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Deciduous Bonsai

When you think of a bonsai tree, the image that pops into your head is likely a deciduous bonsai tree. Deciduous bonsai are some of the most beautiful bonsai trees available, and they are easy to care for as well. These trees shed their leaves in the winter, grow outdoors, and go dormant in the winter. In this article, we will discuss the most popular deciduous bonsai species and how to care for these trees.

Popular Deciduous Bonsai Species

There are hundreds of different kinds of deciduous trees that you can bonsai. Apricots, maples, elms, and ginkgos are the most popular kinds of trees.

Not only is the apricot tree beautiful, it also bears edible fruit. These trees can grow to be about seventeen inches tall, but with pruning and wiring, they can be much smaller. Your apricot bonsai will flower in the winter and ripe fruit will grow in the summer. 

Maple bonsai are not only popular deciduous trees, they are also commonly grown by those who are new to bonsai. Common maple species include Japanese maple and Trident maple. Their beautiful leaves fluctuate between red and gold throughout the year. 

Trees in the elm family are some of the most popular bonsai trees among beginners and experts alike. The Chinese Elm is the most popular elm bonsai species. These trees are very forgiving and can be kept indoors or outdoors, depending on your climate. When kept indoors, they will keep their leaves, but when housed outdoors, they are truly deciduous.

How to Care for Deciduous Bonsai

Bonsai growing is an amazing art that anyone can do. Caring for deciduous bonsai is not hard at all! These trees should be placed outdoors all year long and moved to a greenhouse if temperatures fall especially low in the winter. Water as necessary when the soil gets a little dry. Feed throughout the growth season. Pruning can be done throughout the growth season as necessary, and wiring should be done before the leaves grow back in the spring.

Indoor or Outdoor?

Deciduous bonsai are outdoor trees. They need lots of light from spring to autumn. Some prefer to be in partial sunlight in the afternoons of the hottest days of the summer. Bonsai are often brought indoors for decoration when guests are over. You may do this for only a few days before putting the tree back outside. 

Since they are outdoor species, deciduous bonsai need to go dormant in the winter to survive and prepare for growth in the spring. In the winter, move your tree to a cold environment like a garage or a greenhouse. Winters need to be cold enough so that they can go into dormancy but not so cold that they are exposed to frost. Keep the tree out of light during this time.


Watering your bonsai is a crucial practice that should be done carefully. Some of the biggest deciduous bonsai killers are over- and under-watering. Let the soil dry out slightly, but not all the way, in between watering. Trees that are placed in direct sun will likely need to be watered more than those that are placed in partial shade. 

Water until the water starts to drip out of the drainage holes at the bottom or side of the container in which your bonsai is planted. Water again after 10 minutes so that the roots are thoroughly soaked. Rain water works best, but safe tap water will work just fine.


Bonsai trees need to be fed because they are planted in shallow containers that limit their nutrient intake. Feed your tree with a solid fertilizer every month or a liquid fertilizer about every week. Each fertilizer brand is a bit different, so be sure you read the directions. 

Some experts recommend feeding with a balanced fertilizer, but fertilizing with different nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium ratios is another option. In the spring, use a fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content; in the summer, use a balanced fertilizer; and in the fall, feed with a low nitrogen content fertilizer. Do not use any fertilizer in the winter; your bonsai will not be growing until spring.

Training Techniques

Important aspects of bonsai growing include pruning and wiring. Deciduous bonsai need their leaves pruned from March to September. Pinch or cut away any overgrown leaves. Pruning can also reduce the size of the leaves. Aggressive structural pruning should be done just before the tree goes into dormancy or right after. 

Wiring is another technique that helps create the style and shape you wish to create. By using wire, you are able to bend branches. Do this with copper or aluminum wire in the wintertime, just before leaves grow back.

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