How Often Should You Water A Chinese Elm Bonsai?

I remember after getting gifted my first bonsai tree, frantically looking through the guide to find out how often should you water a Chinese Elm bonsai?


A Chinese Elm bonsai flourishes when the soil is damp, not wet. The best way to know when to water your Chinese Elm is to push your finger into the soil and feel around for damp, if there’s no moisture then chances are it’s time to water your bonsai. Another way to gauge if you need to water your bonsai is to look at the foliage, if it’s looking dry or discoloured, you should water your Chinese Elm. 


So, let’s look into how often you should be watering a Chinese Elm Bonsai…
Photo Credit – CryptoKing21 On Reddit

How Often Should You Water A Chinese Elm Bonsai?

There is no fixed rule of how often to water a bonsai tree, it should be watered when it needs water, which will change all year round. Bonsai trees are fairly tricky to look after due to their inability to tolerate under-watering or over-watering unlike many plants grown indoors.

The best way to know how often to water the bonsai is to check the soil moisture. If you push your finger about an inch into the soil and it’s dry or slightly moist, it’s time to water the tree. If the soil feels wet or very moist, watering now would just be over-watering the tree.

The frequency of watering really changes based on a huge number of factors. These factors include the time of year, growing conditions, size of the pot, size of the tree, age, foliage and soil mix. For instance different bonsai soils are mixed using different amounts of materials that either let water drain, or retain water. Two identical trees grown in two different soil mixes may need a completely different frequency of watering.

As a general sort of guide, I end up watering my Chinese Elm every day in the growing season and about every 2-3 days during the winter. The best course of action is going to be checking your trees soil though. For more information on caring for your Chinese Elm, have a read of my guide: Chinese Elm Bonsai Care Guide.

How To Water A Chinese Elm Bonsai?

I have put together a full ‘How To Water A Bonsai Tree‘ guide here, so I would advise reading that. I’ll cover the process here anyway though. Watering is the most important part of keeping a bonsai tree alive and healthy. If you neglect watering or water your bonsai too often, you’re going to get a very serious problems. These problems include foliage turning brown/falling off and root rot. Here is a quick step by step breakdown of how to water your bonsai tree.

  1. Knowing that the tree needs to be watered is key. As mentioned above, push your finger into the soil to feel for moisture. If the soil is barely moist or dry, it’s time to water your Chinese Elm.
  2. Using tap water or rain water, start drenching the soil from a low height, getting an even coverage. You’ll need to keep this up until water is running heavily out of the drainage holes.
  3. Allow the bonsai pot to sit and drain for about 2 minutes without watering.
  4. Repeat this whole process once more.
  5. Let the pot fully drain before returning it to the usual growing conditions.


That is a quick run down of exactly how to water your Chinese Elm bonsai. I would advise checking out my other guides to go more in-depth on this process: How To Water A Bonsai Tree.


Knowing how often to water a bonsai tree greatly reduces the chance of under-watering it. The Chinese Elm is typically quite good at tolerating under-watering for a short amount of time but it shouldn’t be often. There are species out there such as the Jade Bonsai that can tolerate it much better as they store a huge amount of water in the trunk and branches.

Under-watering can lead to a huge amount of complication for a bonsai tree. These start with foliage turning dry, crispy, brown and then falling off. Growth is going to start slowing down and the tree will soon die. Although these can sometimes be revived, see my How To Revive A Bonsai Tree guide for more information, you’re best of all just not forgetting to water the tree in the first place.


Over-watering is a huge problem for bonsai trees and is usually done by owners that simply don’t know how often to water a bonsai tree. When the soil is constantly moist and wet, firstly this is the perfect breeding ground for infections and pests. Secondly, the roots need oxygen to breathe essentially. When soil is constantly really wet, the roots are starved of that oxygen and they start dying off. These dying roots start to rot, due to the damp conditions and the tree is going to start to perish.

If you think you may have over-watered your Chinese Elm, have a read of my guide: Have I Over-Watered My Bonsai Tree?

Watering Chinese Elm Video

Final Thoughts

Please note, I am in no ways an expert in the art of Bonsai, I am just a normal guy who was once wondering, ‘how often should I water my Chinese Elm?’ and since finding the answer, I thought I would share it with you! My first ever Bonsai was a Chinese Elm I received as a Christmas gift from my girlfriend and I’ve since managed to keep it alive for many years, so hopefully my advice can help you do the same.


This species is fairly hard to kill for a beginner, hence why it made it onto my 5 Best Bonsai Trees For Beginners list. Instead of trying to create a strict routine of how often to water your Chinese Elm, by using the soil moisture as a guide you can listen to the tree, instead of just guessing. Over time you’ll have a much better idea and most likely not need to check every time but for a beginner, that technique is perfect.


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