How to Fix an Overwatered Chinese Elm Bonsai

Chinese Elm bonsai can survive as evergreen trees within the right conditions. However, as a species, they can suffer greatly from overwatering. While overwatering can kill your bonsai tree, there’s still a chance to save it before it fully wilts.

In this article, we’ll explain how much to water your Chinese elm, how to avoid overwatering, and how to save it from this damaged state.

Overwatered Chinese Elm

How Do You Save an Overwatered Chinese Elm

Saving an overwatered bonsai is easy yet time consuming, as there are many steps involved. You’ll need to prune branches and roots, clean the pot to ensure there’s no fungus or disease, start a repotting process, and carefully watch how it recovers. Once you’ve finished these steps, your Chinese elm will begin recovering.

Prune dead roots and branches

Removing the dead parts of your Chinese elm bonsai is the first step to recovery. This practice will stop the plant from trying to focus its nutrients on reviving dead pieces, and prevent any decay from spreading.

Ensure your tools are sharp and clean before pruning, to prevent any potential disease from spreading while cutting branches and roots. A pencil or chopstick can help you quickly untangle bonsai roots.

Wash your bonsai pot

Washing your bonsai’s pot before repotting it is crucial to eliminate any fungal growth or remnants of disease. Ensure the pot is completely dry before repotting your bonsai. Use a mild detergent with moderately warm water when washing.

Repot your Chinese Elm

Once you’ve pruned the roots needed and have washed your bonsai’s pot, it’s time to begin repotting the tree. Ensure that the roots aren’t soaking wet before this procedure, as it may student the recovery of your Chinese elm.

Care and attention

Once you’ve repotted the bonsai tree, you’ll need to keep a careful eye on it over the coming days. Chinese elms are vulnerable to overwatering, and will take a few days to recover from it. During spring and summer, the time is often quicker. With time, your tree should start flourishing once more.

Overwatered Chinese Elm

How Often Must I Water My Chinese Elm Bonsai

Chinese Elm bonsai are sensitive to overwatering, as they need plenty of time for their roots to dry and breathe. As such, you’ll need to wait between watering to see if the soil is dry before giving more hydration to your bonsai. However, once you do water, ensure it penetrates deeply, lasting for a while.

Overall, water frequency for a Chinese elm bonsai depends on the climate it’s kept in and the sunlight exposure it receives. With higher temperatures, the soil will dry out faster, requiring more frequent watering.

How Can You Prevent Overwatering Your Chinese Elm

Preventing overwatering is one of the best ways to move forward after you save your dying bonsai. Checking the soil every day, only watering as needed when the top soil is dry. Allowing your bonsai time for the soil to drain is essential as well, since the roots need to breathe.

Touch the soil

The easiest way to know if the Chinese elm is ready to be watered is to touch the soil, and feel for any moisture. If after penetrating the top layer, the mixture feels dry you can water the bonsai again. This method helps give your elm time for its roots to breathe and dry.

Set a phone reminder

If you often water more than needed because you forget to regularly water your tree, setting a reminder is a great way to ensure you don’t overwater the bonsai. A Chinese elm requires water only when its topsoil is dry, since constant moisture will kill it.

Placing a daily reminder to check the soil, will ensure it’s never under or over watered again.

Pay attention

While it may sound redundant, paying attention to your bonsai will keep it healthy. This aspect applies to pests, diseases, lack of sunlight, and overwatering. Regularly check through your Chinese elm’s leaves for any indication of wilting or damage that indicates overwatering or other negative effects.

If you notice any negative events occurring to your bonsai, you’re able to quickly act and correct the damage before it causes irreversible damage.

Overwatered Chinese Elm

Patience and Care

Helping a Chinese elm grow back to its full health takes time, as it needs to heal from the damage caused by overwatering. Pruning the dead pieces off the tree, repotting the bonsai, and cleaning it are all important steps to reviving a dying tree. However, if rushed these steps will not aid your Chinese elm’s regrowth.

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A newcomer to the bonsai world, Jarod Stengel aims to share his experiences with others. Having just one plant and plenty of research, the journey ahead is one to remember. He is looking forward to sharing his adventure with our readers as he applies his bonsai knowledge to his articles and real life.


Jarod Stengel


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