is due to being subjected to a large amount of the bonsai focus. I’ve read somewhere online that too much fertiliser can harm the tree and even kill it off. If this is the case how do I prevent the tree from dying or is it too late? I’ve refrained from using the fertiliser but have watered it twice since feeding the tree. Do you have any advice?
    Thank you,

  88. Dear Lloyd,
    Are all the leaves dropping or is it just the old leaves. It is not uncommon as we enter summer for a Chinese Elm to drop the old leaves (this should not affect the new growing tips).
    I suspect this is not the bonsai fertiliser.
    Please could you send us a photo, so we can check the symptoms.
    Many thanks
    Sarah ([email protected])

  89. Hi,

    I wondered if you could give me some advice on my Bonsai tree, which I’ve had for about 18 months. It’s grown wildly out of shape and there aren’t many leaves on it, especially at the bottom where they should be. The leaves that it does have are pale in colour and some are brown or yellow. The healthiest looking leaves are on a very long straight branch, which is the branch I wanted to trim down to get it back into shape! Have you any advice for making my tree look like a healthy tree again? I admit I haven’t had time to give it much attention, but I would like to help it any way I can. Photo can be emailed if required.

    Thank you in advance,


    1. Dear Helen,
      I think these videos should really help you. They describe exactly what you are trying to achieve visually, which is significantly easier than trying to explain.
      I am not sure which variety of bonsai you have but these videos should be appropriate for most indoor varieties,
      i hope this helps
      kind regards

  90. Hi I sprayed my bonsai tree with kitchen cleaner pick the wrong one up its leafs have dryied out still green I’ve been misting it every day do you think it will be OK or any thing I can do many thanks julie

    1. Dear Julie,
      Please make sure that you wash the trunk and branches with tap water.
      The leaves will all drop off and hopefully new buds will appear in the next 2 months,
      kind regards

  91. How often should I spray your Bonsai mist on to the leaves of MTV Chinese elm . There is a lot of yellow leaves on it and they are falling off at .

    1. Hi George,
      Please spray the foliage once or twice a week. Keep the soil damp in addition to this. I suspect the leaf drop is seasonal if it is only affecting the old leaves and not the new growing tips. These leaves will drop and then 3-4 weeks later lots of new buds will emerge.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards

  92. Hi I have a Chinese elm bonsai tree. The little tray the pot goes on has some weird white marks that kind of look like cracks. I thought it was mold so I wiped it and it kind of came back. I then soaked it in antibacterial but the cracks grew back. I don’t know what this is could you please help?

    1. This is just part of the crazing from firing; it always comes back and is nothing to worry about.

  93. New to bonsai. I purchased a few a couple weeks ago. A
    L are doing fine so far… apart from the ligustrum privet bonsai tree:
    – leaves developed ‘holes’ (on edges and middle) as if being eaten but cannot see anything
    – not sure if needs re potting. The whole tree including the soil can just pop out. Bottom does not look overcrowded (I don’t think) but I can see roots from the top.
    Please help.

    1. Hi Annie,

      We’re sorry to hear this. Please could you send some photos of the bonsai with your order number to [email protected]. It’s a lot easier for us to advise if we can see the bonsai!


  94. Hello. My bonsai appears to be dead Or dying, possibly due to root rot. What can I do to try to save it?

  95. Hi there, I hope you are well.

    I just wanted to ask how long will the tree keep without dying if I leave it for 9 days whilst I travel to Ireland for the holidays, how can I prevent it from dying is this possible. I have just today received the tree as a gift but I have to leave tomorrow. I just watered it for the 10 – 15minutes. It’s a Chinese Elm – thanks in advance for any advice.


    1. Hi Gearoid,
      Please see our advice section on what to do when you go on holiday:

      I hope this helps.

  96. Hi there,

    I’ve had my beginners bonsai tree for two weeks now (aromatic pepper). Over the last 3 days the soil has been covered in a thin layer of white mould. I’ve watered the tree a little bit everyday and have also used the fertiliser, and have placed it by the window. Please can you let me know what I should do.

    Thank you for your help!

    1. Hi Charlie
      I will do no harm so please remove with an old toothbrush.
      I hope this helps – The Bonsai Direct Team

  97. Hi, I have a Chinese Elm and i have found that most of the leaves toward the inner part of the branches nearest the trunk are not growing or have fallen off. There are lots of new shoots growing rapidly but the leaves on these are all towards the end so when i prune i just seem to be clipping all the new leaves away.

    I have the tree in my living room which is quite warm , and have considered moving out to my balcony which is an enclosed winter garden if that might help?

    I also have kept the soil in good condition with the bonsai direct food and the bonsai mist regularly.


    1. Hi Greg,
      Please keep the soil just damp at all times, and mist the leaves regularly with water to increase humidity and encourage new buds to form.
      Here is a link to our watering video, which you may find helpful:
      I would definitely keep the bonsai well-pruned, as letting the shoots grow will prevent buds forming further down the branches.
      I think the bonsai would be fine where it is as long as you can keep it watered, but you can also put it on your balcony if you find this easier.
      I hope this helps.
      Kind regards,
      Bonsai Direct

  98. Hello! I have recently been given a cherry bonsai tree without any knowledge of its previous care. One side of the tree has no leaves at all and the other side has leaves with some brown discoloration. There is lots of new growth on this side but the plant continues to lose leaves daily. I have seen mealybugs present on the plant and removed as many as I can find. I am waiting for neem oil and insecticide to come in the mail. Would you advise using this to treat the mealybug problem? Also, should this bonsai be indoor or outdoor? I live in Texas so temperatures are above 90 right now. I have watered the tree once with rainwater until it ran out of the bottom. I didn’t want to repot the plant or check for root rot and cause it more stress. Any advice is greatly appreciated! I normally have a green thumb but this is my first time caring for a bonsai and I really don’t want to lose it. Thank you for your help!!

    1. Hi Kaylie,
      It sounds like there has been a watering issue at some point. Please keep the soil just damp to the touch at all times. Here is a link to our watering video, which you may find helpful:

      The cherry is an outdoor variety – if you have somewhere outside that is a bit shady then that would be perfect.
      Yes, I would recommend waiting for the bonsai to recover before repotting; as you have suggested this would likely do more harm than good at the moment. The best time to repot an outdoor bonsai is just end of winter/ beginning of Spring when the bonsai is at its most dormant.
      In terms of the mealybug, I think you may need an insecticide that specifically kills mealybug – it should say this on the bottle. Normally this is in the form of a soil drench that you dilute and pour over the soil, but I would definitely check the bottle.

      I hope this helps.
      Kind regards,
      Bonsai Direct

  99. I watered my bonsai for the first time by submerging it, and when it did it there wasn’t a single bubble that came from it, so assume that means it was watered enough already. It’s now 3 days later and the soil is still very damp, should I be worried??


    1. Hi Sean,
      If the soil is very damp then this is fine, please don’t water again until the soil is just damp to the touch. With the weather being a colder at the moment, it can be a while before the bonsai will need watering again, so I wouldn’t be too worried. Sometimes a bonsai won’t need watering for a week or so, especially as we come into autumn and winter.
      Please ensure that the bonsai has plenty of natural daylight, and keep the soil just damp to the touch. Here is a link to our watering video, which you may find helpful:

      I hope this helps.
      Kind regards,
      Bonsai Direct

  100. Hi I have been growing a bonsai from seed for about a year now. It was growing great, large green leaves then one day in September they just shrivelled up, went crispy and dropped. I persevered and just cared for the stem and noticed recently some new leaf growth. However the stem has now started going dark at the top and bottom (but if I scrape the outer layer at the bottom the inner layer is green) and the only bit of outer layer that is green is where the leaves are growing. Is it possible to send some pictures to show you please? It is easier than trying to explain. Thanks.

    1. Hi Chelsea,
      If there is a green layer and there is new leaf growth then I think it will be fine. Of course, as the seedling gets older the colour of the stem will change to brown as the bark develops, so I wouldn’t be too concerned about this. Please keep the soil just damp to the touch and allow it to keep growing as it is.
      I hope this helps.
      Kind regards,
      Bonsai Direct

  101. Hi,
    I bought an unspecified variety on bonsai from a local garden centre, with three plants in one pot. Unfortunately the middle of the three has died and I don’t know what to do now! The other two look healthy enough and reporting scares me a bit, but aware leaving a dead trunk in the middle is probably not ideal?! Any advice appreciated. I’m not sure what killed the middle one, probably underwatering on my part as it was a bigger plant that the other two and all the leaves withered and.

    1. Hi Lizzie,
      Please keep the soil damp at all times, and mist the leaves regularly with water to increase humidity.
      Here is a link to our watering video, which you may find helpful:

      I would recommend removing the middle tree and topping up with some fresh soil.

      I hope this helps.
      Kind regards,
      Bonsai Direct.

  102. Hello, I have a ficus bonsai tree that I got a few months ago and it has never had leaves on one side. The other side is thriving and growing loss of new leaves. What do I need to do to stimulate growth on the other side ?

    1. Dear Irene,
      Thanks for your message.
      Do you turn the bonsai so that both sides get equal daylight? It is important that the weaker side does get plenty of light. Also by pruning the tips on the stronger side this will encourage new buds to open on the weaker side.
      Feeding your bonsai weekly with a bonsai fertiliser would also be beneficial.
      We hope this helps
      The Bonsai Direct Team

  103. Hi i juat purchased 3 oak tree saplings off Facebook market place, theyre currently in normal pots with normal soil was wondering if i need to repot into a ceramic dish with bonsai soil

    1. Hi Darren, there is no need to repot into ceramic unless they need repotting and you would like to put them into ceramic pots (they are absolutely fine in plastic pots). It’s currently the wrong time of year to repot outdoor trees so please refrain from doing so at the moment. When you do come to repot, Akadama is the best soil you can use for bonsai. However, you can use any good-quality soil from your local garden centre.

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