How Often to Water Bonsai: A Comprehensive Guide

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The Importance of Proper Watering for Bonsai Trees

Growing bonsai is both an art and a science. As any bonsai enthusiast would know, maintaining these miniature trees requires a lot of care and attention to detail. One of the most critical aspects of growing bonsai is proper watering. Too much or too little water can quickly kill your bonsai tree, making it crucial to strike a balance and find the optimal watering schedule.

Before diving into how often to water a bonsai tree, it’s essential to understand why watering is so crucial to these delicate plants. Trees, in general, require water to stay alive, but bonsai trees are a lot more sensitive. Bonsai trees are grown in small pots, which means they have limited soil and water reserves. They can’t reach out for water like regular trees, which is why they’re more susceptible to drought or over-watering.

Proper watering keeps the tree healthy, promotes growth, and ensures that the plant has the necessary nutrients to thrive. As such, it is essential to get the watering schedule right to ensure that your bonsai tree stays healthy and beautiful for years to come.

The Optimal Watering Schedule for Bonsai Trees

So, how often should you water your bonsai tree? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The watering requirements of a bonsai tree can vary depending on several factors, such as the species, size of the pot, soil mixture, and environmental conditions.

As a general rule, most bonsai trees need to be watered when the soil starts to feel slightly dry. You can check whether your tree needs watering by sticking your finger about an inch deep into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water your tree.

However, this is just a rough estimate, and you’ll need to observe your tree’s watering needs carefully. Some trees may need watering more or less frequently, depending on the factors mentioned above.

Another factor to consider is the method of watering. Different watering methods can affect how much and how often your tree needs to be watered.

Watering Method

There are two primary methods of watering bonsai trees:

Top Watering

Top watering involves pouring water into the pot from the top until the water drains out of the holes at the bottom. This method is easy and effective, especially for trees that are too big to be moved. However, top watering may not be suitable for all trees, especially those that are sensitive to waterlogging.


Submerging involves placing the pot in a container filled with water. The pot should be left in the container until all the air bubbles have risen to the surface. This method ensures that the soil is fully saturated but can be time-consuming and labor-intensive.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and air circulation can also affect your bonsai tree’s watering needs. For instance, trees kept in hot and dry environments will need more frequent watering than those in cooler, more humid environments.

Size of the Pot

The size of the pot also affects how often you need to water your tree. Trees in smaller pots will dry out more quickly than those in larger pots. As such, smaller pots require more frequent watering.

Soil Mixture

The soil mixture can also affect how often you need to water your bonsai tree. Soil that retains too much water can lead to over-watering, while soil that dries out quickly can lead to under-watering.

Bonsai Species

Finally, some bonsai tree species require more water than others. For instance, tropical species like Ficus require more frequent watering than deciduous species like Maple. As such, it’s crucial to research your tree’s watering requirements based on its species.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Under-Watering and Over-Watering Bonsai Trees

Under-watering or over-watering your bonsai tree can lead to several problems. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of under-watering and over-watering:

Advantages of Under-Watering

1. Reduced Risk of Fungal Infections

Under-watering makes the soil less favorable for fungal growth, reducing the risk of infections.

2. Increased Root Growth

Under-watering encourages the tree’s roots to grow deeper in search of water, strengthening the plant’s root system.

3. More Robust Foliage

Under-watered trees have thicker, more robust foliage, making them more resistant to pests and diseases.

Disadvantages of Under-Watering

1. Stunted Growth

Under-watered trees may not be able to absorb enough nutrients, resulting in stunted growth and poor health.

2. Leaf Drop

Under-watered trees may drop their leaves prematurely as a survival mechanism.

3. Root Damage

If the tree experiences prolonged periods of under-watering, the roots can become damaged, making it difficult for the tree to recover.

Advantages of Over-Watering

1. Increased Leaf Development

Over-watering can lead to more leaf development, making the tree look lush and healthy.

2. Improved Foliage Color

Over-watering can improve the foliage’s color and overall appearance of the tree.

3. Faster Growth

Over-watering can encourage faster growth, which can be desirable for some bonsai enthusiasts.

Disadvantages of Over-Watering

1. Root Rot

Over-watering can lead to root rot, a fungal disease that can kill your tree.

2. Oxygen Deprivation

Over-watering can deprive the roots of oxygen, leading to root suffocation and poor growth.

3. Insect Infestations

Over-watered trees are more susceptible to insect infestations, making it crucial to avoid over-watering.

How to Water Your Bonsai Tree

Now that you understand the factors that affect your bonsai tree’s watering needs let’s look at how to water your tree correctly.

Step 1: Select the Right Watering Can

The first step to watering your bonsai tree is ensuring you have the right watering can. Look for a watering can with a narrow spout that can reach all areas of the pot without splashing water unnecessarily.

Step 2: Water the Soil

When watering your bonsai tree, aim to water the soil rather than the foliage. Pour water slowly and evenly over the soil, ensuring that the water penetrates all the way to the bottom of the pot.

Step 3: Water Until Drainage

Continue watering until the water drains out of the pot’s holes. Ensure that the pot is well-draining and doesn’t retain excess water.

Step 4: Clean the Foliage

After watering your tree, wipe down any excess water on the foliage to ensure that the leaves don’t rot or develop fungal infections.

Table of Optimal Watering Schedules for Common Bonsai Species

Bonsai Species Optimal Watering Frequency (Days)
Juniper 3-5
Ficus 2-3
Maple 4-6
Pine 4-6
Elm 4-6

Frequently Asked Questions About How Often to Water Bonsai Trees

1. Can I Water My Bonsai Tree Every Day?

No, watering your bonsai tree every day can lead to over-watering, which can be fatal for your tree.

2. Can I Water My Bonsai Tree Twice a Day?

No, watering your bonsai tree twice a day can lead to over-watering, which can be fatal for your tree.

3. How Do I Know If My Bonsai Tree Needs Watering?

You can check whether your bonsai tree needs watering by sticking your finger about an inch deep into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water your tree.

4. Can I Water My Bonsai Tree From the Bottom?

Yes, watering your bonsai tree from the bottom can be an effective way to water your tree.

5. How Much Water Should I Give My Bonsai Tree?

As a general rule, water your bonsai tree until the water drains out of the pot’s holes.

6. How Often Should I Fertilize My Bonsai Tree?

Bonsai trees need to be fertilized once a month during the growing season and once every two months during the dormant season.

7. Can I Use Tap Water to Water My Bonsai Tree?

It depends on the tap water’s quality. Hard water can leave mineral deposits on the soil, which can be harmful to your bonsai tree. If you’re unsure, consider using distilled or rainwater instead.

8. Can I Water My Bonsai Tree at Night?

Yes, you can water your bonsai tree at night. However, it’s essential to avoid watering late in the evening or early morning when temperatures are lower, as this can promote fungal growth.

9. How Do I Prevent Over-Watering My Bonsai Tree?

Avoid over-watering your bonsai tree by ensuring that the soil is well-draining, using a suitable soil mixture, and checking the soil’s moisture level before watering.

10. How Do I Prevent Under-Watering My Bonsai Tree?

Prevent under-watering your bonsai tree by observing your tree’s watering needs carefully, using a suitable soil mixture, and ensuring that the pot has adequate drainage.

11. What Happens If I Over-Water My Bonsai Tree?

Over-watering your bonsai tree can lead to root rot, a fungal disease that can kill your tree.

12. What Happens If I Under-Water My Bonsai Tree?

Under-watered trees may not be able to absorb enough nutrients, resulting in stunted growth and poor health.

13. How Do I Revive an Under-Watered Bonsai Tree?

To revive an under-watered bonsai tree, soak the pot in a container of water until the soil is fully saturated. Then, reduce the frequency of watering to prevent over-watering.


Proper watering is crucial to growing healthy and beautiful bonsai trees. By understanding the factors that affect your bonsai tree’s watering needs, you can create an optimal watering schedule that ensures your tree stays healthy and vibrant for years to come.

Remember to check your tree’s soil moisture level regularly, select the right watering can and method, and observe your tree’s environmental factors before watering. With these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to water your bonsai tree like a pro!

Take Action Today!

If you’re interested in growing bonsai, now is the perfect time to start! Take the first step by researching your tree’s watering needs and creating an optimal watering schedule. With the right care and attention, your bonsai tree will flourish and bring joy and beauty into your life.


This article is for informational purposes only. Before making any changes to your bonsai tree’s care routine, it’s essential to consult with a professional bonsai grower or horticulturist to ensure the best results for your tree’s specific needs.

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