Is My Bonsai Dead? What To Do + [More Tips]

Is My Bonsai Dead

Have you been worried lately about your bonsai looking dead? Or even troubled that you don’t know what to do about it? First of all, it may seem dead but still be alive. I know, your main question as of now: Is my Bonsai dead?

Your bonsai is dead if it has no leaves or if there are brown leaves falling. Revive a dead bonsai tree by re-potting it. However, to completely remove the dead bonsai tree, prune the leaves, submerge the roots after pruning them, re-pot it, place it in a good environment, and water as recommended. 

Below, I’ll discuss the effective ways of knowing how to tell if your bonsai is dead, what to do if it is, and how to save it from such problems in the future. 

So, read on. 

Is My Bonsai Dead? What To Do

Indeed, if you’ve noticed some brown leaves falling or if there are no leaves at all, your bonsai is dead. 

What do you do if it’s dead, therefore? 

  • Step 1: Prune The Leaves

Get a sharp knife or equivalent tool and cut all foliage out. Do not leave any dead leaves because they use the badly needed energy that the recovering tree could otherwise use.

  • Step 2: Prune The Roots

Gently uproot the stem from its pot and remove the soil base. You will now be able to see and get rid of dead roots but make sure you don’t break any live ones. ( Dead roots are always black or dark brown, whereas live ones are lighter). 

If you sense any terrible smell coming from the base, remove it because it signifies root rot. However, make sure you spray water on the roots to keep them refreshed during this process. 

  • Step 3: Prepare The Container

Possibly have a new clean pot for replanting the bonsai plant. If not, clean the available one with warm water and soap. Disinfect it and remove every particle left behind when you uproot the plant.

 However, make sure that you have a big pot to enable the roots to have enough recovering space in both cases.

Step 4: Re-pot The Bonsai

Mark a third of the pot, put sphagnum moss and the bonsai plant. The sphagnum moss is to prevent other new roots from sprouting. Now, add bonsai soil into the pot and cover the roots well. 

Remember that you should add bonsai soil depending on the type of bonsai plant, and be careful to fill the soil well between roots. A chopstick can help you fill the soil better.

Step 7: Find A Suitable Location

Place the plant in a location where it will receive the morning and late afternoon sun. Remember that most bonsai varieties require a location with a shade – during the hot sun time. Also, ensure the site has good ventilation to promote good cell development. 

Step 8: Watering

Anytime you see the topsoil drying, water it with warm water. There are times you will water your plant twice daily when there is a scorching sun. 

Always check on the plant, especially when the climate is humid or windy, as those conditions can quickly dry the plant. A rule of thumb, water it as soon as you notice the soil is starting to dry.  

Step 9: Healing Time

A bonsai plant can take up to the next season to start showing any sign of healing. If such happens, just be patient and give it the necessary care.

Can You Revive A Dead Bonsai? Will Bonsai Leaves Grow Back?

Yes. It is possible to restore a dead bonsai and grow back its leaves. But what makes a Bonsai tree dead? 

  • Failure to water
  • Overwatering
  • Placing it in the wrong direction
  • Quickening the growing process
  • Infection by pests
  • Being unsure of the type of Bonsai tree you have

Let’s discuss these below as they’ll help us revive the dead bonsai tree. 

Bonsai Type

It’s essential to know the kind of bonsai tree you have. If your tree is an indoor one, the care must be different from the outdoor one. For instance, for an outdoor bonsai, you place it in one direction with conducive climatic conditions. But, you may be required to move it severally to have those conditions for the indoor one.

Failure To Water

In most cases, bonsai pots are small and don’t hold enough water and nutrients. If you find that the leaves are withering and falling off, know your plant is gradually dying. In such scenarios, water it well because if the roots are not completely dead, you’ll save your dying bonsai tree.

Even so, how much water you give your plant is dependent on the type of bonsai. 

For example, if your bonsai grows in clay soil, be sure not to overwater it since clay doesn’t absorb water easily.


Often, you tend to care more about watering the plant but forget that you shouldn’t overdo it.  Bonsai roots are very sensitive, and if they are not well established in the soil, they can have footrot. In extreme cases, the disease moves upwards towards the leaves, causing the plant to die.

Unfortunately, you may not notice there is a problem until when the leaves finally start to fall off. 

However, if you see your plant has suddenly started turning yellow and you are sure that you have been feeding it well, then know you are overwatering it. So, reduce the amount of water you’ve been giving it. 

Insufficient Sunlight

Every bonsai needs three to six hours of sunlight every day and a shade in the afternoon. For the indoor tree, place it where it can quickly get those conditions without much transfer.

Note that blue light is needed for the plant to develop well and for the leaves to form green color through chlorophyll. 

Rushing The Growth Process 

Sometimes you may want to re-pot your bonsai to change its design, especially if you’re new to it. It’s vital to avoid that because it can damage your plant. In fact, only re-pot your Bonsai tree once a year.

Keep in mind that during early spring, the plant is dormant. Hence, this is the ideal time to re-pot it. It’s during this time that you’ll notice the Bonsai buds are swelling.

In addition, the foliage isn’t fully-grown, thus there won’t be a lot of effects after re-potting the tree. 

Pests Invasion

You need to monitor whether pests are invading the plant and use pesticides on them. Insects do also invade the roots. So, remove the tree from its pot once to check whether the root base is free from pests. 

The most common pests are vine weevil, scale insects, red spider mate, and powdery mildew.

Or it could be diseases like black spots and foot rot.

Good Drainage

Because bonsai trees are grown in pots, it is difficult to absorb nutrients and water efficiently. Therefore, ensure the plant has a good drainage system. To do this, have at least two to four holes. 

This allows enough water retention and drainage as well as excellent soil aeration. 

Under Or Overfeeding

A dead Bonsai tree due to excessive fertilizer and manure can be revived easily, in most cases. How do you do this? Stop adding fertilizers and manure for some time. The plant should start coming back to life after a couple of days.


Is A Bonsai Dead If It Has No Leaves?

Your Bonsai is dead if its leaves are dead. Why? Because conifers keep their leaves soft even in dry seasons. If your soft leaves have now become brittle, it could be a sign that your plant is not getting enough water and may end up drying. However, with extra care, you can save it.  

Should I Pick Dead Bonsai Leaves Off Bonsai?

Yes, you can pick dead bonsai leaves off bonsai. Use a sharp tool to cut off the dead branches and leaves. 

It will encourage the growth of new leaves and better growth of already existing leaves. Again it will allow the leaves to receive more sunlight as more leaves can now have access to the sunlight. 

What Does A Dying Bonsai Look Like?

A dying Bonsai has brittle, withered branches that also droop. Upon seeing these signs, the immediate action of saving the tree is necessary. 

Also, a dying bonsai gradually turns its green leaves to brown and start to fall. Over time, the leaves also begin to produce a strange smell.

Final Thought

What’s the final word, is your bonsai dead? As long as the plant has no leaves and there are only dry, brown leaves, it’s indeed dead. If it’s not dead yet revive it. 

Thankfully, you now know what to do with your dying bonsai that need to recover. It will recover quite well when you give enough sunlight, water, enough fertilizer, and proper drainage. 

However, you need to check whether it’s still alive by gently scratching its leaves. If you find it green, know you can save it, but if it is brown, then realize it cannot recover.