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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.

Watering Indoor Bonsai Trees

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. You can help encourage new green buds to form 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.

19 replies

  1. 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?

    1. 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

  2. Hello
    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!

    1. 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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  4. Hi I dnt now how much to water my bonzai tree many times a week can you please let me now my tree about 3 mouths old ? 1 inches high, do I leave water at bottom of pot or do I water on top of soil greatfull get back to me thanks carl Williams

    1. Hi Carl,
      Unfortunately there is no definite number of times that your bonsai will need watering. Please keep the soil just damp to the touch at all times.
      Please water from the top of the soil until you can see water coming out of the bottom of the pot.
      Here is a link to our watering video, which you may find helpful:

      I hope this helps.
      Kind regards,
      Bonsai Direct

  5. Hi! I water all of my indoor bonsai trees in the bathtub. I run the shower head over them like it’s raining. I leave them in the tub for about an hour and a half then I move them back to the window sill and let them drip dry. Is that okay?

    1. Hi Frank,
      Yes, this should be fine, as long as the soil is just damp to the touch at all times and they are not left standing in water. Here is a link to our watering video, which you may find helpful:
      I hope this helps.
      Kind regards,
      Bonsai Direct

  6. Hi All Bonsai people!!
    I am just getting a little anxious – I have had my tree for three weeks now and it is loosing leaves daily. I have situated it in a well lit and ventilated area indoors. I think I may be over watering but not sure. Soil is kept moist to touch and is always dark- should I be letting it dry a little more betwen waterings( 3 times a week at the moment)
    Also I have bought a bondsai mist from you- is this just water or does this have fertilizer/pesticide in it as is sold as ready to use. Should I use this mist weekly and a water mist daily.


    Nigel (new to Bondsai)

    1. Hi Nigel,
      It is normal for bonsai to do a leaf drop whilst they are reacclimatising to their new location, and this is nothing to worry about.
      Please clean off all of the old leaves and 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 bonsai mist doubles up as a pesticide and feed for the foliage; I would recommend spraying with this once a week and using water in-between.

      I hope this helps.
      Kind regards,
      Bonsai Direct

  7. Hello! I’ve grown my bonsai trees from seeds the last few weeks. I’m about to transfer them into slightly larger pots, basically taking them away from their automatic water stations. As I’m about to begin watering them manually, I’m not sure which type of watering can to get. They are indoor bonsai’s and about 2 inches high, I’m not sure whether to get a mister or a normal small water can.

    Which is better? Mist or pouring water?

    1. Hi Charlotte,
      Thanks for your enquiry. They do different jobs really. The small watering cans are perfect for watering the soil, so you will need one of these or something similar:
      The mister is great for misting the leaves and maintaining the humidity when the heating is on.
      Also great if you are taking cuttings to keep little cuttings from wilting.
      I hope this helps
      kind regards
      Bonsai Direct

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