Why Is Your Bonsai Tree Drying Out?

The most common causes for bonsai trees drying out are underwatering, humidity, soil type, and knowledge of your bonsai tree’s individual sunlight and water needs.

You have worked so hard to pick, prune and perfect your Bonsai tree, but now it is drying out. What is going on?

There are several reasons that your Bonsai tree could be lacking the moisture that it needs to successfully grow, but how do you prevent this from happening?

Bonsai trees are some of the most particular and rewarding plants you can own. Proper maintenance and care for your bonsai can yield a long and happy life for your plant and a long-term hobby for you.

Learning the ins and out’s of what your particular bonsai tree needs is the best way to ensure its longevity and health. Keep reading to learn about why your bonsai tree may be drying out.

Causes of Bonsai Tree Dryness

Causes of Bonsai Tree Dryness

There are several factors that might contribute to dryness in your bonsai trees. The general rule of thumb is get to know your particular breed of tree and it will help you determine the necessary solves to cure it of dryness. Here are some of the most common issues that lead to dryness: 

  • Underwatering 
  • Humidity (or lack thereof) 
  • Lighting
  • Soil type 
  • Individual Bonsai tree needs 

If one or more of these common issues are present, then your bonsai tree is at an increased risk for drying out. 


This might seem like a self-explanatory issue, but bonsai trees are very particular when it comes to watering.

Bonsai trees can die both from over and under watering so it is important to recognize what your tree is telling you. Responding to your tree’s needs is a sure-fire way to bring it back to optimal health. 

There are several ways a bonsai tree demonstrates underwatering. If your leaves are drying, turning yellow or dropping off these all might be indications of underwatering. Make sure you check your soil to make sure it is damp and not dry. 

Overwatering in bonsai trees can look very similar to underwatering with a few exceptions. Your leaves may still turn yellow, and drop from the branches, but an overwatered tree tends to have incredibly damp soil that may even begin growing mold. 

Ultimately, addressing over or underwatering is a big enough change to shock a tree, and should be made cautiously.


Bonsai trees need far more watering than regular trees. In particular, they thrive in more humid and moist areas. So if you haven’t already started misting your bonsai on the leaves and trunk, start now. But be careful not to over water! 

Bonsais are just miniature versions of real trees, and trees thrive better outside. With fluctuations in temperature and humidity, bonsai trees that live outside tend to do better than those that are inside. 


Since bonsai’s are just miniature versions of trees, and trees only really grow well outside, lighting is very important for the health of your tree. There are only 2 places you should ever store your bonsai’s: 

  • Outside
  • In a southern facing window

Outside light is by far the best for your bonsai tree. Each tree will have its own unique requirements but more often than not placing your bonsai outside will yield better results

. Because these trees need a lot of light they will also need ample watering, which could contribute to the overall dryness of your tree. Finding the perfect mix of light to water will certainly yield the best results. 

If you have a bonsai tree that you would like to keep indoors, placing it in a window in southern facing light is incredibly important for the health of your tree. Chances are being in more light will dry out your tree faster, so ensure that it is properly watered even if inside. 

Finding the perfect balance between adequate light and water is essential in bonsai tree health. Each tree will have unique specifications about the amount of each, but a general rule of thumb is to simulate the experience these trees would have outside. More light, more water, happier bonsai! 

Soil Type

Bonsai typically live in a soil that is part regular soil and part clay called ‘akama.’ Watering your bonsai properly will mean understanding the type of soil that your particular plant is housed in and how your tree is draining. 

If your bonsai tree is primarily in regular soil and has large rocks or sediment it tends to allow better drainage and air pockets to reach the root system, which can benefit the health of your tree. However, this soil loses water more quickly than hybrid soils with clay. 

By mixing your regular soil with clay you increase the density of your plants base which will increase water retention and will prevent your tree from drying out more quickly. However, adding too much clay can potentially waterlog your tree and cause root rot which can also kill your plan. 

Being mindful of your soil composition is essential in bonsai maintenance. Finding the correct combination of larger soil to clay will help your water retain and release water in the proper measure and will help increase the virility of your bonsai. 

Know Your Tree

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Each individual bonsai tree is unique and each species of bonsai tree is unique. Every bonsai tree has specific soil requirements and lighting requirements. Understanding the exact needs of your tree will be the best way to set your tree up for success. 

Factors that you need to consider are how much light does your plant need? How much water does it need? Does it thrive in humidity? Each type of bonsai will have its own requirements for each of these categories. 

There are 3 main types of bonsai trees, and while each specific sub-species will have its own requirements you can typically think of them in these three categories:

  • Deciduous 
  • Evergreen
  • Pine or Conifer 

Deciduous trees are what you can think of as seasonal trees. They grow new leaves in the spring, and shed leaves in the fall and winter.

These trees tend to like ample sunlight but not too much, just between 5-6 hours per day. These also need proper watering and drainage. 

Evergreen trees do not change colors and do not shed leaves in the fall or winter. They need the most amount of sunlight, which also means they lose water more rapidly. Staying on top of your watering will yield the best results for these plants. 

Pine or Conifer trees are some of the easiest to maintain. They thrive in high light and their needle-like leaves prevent the rapid loss of water. They typically need the least amount of watering. In these types of bonsai be mindful of overwatering. 

Are Bonsai Trees Safe for Cats might be a helpful article for you.


Each bonsai tree has unique specifications and their reasons for drying out may vary. However at the most basic level, knowing your tree, your soil and your surroundings will yield the best results when caring for your tree. Figuring out the perfect combination of water, humidity, light and soil will make your tree the happiest it can be. 

When trying to care for your bonsai, it is essential that you do not try too much too fast. Because trees grow and change so slowly, these plants thrive on small changes over an extended period of time. 

With the right care and consideration your bonsai can turn into a lifelong project, and once you figure out the perfect formula for your tree it can thrive easily. Go slow, get to know your plant and it will tell you what it needs to survive. 

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