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Needles Drying Out On Juniper Bonsai- Causes, Signs, and Treatment. 

Juniper bonsai

Are your juniper bonsai’s needles drying out even after getting a good amount of water? Drying out bonsai needles is mainly caused by less watering, especially in the summer, but unfortunately, there can be other reasons behind it too. Here I will be discussing those reasons. I will also discuss the signs to look out for, because prevention is better than cure. 

In this article you will learn;

  • The causes of the juniper needle dry.
  • How to identify juniper needle dry.
  • How to revive a Juniper bonsai that is already suffering from needle drying.

The causes of the Juniper needle dry:

1) Your bonsai is constantly staying indoors:

Most bonsai species indeed love outdoor environments to have a healthy growth system. Bonsai professionals prefer their bonsai to stay outdoors all year round and they bring them inside only when they need them for display purposes. For juniper bonsai, it’s the same case. They will do better outdoors. If the temperature dips down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit you can protect the roots by using mulch or a shade cloth and placing it near a wall to save them from cold winds, but if you keep them outdoors all year round they will be more accumulated with nature. 

On the other hand, the indoor environment is okay for them, but it’s more on the drier side. The indoor environment lacks humidity as well, especially during winter months. So the bonsai will supply the water you are providing to the new growths rather than the older ones. In the process, the older needles will dry out.

2) Improper watering:


It may sound weird that overwatering can cause needle drying. But it happens in many cases and for juniper bonsai, it’s quite common, mainly because this tree doesn’t like to sit in soggy soil for too long. Let me explain how overwatering can dry out your bonsai’s needles. 

When your bonsai is sitting on water for longer than it is supposed to, it will first rot the roots. Root rots will make the tree unable to supply water and other nutrients, which will end up drying it all together. In this case, the whole tree will dry out instead of just the needles. 


Underwatering is the most popular reason for needles and leaves drying in a bonsai. Bonsai grows in small pots and totally depends on your care. If you forget to water your bonsai for several days, the roots will try to supply moisture in the new growths instead of the older ones. Eventually, your whole tree will dry down and die. 

To determine the underwatering issue check the soil. The soil in this case will be bone-dry and when you give them water you will see how quickly it consumes and dries out again. Also, in this case, the roots will not rot.

3) Too Much Sunlight:

Juniper loves the outdoor environment and lots of sunlight. But there’s always a limit. When your plant stays outdoors in midsummer under the scorching heat it will dry out its needles. Juniper bonsai needs 4-6 hours of morning light for its optimal growth. A little bit more than that won’t hurt as they are hardy plants. But getting exposed to sunlight for hours will spot-burn the needles first then dry them out. In this case, the needles will be crispy and dry. 

4) Pest and Disease:

Juniper bonsai is a hardy plant and doesn’t usually get attacked by pests. But if they are living in a poor condition, pests and disease can easily target them. Juniper bonsai may be subjected to pests like mites, leaf miner, and scale. They suck the sap of the needles and in the process, they dry out the place. You can easily treat them with insecticides. But note one thing, they might arrive again, as they got enticed by the inadequate environment they will do it again.

5) Improper Fertilizer: 

Most Bonsai do nicely with plant foods during the active growing season but do not need a lot of fertilization. For Juniper, try an all-purpose fertilizer once a month or so, or use some type of liquid fertilizer in diluted form once or twice a month. If you go overboard with fertilization it will burn the leaves and before that, it will dry them out. Every fertilizer has salts that can assemble in the soil and up to damaging levels causing plant components to dry up and fail. This can occur if the fertilizer is too powerful, the wrong type, or is used too frequently. Do not use fertilizer in the winter as the tree will be dormant and the growth will slow down the most. 

How to Identify Juniper Needle Dry:

Needles are Turning Brittle:

You must know how much moisture your bonsai needs and how it is responding to its surroundings. You will need to protect the bonsai as the temperatures drop and go high in different seasons. If you are aware of how your tree looks when it is in its best form, it will be easier to detect issues when they occur, such as the colorful green needles beginning to turn brittle and look drier than usual. 

If you spot issues earlier, it is more likely you will be able to rescue your bonsai. Juniper needles should be deep green in color and flexible when you bend them. If they start to turn brittle, you will need to change and upgrade the requirements of your bonsai.

Branches will Turn Brittle: 

If you twist a shorter branch or twig and it doesn’t twist smoothly, or if it splits in half easily, this could be an indication that your bonsai is drying out, and if not it will dry out in the near future. If some of the branches are still flexible and have a green cambium layer beneath the outer layer of the branch, the tree is still active and easily can be brought back to life, and you should be able to restore its old self in a few weeks.

By the State of Soil:

  • Soil is Completely Dry:

Juniper bonsai must be watered when the topsoil is dry to touch. Depending on the size of the planter and the potting medium, and also the humidity in your surroundings, this may indicate the tree will need to be watered more frequently. 

  • Soil is Too Wet: 

If you are drowning your Bonsai by following a routine and suddenly the soil isn’t depleting or soaking water, this may be an indication that the roots of your bonsai are rotten and not soaking water as they should. 

Dropping Needles:

Needle drop is normal. Juniper bonsai is no exception. This is why knowing your bonsai’s behaviour is important. If the needle drops are more than usual, it’s an indication that something is wrong. Also if your tree drops more needles than usual after a shock, it’s still quite normal and it needs time to adjust. But if the needle drops are happening without any reason, you should consider following the article’s instructions and act on it immediately.

How to Revive a Juniper Bonsai That is Already Suffering From Needle Drying:

1. Inspect Whether the Bonsai Needles are Really Dried or Not: 

You should scrutinize the bonsai for signs of brittleness and dryness in your needles which seem to be suspictable. You probably think your bonsai is dead when the needles begin to look brown and the branch turns dry. But underneath, the branch will definitely be greenish, and the young needles will be vibrant and strong. If you see this in your bonsai, then keep going.

2. Check the Soil:

Juniper bonsai must have the proper soil! It should be grown in a bonsai soil mix. You can easily find this at your nearest nursery store or online. Bonsai soil is usually porous and has a lot of drainage. If you just purchased your pre-potted bonsai it will drop needles and will look a bit dull. But give it some time to adjust, if they are still acting the same you need to change the soil and re-pot them in a pot with proper drainage holes.  

3. Check the Roots:

If the drying is caused by overwatering, there will be less sign above the soil, so check the roots first. If you see any sign of root rot use a pruning shear and trim them out. After trimming, wipe the old soil from the root ball. 

4. Clean Out the Damaged Upper Part:

Now that the roots are cleaned you should move to the upper part of the bonsai. The needles and the part of the plants that are far too gone are not going to revive. Trim them out of the way so that new growth can be expanded easily. 

5. Water Your Bonsai:

If you have re-potted your bonsai due to overwatering, it will still need water in the new pot. But make sure you are cautious with the quantity. Water as little as possible and give them time to adjust to it, once they are showing positive signs, follow the rule of watering when the topsoil is dry. 

6. Move Them Outdoors:

If you have gone through all the steps it’s time for you to move the bonsai outdoors to give them a taste of proper natural sunlight. If your tree was living inside your house the whole, introduce the outside world gradually, this way the sudden change of atmosphere will not shock them. 

The first step you need to do is understand your bonsai and how they react with each treatment you are providing it to them. It will make the whole revival process much easier, because you will detect small changes in your bonsai and act on it immediately. Drying needles is one of the early signs of some bigger issues so they can be revived easily at this state. If you have encountered other issues with your bonsai do reach out to us. 

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