How to save a bonsai tree

Updated February 21, 2017

Bonsai trees are any variety of dwarf plant that is shaped into a design. The art of growing bonsai trees originally started in Japan. They are planted in pots and usually grow no more than approximately 60 cm (2 feet) high. If you don't know much about bonsai tree care, your tree will probably deteriorate pretty quickly. The good news is that if the deterioration is caught early and the problems are solved, the bonsai tree will begin to develop healthy growth again.

Examine the bottom of the pot and make sure that it has drainage holes to allow excess water to flow out. If the pot has no drainage holes, replant the tree into one that does.

Run your finger across the inside of the pot to see if it feels smooth and slick. If so, the pot has been glazed and you should replant the bonsai in another pot. Pots with glazed interiors do not allow excess heat to escape from the tree's roots.

Touch the top of the soil with your fingers and make sure that it feels moist but not soggy. If the soil is dry, the tree is likely not getting enough water. You should water the bonsai once per day and not allow the soil to dry out.

Move the bonsai tree next to a window where it will receive enough light. Most bonsais deteriorate because they are left on an office desk or other dark location away from sunlight.

Increase the humidity around the bonsai by filling a shallow tray with pebbles and adding water just to the top of the pebbles. Set the bonsai tree on top of the tray and keep the tray filled with water. Bonsais will deteriorate if humidity levels are not high enough.

Place a thermometer next to the bonsai and make sure it reads between 10 and 21.1 degrees Celsius (50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit). If the bonsai tree is near a radiator, vent or door, move it to another location as excessive heat and cold will kill the tree.


If the bonsai is a Chinese Elm and loses its leaves in the autumn, this is normal. The leaves will regrow in the spring.

Things You'll Need

  • Pot with unglazed interior
  • Shallow tray
  • Pebbles
  • Water
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About the Author

Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.