Is A Bonsai Tree Dead If It Loses Its Leaves? + [What To Do]

Is A Bonsai Tree Dead If It Loses Its Leaves

A friend of mine bought a beautiful bonsai tree last summer. However, after a month, the tree started losing its trees. It’s shocking because we didn’t know if the tree was dead and if it would continue to grow. I opted to do research to know what we would expect. 

So, is a bonsai tree dead if it loses its leaves? Not really, but it might be, depending on its environmental conditions. It takes 2-4 weeks for leaves to regrow.  Sunlight improves Bonsai’s leaf growth. Also, note that some Bonsai trees do shade their leaves for winter.

Indeed, a bonsai tree requires meticulous care, or you’ll end up with a dry tree. In this article, you’ll find all you need to keep your bonsai tree healthy and leafy. 

ALso Check: How To Grow Avocado Bonsai

Is a Bonsai Tree Dead If It Loses Its Leaves

For a bonsai tree, losing its leaves doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dying. Although, it’s one of the symptoms of a dying Bonsai tree. There are several reasons why a bonsai tree may shade its leaves: it could be due to changes in seasons, lack of water, or it could be your tree is sick.

For better understanding, let’s categorize the bonsai tree into two groups:

  • Indoor bonsai tree
  • Outdoor bonsai tree

Indoor Bonsai Tree

Most of the bonsai species kept indoors don’t shade their leaves, even in winter. The constant room temperature is suitable for it to grow without needing to shade its leaves. Therefore, if your tree is losing its leaves, then there’s a reason to worry. 

There are three major reasons for an indoor bonsai tree to lose its leaves:

  1. Excess watering
  2. Underwatering
  3. Poor sunlight

Overwatering your bonsai tree causes the roots to start rotting. While on the other hand, if the tree lacks enough water, it’ll start to wilt and drop its leaves.

Moreover, poor sunlight does affect the health of any indoor bonsai tree. Placing your tree in an area with sufficient light can improve your tree’s condition from losing its leaves.

Outdoor Bonsai Tree

Aside from the points, I’ve mentioned above. An outdoor tree can lose its leaves due to pests and diseases. Also, adding excess fertilizer can damage your tree and cause it to drop its leaves. However, note that outdoor bonsai trees shade their leaves in certain seasons.

Back to our question, is a bonsai tree dead if it loses its leaves? As we’ve seen, there are multi reasons for a bonsai tree to lose its leaves, and for some, it doesn’t mean your tree is dead.

Do Bonsai Trees Lose Their Leaves In Winter?

Like any other tree, bonsai trees do lose their leaves in winter. As winter approaches, your bonsai trees drop their leaves to store water and energy for the dormant months.

Yet, bonsai trees aren’t like the ordinary tree in the compound. It’s a potted tree with limited water and soil nutrients. Therefore, without proper care, a bonsai tree 

won’t make it through its first winter. 

How Do I Prepare My Bonsai Tree For Winter?

Know your bonsai tree type and its temperature torrent range. As different bonsai trees require special preservation measures.

The resilience of a bonsai tree against winter depends on its adaptiveness. Some trees can withstand freezing temperatures by remaining dormant, while others don’t stand a chance. 

Therefore, you need to know the type of tree that makes your bonsai. Ensure that the roots are kept under stable temperatures to prevent freezing and thawing.

  • You could store your tree in a temperature-controlled room (34 °F).  
  • Place the tree on the ground with its container and mulch it with wood chips all around.

Don’t forget to water your stored bonsai trees during winter. The melting water from the snow waters the mulched outdoor trees. However, for the stored trees, keep an eye on them and confirm they’re moisturized. 

Can A Bonsai Survive With No Leaves?

Yes, a bonsai tree can survive with no leaves. For example, deciduous bonsai trees can go up to 60 days without leaves during dormancy. Also, a bonsai tree can recover even after losing all its leaves in case of an injury or infection.

Nevertheless, if your potted tree has lost its leaves due to pests or injury, aftercare is needed to improve its chances of recovering. First, ensure the tree has adequate water (don’t overwater or underwater), just enough to keep the soil moisturized. 

Secondly, add fertilizer to the soil to boost its growth. Then lastly, spray the tree with appropriate pesticide and position the tree in a well-lit area

Leaves are vital for any plant’s survival. Without them, your bonsai tree starves to death. Therefore, when trimming the branches, ensure you don’t cut all the leaves at once. Even though the tree can survive with no leaves, it undergoes extreme stress, which takes days to recover.

Will Bonsai Tree Leaves Grow Back?

Yes. If there’s no damage to the roots, it generally takes 2-4 weeks for Bonsai leaves to grow back. However, it may take longer for injured or disease-infected bonsai tree leaves to grow back.  

Also, the duration taken by a potted tree to regrow its leaves depends on the care provided. 

How Do You Encourage Bonsai Leaves To Grow? 

First, consider the health and the environment of your bonsai tree. Know what’s causing your tree not to produce leaves. Is it something external or internal? Is the tree infected by disease? Or it’s the environment stressing the tree? 

So, how do you encourage your bonsai tree to grow leaves? Simple. Follow the below points.

  • Position the bonsai tree in a well-lit place (sunlight, not electric light).
  • Keep the tree moisturized; don’t under/overwater the plant.
  • Add fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to improve the soil quality and boost the tree’s growth.
  • Keep the tree free from pests and diseases by spraying appropriate pesticides (seek advice from your agriculturalist)
  • Lastly, avoid moving the bonsai tree. Changes in the environment stresses the tree and slow down the growth process. Also, since bonsai trees don’t like being moved from place to place, you’ll observe the tree becomes dull for some days. However, upon adapting to a new environment, it resumes its green color.

What’s Re-Acclimatizing?

Re-acclimatization simply means your bonsai tree is dropping the older leaves near the truck to bud new ones. It’s nothing to alarm you. The tree drops its older leaves when you move it to a different region. 

So, you should expect that re-acclimation takes place when you buy a Bonsai tree and move it to your house. It happens in the first two months. It’s a natural process, and the only thing you need to do is be patient with your tree. 

After 4-6 weeks, the new buds will appear with a permanent color.

How To Revive A Bonsai Tree Without Leaves?

First, do the scratch test. What’s a scratch test? It’s a simple method to check whether your bonsai tree is alive or dead. If your tree passes the scratch test, there’s a chance of reviving the tree.

If the tree is alive, put it in place with adequate sunlight, water it appropriately, sprinkle some fertilizer on the soil, and wait for the magic to work. That’s it.

How do you do the scratch test? First, you need a knife. Also, you can use your thumbnail to scratch the bark.

Step 1: With your knife or thumbnail, lightly scratch the bark of the bonsai tree. Do the scratching about halfway up the tree.

Step 2: After uncovering the underlayer, you’ll observe a wet greenish hue underneath the bark if the tree is alive. If it’s dead, then you’ll see the cambium (the name of the exposed underlayer) is dry with a brown color. 

Notwithstanding, be careful not to cut a large wound. A small cutting suffices. Moreover, a large cutting takes more time to heal. Also, avoid testing the branches. Why? They’re not reliable in giving accurate results. A dry branch may not necessarily mean the tree is dying.


Can A Dead Bonsai Tree Be Brought Back To Life?

To keep it simple, the answer is no. However, if the roots are still alive, you can bring the tree back to life. While it’s not easy to achieve this, it’s doable. Ensure the tree is well cared for so that it receives enough water and light, plus the soil should be healthy.

Bottom Line

Therefore, what do we say is a bonsai tree dead if it loses its leaves? There’s no one answer to this. A leafless bonsai tree doesn’t possibly mean it’s dead. As we’ve seen, during dormancy, a deciduous bonsai tree drops all its leaves to conserve energy.

Nonetheless, if your bonsai tree is still losing its leaves, and it’s not autumn, then your tree is dying. However, you need not worry. There’s a way to save it.

Ensure the tree receives enough water, adequate sunlight, and a pinch of fertilizer once in a while. Additionally, keep your bonsai tree away from pests by spraying appropriate pesticides, and all will be well.