Reviving Your Bonsai

A bonsai tree is may be unique and beautiful in itself.  Often people receive these as gifts without a clue as to how to care for them.  While intentions may always be good, they are often simply set aside and forgotten.  It may be that everyone in the household takes a vacation and you notice upon returning that your tree doesn’t look good.  You think maybe it is dead.  The first thing you do is give it a huge drink of water and wait and see what happens.  While this is the most common approach, it is not the best.  I will offer a few suggestions here that should help you revive your tree; if it is not DEAD!
Image Credits: Boon Manakitivipart

Add life by Repotting

It is recommended by most that a bonsai should be repotted about every two years with early spring being the best time.  However, anytime is good in an emergency situation when you all of a sudden notice that your tree looks like it may be dying.   The first thing I recommend is to remove the tree from its pot and examine the roots.   If the roots appear compacted and appear to have taken on the shape of the pot, you should wash all remaining soil away and gently comb so as to get them untangled.  You should cut off from one half to one third of the total root system.  Be sure to leave some short fibrous looking roots.  Now you are ready to repot.
If you don’t have a supply of commercial bonsai soil on hand, here’s a quick substitute that may be more readily available.  This will be a three equal part mixture of good quality potting soil, common sand and chicken grit.  The potting soil will give your tree some extra moisture retention while the sand and grit will provide sufficient drainage while the tree recovers.  As soon as the tree looks good and healthy repot again in a good quality bonsai soil mix.  If not available locally I recommend you purchase from BonsaiBoy.

Another recommendation to help heal a dying bonsai is to place it outside if the weather is going to be no lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit put it where it will receive a minimum of 4 hours sunlight each day.  This should be done immediately after re-potting as explained above.  Keep a daily watch on your tree to make certain the soil don’t become dry.  Your soil should not feel like it is waterlogged, but should always feel damp to the touch.  The surface is not a good indication of moisture content.  The first 1/8 inch of top soil will most often appear dry.  Stick your finger in the soil to check for dampness underneath.

If you had to do root pruning you should trim or prune back some branches also.  This will allow the bonsai to grow new branches and get a new lease on life.

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