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Overwatered Bonsai

How to Revive an Overwatered Bonsai Tree

Are you stressed over your overwatered bonsai tree? It is a common issue that bonsai lovers face at least once in their lives. 

When roots receive too much water, they become oxygen-starved and die. Too much water infects the bonsai tree’s entire root system. 

But you don’t need to worry about overwatering your bonsai. If you notice any of the symptoms we mention below, you will be able to save your tree just in time. 

In this blog, we will help you with how to revive an overwatered bonsai tree.

Can you overwater your bonsai tree?

Without a doubt, yes, you can! New bonsai parents often think one cannot overwater a bonsai if potted in well-draining aggregate soil. It is wrong. The wet/dry cycles of intensively watering your bonsai and then allowing it to dry out encourage root growth.

Even if you use an aggregate mix, roots will not grow properly. You have to let the soil dry up. Observing it is the only way to know how much water your tree needs to thrive. You must examine and understand your plant species’ watering requirements.

Why overwatering can harm your bonsai?

Understanding what goes on beneath the soil when you overwater your bonsai is crucial. Tree roots require both water and a certain amount of air to thrive. The bonsai roots need air to survive; thus, no new roots will form if they are kept too damp.

The roots will start to disappear over time. Bacteria and microorganisms, that flourish in moist environments, can cause root rotting.

The tree will lose its roots and die if left in a poor soil environment. The longer the overwatering continues, the greater the impact on the lifespan of your bonsai tree.

Now when you know that overwatering can cause a significant effect on your bonsai, do you know the reason behind this overwatering?

What causes an overwatered bonsai tree?

1) Inadequate Soil

Loose, sandy soil with many drainage holes is ideal for your bonsai. Yet, do not let this trick you into overwatering your bonsai!

Depending upon the tree species, your bonsai may have a specific soil preference. For instance, while certain tree species cannot withstand moist soils, others can. Pine trees, for example, adore dry soils and won’t accept being overwatered.

Many common Bonsai species will thrive on the pre-mixed bonsai soil available at the nursery or online. Some common species prefer this, including Juniper, Ficus, Chinese Elm, and Japanese Maple.

Find out the recommended soil type for your plant if you bought your bonsai tree from a bonsai nursery. Many plants are packed in denser soil to keep them safe during transit. 

2) Use of Potting Soil

The soil used to repot bonsai is more highly organic than just plain garden compost. This type of soil is exceptionally compact and retains a lot of water. Using regular potting soil can damage the bonsai.

The water-retentive properties of the potting soil rarely have a chance to dry out over time. It will compact down to the point where the roots have very little air.

3) Poor Drainage

Poor drainage causes the pot to collect water at the bottom. As a result, an overwatered bonsai tree will not thrive even if you have suitable sandy soil. It will lead to root rot.

You should at least have one drainage hole in a bonsai pot. You can drill more holes around the bottom of a larger pot.

You should not place your bonsai in a dish of water where it can’t drain. Other plants can tolerate or even enjoy sitting in water-filled containers, but not bonsai.

4) Damaged Roots

An overwatered bonsai tree may acquire root rot, especially if this goes on for an extended period of time. The roots’ inability to absorb the pot’s water can harm the tree.

Black or brown roots that appear mushy and may have an unpleasant odor are signs of root rot. Healthy roots will be dry and supple. 

You can carefully prune the tormented roots if your tree develops root rot. In this case, you can replant the tree in the new soil and avoid watering the plant too often. 

5) Watering too often


Unlike humans, bonsai trees do not prefer a schedule. The amount of water a tree uses depends on various factors, including temperature, wind, growth, and dormancy. It’s generally not a good idea to water at regular intervals.

You run the danger of either overwatering or underwatering. Maintaining the same schedule or using a bonsai watering checklist to determine whether to water now or wait can severely harm the tree. Instead, check the top soil and water the plant based on when it gets dey. 

6) Excessive Rain

This one is far less under our control and typically does not kill trees, but it can cause some health problems. The amount of rain that falls in some regions can cause an overwatered bonsai tree. The plant can submerge in water for far longer than is ideal.

7) Not letting the soil dry in between waterings

Monitoring the soil’s moisture is the only way to determine how much to water your bonsai. Typically, watering on a schedule won’t work because the tree’s water requirements may alter based on the environment.

If the soil is extremely wet, it can cause issues. Before watering, the bonsai soil should feel completely dry to the touch. 

Look for a location where you can dig a centimeter into the ground to test the soil. Recheck your bonsai tree at the end of the day or the next morning if the top of the soil is still damp.

8) Pot Issues


If you are putting your bonsai in a vast pot or keep changing the pot size too often, it can cause an overwatered bonsai tree. At the same time, we understand that repotting may need a bigger pot but not significantly vast. 

A much bigger pot will fill it with the soil rather than roots. A lot of soil has nothing to remove the water besides evaporation. In contrast, the tree takes a long time to fill its new pot with roots. A little tree in a large container may perish due to the chilly, wet environment.

In need of repotting

The roots of a particularly pot-bound bonsai won’t be able to absorb water or essential nutrients properly. When your tree isn’t drinking water, it retains too much moisture, damaging the roots.

Young bonsai require repotting every other year. Take your tree out and examine whether your bonsai needs replanting. It’s time for a new pot if the roots start to curl around the base.

In this section, we will take about how it affects the bonsai. 

What impact does overwatering have on your bonsai tree?

Symptoms of Overwatered Bonsai Tree

These are some of the conditions that a bonsai may face after overwatering:

1) Black Foliage

If your foliage appears stressed, overwatering can be to blame. Overwatering may cause your tree’s leaves to turn yellow, brown, or have black spots or edges. All tree species exhibit these effects, including deciduous, evergreen, and broadleaf evergreens.

2) Wet Topsoil

Wet soil is the most typical indicator of an overwatered bonsai tree. Your bonsai does not need watering if the topsoil is still damp to the touch or if you can see tiny water bubbles.

Water your bonsai plant only when the top layer of soil feels entirely dry to the touch. If this issue continues, your bonsai pot probably doesn’t have enough drainage holes.

Owners forget to water their trees on specific days and compensate by giving them too much water. As a result, creating a schedule is crucial to preventing moist topsoil in the future.

3) Yellow Leaves

Bonsai Leaves Turning Yellow

If you witness the sudden emergence of yellow leaves, it can be an indicator of an overwatered bonsai tree. Due to overwatering, their performance suffers because the roots are stifled. If you do not stop this, your bonsai leaves will turn yellow and eventually fall off.

Understand this:

Plant roots require air and oxygen to function well despite being buried in the soil. Without air or oxygen, bonsai roots will prevent your plant from absorbing nutrients. Your overwatered bonsai tree may relapse; if it goes untreated, it might even die.

Your bonsai will have to hang onto its life-sustaining processes if the roots drown in water. It will cause your leaves to turn yellow to cope with stress.

4) Root Rot

You might have root rot if your roots begin to seem shriveled, black, moist, or glossy, or if they start to smell rotten or off. Mold could also be seen in your pot or on plant roots.

An overwatered bonsai tree is more likely to cause this root rot. You must cut the roots and repot them in new soil. If left unchecked, root rot can also spread readily from root to root.

5) Dropping Leaves on a Bonsai

Dropping Leaves on a Bonsai

Some bonsai leaves falling is normal, but a massive drop can be a cause of concern. You should keep an eye on the watering schedule of your tree if it’s losing leaves more than usual. 


Remember that cultivating deciduous Bonsai trees outdoors (such as Japanese Maple, Chinese Elm, or Crabapple) will result in more leaves falling during the winter.

6) The trunk of bonsai is not firmly in the soil.

Your soil may be too damp if you find that the trunk of your tree is beginning to wiggle or dislodge from the ground. An overwatered bonsai tree causes the roots to become loose and stop supporting the tree.

7) Bended Branches

Overwatering may cause your bonsai branches to become more pliable than before. When your bonsai is stressed, it may not be able to distribute nutrients effectively. It can cause the branches to shrivel.

8) Mold Infection

An overwatered bonsai can cause mold infections. It will become widespread due to compromised plant health.

One of the worst parts about a mold infestation is that it will be much more evident as it loves moist, dark environments.

If left unattended, mold can destroy the trunk of your bonsai and foster an insect infestation.

You will need to remove as much infected soil as possible. Next, wipe down the trunk of your tree with a soapy solution. Mold infections typically start at the bottom of bonsai, on the topsoil or trunk.

9) Moss Growth

Sphagnum moss is frequently used in bonsai to help it absorb water and for decorative purposes. Bonsai lovers adore it as they enhance the look of the tree.

But, if you did not plant the moss and your bonsai soil is displaying moss symptoms, you have an overwatered bonsai tree.

Mosses love moist environments. Overwatering your bonsai will likely worsen the issues already present. Mosses may hold onto water up to eight times their weight.

Look into the solution without delay when you know all the possible causes and symptoms of overwatering. Figuring out the problems sooner might give you an upper hand in saving the bonsai tree. 

10) Edema

Edema is a condition of bonsai driven by the roots handling up more moisture than the leaves can transpire. This extra water ruptures the cells, mainly on the underneath of the leaves, and creates watery patches that turn corky and hideous.

11) Brown leaves:

One of the first signs of overwatered bonsai is the brown tips of the leaves. But underwater bonsai also shows similar signs. You can differentiate easily by touching it,  little water will result in your plant’s leaves feeling parched and crispy to the touch while too extensively watered bonsai results in soft and dull leaves.

12) Water pressure begins to build:

When your bonsai’s roots absorb more water than its cells can hold, water pressure begins to increase in the leaves. As an outcome, the cells gradually die and explode, forming blisters and marks that look similar to lesions. You’ll notice patterns forming right above these growths on the upper side of the leaves.

13) Slow or stunted growth:

Little to no growth along with yellowing leaves is also a sign. Leaves dropping off often accompany this symptom. If your bonsai has yellowing leaves and old leaves, as well as new leaves that are falling at the exact accelerated pace, you are overwatering.

How to revive an overwatered bonsai tree?

These are the ways to save your dying tree from overwatering:

1) Leave it outdoors to dry


One of the simplest ways to combat the effects of overwatering is to leave the bonsai tree out in a hot area to dry naturally.

It will let the extra water drain naturally from your bonsai, and the heat will help some part of the water evaporate. You can also think about taking out the pot, exposing the soil, and letting the roots of your bonsai breathe. 

In damp bonsai plants, this method will help prevent root rot.

2) Stop fertilizing your bonsai

There is a widespread misperception that fertilizer serves as plants’ “meal” and can be beneficial for sick bonsai plants. Sadly, this is not entirely accurate.

A fertilizer can accelerate the development of healthy trees. But the high salt content of fertilizer can be particularly harmful to weak or wounded roots.

It is why you shouldn’t fertilize an overwatered bonsai tree or recently repotted tree. The best way to restore the tree’s health is to give it the right amount of water and wait for it to grow naturally. 

3) Make sure the pot has a drainage hole

A minimum of one drainage hole, if not more, must be present at the bottom of a bonsai container. You will need to repot the tree into a larger pot if its roots grow through your drainage holes and obstruct them.

You might need to add some rocks or another drainage mixture to the bottom of the pot to recover your overwatered bonsai tree. It will solve all your drainage issues.

The bottom of bonsai pots usually helps with drainage and prevents them from sitting on the ground. You should strictly avoid keeping your bonsai tree from resting in the water.

4) Repot your bonsai


You can repot your overwatered bonsai tree to revive it. This will strengthen its root system if you do it properly. You should ideally repot in the late winter/early spring, before the commencement of foliage growth. 

If you’re not currently in this window, be patient and wait until next year. Your goal while repotting should be to get rid of as much muddy and damp soil as possible. Next, replace it with a free-draining aggregate mixture.

5) Leave the bonsai alone

bonsai tree trunk

Your tree’s bulk of foliage serves as its solar energy farm. Leaving an overwatered bonsai tree alone for some time will help to heal itself. The tree will reconstruct its root system using the energy produced by the foliage through photosynthesis. 

You must therefore give the tree space to function on its own. Allow it to develop naturally. After some time, you may proceed to trim and style your bonsai once the root issue resolves.

6) Allow Bonsai Roots to Breathe

You can also spread out the roots of your bonsai trees to allow them to dry. You can clip any place with dead roots using this method as well. You must prune your tree if its roots are curling around the base of the pot or if it is heavily pot-bound.

Use a chopstick to scrape moist, stale, or moldy soil away from bonsai roots. It will enable you to remove soil from the ends gently.

7) Use the Proper Soil

One of the ideal ways to recover your overwatered bonsai tree is to provide suitable soil. Good drainage is more likely to occur with bonsai soil than with ordinary potting soil. You would need to repot your tree if you didn’t already plant it in bonsai soil.

Find out what kinds of soil your species of tree prefers by asking the experts at Abana Homes for Bonsai soil or doing some research online.

8) Set your container on its edge.

You can tip the container at an angle to combat an overwatered bonsai tree problem. It will assist in promoting water drainage if you have a tree that has become sick from overwatering.

The height of the gravity column acting on the soil mass of your bonsai will rise if the pot is positioned at an angle. It helps in increasing the water drainage. It could aid in draining extra water.

This procedure works exceptionally well if you have an overwatered bonsai tree that you cannot shield from the rain.

So now the question popping up in your mind is when to water your bonsai. Is there an ideal time or frequency to water? What measures should I follow while watering? 

Don’t worry. We will tell you about watering your bonsai.

9) Use an air dryer:

Employing a hairdryer straight on the soil is an effortless and quick way of extracting that extra moisture easily and reviving an overwatered bonsai. 

But, there are some issues to take into regard when doing so. When you use the dryer it will only extract the moisture from the upper surface of the soil, bottom of the pot, where the roots are will still be damp. 

So to dry the soil and root with a hot dryer you need to take the tree out from the pot and spread it out.

This would let for the hot air to pull most of the water from the soil.

 Another issue to consider is that the air from the hot dryer can potentially eradicate a great amount of microorganisms within the soil. This can end up in the soil becoming less effective in supplying nutrients for the plant. So make sure it’s not burning hot.

When to water your bonsai after combating overwatering?

You can fix most overwatering issues if you discover them in time. To prevent this from happening again, you must first determine how much water your bonsai should actually receive. 

Every day, insert your finger about an inch into the soil to check for moisture. Your bonsai will need watering when the soil is ideally just damp to the touch. 

It’s vital not to water on a regular schedule. Instead, pay attention to your tree’s demands. You should examine the time between watering, as it will vary according to the season, location, species, and various other factors.

Can you avoid overwatering your bonsai tree? If the answer to this question is Yes, how can you do so?

How to avoid an overwatered bonsai tree?

1) Don’t let your bonsai sit in the water

Overwatering could result if you are worried about your bonsai being waterlogged. To ensure your tree is getting enough water, you might want to leave it in the water, although we don’t recommend this.

Before watering, bonsai soil needs to dry out. The kind of tree, container size, climate, and soil affect how quickly the soil dries. Short winter days are typically less thirsty for trees than long summer days.

We will be honest with you. You can’t just place your bonsai in a water dish and forget about it. You must monitor its water requirements daily to determine when to water it. In certain circumstances, it can require water every few days or once a day.

2) Recognize Your Species

Knowing what species of tree you have is necessary for all aspects of bonsai maintenance. For instance, succulent species like Jade require a rest period after repotting and cannot handle excessive watering.

The soil must be able to drain adequately and hold onto some moisture for the Fukien Tea (Carmona). You may have to order the combination of soil if you have a Fukien Tea bonsai to get the right balance.

3) Water when topsoil is dry

If your tree is in a tiny pot, it may be challenging to tell when the soil beneath is dry. You must let the top layer of soil drain to escape an overwatered bonsai tree.

If you get to know your tree well, you might be able to tell when it needs watering by the weight of the tree. The key to growing bonsai is to pay attention to your tree’s needs while avoiding providing it with more than it requires. If necessary, you can keep a log of your tree’s growth, requirements, and circumstances.

4) Use bonsai soil

Using bonsai soil is essential so your tree can drain adequately. Even if the tree were initially grown in conventional potting soil, you would need to use Bonsai soil. Any other soil for an extended period may result in an overwatered bonsai.

Pre-mixed Bonsai soil is available in many garden centers or online at our store. But make sure you have the correct soil requirements for your tree type.

5) Evenly water your tree

Each time you water, make sure the entire soil surface is saturated. You might wish to immerse the pot in water until bubbles cease rising to the top of your tree. Uneven watering will result in unequal drainage.

Often new and experienced bonsai gardeners have a few questions regarding an overwatered bonsai. Let’s answer some of them.

Fixes for overwaterers:

The majority of us overwater our plants due to our habits. So, here are a few tips from me you can follow to stop overwatering,

Swap your plants with water-loving plants:

Trade the drown-prone bonsai that you tend to overwater for one that loves water. Succulent bonsais are at the top of the list.

Use light potting mix:

Use perlite and pine bark more cause they create air pockets in the soil.

Use clay pot:

Clay pots breathe through the walls which helps to dry out the soil. 

Add drainage holes:

Even if your pot comes with two drainage holes at the bottom, you can add more drainage holes by yourself at the bottom and the sides. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Ques 1:How long does a bonsai tree take to recover after being overwatered?

Ans: Depending on the bonsai tree’s roots, it may take weeks or months to begin to look better if you have been overwatering it. Even while the tree might start to improve soundly, it will probably take a year or more to develop a strong root system once again. 

During the recovery time of an overwatered bonsai tree, it may be more susceptible to health problems. So be on the lookout for any indications of fungal diseases.

Ques 2: Does watering depend upon the bonsai size?

Ans: Yes, it does depend upon the plant size. You should give water to small bonsai, such as fingertip-sized bonsai, much more frequently. It is because tiny bonsai dry out far more quickly than larger ones.

On the other hand, larger bonsai, like emperor-sized bonsai, need less watering because it takes them longer to dry out.


To master bonsai, you need to learn a lot of things. Remember that overwatering issues don’t appear suddenly. Instead, it takes over several weeks or months to become an overwatered bonsai tree. You might be able to prevent your tree if you keep an eye on and note any warning indications.

We have listed various ways to recover your bonsai tree. It may take some time for your bonsai to recover if it did have root rot or if there is excessive watering. The only thing you can do is to wait patiently for it to strengthen.

If you have any queries on how to revive an overwatered bonsai tree, do let us know in the comments.

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