How do I know when my Bonsai tree is dead?
December 11, 2006 7:56 PM   Subscribe

How do I know when my Bonsai tree is dead?

I've had a Bonsai tree for about a year now. I'm not sure how old it is but it's around 6 inches tall and 8 inches wide. I have a knack for killing plants (not on purpose) and I've failed to water this for around 2-3 months now.

My wife is positive it's dead...and I'm not so positive. Yes, it has a tinge of yellow to it, but there's also a good bit of green (albeit a faded green). there a definitive way to know when my little tree is gone to Bonsai heaven?
posted by JPigford to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can cut off one of the branches. If there's sap or a ring of green, live tissue then your bonsai is probably still alive. You'll have to do this on a larger branch, most likely, or the trunk.
posted by lekvar at 8:10 PM on December 11, 2006

The obligatory Wikipedia link.

And please don't follow lekvar's advice; I think he was kidding.
posted by davy at 8:23 PM on December 11, 2006

Ah! Don't cut it unless it is a branch that needs pruning for artistic reasons! That branch could be dead and become a feature. Cutting it to the ground and finding there's some life in the stump is not helpful.

Water it. If it doesn't revive, it's probably dead. If it doesn't change in a week or two, it's dead. Do you have a pic? Try gently bending some of the branches. Live branches are pliant, usually, if only near the growing tips. If they are crispy -- dead.

Still, if it's that tiny and it's been indoors now with the heat on -- probably dead. These things need watering at least weekly when they are that small, I'd estimate. I've had a few.
posted by Listener at 8:27 PM on December 11, 2006

we need pics
posted by spork at 8:31 PM on December 11, 2006

Most Bonsai purchased from the mall are junipers, and are meant to live outdoors, though they never tell you that. There are indoor houseplant-bonsai, but they're usually ficus or similar. Without water, they'd lose all their leaves; you'd know for sure. Has yours been outdoors?

After 2-3 months without water, it's probably dead, but you never know. Some species may be able to live through that kind of drought. You should post a photo. My husband is into Bonsai and I garden; post a picture and between us we may be able to tell.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 8:32 PM on December 11, 2006

Take a fingernail, knife blade, or whatever, and scrape a small bark off the trunk or a larger branch. Green? Alive. Greyish? Not so much. That's step one. Then you can start making decisions about how to get the thing back. You haven't mentioned the species--tropical? Ficus? Hardwood? Zelkova? That makes a huge difference.

Please feel free to contact me via email if you wish.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 8:33 PM on December 11, 2006

There are deciduous tree bonsai. What kind of tree is yours?
posted by Pollomacho at 8:49 PM on December 11, 2006

Nope, I'm not kidding at all. Scraping bark and removing limbs is a pretty common technique in bonsai. Bonsai is essentially torturing trees aesthetically.
posted by lekvar at 10:52 PM on December 11, 2006

No water for 2-3 months? It's dead. Bonsai need careful and consistent watering due to their proportionally smaller root system existing in a shallow pot.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:13 AM on December 12, 2006

Listen to oneirodynia. Without regular watering bonsai die quickly. I've killed them in a matter of days. I am fortunate to have a couple that I've had for several years now, mainly because they stay outside and the sprinklers are automatic.
posted by wsg at 10:37 AM on December 12, 2006

« Older Kvas?   |   Help my find my favourite shirt Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.