Bonsai Turning Brown

Bonsai Turning Brown (Here’s How To Instantly Fix It)

The Bonsai tree is one of the most beautiful plants you can add to your home. This umbrella-like, lush green tree is a treat for the eyes… until you notice your Bonsai plant turning brown.

Although the Bonsai is not a complex plant to take care of, there are several factors that can contribute to this discoloration. Most plants provide definite clear signals when something is awry.

A lack of nutrients, overwatering, change of seasons, improper exposure to sunlight, or pests can make your Bonsai turn brown and unhealthy. In addition, different types of Bonsai plants also have different watering requirements. 

Your Bonsai turning brown indicates the need to give it immediate attention. In this guide, we will share the most important steps to help you blossom your plant again.

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Understanding the Causes of Bonsai Turning Brown

When your once vibrant Bonsai tree starts turning brown, it’s essential to understand the underlying causes. Overwatering is a common culprit, leading to root rot and nutrient deficiency in the Bonsai. On the other hand, underwatering can also result in brown leaves due to insufficient hydration.

Another factor to consider is the plant’s exposure to sunlight. Bonsai trees require an adequate amount of sunlight, and a lack thereof can lead to browning leaves. Additionally, pests and insects can infest the plant, feeding on its leaves and depriving it of vital nutrients.

By identifying the specific cause of your Bonsai turning brown, you can take appropriate measures to address the issue effectively.

Bonsai turning brown

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Like any other plant, the Bonsai tree also needs attention, love, and care to stay healthy and beautiful. A small act of negligence can result in dire consequences for your plant.

The most common reason for the leaves turning brown is overwatering. Basically, an excess of water can cause the roots of the plant to rot, and a lack of nutrients in the Bonsai.

Similarly, underwatering can also have the same undesirable effect on your plant. You need to know the optimal amount of water required, depending on the season and species of Bonsai. 

Another common factor is a lack of sunlight. The Bonsai tree needs more sunlight than other species and not having enough exposure to the sun can turn its leaves brown. Even if your Bonsai tree is indoors, pests and insects can make their way in and suck out all the nutrients. They can also feed on the leaves and infect them.

Remember, Bonsai trees are considered a tropical or subtropical species, so you must try your best to mimic those conditions for your plant to thrive. So, how can you revive a Bonsai tree and ensure that the plant does not get affected in the first place? Let’s take a look at some of the most important steps:

1. Identity the Cause of the Problem

Many factors can cause the bonsai leaves to turn brown, as we mentioned earlier. This is the main reason you have to identify the problem. Perhaps the plant doesn’t get enough water or receives excess water. Also, it may be suffering from pest infestations, diseases, or a lack of light. Knowing the specific cause of the bonsai leaves discoloration will help you focus on the right solution. 

2. Set a watering schedule

The Bonsai tree has very specific requirements when it comes to watering. It is also recommended to immerse your Bonai plant completely in water, at least once a week or every two weeks, especially when the top soil feels dry. This will help the Bonsai absorb water properly and improve its overall health. 

Another great tip is to regularly mist the Bonsai tree as this provides it with adequate moisture. This is highly beneficial in the winter season when the environment is dry. 

To ensure the health of your Bonsai tree, humidity levels should also be maintained. 

Overwatering can also cause problems in your Bonsai plant. One good way of telling is by checking the trunk of the Bonsai. If it seems to be getting soft, this indicates overwatering. You should reduce the frequency of watering and allow the soil to dry. Then, only water the plant as needed.

Watering Strategies for Healthy Bonsai

Proper watering is crucial for maintaining the health and vibrancy of your Bonsai tree. Establishing a consistent watering schedule is key. Each Bonsai species has its own specific watering requirements, so understanding the needs of your particular tree is essential.

Immersing the Bonsai in water once a week or every two weeks, depending on the moisture level of the soil, allows for proper hydration. Misting the tree regularly can also help maintain adequate moisture, especially in dry winter conditions.

It’s important to strike a balance between providing enough water and avoiding overwatering, which can lead to root rot. Monitoring the trunk for signs of softening can indicate overwatering, prompting the need to adjust the watering frequency accordingly.

3. Managing Environmental Factors

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Remember, different species of Bonsai trees will flourish in different environments. Most of these plants are not good at thriving in direct sunlight, however, they are not exactly indoor plants either. The key is to help your Bonsai tree survive outdoors. 

There are three main categories of the Bonsai plant, based on the origins of each type. The Bonsai tree can be tropical, subtropical, or hardy. Hardy Bonsai trees do best outdoors and their leaves become brown if you leave them inside for too long. 

The tropical and subtropical Bonsai species are more suited to partial sunlight. You should know that “all” Bonsai do need direct sunlight for some part of the day. If there is no such area in your house where sunlight can reach, you can use a special artificial LED light for your Bonsai tree. 

Optimizing Environmental Factors for Healthy Bonsai

Creating an optimal environment for your Bonsai tree is crucial for its overall health and well-being. Different Bonsai species thrive in different environments, ranging from partial sunlight to more shade. Understanding the specific needs of your Bonsai species is essential for proper care.

Hardy Bonsai trees, for example, prefer outdoor conditions, while tropical and subtropical species require partial sunlight. If your indoor environment lacks sufficient sunlight, using artificial LED lights can provide the necessary light spectrum for your Bonsai’s growth.

By mimicking the ideal environmental conditions for your Bonsai tree, you can help prevent browning leaves and promote its overall vitality.

4. Remove Dead Leaves

If your Bonsai plant is already damaged, you can still make an effort to recover it. One useful tip is to remove the dead, brown leaves from the tree. Cutting off the dead leaves is good for the plant as it conserves its energy and focuses on regrowth.

Whenever you notice brown branches or leaves, you should prune them so your Bonsai tree can get healthy again. Remember to be very gentle while pruning your plant. Try not to snip off everything directly. Be careful and use your fingers to pinch and remove dead leaves without damaging the Bonsai.

Pruning and Removing Dead Leaves for Bonsai Health

Pruning plays a crucial role in maintaining the health and appearance of your Bonsai tree. When you notice dead or brown leaves and branches, it’s important to prune them promptly. Removing these damaged parts allows the Bonsai to conserve energy and focus on regrowth.

Pruning should be done carefully to avoid damaging the plant further. Gently pinching and removing dead leaves by hand is recommended. Regular pruning helps keep the Bonsai in good shape and encourages healthy growth. By practicing proper pruning techniques, you can prevent further browning and promote the overall health of your Bonsai tree.

5. Repot Every year

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It is often recommended to repot most species of Bonsai on a yearly basis. This means replacing the soil even if your Bonsai tree has grown quite large and appears to be healthy.

The roots of the Bonsai need to have the right amount of soil to continue growing properly. Plus, the soil must contain the right nutrients for your plant to blossom.

Over time, the soil naturally changes its texture and loses its nutrients which can make the roots unhealthy. If you practice this repotting ritual every year, the chances of your Bonsai turning brown will be lower. 

The Importance of Repotting for Bonsai Health

Regular repotting is a vital aspect of Bonsai care to ensure the plant’s health and prevent browning leaves. Repotting should be done annually for most Bonsai species, even if the tree appears healthy and has grown larger.

This process involves replacing the soil to provide fresh nutrients and maintain optimal root growth. Over time, the soil texture changes and loses its nutritional value, potentially impacting the Bonsai’s health. By repotting annually, you can minimize the risk of browning leaves and support the overall well-being of your Bonsai tree

6. Look Out For Signs Of Pests

An essential part of your routine should be looking out for pests that may be disrupting your tree’s ecosystem. Check if there are any holes in the leaves and keep an eye out for gnats or white eggs in the soil. Immediately remove the pests or insects you can spot.

You might also want to repot your Bonsai and use a gentle yet effective insecticide to prevent this in the future. 

There are many tips and solutions to follow if you notice your Bonsai turning brown. Understanding why your Bonsai tree is showing these signs is essential for successfully reviving it. However, it is always better to prevent the issue from happening in the first place. 

Always take action immediately after you notice the problem. Ignoring it and leaving the plant unattended can make it deteriorate very quickly.

Pests and Disease Prevention for Healthy Bonsai

Pests and diseases can pose significant threats to the health of your Bonsai tree, leading to browning leaves and overall decline. Regularly inspecting your Bonsai for signs of pest infestation, such as holes in the leaves or the presence of gnats or eggs in the soil, is crucial.

If pests are detected, immediate action should be taken to remove them manually and, if necessary, use a gentle yet effective insecticide to prevent further infestation. Additionally, maintaining good hygiene practices, such as cleaning and disinfecting tools and pots, can help prevent the spread of diseases.

By staying vigilant and taking proactive measures against pests and diseases, you can ensure the continued health and vitality of your Bonsai tree.

How to Prevent Bonsai Leaves from Turning Brown

There are simple ways to prevent your bonsai leaves from turning brown. Here are some tips that can help you:

  • Use rainwater for watering the plant in place of tap water, which may contain chlorine and other chemicals.
  • Apply the right fertilizers to the bonsai plant in moderate amounts.
  • Place the plant in a spot where it can get bright, indirect sunlight daily.
  • Avoid underwatering and overwatering the soil, as both conditions can damage the plant.
  • Monitor the bonsai plant regularly for signs of pest and disease infestation.
  • Keep the plant away from rooms with extreme temperatures.
  • Prune the plant regularly to keep its shape intact and to ensure it grows healthy.
  • Keep the bonsai plant in a place with high humidity levels, even indoors. 


Bonsai trees turning brown can be a cause for concern, but with proper care and attention, it’s possible to revive and maintain their health. Understanding the causes of browning, such as overwatering, underwatering, insufficient sunlight, and pest infestations, is essential for effective solutions.

Implementing a watering schedule specific to your Bonsai species, optimizing environmental factors like sunlight exposure, and practicing careful pruning techniques are important steps to prevent browning and promote overall plant health.

Regular repotting and vigilant pest and disease prevention measures are also crucial. By following these strategies and taking proactive action, you can enjoy the beauty and vitality of your Bonsai tree for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is my Bonsai tree dead if the leaves have turned brown?

Just because the leaves of a Bonsai tree are brown, it does not mean it is already dead. To determine whether the plant is dead or alive, simply make a little cut on the branches or trunk in different places.

If you see a green layer right under the bark, this means it is still alive. If this layer (the cambium) has turned brown, the Bonsai plant is dead.

How can you revive a dead Bonsai tree?

If the cambium layer is still green, the chances of reviving your Bonsai are much higher than if the layer has turned greyish or dark. Even then, you can try to revive the tree by removing the dead foliage, pruning the dead roots, preparing a fresh container and repotting the soil. 

This recovery soil should be a healthy mix of nutrient-dense potting soil, perlite, and sphagnum moss in equal parts. 

How to tell if my Bonsai tree is overwatered?

An excess of watering can cause a lot of damage to the Bonsai plant. Some signs of overwatering include: leaves turning yellow and smaller branches shrivelling up. The roots will start to drown in the water which will deprive them of oxygen, not allowing them to support the tree or help it grow.

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