The 7 Biggest Warning Signs Of An Unhealthy Bonsai
Just like pets and children, Bonsai trees are susceptible to disease and a range of other health problems. Unfortunately, unlike pets or children, Bonsai don't really have a good way of communicating these problems. So one of the big challenges of Bonsai ownership is knowing your tree well enough to recognize when it's having trouble.
The good news is that if you're observant and check up on your Bonsai every day, you can almost always spot problems long before they become truly threatening to the tree. So, if you're a Bonsai beginner, we've compiled a quick guide to some of the biggest indicators your tree has health issues.
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1 - Yellowed or wilting leaves
Wilted or yellowing leaves are sort of the Bonsai equivalent of a runny nose, and one of the most frequent signs of health problems. The most common cause is over-watering, but it can also come from some diseases, under-watering, or overexposure to sunlight.
2 - Visible spots on the leaves
The appearance of spots - usually red, brown, or black - on your tree's leaves almost always means a fungal infection. This should be treated ASAP! Any affected leaves must be pruned, and it's a good idea to treat your tree with an anti-fungal medication from a gardening store.
3 - Ragged leaf edges
If your leaves are ragged around the edges, or look like something's taking a bit out of them... that's exactly what's happening. Infestations like aphids or spider mites can quickly take their toll on a tree. Often, gently bathing the leaves and trunk in soapy water while removing any visible bugs will kill off the infestation. Otherwise, you'll need pesticides.
4 - A loose or "wiggling" tree
A healthy Bonsai will cling tightly to its soil and remain firmly in place when you try to move the trunk. If it's moves around freely, that indicates poor root growth, and bad roots can suffocate a tree. Over-watering is a common cause here. If not, try adding Bonsai fertilizer to the soil.
5 - Drooping or wilted branches
Generally, poor branches are the result of poor nutrition or mineral-poor soil. Often, a round of FRIT mineral supplements will perk the branches back up. Other health problems such as mold or mildew can also cause this, so be prepared to look for a fungicide if the minerals don't help.
6 - Swollen Bark
Bonsai can get cankers and other "under the skin" diseases too, and it's especially common if the tree hasn't properly healed after a trimming. All you can do here is cut away the infected part of the trunk or branches, and then use cut paste to encourage healthy healing.
7 - Off-season loss of leaves or needles
If your Bonsai is losing its leaves in the wrong season, that's almost always a sign of a mold or fungal infection. Once again, a round of fungicide is your only option here for saving the tree. Be sure to act quickly, as such infections can spread quickly, or even leap from one Bonsai onto other nearby plants.
A Bonsai Is A Gift For Life
The good news here is that most Bonsai, especially those cultivated specifically for Bonsai use, are extremely hardy and unlikely to get sick too often. Again, over-watering or too much sun are the most common problems, and those are easily avoided. And when it's properly cared for, a Bonsai tree can easily outlive its owner!