Why Do Bonsai Trees Drop Leaves and Can They Regrow?

Dropping leaves is one of the most common issues that gardeners experience with their bonsai. Luckily, it's usually not a major problem and there are several steps you can take to encourage your plant to regrow those lost leaves.
A bonsai outdoors sunset.

Bonsai trees are popular among those who enjoy the art of gardening and are an excellent way to bring a piece of nature into your home. Unfortunately, bonsai trees can suffer from different plant-related issues like any other plant. One of the common issues you may encounter when growing bonsai trees is leaf shedding or dropping. In most cases, the primary cause of bonsai dropping or shedding leaves is due to mistakes in routine care. But the good thing is that bonsai-dropping leaves can be reduced or avoided.

So, why are my bonsai dropping leaves, and will they grow back? The main reason for bonsai trees dropping leaves is poor care. Improper care habits such as insufficient light, overwatering, underwatering, pest infestation, lack of proper drainage, and overfertilization can lead to bonsai shedding or dropping leaves. However, bonsai-dropping leaves can also occur naturally as part of the preparatory steps that the plant takes as it enters the dormancy period. Dropping of leaves is relatively common on some deciduous bonsai trees. These trees naturally shed leaves in winter or fall to help them store as much water as possible for use when they slide into dormancy.

This blog post discusses everything you need to know about bonsai-dropping leaves and whether they will grow back. Read on to learn more.

Care Specifications for Indoor and Outdoor Bonsai

It is crucial to understand care specifications for indoor and outdoor bonsai since leaf dropping mostly involves improper care.

Most bonsai trees love temperate climates. Traditionally, these trees are grown outdoors in a sunny but sheltered position, requiring proper light, water, and feeding to thrive.

If you want to keep your bonsai indoors, choosing the right species that can tolerate indoor conditions is essential.

For outdoor bonsai trees, they must be placed where they get at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight daily.

A litlle caudex bonsai.
Always check the soil to ensure it is not too dry or soggy before watering.

These trees need to be watered regularly, especially during the active growing season, but you must allow the soil to dry out completely between watering sessions.

Feeding your bonsai with a balanced fertilizer once or twice a month from spring to summer is also essential.

Consider watering them at least once a week, but always check the soil to ensure it is not too dry or soggy before watering.

Why Are My Bonsai Dropping Leaves?

Once you have identified if your bonsai is suited for outdoor or indoor environments, you can easily figure out why it is dropping leaves and take appropriate measures to stop further damage to your plant.

Below are some of the most common reasons bonsai trees drop leaves:

Reason #1: Insufficient Light

One of the primary reasons indoor bonsai trees drop leaves is insufficient light. It is no surprise that these plants love a lot of sunlight. Therefore, for most indoor bonsai trees, the limited amount of light received is not enough for growth.

Although insufficient light will not kill your indoor bonsai trees, it may delay their growth leading to leaf shedding or dropping. If you prune your tree, the leaves and branches may stop growing altogether.

Consider positioning your bonsai tree on a windowsill that receives plenty of direct sunlight for optimal growth. The best spot should be a south-facing or east-facing windowsill.

Bonsai tree in the windowsill exposed to sunlight.
The best spot should be a south-facing or east-facing windowsill.

However, you must remember that many outdoor bonsai tree species cannot withstand extreme temperatures.

Excessive light can make their nodes and internodes grow too large, leading to leaf dropping. Always ensure your outdoor bonsai tree receives adequate shade during the warmer months.

Reason #2: Overwatering or Underwatering

Another common reason for bonsai trees dropping leaves is overwatering or underwatering. Too much water can cause root rot and lead to leaf shedding, whereas too little water will result in dehydration, causing the leaves to dry and eventually drop off.

To avoid this issue, you must understand your bonsai tree’s water requirements and adjust its watering cycle accordingly.

Always check the soil before watering to ensure it is not too wet or dry and provide only sufficient water necessary for growth.

Also, don’t forget to consider the bonsai tree species to determine the amount of water and frequency of watering.

Reason #3: Improper Drainage

Being small in size, bonsai trees are typically grown in relatively small pots. Both outdoor and indoor bonsai trees need specialized care compared to other houseplants.

Trees grown in relatively smaller pots tend to have limited space for nutrients and water uptake.

The best way to determine if your bonsai suffers from poor drainage issues is to be keen during watering.

If you notice that the water drains out too quickly or doesn’t drain at all, your bonsai tree could be rootbound.

A person watering a bonsai.
The best way to determine if your bonsai suffers from poor drainage issues is to be keen during watering.

Being root-bound means that the root system of your plant has been disrupted. Therefore, the plant’s roots cannot absorb water and other nutrients effectively.

Rootbound bonsai trees are more susceptible to drying up quickly or may retain extra moisture leading to overwatering issues.

Such plants are more prone to show signs of plant stress, such as dropping leaves out of season and yellowing leaves.

Reason #4: Underfeeding or Overfeeding

Fertilizer is crucial for the overall health of your bonsai trees. In fact, it is highly recommended to feed your bonsai tree with a balanced fertilizer every month from spring to summer.

However, too much feeding can be detrimental to its growth since it may cause a nutrient burn or leaf drop due to an overdose of minerals and other nutrients.

On the other hand, underfeeding will result in slow growth, yellowing of leaves, and eventual leaf shedding.

To avoid this issue, always check the label of your fertilizer to ensure you’re applying the right amount and type of fertilizer for your bonsai tree.

Ideally, you want the fertilizer to contain Nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Most bonsai trees will also do best with organic fertilizer.

Reason #5: Pests and Diseases

Your bonsai trees may also shed leaves due to certain pests and diseases. Common pests such as aphids, scale insects, mites, or mealybugs can damage the leaves and cause them to fall off.

Similarly, if your bonsai trees are infected with a disease like powdery mildew or verticillium wilt, they will likely start shedding leaves in large quantities.

You may have to use an insecticidal soap or oil solution directly onto the leaves and branches to get rid of the pests. For diseases, you will need to consult with a plant specialist for appropriate treatments.

Reason #6: Relocation

Bonsai trees need a lot of light to thrive, as mentioned earlier. The energy gained from light helps with the process of photosynthesis.

These plants also consume energy through metabolism. Typically, the rate of metabolism is high at relatively high temperatures.

A sudden change of location may change the supply of light that the tree is used to. This is especially true for indoor bonsai trees.

A bonsai being prepared to repot.
The sudden change in environment may pose a significant problem for indoor bonsai trees.

When these plants are transferred from bright greenhouses into the normal environment (relatively darker apartments), they suffer from shock.

The sudden change in environment may pose a significant problem for indoor bonsai trees. The high energy consumption due to increased metabolism plus low energy production is a bad combination you want to avoid.

So, how does bonsai solve this problem? They drop leaves to adjust to the new environment. The only way you can help your bonsai tree in such situations is by positioning it in a brightly lit spot.

This will help your plant to adjust gradually to its new surroundings.

Reason #7: Recent Repotting

Have you recently repotted your bonsai tree? If yes, this is likely the cause of leaf shedding on your tree.

When repotting a bonsai tree, root pruning is compulsory. This may lead your tree to start losing leaves as a way of adjusting to its new status.

Repotting is generally stressful for bonsai, especially the highly sensitive ones such as ficus. Consider repotting your plant in early spring or summer when it is just coming out of the dormancy period.

A bonsai on hand.
When repotting a bonsai tree, root pruning is compulsory.

Once you have repotted your bonsai, maintain temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help the plant adjust to its new environment comfortably.

Also, consider keeping your repotted bonsai in a relatively shaded area for two to three weeks and water it moderately to minimize stress levels. Don’t apply fertilizer for the first three or four weeks after repotting.

Will Bonsai Dropping Leaves Grow Back?

So, will your bonsai tree grow back the leaves it has dropped? Generally, most healthy and disease-free bonsai trees can regrow their foliage within a few months.

In most cases, bonsai trees will regrow their foliage once the issue has been addressed.

So, if you notice leaf shedding in your bonsai trees, check for any underlying problems and take the necessary steps to fix them as soon as possible.

This will help ensure that your bonsai tree remains healthy and grows back its lush green foliage.


In conclusion, there are many reasons why your bonsai may be dropping leaves, and all of those reasons can typically be remedied.

However, the time it takes for new leaves to grow back depends heavily on the cause, location, climate, and age of the bonsai tree.

With proper care protocol in place, you can expect leaf regrowth.

Last update on 2024-02-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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