Are Bonsai Trees Deciduous?

I recently picked up a new addition to my bonsai collection, a beautiful maple. The maple bonsai is deciduous, so I thought it would be the perfect excuse to explain what deciduous actually means for bonsai trees.


In short, there are two types of outdoor grown bonsai trees, known as deciduous and evergreen. When entering the winter season and dormant period, a deciduous bonsai tree will lose all or most of its leaves, whereas an evergreen bonsai species will keep it’s leaves. Although not every bonsai tree is deciduous, they are extremely common to own.


What Does Deciduous Mean?


Deciduous, by definition means ‘to fall off at maturity’. In real terms, during the winter and dormant period of it’s growth cycle, a deciduous bonsai tree is going to lose all of its leaves. A tree losing its leaves in winter is a very common feat, however when bonsai trees are involved, people usually tend to start panicking!


There are really two types of bonsai trees that need to be grown outdoors all year round, the deciduous and the evergreen. Evergreen, as the name suggests, are ‘ever green’. These are not going to lose all of their leaves during the colder months, whereas deciduous will lose most or all of its leaves, before regrowing after the dormant period. If you’re interested in learning more about Evergreen species, check out this full guide I put together.


It’s common for beginners in bonsai to give up on a tree, thinking they have accidentally killed it when the leaves are falling off. Well, it’s possible that they have killed the tree, or, depending on the time of year when the leaves are falling, it could be a deciduous bonsai tree. If you have an indoor bonsai (tropical or subtropical) and the leaves are falling off, that will be due to a problem in regards to caring for the tree, not the fact it’s deciduous. If you’re worried about the fact leaves are falling off, have a read of this guide addressing the issue of brown leaves on your bonsai tree.


Popular Deciduous Bonsai Trees


These are the most popular deciduous bonsai trees:


-Japanese Maple and Trident Maple
-Chinese Elm Bonsai – My personal favourite.
-Dwarf Pomegranate
-Wisteria Bonsai
-Birch Bonsai
-Japanese Cherry Bonsai
-Weeping Willow Bonsai
-Chinese Pepper Bonsai
-Crabapple Bonsai
-Oak Bonsai


Many of the bonsai starter kits I have seen online come with a deciduous tree. For instance when I got my first tree many years ago, it was a Chinese Elm – one of the more popular of the species. If you only have evergreen or tropical bonsais currently I would definitely advise trying to pick up one of the species listed, it’s great fun having a deciduous in your collection. If you’re interested in picking up a bonsai starter kit, this is the exact kit I got on Amazon all those years ago – it’s still alive and well today!


Deciduous Specific Care Information


A deciduous tree should be treated, for the most part, exactly the same as any other bonsai tree. By this I mean a consistent level of care and attention in regards to watering, pruning, re potting, fertilizing and checking the general health of your tree. The only difference in terms of care comes from the location of the deciduous throughout the year.


Firstly, these are outdoor bonsai so unlike the tropical and subtropical trees, it should be living outdoors all year round. It needs to be situated somewhere it can receive a lot of sunlight and ideally not be too in the elements in terms of wind and lashing rain (People outside of the U.K. probably don’t have this issue). If you are bringing the tree indoors for whatever reason, keeping it inside for anymore than a few days isn’t advised.


During the winter months, this type of tree will enter a dormant period. In this stage of its growth cycle the tree is going to lose all of its leaves and need slightly different living conditions. Ideally the tree needs to be placed somewhere cold, without a lot of sunlight. Where exactly this could be really depends on your circumstances, I have seen people use corners of their garden or even garages. Personally I put my deciduous trees in the garage during the dormant stage, however a shed would probably work better if you have one available. It’s also worth pointing out that you should not be fertilizing the tree at all during the winter months, only in the other seasons.


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