Why Is My Chinese Elm Bonsai Losing Leaves?

Have you ever looked at your tree and in horror thought, why is my Chinese Elm bonsai losing leaves? I know I have, so I did a little bit of research into why this is.


For Chinese Elm bonsais it’s completely normal to lose leaves after keeping healthy leaves for a season. The tree will start losing some old leaves in place of the new buds growing. If your Chinese Elm drops leaves, keep a close eye on it as in the following weeks it should be replaced by strong green buds. I’ve looked into why this happened and what you can do about it.


For starters, it’s nothing to worry about the majority of the time, providing your bonsai tree is healthy and staying fed, your Chinese Elm losing leaves will most likely be a seasonal shed. The leaves dropping off the bonsai is due to a decrease in daylight and temperature as the seasons change.


bonsai tree losing leaves


When leaves start dropping off it’s the normal reaction to water your Chinese Elm and in some cases this is definitely the right thing to do. However, if you’re noticing a lot of leaves dropping, watering your plant won’t necessarily help, as your bonsai won’t be needing more water and you’ll end up overwatering your plant.


How Do I Tell If It’s Seasonal Dropping?


In determining whether it is actually seasonal reasons causing your Chinese Elm to lose leaves, take a look at the bonsai. In 4-6 weeks your tree should start regrowing shoots. If it doesn’t, have a look at the leaves that have fallen off your tree, are they crisp? If they are really brittle and crisp, it seems the be the consensus that your bonsai is under watered.


It Doesn’t Seem Like Seasonal Dropping, What Should I Do?


Watering your Chinese Elm would be a good port of call. If you’re confident that your Bonsai leaves falling off isn’t to do with the seasons changing, the chances are it’ll be too dry.


In hot seasons you need to be monitoring your Chinese Elm daily to see the moisture levels in the soil. I would recommend:


  • Keeping your bonsai soil damp, not soaking wet.
  • Spraying a fine mist over the trees leaves daily.


Maintain this during the hot months and within 4-6 weeks your bonsai tree should start regrowing shoots and looking more healthy.


In the colder months you need to make sure that:


  • Your Chinese Elm bonsai isn’t too cold, that will most likely be the cause of leaves turning black and dropping off the bonsai.
  • Keep the soil moist, not soaking wet.
  • Don’t feed your bonsai.


Some Useful Tips


I’ve learnt from the bonsai community that if leaves start dropping off your Chinese Elm and it’s not seasonal, you should trim all of the over growth, thin the branches and remove what leaves your plant has left.


There is definitely the possibility that your tree has a lot of pests, so it’s a good idea to spray the tree for spider mites whilst you’re trying to save it.


Once you have followed those steps, place the bonsai outside and keep the soil moist by watering regularly.


It’s worth noting that if your tree isn’t acclimatised to living inside, it may be trying to go dormant. It’s very important that as soon as the cold weather is no longer a threat to your tree, to place the bonsai back outside and don’t bring it back in.


I really hope you found this useful, it worked for me in my Chinese Elms’ time of crisis and it’s still healthy as I write this now! This isn’t gospel but it’s a collection of my own experience and experience of other bonsai tree owners across the various forums. 


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