Can I Save a Dehydrated Bonsai?

Written by mary mcnally
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Can I Save a Dehydrated Bonsai?
Bonsai need to be watered daily. (Stephen Schauer/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Bonsai plants can be made from most woody tree species. The tree is planted in a shallow tray to keep the roots and tree small. Bonsai need daily watering. Even forgetting to water for one day can cause permanent damage to the plant. However, more bonsai die from overwatering than from dehydration. Water immersion of the bonsai is not necessary for daily watering, but it may save a dehydrated bonsai.

Water Immersion

The bonsai tray should be immersed in room temperature water until all the air bubbles stop rising to the surface of the water. Water that is colder or hotter than room temperature may shock the plant and cause further damage such as the leaves curling, wilting and dropping off the tree. Leaving the bonsai immersed in water overnight can kill the plant, as the small roots are delicate and can begin to rot.

Floating Soil

Desiccated soil does not always rehydrate quickly or easily; it can float to the top of the water once the bonsai is immersed, bringing the roots up with it. Keep the soil and bonsai roots spread evenly and in your planting tray by first placing clean pebbles on top of the soil before you immerse the bonsai plant in water. Fine mesh screen squares placed on the tray also work well.

Wilted Leaves

The leaves on your bonsai tree may curl up and wilt if you do not water it daily. The needles may fall off evergreen varieties. If the leaves are still curled up after immersing the bonsai in water, do not pull the leaves off. Give them at least a day to uncurl or drop off the plant. Pulling off leaves that still have some life in them can further damage the plant.

Permanent Damage

Dehydration of a bonsai tree may cause permanent damage if the plant survives. Some roots may die off, or the tree may not grow well and succumb easily to pests and diseases. While pruning and wiring are normal techniques used to shape a bonsai tree, they also put stress on the tree's system. Hold off on using these techniques to shape the tree until it has recovered from being dehydrated.

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