How To Revive For Bonsai Trees With Brown Leaves

Bonsai trees are considered as smaller versions of full-sized trees, and they have increasingly become popular over the years. While bonsai trees may look ornamental from the inside of a home or a beautiful Zen garden, they are requiring all the same environmental factors and nutrients like their larger tree counterparts.

If bonsai trees are not taken cared of properly, their leaves could wilt, turn brown, or the entire plant will eventually die. The brown leaves are an indication that your bonsai tree is having a tough time. 

A bonsai tree that has leaves or stems that turn brown may suffer from different issues.

Regardless of the reason why your bonsai tree has brown leaves, it needs immediate attention.

In this comprehensive guide, we will share the facts, reasons behind, and the important steps you can do to save your precious bonsai  tree from wilting and dying. Here are the topics:

  1. Facts About Bonsai
  2. Possible Reasons Why Your Bonsai Leaves Turn Brown
    1. Influence of Watering Schedule
    2. Important Role of Environmental Factors
    3. Pests and Diseases Affecting Your Bonsai
    4. Nutrient Problems Affecting Your Bonsai
    5. Pruning and Possible Effects on Bonsai Leaves
    6. Repotting Ritual Effects on Brown Bonsai Leaves
  3. Accompanying Signs of Bonsai Brown Leaves
  4. Brown Leaves Prevention Tips and Tricks
  5. How to Revive Your Bonsai Tree

Let’s start the in-depth tutorial about reviving a bonsai tree with brown leaves. This is a chance to increase your knowledge and skills, and gain the right attitude in caring a bonsai that has brown leaves, and seemingly dying.

1) Facts About Bonsai

Bonsai trees are offering excellent beauty in small gardens and limited spaces. They also provide great satisfaction to the gardener, training the tiny and beautiful trees into different shapes that simulate their magnificent larger cousins.

Bonsai trees usually need time and attentive care, including the bonsai trees grown from juniper, growing outdoors in the Department of Agriculture’s plant hardiness zones 2 to 11 of the United States, which is highly dependent on the variety.

Once you see brown spots on your bonsai tree, act immediately in order to save it. If there is only a small portion of the bonsai needles that turn brown on a juniper bonsai, this can be a natural and normal process.

In fall, the older and inner foliage of most evergreen conifers eventually die and new ones take its place. But if the browning is too extensive, it only means that you’re dealing with a serious problem.

By determining why your bonsai tree has leaves that are turning brown, you are taking the initial step to revive and save it. However, if this problem persists and your bonsai tree is left unattended, its condition could get worse and may cause its death.

2) Possible Reasons Why Your Bonsai Leaves Turn Brown

a) Influence of Watering Schedule

Your bonsai tree needs a specific amount of water for it to survive and to stay alive. Underwatering or too little water may result in browning of the leaves of your bonsai and a dried and wilted trunk. Overwatering or excessive water may become trapped, that leads to rotting of the roots of the bonsai tree and the leaves turning brown.


  • Remember that water is not the only key to keep your bonsai tree hydrated. Water is also the medium wherein fertilizer nutrients and soil are conveyed to the roots of your plant.
  • You need to water your bonsai tree regularly to ensure it will not dry out when it is exposed to the sun. Take note that different bonsai species would require different water amounts.

b) Important Role of Environmental Factors

The proper environment is essential to bonsai trees. There are different species of bonsai trees that rely on various environments in order to survive and to stay alive. The majority of bonsai trees do not flourish and survive in direct sunlight but it does not mean that they are indoor plants. Still, many of them do better outdoors.

Remember that lack of sunlight is not good for your bonsai tree, most especially true for those bonsai trees that are kept indoors. If your bonsai tree lacks sunlight, browning may occur.

Bonsai trees fall into three different categories and they depend on the place where the species originated. A bonsai may either be hardy, subtropical, or tropical. Those hardy bonsai trees require most of their time outdoors and their leaves can turn brown quickly if they are left inside the home or indoors for extended periods.

There are several bonsai species that belong in the tropical and subtropical categories, and they can survive in partial sunlight. All bonsai need direct sunlight exposure for at least part of the day.

Excessive direct sunlight, like fertilizer, can also cause several problems with bonsai trees. Those plants that are left in the sun for too long can dry out, causing shriveling and browning of leaves.

Winter injury is a potential problem in spring, wherein a single or a more branches on bonsai trees, like the azalea, begin to possess brown leaves and eventually die back problems are caused by winter wind stripping water in the bonsai plant, most especially if it is grown in a native place with the complete sun.

If the harm caused only involves a small portion of the bonsai, it can survive and promotes a new development as the season progresses.


  • As a good rule of thumb, if you are not aware of what bonsai tree species you have, and the type sunlight it likes, keep your outdoors but in indirect exposure to sunlight. Keep in mind that deep shade can kill your bonsai trees. Make sure that your bonsai is close to a window where it gets sun most of the time but not direct exposure.
  • You need to lessen tension by watering your bonsai tree properly and avoid fertilizer during late summer, to stop the development of lush new shoots that are simply injured during winter.
  • You can also spray an anti-desiccant solution in fall to avoid an azalea bonsai from losing too much moisture and to be able to sustain a winter injury.

c) Pests and Diseases Affecting Your Bonsai

Pests are considered a nuisance problem that usually goes unnoticed, and may cause the leaves to turn brown unnoticed. If you are concerned about the effects of pests, you can spray a light pesticide on the bonsai tree, pinching off any brown or dead leaves to promote new growth.

In addition, pests such as aphids and spider mites feed on liquid nutrients in the stems and leaves of a bonsai plant, preventing nutrients from reaching the different parts of the plant and causing plant leaves to turn brown.

The specter of infestation by pests and disease is constant among plants, even with bonsai trees. They can develop diseases or infections when they are kept outside, such as brown leaf spot, that can turn leaves brown, and root rot.

Whether outdoors or indoors, juniper bonsai trees are not immune to different bug infestations. They are particularly appealing to spider mites. They are very tiny and hide on the underside of stems and branches.

It is usually difficult to detect spider mites until you see browning discoloration on the foliage. Spider mites suck the moisture out of the foliage. They also spin silk, holding their eggs, and the areas inside the silk may turn brown and eventually die.

The azalea lace bugs are tiny insects with lacy wings, sucking sap from bonsai leaves. They may severely harm your bonsai tree. Other microscopic mites create visible webs and they feed on leaves. Scale insects can suck the plant sap from the branches.


  • Pruning away leaves infected by fungal infections is helpful once browning occurs on only a small portion. But if the infection is progressed, and the bonsai cannot be revived, it is best to destroy the bonsai plant and then sterilize the soil.
  • Washing pests away with water is helpful, and coating your bonsai tree with an insecticidal soap can prevent infestation.
  • For controlling spider mites, you need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, mixing commercial insecticidal soap that is specifically designed to get rid of mites with water. Generally, mixing a solution of 5 tablespoons of the soap in a gallon of water helps. You can pour the mixture into a spray bottle, and then spray the entire bonsai tree, gently coating the underside of the stems and branches.
  • In order to destroy the mites, scales and the eggs of lace bugs, you can spray your bonsai tree with horticultural oil to saturate all parts on the plant, thus smothering the pests. You can dilute a widespread of horticultural oil is at 7 oz per gallon. Be sure to verify the package label for additional directions.
  • For managing lace bugs, you can purchase organic predators like predator mites and assassin bugs at a garden center and then you can release them to your bonsai plants.

d) Nutrient Problems Affecting Your Bonsai

Bonsai trees need proper nutrients to grow and develop healthily. Nutrient deficiency may turn the leaves of a bonsai tree brown due to a lack of iron, nitrogen, or magnesium.

Like any other plants, bonsai trees also need fertilizer, including nitrogen, phosphorus as well as potassium. Too little of these major nutrients can lead to incomplete energy cycle. The browning of stems and leaves is an indication that a bonsai tree is lacking fertilizer.

The shriveling of the leaves and a sudden dieback of stems and branches are also positive indicators. Excessive fertilizing may damage your bonsai plant.

Remember that improper amounts of these macronutrients may cause root burn. It is a condition that prevents the bonsai plant from properly absorbing nutrients through its roots or root system.


  • It is important to use the right mixture fertilizer for your bonsai tree depending on its species.
  • Give the right amount of fertilizer to your bonsai trees.

e) Pruning and Possible Effects on Bonsai Leaves

There are bonsai species like Juniper bonsai trees that are not fans of knives and, but they require pruning consistently during the warm bonsai growing season. Cutting or pruning of new shoots usually causes the surrounding foliage of a bonsai plant to turn brown, starting on the tips.


  • Instead of pruning or cutting and risking harm or damage to your bonsai plant, you can pinch off the new shoots with your fingers.
  • You can plan ahead of time for the shape you want for your bonsai tree.
  • Remember that if you change your mind later on and pinch off large and more mature shoots, it may still lead to brown discoloration of foliage.

f) Repotting Ritual Effects on Brown Bonsai Leaves

Once a year, many species of bonsai trees need to be repotted. Most bonsai trees are grown in small pots, wherein the right soil amount is not easily available to the bonsai’s roots. Even if your bonsai tree has achieved the size you want and if the roots do not need room to grow, it is important to still replace the soil.

The roots that are depleted with the right nutrients in the soil may wilt over time. The soil may eventually change its texture which can be too dense in keeping your bonsai tree healthy.


  • Changing the soil or repotting your bonsai tree at least once per year can help it get nourished so it will not start to turn yellow or brown.
  • It is likely the best time to repot if you notice brown foliage that is appearing on your bonsai plant’s bottom limbs.


Your bonsai tree is so delicate that anytime it is not getting enough water may turn its leaves brown and begin to die. If ever you see brown branches, you can prune them away immediately so your bonsai plant can focus on getting healthy. Keep your bonsai well watered.

Mist the foliage and leaves every few days. Different species of bonsai have different water, light, and nutrient requirements. For instance, your Juniper bonsai tree enjoys a full sun, but it also survives in partial shade.

3) Accompanying Signs of Bonsai Brown Leaves

The leading cause of death among bonsai trees is too much water (drowning) or lack of water (dehydration). Overwatering and underwatering may cause browning of bonsai leaves. It is important to also know the accompanying signs of overwatering and underwatering.

Signs of Underwatering:

  • Tiny creases on the trunk that indicate shriveling up.
  • The soil feels dry and hard.

A root system that is extensive may indicate that the bonsai roots have been trying to find water, thus venturing wide and far.

Signs of Overwatering:

  • The roots of the bonsai tree may appear to be experiencing rotting.
  • The trunk part is soft.
  • There is very shallow root system which is a possible sign that the roots have not been able to find water.
  • Tiny white things present in the soil which is an indication of fungus gnat larva. They keep the soil too moist, thus feeding on the smallest and finest feeder roots.
  • The bonsai tree looks tired and no longer appear healthy and vibrant.
  • Many leaves turn yellow, turn brown, and eventually fall off.
  • The smaller branches of the bonsai may shrink and then die away.

Preventive Watering Tips to Keep Your Bonsai Tree Healthy

Don’t overwater or underwater. It is important to test the soil by simply poking your finger in it, and if it feels nearly dry or dry, then you need to water it. You’ll probably need to water your bonsai every 1 to 3 days.

One effective way to water bonsai trees is by placing it in a tub with water that is filled to the brim of the bonsai pot. Allow it to soak up the moisture and just remove when the top already feels wet.

How to Water Bonsai Trees Correctly

Watering bonsai trees should be done correctly. It is considered the most important skill you need to master to ensure a healthy bonsai plant. Here’s how you should do it:

Step #1: Every day gently stick the tip of your finger into the dirt near the edge of the plant pot. Once you feel the soil almost completely dry, that is the perfect time to water your bonsai. Never follow a strict routine watering schedule because you have to consider the changes in plant and environmental conditions. A true bonsai master knows that only it is important to observe the bonsai soil’s condition to be able to accurately gauge its needs.

Step #2: Water your bonsai tree from above with the use of a watering can having a fine nozzle to prevent washing the soil away. It is better to utilize collected rainwater because it does not contain any added chemicals. If rainwater is not readily available, there’s no problem in utilizing normal tap water. You can use automated watering systems, but they’re often quite expensive.

Step #3: When it comes to watering your bonsai tree, once you see the water is coming out the bottom of the container, then it only means that the watering is already enough.


As you probably realize, it is much easier to identify the signs of overwatering or too much water as compared to underwatering. Root-rotting bacteria just love to live and thrive in moist environments and they feed on dead roots. Bacteria may spread as their roots die due to overwatering. By watering your bonsai plants correctly, you prevent overwatering or underwatering, thus leading to healthier plants.

4) Brown Leaves Prevention Tips and Tricks

Tip#1: Bonsai trees might need water every day and some even twice a day, most especially if it is located in a hot and bright spot or during summer or spring. But you need to sure to check the soil if your bonsai plants need watering

Tip #2: It is important to keep your bonsai plant in a sunny area or partially shaded location but not in direct sun most of the time during the day.

5) How to Revive Your Bonsai Tree

Step #1: Identifying the Problem

Firstly, you need to look closely and monitor your bonsai trees to determine what the real problem is or what causes the leaves to turn brown. Look for signs of pests infestation, like wilt, webs, and mites. These insects can be difficult to spot, most especially on an indoor bonsai tree.

It is also important to check for any signs of disease, underwatering or overwatering. Foliage spots, browning leaves, wilt, soft roots or trunk, or creases in the stems or trunk are all positive signs of disease.

Step #2: Trimming the Dead Spots

You can trim away the parts of your bonsai tree which are dead to encourage and nurture future growth and development. Pinching away brown and wilted leaves from the stems, and using pruning shears in trimming away any dead leaves, stems or branches are helpful for the survival and revival of your bonsai tree.

Step #3: Treating Your Bonsai Tree with a Gentle or Organic Insecticide

Once you have determined that your bonsai tree is infested with fungi or any type of pests, you can spray it with a light or gentle fungicide or insecticide spray. Identify the symptoms of your bonsai tree before choosing the spray, to ensure that you will buy the right treatment. To ensure that each area is lightly coated by the chemical, it is essential to lightly spray the bonsai tree’s foliage.

Step #4: Checking the Moisture Levels

Before you do any course of action, it is important to check the soil’s moisture levels. To check it, you can stick your finger 1 to 2 inches deep into the soil as it was previously mentioned. If the soil feels dry, the browning bonsai leaves may be caused by severe dehydration.

Step #5: Taking Care of the Bonsai Roots

Remove your bonsai tree from the pot and take a look at the root system closely. With the use of pruning shears, you can cut away any rotten or dead roots. These roots may prevent your bonsai tree from receiving the proper nutrients it needs. Next, cut the roots back to the root mass, and avoid cutting the healthy roots.

Step #6: Placing Your Bonsai in a Clean Temporary Container

Let your bonsai tree rest in a clean temporary container filled with tepid water, and while it is resting, you can clean the former container thoroughly. Next, you can start to prepare a new bonsai soil mix.

The new soil should be loose enough and is able to retain water effectively and efficiently. The best soil mixture depends on the species of bonsai tree you have, that is why you need to choose very carefully. Next, make a mixture with a nutrient-packed potting soil and a good fertilizer, and then put wire mesh around the drainage holes, filling the container a 1/3 of the way with soil.

Step #7: Letting Your Bonsai Soak

Take your bonsai tree out of the water, placing it in the center of the container. Fill the container with the rest of soil. After which, place your potted bonsai in a large container of water, like a bucket or sink. The water should be able to reach about an inch over the container’s surface, letting it sit in the water for a few minutes until the soil is obviously free of air. Remove your bonsai tree from the water, and let the water to drain thoroughly from the drainage holes.

Step #8: A Warm and Shaded Area

Choosing a warm, well-ventilated, and partially shaded area to place your bonsai tree is important until it heals.


By giving your bonsai trees some time to recover, it will start to thrive hopefully. The steps above are ensuring that your bonsai plant starts the healing process. It is important to ensure that your bonsai tree won’t be dehydrated or overwatered.

Final Thoughts

Browning of bonsai leaves can be caused by several factors like nutrient issues, watering schedule, environmental factors, and many more. Now, you are more knowledgeable, skilled, and aware why the leaves of bonsai trees may turn brown.

We hope that you find this tutorial helpful. You can share this information with your friends and family and comment below to share your own insights and experiences. Thank you and happy bonsai growing!