Why Is Your Bonsai Tree Wilting?

There are many different problems that can cause your bonsai to wilt. These include poor soil and nutrients, small containers, and fungal infections. These environmental factors can be identified early in order to improve the health of your bonsai.

Bonsai is the task of artificially controlling the growth of a tree and delicately managing its health. There is a personal connection between the grower and the bonsai tree.

The grower of a bonsai rather reacts to the stresses of the environment in which it grows. Managing the tree’s health and paying attention to the small details that control the growth plans is imperative to the entire process. 

If a bonsai has wilting leaves or branches, the tree is ill. Minor symptoms can quickly turn to serious, irreversible damage if not handled in time.

By being able to notice and diagnose problems before they escalate, you can nurse them efficiently and effectively. Read on to learn why your bonsai tree might be wilting so you can understand how to rescue it.

Overwatering Can Cause Your Bonsai to Wilt

Propagate bonsai

The most common reason for the yellowing or the wilting of the leaves is overwatering. bonsai trees must be watered under very specific watering schedules.

  • You should water your bonsai approximately once a week when the topsoil feels completely dry.
  • Then, you need to completely submerge the bonsai in a bucket or basin of water.
  • When the air bubbles rise to the top, then the bonsai has completely absorbed the water.

In some instances, underwatering can also cause your bonsai to wilt. If your bonsai receives too much sunlight without getting enough water, you should move your tree to a new location in order to lessen its sunlight exposure.

However, it is important that your bonsai receive the right balance of sunlight and water.

Loose Roots Can Cause Your Bonsai to Wilt

Another reason that a bonsai may wilt is if it becomes loose at the base of the tree. This loosening occurs when the roots begin to come out of the base of the trunk, or when the trunk becomes mobile.

When a bonsai is healthy, it should be firmly planted in the pot with a firm root base without any visible movement. You can keep your bonsai healthy with root pruning using the proper tools.

If not pruned, the roots will colonize the entire pot leaving no room for the bonsai to grow. This means that the roots grow in such a way that there is no more room for growth or nutrients to be acquired.

The amount of time that you will need to prune the roots is based upon many factors:

  • The container size
  • The environment
  • The species of the bonsai itself

The more freely that the bonsai moves, the poorer health it will have. Bad roots will eventually suffocate the entire tree. The most common cause of this problem, like many other problems with bonsai, is most commonly attributed to overwatering. A useful way to handle this is to use irrigation to improve soil drainage and aeration.

Repot Your Bonsai If It Outgrows Its Container

A bonsai that is growing well should be repotted every two years. This allows more space for growth and nutrients. One of the ways to handle this when it occurs is to repot the plant into well-drained soil. 

It is best to move your bonsai from its old pot to its new pot at the beginning of the spring season when the tree is dormant. Repotting during your tree’s dormant season will ensure any damage sustained to its overgrown roots will not last.

Fungal Infection Can Cause Your Bonsai to Wilt


Fungus can damage your bonsai and cause it to wilt. You may also find visible spots on your leaves that will nearly always mean a fungal infection. These spots are usually red, black, or brown. On Chinese elms, the spots may also be white or dark blue and rusty red splotches.

When you find any leaves that show signs of infection, you must prune them immediately to avoid spreading. There are two main methods to pruning your bonsai tree: bonsai maintenance pruning and structural pruning.

In order to rid your bonsai of its wilted, infected leaves, you will need to utilize structural pruning. You can also treat any fungal infection with antifungal medication that can be found at any gardening store.

  • Maintenance pruning is done when you prune anything that has grown outside of the intended bonsai size. This type of pruning is to be done during your bonsai’s primary growing season. The tools that you will need to use for this pruning method are twig sheers or normal cutters.
  • Structural pruning is taking off the parts of the tree that are no longer applicable to the growth plan of your bonsai. The pruning method is meant to cut the infection off before infecting the rest of the bonsai. 

Leaves can also show signs of damage by having ragged edges as well. This is common because of infestations of aphids or spider mites. The simple solution to this is to bathe the leaves and trunk of the bonsai in soapy water.

To fully get rid of the infestation, you will need to do this until you get rid of any visible bugs. If the signs still continue then you will need to procure a pesticide to treat the infestation.

Poor Nutrition Can Cause Your Bonsai to Wilt

Drooping or wilted branches are generally caused by poor nutrition or soil that is poor in minerals. Choosing good quality soil is crucial in the bonsai process. Humus is especially important in the bonsai soil process.

Composted materials are not where the humus comes from, but rather from what is left over after the organic materials are gone. These organic materials commonly include: 

  • Pumice
  • Akadama
  • Lava rock

Humus is the black soil that turns the topsoil itself black. This material will increase the nutrients that your bonsai’s soil contains. Once you have enough humus, you can move on to the process of healing your bonsai and allowing it to grow properly.

You can still heal your bonsai by utilizing Frit mineral supplements to bring it back to life. Frit contains over 28 vital source minerals that will be essential to the growth of your bonsai. Frit uses a fast and slow method releasing the nutrients over a 12 month period. 

Since this particular issue can also be due to mold or mildew it may be wise to consider using a fungicide if the minerals do not show signs of working.

You might be interested in How To Plant Bonsai Lotus Seeds

How to Tell If Your Bonsai Is Wilting

Why Are Bonsai Pots So Expensive

One of the most common bonsai wilting symptoms is the yellowing or wilting of the leaves. Wilting of any kind can be imperative to the health of the bonsai and needs to be handled in the correct way. Wilting is commonly known as the “runny nose” of the bonsai plant. It is a symptom that indicates a larger problem.


Bonsai is an art and a study that requires careful and dedicated attention to detail. When your bonsai begins to wilt or to show signs of damage, you must quickly act in order to treat your bonsai and return it back to health.

The health of the bonsai tree is up to the one who is managing its growth. There are many reasons why a bonsai might wilt but there are also specific ways in which you can make your bonsai thrive again.

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