Bonsai trees are difficult to maintain

Watering bonsai: the most common mistakes

Watering a bonsai properly is not that easy. If errors occur in the irrigation, the artistically drawn trees quickly resent us. It is not uncommon for a bonsai to lose its leaves or even die completely. When and how often you have to water a bonsai depends, among other things, on the type of plant, the size of the tree, the location, the season and the temperature. So it can be that a bonsai has to be watered several times a day on hot summer days, while in winter it only needs some fresh water once a week.

Mistake 1: watering bonsai too infrequently

The root space of bonsai trees is artificially kept small in pots and bowls and the reserves of water and nutrients are limited. While garden bonsais that have been planted out usually get by without additional watering, the small bonsais need a water supply that is as even as possible in the containers - especially in summer. Basically: The soil of a bonsai must never dry out completely. It is usually essential to check every day whether the tree needs watering. To do this, check the soil moisture with your finger: If the surface of the root ball is completely dry, it is time for the next watering. The color of the bonsai soil can also provide information: when dry it is usually much lighter than when it is moist. As soon as the surface of the earth becomes lighter, at the latest when cracks form or even the earth detaches from the edge of the bowl, water must be poured.

The problem with watering some bonsai: The soil often rises above the edge of the container. So that the substrate is evenly moistened, it is advisable to dip the root ball regularly, for example in a tub of lukewarm water. Otherwise, a fine, long-necked watering can is recommended: The fine shower attachment distributes the irrigation water in fine droplets that can quickly penetrate the soil. So-called ball showers are also very suitable for watering a bonsai: depending on the pressure on the rubber ball, the water can be dosed precisely. To fill up, you simply press the ball together and hold the small shower head in a water container - the ball sucks up again. Tip: Bonsais that love high humidity can occasionally be sprayed with rainwater in an atomizer.

Mistake 2: watering bonsai too hard

One mistake that probably happens more often when caring for bonsai is over-watering. If the roots are kept too moist, they will rot quickly and the bonsai will die. Some trees that can be found in stores are in pots that are too small with a very solid substrate. There is no drainage: the water cannot run off. A tried and tested rescue measure is repotting in a container with a drainage hole and special bonsai soil. This is characterized by the fact that it is structurally stable and permeable. If some roots have already died, they will be removed before repotting. In general, to prevent waterlogging and root rot: Water your bonsai rather sparingly and always let excess water run off well. Even after diving, the bonsai is only put back in its usual place when no more water flows out of the drainage hole. The soil should always dry briefly between dipping baths.

Every two years a bonsai also needs a new pot. In this video we show you how it works.

Credit: MSG / Alexander Buggisch / Producer Dirk Peters

Mistake 3: Cold, chalky irrigation water

Use soft and room warm water to water your bonsai. You may have to decalcify your irrigation water first: over time, harder water from the tap not only leads to unsightly limescale deposits on the vessels and the surface of the earth, but also changes the pH value of the substrate in the long term. Rainwater that has already reached room temperature is well suited. Water that is too cold is not good for some bonsai - especially tropical and subtropical plant species can cause cold shock to the roots.