How often do bonsai trees need to be watered


How Often Should You Water A Bonsai Tree?

Have you just brought home your first Bonsai tree, or are you thinking of cultivating some for your landscape? Bonsai trees come from regular stock and seed that go through pruning, root reduction, grafting, defoliation, and potting to produce a small tree with the tree's look in mature form. If you are an owner of a Bonsai or about to be, you may be wondering how much care this tree needs. A significant part of that is water requirements. We've looked into this very subject.

The water requirements of Bonsai can change slightly based on the type of tree you have and the environmental conditions. On average, you should water a Bonsai tree every four to seven days. 

You must never let a Bonsai dry out completely, as this can be fatal for your tree. Read on as we break down signs that it is time to water your tree and discuss the care for Bonsai trees that live indoors. 

How Do I Know If My Bonsai Needs Water?

There is a range when it comes to how often you should water a Bonsai tree. This is due to varying factors and environments surrounding your Bonsai. These factors include the size of your tree and pot, soil mixture and fertilizer used, as well as weather conditions like wind and sun exposure. Consistently monitoring your Bonsai for signs of drying out or lack of soil moisture is how you will know if your tree needs water. 

Checking for adequate soil moisture has been done using different methods, all giving the same needed information. One of these methods involves the use of a soil moisture meter. This probe will tell you if your Bonsai is under or overwatered based on a 1-10 scale. If your meter shows a three or lower, it is time to water. 

You can find a soil moisture meter here on Amazon.

If you are without a moisture meter, no need to worry. You can use your finger to test the soil. Put your finger about 1 inch deep into the soil around your Bonsai; if your soil is dry or lacking moisture, it is time to water. Please get familiar with the species of your Bonsai; each type can have slightly different recommendations when it comes to moisture levels.  

How Much Water Does A Bonsai Tree Need?

You go to water your Bonsai after noticing the moisture in the soil is relatively low, but how much water should you provide? The amount, just like the timing of watering, can vary based on each individual tree. A good rule to follow is to water enough to thoroughly soak your tree's entire root system. 

Did you know there are different ways to achieve these soaked roots? The two most common methods used are overhead watering and watering by immersion. Overhead watering is what you typically think of when you imagine watering a garden or plant. You will shower your Bonsai using a hose or watering can until water starts to come out of the drainage holes. 

Get a one-gallon watering can here on Amazon.

The immersion method for watering your Bonsai is a quick way to soak the roots of your tree. This is a great way to care for indoor Bonsai trees or ones that have gotten dried out. Keep in mind that immersing too often can start to cause damage to the roots.  

The video below shows you how to water your Bonsai using the immersion method. 

Read more on our blog post, "15 Best All-Purpose Plant Fertilizers [Liquid, Powder, And Granular]."

Should I Mist My Bonsai Tree?

You absolutely can mist a Bonsai tree, and they benefit from the moisture. Misting is highly recommended in winter months or when the environment is particularly dry. As you mist your Bonsai, you are cleaning the tree's foliage of dust and debris while creating some temporary humidity and moisture. 

Have a look at this fine mist spray bottle here on Amazon.

Misting should be done alongside watering, but never replace watering with misting. Use the mist to focus on the leaves of your Bonsai and any moss that lives on the top layer of the soil. Stick to your regular watering to ensure your roots are getting plenty to drink. 

Can You Overwater A Bonsai Tree?

While we often worry about a Bonsai tree drying out, you should be equally worried about overwatering. You can overwater a Bonsai, making it vital that you check soil moisture before you water. Your soil should always be moist but should not always be wet. The period between watering allows oxygen to reach the roots, promoting growth. If your soil is constantly soaked, this process cannot happen. 

Outside constantly wet soil, you may notice other changes with your Bonsai from overwatering. You want to watch for symptoms like an unstable trunk, branches getting weak or smaller, a change in leaf color, and leaf drop. When you notice changes like these, it can indicate that your tree has been overwatered for some time, and there is a risk of root rot. 

If you are worried about an overwatered tree, you can take steps to care for it. Move your Bonsai into a new pot after rinsing the roots; you will want to water sparingly and ensure the tree gets plenty of sunlight. 

Are Bonsai Trees Hard To Care For?

What goes into the care of a Bonsai is not overly complex, but these trees do require consistent maintenance and upkeep. Like most other plants you will work with, you should be familiar with your specific Bonsai's fertilizing, watering, soil, and sunlight needs. Since Bonsai trees come in many types or species, you can focus on getting types that are easier to care for, like Jade. 

Amazon offers a dwarf Jade Bonsai here.

The amount of care required not only changes based on species but the conditions surrounding the Bonsai. One example being if the tree lives indoors or outdoors.

With the proper care, a Bonsai can live long, some reaching over 100 years old. It is worth it to learn the ins and outs of whichever Bonsai you choose. The more you work with these trees, the easier the care becomes, and for most, this care turns into a lifelong hobby. 

How Do You Care For A Bonsai Tree Indoors?

Many Bonsai trees live happily indoors. Among these are tropical species such as the Hawaiian Umbrella and the Ficus Bonsai. Just like Bonsai trees outdoors, you need to monitor indoor Bonsai trees when it comes to the amount of light and water they are getting, their soil, and the surrounding temperature and humidity.  

Have a look at this Ficus Bonsai here on Amazon.

Indoor Bonsai trees should be placed in a location that gets plenty of direct sunlight or should be getting at least 10 hours of artificial light. Use humidity trays or daily misting to stay on top of humidity and be well-informed on the temperature requirements of your species of tree. 

You can find a decorative humidity tray for your Bonsai here on Amazon.

Wherever your Bonsai has been placed, you should constantly be checking the soil moisture. As we discussed, checking your soil's moisture daily will allow you to know precisely when you should water your indoor tree. Water immersion is excellent for indoor Bonsai, but you can get what you need from overhead watering as well. 

Below is a short video on indoor Bonsai care.

Read more on our blog post, "17 Extra Large Indoor Planters That Will Transform Your Home".

Concluding Thoughts

How often you water and how much water your Bonsai needs often changes based on the species of tree you have and the environment the Bonsai is living in. You want to check your soil moisture daily to ensure your tree gets enough water but not getting overwatered. Soil moisture can be accurately gauged using a moisture meter, or you can make an educated guess based on the finger test.

Your tree should be getting enough water to soak the roots and to keep the soil consistently moist. We hope you found this article helpful when it comes to watering your own Bonsai. Happy Gardening! 

Are you looking for some inspiration when it comes to your landscape? Have a look through our blog post, "30 Moss Garden Ideas That Will Inspire You (Both Indoor And Outdoor)".

 

How Often Do You Water A Bonsai Tree (A Thorough Care Guide)

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One of the most important parts of growing and maintaining bonsai trees is watering them correctly. Whilst bonsai trees can survive in some scenarios with limited light and fertilizer, not getting enough water is easily the fastest way to kill your tree. So how often do you water a bonsai tree? 

Most bonsai trees will need to be watered once every 4 to 7 days. This will vary from species to species. As a rule of thumb, touch the topsoil of your bonsai. If the topsoil is dry to touch then your bonsai will need watering. Aim to touch your topsoil daily. 

Bonsai species such as Willow need more water and need to be watered multiple times per day during the summer. Bonsai species such as Jade, require less water and can be watered once per week. 

So does the amount of water your bonsai tree needs change over the seasons? And what species require more or less water? Keep reading to find out more. 

How often do you water a bonsai tree?

To find out the exact answer as to how often you water your bonsai tree, I got in touch with a few bonsai tree experts, visited my local botanical gardens, undertook a quick survey of 20 plant paladin readers, and have had the luxury of growing out a few bonsai tres from a few different varieties.  

To summarise then: 

  • There is no hard and fast rule as to how often you should water your bonsai tree. 
  • This is because bonsai trees are not one species of tree but instead made up of thousands of different tree species such as Apple, Juniper, Maple, Ficus, and many more. 
  • As such, some tree species such as Willow bonsai will need to be watered every day to keep their soil moist when compared to other species such as succulents like Jade, which can naturally go a few days without the need to be watered. 
  • As a rule of thumb, the best recommendation on how frequently you should water your bonsai tree will be between 4 and 7 days – this will be a broad recommendation that will work for most bonsai tree species. 
  • Bonsai tres however can also be watered daily, without them being overwatered.  
  • You should, however, check the topsoil of your bonsai trees daily. If the topsoil for your bonsai is not moist, and dry to touch, then your bonsai tree will need to be watered. 
  • Avoid your topis drying out completely which can kill your tree. 
  • Other factors such as the time of year, the health of your tree, your bonsai tree’s location, and your plant size will determine how frequently and how much water will be needed when watering your tree. 

How often should I water my bonsai tree species?

As mentioned, bonsai trees are not one species of tree and instead are made up of thousands of varieties that have very different watering requirements. 

Luckily there are a few varieties that are more popular and found commonplace in bonsai collections. 

If you are reading this post there is a good chance that you have one of these trees in your collection. 

To help explain more the table below should help: 

Bonsai Species

How often should topsoil be checked

How often should the bonsai tree be watered

Weeping Willow

A few times per day

A few times per day

A few times per day

Once per day

A few times per week when not producing fruit. Daily when producing fruit.

Once per day

A few times per week when not producing fruit. Daily when producing fruit.

Once per day

A few times per week when not producing fruit. Daily when producing fruit.

Orange

Once per day

A few times per week when not producing fruit. Daily when producing fruit.

Crabapple

Once per day

A few times per week when not producing fruit. Daily when producing fruit.

Cherry

Once per day

A few times per week when not producing fruit. Daily when producing fruit.

Once per day

Daily to a few times per week.

Chinese Elm

Once per day

Daily to a few times per week.

Fukien Tea

Once per day

Daily to a few times per week.

Serissa

Once per day

Daily to a few times per week.

Once per day

Daily to a few times per week.

Juniper

Once per day

Daily to a few times per week.

Once per day

Daily to a few times per week.

Scots Pine

Once per day

Daily to a few times per week.

Once per day

Daily to a few times per week.

Once per day

Daily to a few times per week.

Bonsai tree species that need to be watered daily 

Most bonsai tree species can be warted daily without you having to worry about overwatering your trees. 

That being said, there are a few species that require more watering.

This is particularly common in trees that have larger, denser canopies and trees when they start to bloom flowers and fruit. 

The following trees should be watered daily, especially during the spring and summer growing months: 

  • Weeping Willow 
  • River Birch 
  • Other birches 
  • Common Alder 
  • Appletree (when fruiting)
  • Lemon tree (when fruiting) 
  • Other citrus trees (when fruiting) 
  • Other fruit bonsai trees

What about fruiting bonsai tree? 

Bonsai trees that produce fruit or flowers will need more water to support this growth when their fruit or flowers ripen. Aim to check these trees multiple times when in fruiting or flowering by checking for dry topsoil. 

Trees that need to be watered a few times per week 

For the vast majority of you reading this, you will have a bonsai tree species that will need to be watered every few days. 

I would still recommend touching the topsoil daily, as bonsai trees can be a little temperamental but for most trees, watering every 2 to 4 days will be ideal. 

The following species can thrive being watered every other day: 

  • Ficus 
  • Fukien Tea
  • Chinese Elm 
  • Japanese Elm 
  • Snow Rose/Serissa
  • Olive 
  • Juniper 
  • Scots Pine 
  • Oak

Bonsai trees that can be watered once per week

As a general rule, I would avoid watering bonsai tree species once per week. 

I find that watering your tree one week apart leaves just too much of a margin for error in between watering sessions.  

Even species that require less watering still require some watering a few times per week. 

As such, I would only water your bonsai tree once per week if it is kept in cool temperatures or if your tree has already had natural watering in the form of rain. 

The only species that will work well being watered once per week for a prolonged period would be: 

  • Succulents such as Jade bonsai

Do the season impact how often you water a bonsai tree

Similar to there being differences in the species of your tree, you also need to take note of the season before deciding how often to water your bonsai. 

As a rule of thumb, your bonsai tree will require more water during the spring and especially in the summer growing season when compared with the fall and the winter. 

Let’s go into more detail about the different seasons; 

Season

Water requirements

Spring

Daily to a few times per week.

Summer

Multiple times per day to daily.

Autumn

Daily to a few times per week.

Winter

Once per week/every two weeks.

Spring 

So spring is when most bonsai trees have everything they need at an optimal level, the temperatures are usually just right for the tree, sunlight levels start to creep up but are not too bright that they don’t burn your tree and you can actively start fertilizing your tree. 

Spring is also when you will start to work on your tree, undertaking activities such as repotting, pruning, wiring, defoliation, and general trunk development.  

As such, for most bonsai tres, the water requirements in spring should all be about being as consistent as possible. 

For most species then, aiming for watering once per day to three times per week will be the perfect ratio for most bonsai species.

Beginner-friendly bonsai trees such as Elms or Ficus can even be watered less and still grow successfully. 

Summer

During the summer, most bonsai trees will require more watering. 

This is because temperatures are almost always higher in summer and bonsai trees will have a lot more sunlight than other times of the year. 

It’s one of the reasons why most people tend to only give a few direct hours of sunlight to their bonsai in summer and then move them into shaded conditions. 

Watering your bonsai trees more frequently in the summer months, between June and August will be key to preventing your trees from drying out or burning. 

Water your bonsai during the summer then once per day as a minimum if the topsoil is dry.  

Hardier species such as Juniper or Scots Pine I would recommend watering more the once per day. 

Other species such as Willow will require a lot more watering in the summer. 

The best recommendation then would be to ensure you check your bonsai topsoil at least 3 times per day, during the morning, afternoon, and evening. 

If the topsoil has dried out you know that you need to water your tree. 

Fall

So in the fall/autumn, your bonsai tree will start to begin its process of shutting down for winter. 

Even conifers such as Junipers have a bit of a lag in the fall when compared with the spring and summer growing seasons. As such, you will not need to water your bonsai as much as you did in the summer. 

For the fall, water your bonsai as frequently as you were watering it in the spring. 

Ideally watering every 2 to 3 days will work for most bonsai species during the fall. 

The only exceptions to this rule would be trees such as Willows or Birch that require watering daily and fruiting bonsai trees such as apple bonsai then tend to ripen in the fall.   

Winter

Most bonsai trees will require less water during the winter when compared with the other seasons. 

Most deciduous bonsai tree species will have partially shut down for the winter and so will use less energy, requiring less water in the process. 

On top of this, watering your bonsai tree too frequently in colder temperates can cause excess frost and ice to build upon your tree. 

If left unchecked this can potentially freeze the roots of your tree, killing your bonsai.

Most bonsai trees then should be watered about once per week to every two weeks in the winter. 

On top of this, the biggest issue your bonsai will face during the winter (and even in some harsh falls) will be the dry air. 

Bonsai trees like warm, moist air. 

Dry air conditions essentially dehydrate your tree in the winter. 

Using a water spritzer daily on the leaves, branches, and trunk of your bonsai can prove beneficial if you notice the wind chill being especially harsh.  

The exception to this would be bonsai trees that you keep indoors, in a greenhouse in a temperature-controlled environment. 

These trees will have bypassed the growing season outdoors and can pretty much be grown through the winter. 

Indoor species such as Fukien Tea and Ficus work very well for this. 

What impacts how often you should water your bonsai tree?

So now we know that the seasons and the species of bonsai tree you own impact how often you water a bonsai tree, are there any other things that you need to consider?

I find the following tend to impact watering habits in bonsai the most: 

  • Fertilizer 
  • Tree size 
  • Leaves
  • Pot size 
  • Location 
  • Weather conditions 
  • Disease and pests

Let’s explore these in more detail

Fertilizer 

So believe it or not, the amount and type of fertilizer you use will impact how much water your bonsai tree absorbs.  

Fertilizer is used to speed up the growth of a bonsai tree, giving bigger stronger looking trees. 

That being said, fertilizer typically dries out soil meaning your bonsai tree will need more water in the months when you fertilize your bonsai tree. 

This means that instead of watering your bonsai tree every few days, you might need to check your topsoil every day to prevent your tree from drying out. 

Luckily there are a few things you can do to prevent this. 

First, invest in a fertilizer that uses high-quality organic material and stay away from cheaper fertilizers from questionable brands. 

If your fertilizer uses inorganic materials ensure that these are of high quality. 

Tree size 

One of the beauties about bonsai trees is they are not a one size fits all solution and instead come in a wide variety of sizes. 

Bonsai trees are typically broken down into different size classifications starting at fingertip-sized bonsai that are a few cm tall that go as large as imperial-sized bonsai that can be over two meters.  

As a general rule, the larger your bonsai tree, the larger volume of water it will require. 

For example, let’s say you have a bonsai tree that is over 2 meters and it requires 5 liters of water every week – this sounds reasonable. 

Now let’s say you have a smaller bonsai tree that is around 10cm tall and you drown it with 5 liters of water every week – there is a good chance you will kill your tree!

Just keep in mind however that the larger your tree, the more time it might take for the topsoil to dry out just due to the volume of water that needs to evaporate. 

Leaves 

So while the size of your tree will impact how often you need to water a bonsai tree, the size of your leaf canopy will also impact this. 

If you have a bonsai tree species that has a lot of leaves such as a Weeping Willow then it will need to be watered more frequently. 

It’s one of the reasons why Jade bonsai, which are succulents will typically have fewer leaves than other species, as they need to be watered less.  

The more leaves your tree has, the more nutrients they will absorb from the soil meaning it will dry out your soil. 

As such, if your bonsai has more leaves, you may want to check it more frequently for watering. 

Pot size

So whilst pot size will go hand in hand with the size of your bonsai tree there are a few specifics that bonsai pots have that can impact how often you water them. 

First drainage holes. 

Bonsai pots need several drainage holes to provide a balance of aeration, drainage, and moisture retention. 

If then you have too many holes you will need to water your bonsai more due to the excess drainage. 

If however, you have fewer holes, your tree will hold on to water more meaning you will need to water your bonsai less. 

Size Classification

Size inches

Number of penny-sized holes

Number of pencil-sized holes

Keshitsubo

1 to 3 inches

2 to 4 inches

2 to 6 inches

Chohin

5 to 8 inches

Kumono

6 to 10 inches

Katade-mochi

10 to 18 inches

Chiu or Chumono

16 to 36 inches

Dai or Omono

30 to 48 inches

Hachi-uye

40 to 60 inches

Imperial

60 to 80 inches

Bonsai pots are also shallow meaning that they can only hold so much water which is why you need to check them almost daily to check how moist the soil is.  

Location and temperature

Bonsai trees can be kept both outdoors and indoors depending on the species. 

As such, where they are located will massively change how often you need to water them. 

Bonsai trees that are kept outdoors in mostly wet, mild climates will need less water due to getting frequent watering from rainfall. 

Bonsai trees however that are kept outdoors during dryer conditions will need to be watered a lot more. 

Outdoor bonsai trees are much more likely to have direct sunlight for several hours a day meaning they can very easily get dried out requiring more direct watering. 

Weather conditions

Whilst it’s common sense that if the weather is hot you will need to water your bonsai more and if the weather is wet you will need to water your bonsai tree less; other weather conditions might prove a little tricker. 

The wind for example, whilst it might seem like it cools your tree down the truth is that harsh winds can dehydrate your trees.  

Strong wind is most mild to moderate temperatures will carry moisture away from your tree requiring you to water them more frequently. 

If then you are experiencing high winds then consider watering your bonsai tree more frequently. 

Disease and pests

Finally, disease and pests will drastically impact how often you water a bonsai tree. 

Diseases such as canker and rust are common amongst bonsai trees and these can impact the health of your tree. 

As such, maintaining the health of your tree more frequently will be important. 

That being said, watering too much can cause waterlogged roots and eventually cause root rot which can also impact your tree. 

Other pests such as Aphids, Slugs, Spider-Mites, and Scale can also impact and attack your tree, leading to you needing to water them more often as your tree tries to fight off these insect infestations. 

Should you use a schedule to water bonsai trees? 

Schedules should be avoided when watering your bonsai. Instead, opt to check the topsoil of your bonsai tree once to a few times per day. If dry to touch, then water your tree. Using a schedule can cause overwatering in your tree. 

Setting up a schedule then, not for watering your bonsai tree, but for touching your topsoil could be a good option. I like to do this once per day in the spring, fall, and winter and a few times per day in the summer when bonsai are more likely to dry out. 

What water should you use to water bonsai?

Any type of water can be used to water your bonsai tree. Using too much tap water without change, however, can change the PH level in your solid. Rainwater is the best option to water your tree with ass it contains natural nutrients that are not available through other sources. 

Let’s break these down individually. 

Tap water 

The most common type of water that the majority of you will be using to water your tree will be tap water. 

Tapwater is easy to use with almost everyone reading this having direct access to tap water.  

The only real disadvantage to it being if used is excessive use can cause fluoride to build up in your topsoil, changing the PH level of your soil. 

Rainwater 

Rainwater is the best option when it comes to natural water sources for bonsai. 

To collect invest in a drum or deep bowl when it rains to store the water. 

Rainwater comes with many natural nutrients making for a healthier tree. 

The only downside to using rainwater is that if you live in a tropical warm climate where it does not rain that frequently then finding rainwater can be hard to come by. 

Filtered water

If you have been using a lot of tap water but are worried about too much fluoride in your soil then consider using a water filter. 

This can get rid of the minerals that might prove damaging to your bonsai. 

How to water a bonsai tree

Bonsai trees can be watered in a variety of ways including with a traditional watering can, through water immersion/dunking, or by misting.  

Let’s explore these in more detail

Watering can 

So the watering can method is my favorite method and can be used on all sizes, styles, and ages of bonsai trees. 

To water your bonsai tree with a watering can simply fill up a can until it is about half full – I find that this is usually enough to still be able to control the can as you pour it. 

Then attach a spray nozzle that has a lot of holes, but ensure the nozzles holes are fine to prevent any soil from being washed away.  

The more holes the nozzle has the better as it will allow for a wider, even distribution of water. 

Then pour the watering can over the top of the leaves and branches of your tree. 

This water will fall down the tree, eventually, end up in the topsoil. 

When you start to see the water pouring out of the drainage holes you can stop watering your tree. 

This is typically seen after about 30 to 60 seconds. 

Hose

If your bonsai tree is larger, requires more water, and is older than a few years, then using a hose can be a fantastic option.  

Simply move your bonsai tree into position, add a sprinkler nozzle to your hose and spray your tree. 

Just ensure that if you use this method. It is only undertaken for bonsai trees that are kept outdoors not indoors. 

Jet wash 

So this is a bit of a controversial method which I would only recommend if you have an insect infestation. 

If your tree is strong enough you can blast it with a jet wash which will remove any bugs such as Aphids or Scale that can be often found. 

Ensure however you only use a jet wash on its lowest settings as higher settings can damage and break your branches. 

Water immersion/dunking 

Along with using a watering can, the immersion/dunking technique is one of the most popular methods of watering your bonsai tree. 

This method is also known as bottom watering. 

Whilst the other methods are undertaken by watering your bonsai tree from the top, this method makes you water your tree from the roots.  

To do this, fill up a tray or bowl full of water. 

Then gently place your bonsai tree in the bowl of water until the water reaches the rim of your bonsai pot. 

Leave your bonsai tree in the water pot for a few minutes to 30 minutes. 

Then gently remove your bonsai tree from the water pot. 

Avoid leaving your bonsai in the water pot overnight as this can cause root rot and overwatering. 

Misting

Finally, misting is another option you can use to water your bonsai. 

I would however only stick to misting on hot days when your bonsai tree might require extra water. 

Typically then I like to use both misting and traditional watering can watering in tandem with each other in the summer. 

To mist your bonsai tree, fill a spritz can with water and then gently spray the leaves of your bonsai tree about 10 to 15 times. 

Should you water your bonsai tree every day?

You should avoid watering your bonsai tree every day. Watering your bonsai tree every day can cause overwatering. Instead, check your topsoil daily. If your topsoil is dry then your bonsai will need watering. Most bonsai trees need to be watered every 4 to 7 days. 

How to check the moisture level of your bonsai tree

We’ve talked about how touching your topsoil daily is essential to check the moisture level of your bonsai tree.

So what are the exact methods you can do this? 

Finger method 

First up is the finger method. 

This is the most common method. 

It will take a few different attempts to get this process down but a bit of persistence pays off. 

To do this, push your index finger about one inch into the topsoil. 

If you feel water or moisture then you need to water your bonsai tree. 

If however, your soil is dry then watering will be needed. 

The difficulty here comes when the topsoil is cold but not wet. 

If this happens, try the finger method again about one to two hours later.  

If the soil is still cold but not wet then water your bonsai tree. 

Moisture reader 

Whilst the finger method is the easiest method to measure the moisture level of your tree there is a fair amount of guesswork involved with this. 

As such, one of the best methods that take away all the guesswork is using a soil moisture meter. 

These can be found on Amazon and are relatively inexpensive. My recommendation would have to be the Sonkir Soil meter which you can grab here. 

To use, simply place the meter in your soil near the root ball. 

The meter will then show the moisture level of the tree on a scale – for most meters, any reading under 3 means you need to water your tree. 

Chopsticks

You can also use chopsticks to measure the moisture level of your bonsai soil. 

To do this, insert a chopstick into the topsoil of your tree until it hits the bottom of the pot. 

Pull out the chopstick, 

If the chopstick is dirty then it has moisture in it.  

If however, the chopstick comes out dry, you know you need to water your tree. 

Can you overwater a bonsai tree?

It’s possible to overwater a bonsai tree. This is caused when the soil or plant pot does not pass through water, holding onto moisture, depriving your bonsai roots of oxygen. This causes yellowing leaves and the shriveling of branches. To avoid, only water your bonsai when the topsoil is dry. 

To read up more on overwatering bonsai trees, I would recommend checking out my full post here. 

What are the signs that you are overwatering your bonsai tree? 

Signs you are overwatering your bonsai tree are over damp soil, brittle leaves, yellow leaves, mold at the base of your trunk, black-brown leaves, and root rot. 

What to do if you overwater a bonsai tree?

If you overwater your bonsai, the following methods can work well to help overcome this: 

  • Leave your bonsai outdoors to dry – The easiest method and works well if you live in a warm climate 
  • Repot your plant –  If your soil is too wet, you need to get your bonsai out of there. The best option is to resolve your bonsai in a new pot. if you find that your bonsai is still fairly wet on the back of this then consider adding more non-organic material to your soil to aid with the drainage 
  • Wait a few hours for the soil to drain naturally  
  • Dry your soil with a hairdryer – If it has been a few hours and your bonsai is still dry, then plug in a hot air dryer and blast your soil with heat. 
  • Plant your bonsai in the ground – Sometimes your bonsai will need more room to filter the water out correctly. Planting your bonsai in the ground for a few days I found to work incredibly well at drying out roots that have been overwatered. Just ensure you check the weather forecast for that day as the last thing you want is a heavy downpour as soon as you have planted your bonsai.

Best time of day to water bonsai trees 

Watering your bonsai trees in the late afternoon or early evening will ensure your trees will have enough water during the evening and night. There is no hard and fast rule on the best time of day to water your bonsai tree.  

Aim to water your bonsai tree only when the soil is dry to touch. 

How long can bonsai trees go without water? 

Bonsai trees can typically go three to four days between being watered for most species. Bonsai trees then should only be watered when the topsoil has completely dry. Different species sued for bonsai will require different amounts of water. 

How to water your bonsai trees when away from home?

When on vacation for fewer than 5 days keep your bonsai tree in the sink or tub. Fill the tub/sink with water until it is halfway up the bonsai pot. This will temporarily overwater your bonsai tree but is more preferential than letting your tree dry out. 

If you will be on vacation for more than 5 days, get a friend or family member to check in on your bonsai every few days. 

Survey results 

Finally, I didn’t want to just give my opinion on watering bonsai trees but got in touch with a few different people to get the best answer possible.  

First, I visited my local botanical gardens and asked an employee, how frequently they water their bonsai trees. 

Here is what they said: 

“We check out bonsai trees daily to see if they need watering, typically in the summer we water them every day and in the other months every other day seems to be enough”

I also got in touch with 20 Plant Paladin readers to ask them how frequently they water their bonsai trees, regardless of species. 

Here were the results: 

This post was written by Fehed Nicass who has been passionate about bonsai for over 3 years. He currently resides in the UK and works in sales.

Watering the bonsai

Time to water

Proper watering of the bonsai tree is just as important as temperature and sufficient light. Different types of bonsai require different amounts of water. For example, succulents can go longer without water than ligistrum. But the rule for all bonsai for watering is the same: you need to water the tree as the soil dries out, with the exception of succulents, which can be allowed to dry out completely. The need for watering can be determined by touch by the condition of the soil. If it dries out, the plant needs to be watered immediately.

If the soil is firmly attached to the bonsai and can be easily removed from the pot, we can take it out and check for moisture.

Before the next watering of the bonsai, the soil should be slightly dry. If the soil in the pot is sufficiently moist, or if there is constant water in the pot base of a thick-leaved bonsai, the roots of the plant may rot. That part of the roots that survives often cannot fully fulfill its function of nourishing the leaves, and they dry out.

After the soil is completely dry, the plant sheds leaves or they dry up.

This is the natural defense of bonsai, which tries to protect its important organs (dormant buds, roots) and, when favorable conditions come, continue to grow. Subsequent access to efficient light for dormant buds, moderate watering (because fewer leaves evaporate less water), and fertilization will induce new leaf growth within one month. Branches that have dried up and are no longer green, but brown under the bark, will no longer grow, and they must be removed.

If the soil remains wet for a long time, this means that the ability of the roots to receive water is impaired and something has happened to them. Immediately remove such a plant from the pot, check its roots, cut them off and transplant the bonsai into another porous substrate.

It doesn't really matter what time you water your bonsai. Some experts recommend avoiding watering with very cold water after lunch, when the soil is heated by sunlight. The soil will cool very quickly and this can negatively affect the plant. This must be taken into account. But it should always be very clear that it is necessary to water the bonsai regardless of the time, once the soil dries up.

How to water Bonsai

Before watering dry soil, first moisten it well with a sprinkler, and then continue to water with a hose or watering can.

In order for the water to completely wet the soil, we water the plants very slowly and with a small water pressure and intermittently. We water so much that the water would quietly flow out of the drainage holes in the pot. If the soil is too dry, water will flow out of the drainage holes as soon as we start watering, without soaking the plants with moisture. In this case, it is better to immerse the bonsai in a container of water and leave it until the soil is completely wet. It is recommended to periodically (2-3 times a month) use this type of watering for bonsai. But daily soaking of bonsai is not recommended, as nutrients from the soil may be washed out. Since the water that flows out of the drainage slots of the pot can damage the furniture in the house, pot stands are often used. They are always low, not only for aesthetic reasons, but also so that a large amount of water does not remain in the stand and the water never stagnates. Sometimes they use wooden decorative coasters with a plastic pallet into which expanded clay is poured. If you have a small bonsai in a pot of about 0.1 liters in your apartment, it is placed in a dry apartment, it is a good solution to use about 2 liters of wet claydite per stand to maintain humidity. Sometimes young roots seep through drainage holes and grow into expanded clay. It must be remembered that they must be cut before wooding (after 2-5 weeks). If this is not done, these roots become support roots and there will be no young roots left after cutting them.

Watering with the wick is a very convenient method, especially for short breaks or weekends when you can't make sure the plant is watered properly. As a wick, we can use a knitted rope 40 cm long, which is inserted into the drainage slots with a large needle. We fill a waterproof (glazed on both sides) deeper pan with sand or fine expanded clay, place a wick in it and fill the pan halfway with water. But this convenient method of watering can lead to bonsai overflow. Therefore, we recommend using it only in emergency conditions (short vacation). When we dip the wick into a deeper container filled with water or moist peat, the plant can survive without water for up to 3 weeks.

Most indoor bonsai cannot tolerate dry air from central heating, which entails a lack of moisture. For bonsai, the required air humidity is 40-60%, which is also optimal for humans. In winter, it is recommended to place humidifiers or to humidify the air by manual methods.

What kind of water to use for watering bonsai?

Irrigation water should not be too cold. Use room temperature water to water your bonsai. The ideal option is to use water that has stood for several hours, which will allow the water to heat up and also allow the chlorine to evaporate from the water. From the cooled soil, the plant cannot receive either moisture or nutrients. For heat-loving plants, such as ficuses, watering at 40 ° C is favorable. It has been noted that too "heavy" water forms a white coating at the base of the trunk and on the rims of the pot. This is a sign that you need to soften the water. You can boil it and let it cool or add rainwater to the water for irrigation.

How to water bonsai at home

Literally translated, the art of bonsai is a plant grown in a tray. This is an exact copy of an adult tree in miniature. Thanks to the use of a very small earthen clod and a special plant pruning technique, it becomes possible to grow a copy of a tree that grows in nature, only several times smaller.

How often should a bonsai be watered?

When watering bonsai, it is important to remember their main differences from other indoor plants: a very small earthy clod and the presence of a stiff trunk with a small size of the plant itself. These are the main parameters that distinguish watering bonsai from watering other indoor plants.

Since bonsai plants vary widely, watering rules will vary slightly. So, deciduous bonsai always require more frequent watering compared to their coniferous counterparts, which are able to accumulate moisture in the needles.

The situation changes radically only in winter. While deciduous bonsai reduce activity, lose part of the leaves, require a reduction in watering and create a dormant period (in the event that the temperature of the content decreases and additional lighting is not used), coniferous bonsai practically do not require a decrease in the frequency of watering.

All bonsai like high humidity, but they do not like stagnant moisture in the root system. This is the main difficulty in growing bonsai - to find a golden mean for watering. It can be difficult for a beginner to define this line. That is why the main condition for growing plants using the bonsai technique is the presence of drainage holes through which excess moisture will escape.

What water to water bonsai?

Ideally, water for watering bonsai should stand for several hours - at least 12, so that the compounds harmful to plants contained in tap water evaporate. An excellent option would also be to use pre-filtered water. If you use poorly purified water, over time, white salt deposits will appear on the trunk near the border with the soil and on the rim of the pot. If this happens, then your water is too "heavy" and should be mixed with boiled or rain water.

Irrigation water temperature should also be monitored. Of course, no one will water the bonsai with too hot water - it is obvious that the roots of the plant will simply boil. But in the case of bonsai, care should be taken that the water is also not too cold. Bonsai roots, especially heat-loving bonsai species like ficuses, simply stop working in supercooled soil. Therefore, they will not be able to get any moisture or nutrients from the water.

Basic rules for watering bonsai

Bonsai like to keep the potting soil always moist. To maintain optimal humidity, it is worth remembering: the smaller the bowl, the more frequent watering will be required for a miniature tree. That is why two bonsai cannot be watered with the same frequency if they are planted in different containers.

Important to know! If your bonsai is planted in a very small bowl (less than 100 grams of earth), and the air in the apartment is dry enough, it will not be out of place to organize a stand with wet expanded clay under the bonsai (about 2 liters of expanded clay). In this case, do not forget to cut off the roots, which will tend to grow into expanded clay.

Bonsai can be watered at any time of the day - there is no fixed time when watering should be scheduled. The only thing to keep in mind: if you plan to water during the active sun, you should use water a little warmer than usual, because the soil under the rays warms up a lot and its sudden cooling can harm the plant.

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Bonsai Watering Methods

1) The most commonly used watering method is with a watering can. For bonsai, a watering can with a small nozzle is suitable.

There is a little trick to this method. Since earthen bonsai combos are very small and are often formed with sloping slopes, water constantly strives to simply roll off the bowl. To prevent this from happening, you must first spray the soil from the spray gun. Then watering will be much easier. Remember, you need to water abundantly so that water passes through the entire root system and appears from the drainage holes.

If you miss the next watering and the ground is dry, then with normal watering with a watering can, the water will pass too quickly through the soil without stopping, and will pour out of the drainage holes. Of course, in this case, the plant will not have time to get the portion of moisture it needs. If you allowed the soil to dry out, you need to water in very small portions and slowly.

2) And to be sure, another way of watering bonsai will come to the rescue - by immersion. It is necessary to lower the bonsai into any container with water and wait until the soil is completely saturated with water. This usually happens when air bubbles stop coming out of the planter. This method is relevant not only for emergencies - it is recommended to water bonsai by immersion on a regular basis: about 2 times a month. However, you should not practice immersion every watering - minerals from an earthen coma will go into a container of water and over time the soil will become poorer.

3) There is another way to water in case you plan to leave for a few days. Watering with a wick. It is necessary to take a knitted rope about 40 cm long and carefully insert it with a large needle into the drainage holes. Next, you need to take a deep pan with sand (fine expanded clay is also suitable), fill it with water about halfway and lower the wick into it. Attention: this method is not suitable for permanent use, as it can lead to overflowing of the bonsai, use it only if absolutely necessary.

How do you know if the watering schedule is not right for your bonsai?

Like any plant, bonsai will suffer from both overwatering and underwatering. Before the changes are irreversible, the bonsai gives SOS signals, noticing which in a timely manner, the situation can be corrected.

So, the signals that bonsai give when watering is insufficient:

  • sluggish, drooping leaves that have lost turgor;
  • drying of leaves and their complete fall;
  • earthen ball to the touch, very hard;
  • the root system is growing too much (the roots are looking for moisture outside the pot).

Signs of excessive watering of bonsai: