How to Water a Bonsai Tree

Windswept black olive bonsai
© john fluent/Shutterstock.com

Written by August Croft

Updated: March 7, 2023

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Knowing how to water a Bonsai tree is one of the first steps when it comes to its overall care and maintenance. A Bonsai tree is not the easiest of plants to care for, especially when it comes to its watering routine. Given that these miniature trees are container-grown, strict watering knowledge is a must to keep these plants alive!

In this article, we will go over everything you need to know when it comes to Bonsai tree watering and moisture levels. We’ll give you some helpful tips and tricks for watering your Bonsai tree, no matter the type that you have. Plus, we’ll even include some knowledge for how to best set your Bonsai tree up for success, whether you choose to grow your Bonsai tree indoors or out! Let’s get started.

Watering Bonsai Trees: A How-To Guide

how to water a bonsai tree
You should water your Bonsai tree well enough that the roots get soaked and fully watered.

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All plants grown in containers or pots have very specific watering needs. This is especially the case for Bonsai trees, as they have relatively shallow soil and root growth within their container. Given the fact that Bonsai trees are simply miniature trees or shrubs, their watering requirements are often more complicated than Bonsai tree beginners first expect. But what exactly does this mean?

No single Bonsai tree is like another. That’s the first and arguably most important thing to understand about these plants. All Bonsai trees will need different watering routines, depending on the season, the type of tree that you have, and much more. Plus, most miniature trees will require different watering habits week after week and month after month, so there’s no real predictability to these plants.

If you’re used to watering your houseplants on a set schedule, a miniature tree will ask for individual, unpredictable care. Your end goal is to keep your tree’s roots consistently moist without overwatering, a tricky balance to strike! This goal is even harder to reach if you have a Bonsai tree type that is more fickle than others.

You should water your Bonsai tree well enough that the roots get soaked and fully watered. This is easily accomplished in a sink, bathtub, or outdoors, depending on how large your tree is. However, make sure that you use a delicate drip or pour when you do so, as you don’t want to risk washing away any soil from your pot!

How Often Should You Water a Bonsai Tree?

how to water a bonsai tree
Your Bonsai tree should be watered whenever you notice the dirt drying out a centimeter or so beneath the surface.

©Farhad Ibrahimzade/Shutterstock.com

The unfortunate news is, there’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to how often you should water your Bonsai tree. Each tree will require a different watering schedule, based largely on the type of tree, where it is being kept, ambient temperatures, and both the soil and pot setup you have. This isn’t a simple houseplant by any means!

Your Bonsai tree should be watered whenever you notice the dirt drying out a centimeter or so beneath the surface. While some experts say these plants need to be watered daily, this isn’t always applicable if your tree is in a larger container or planted in soil with a higher level of moisture retention. You’re likely already seeing all of the different variables involved when it comes to caring for your Bonsai tree!

How Can You Tell When a Bonsai Tree Needs Water?

how to water a bonsai tree
You can tell a Bonsai tree needs water based on how damp the soil is, roughly a centimeter or so beneath the surface.

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Given the fact that most Bonsai trees are incredibly sensitive to both over and underwatering, you shouldn’t wait for your tree to droop before watering again. You can tell a Bonsai tree needs water based on how damp the soil is, roughly a centimeter or so beneath the surface. If this section of soil is only vaguely damp or even dry to the touch, it’s time to water!

Bonsai trees grow in such a limited space that their roots cannot be allowed to dry out or remain completely waterlogged. They have very little moisture retention at this small of a size and rely on your careful attention to thrive. Depending on the tree species, some Bonsai trees can handle underwatering better than others, but overwatering is often the number one cause of death in Bonsai trees.

Tips for Watering Bonsai Trees

how to water a bonsai tree

Bonsai trees are not going to survive if you water them once every so often without checking their moisture levels first.

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Besides knowing what tree you have and whether or not your Bonsai tree will grow outdoors or indoors, there are a few other tips for watering Bonsai trees. Here are some expert recommendations to help you on your journey!

Start with the Right Soil

Your miniature tree needs proper soil in order to grow, especially when grown in a container. The type of soil that you use in your Bonsai tree is key, as fast drainage is necessary to prevent root rot and overwatering. Using a base layer of rocks or gravel in your container, add a Bonsai tree soil mixture atop this. Ensure that there are plenty of rock, clay, and organic components in your mixture for the best success!

Don’t Set a Schedule

As previously mentioned, Bonsai trees are not going to survive if you water them once every so often without checking their moisture levels first. You should plan on checking in on your Bonsai tree daily, whether you grow it indoors or out. Using a moisture meter, your finger, or another method of checking soil dampness is your best bet for keeping your Bonsai tree happy.

Rainwater is Your Friend

Wondering what type of water is best when watering your Bonsai tree? While tap water works just fine for most trees, rainwater is your best bet when it comes to providing your Bonsai tree with nutrients. Rainwater lacks the chemicals found in average tap water and it helps mimic the natural outdoor environment that most trees are familiar with!

Interested in brushing up on your Bonsai tree knowledge and care? Check out some of our other Bonsai tree guides below!


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About the Author

August Croft is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on astrology, symbolism, and gardening. August has been writing a variety of content for over 4 years and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theater from Southern Oregon University, which they earned in 2014. They are currently working toward a professional certification in astrology and chart reading. A resident of Oregon, August enjoys playwriting, craft beer, and cooking seasonal recipes for their friends and high school sweetheart.

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