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Do Bonsai Trees Go Dormant? (And How to Know)

Bonsai trees are different from other trees in many ways, namely their unique size and structure. 

Despite these differences, though, bonsai trees are still trees, and you can expect them to behave in similar ways. 

Knowing this, you may ask yourself, “do bonsai trees go dormant?”

Yes, Bonsai trees do go dormant. 

This dormancy period typically sets in during the winter months and lasts until spring, like any other tree. 

Dormancy is essential for a bonsai, and successfully bringing your tree in and out of dormancy is key to its health. 

In this article, we’ll explain when bonsais go dormant and how to care for your tree before, during, and after this stage. 

When Do Bonsai Trees Go Dormant?

Bonsai trees go dormant during the cold winter months and stay dormant until the spring. 

And even if you live in a climate without a cold winter, it is still crucial to winterize your bonsai to allow for a dormancy period. 

Without a dormancy period, your bonsai will not do well and could die. 

Winterizing and Dormancy Care

To winterize your bonsai, you need to: 

  • Protect your bonsai from freezing temperature by partially burying it or covering it with mulch. Roots are sensitive to cold, so you want to keep these protected.
  • Place your bonsai in a sheltered area, such as a shed or beneath a deck, to avoid snowfall and ice formation. 

You should also adhere to the following advice while your bonsai is dormant: 

  • Do not water your bonsai at freezing temperatures – this could be fatal
  • Water your bonsai periodically when the air is dry and the temperature exceeds 50F (10C)
  • Do not fertilize your bonsai during the dormancy period
  • Do not re-pot or re-plant your bonsai during the dormancy period – wait until spring

How Do I Bring My Bonsai Out of Dormancy?

In the spring, you can slowly bring your bonsai out of the dormant phase. 

You should begin by exposing your bonsai to the sun in slightly shaded areas to avoid too much sunlight. 

Then, as the weather warms, you can bring your bonsai further into the sun to induce the growth period.

However, do this slowly, as too much exposure to sun or heat can do more harm than good. 

Additionally, remember that if you need to re-pot or re-plant your bonsai, it’s best to do so in spring, right after dormancy. 

Re-potting during the winter can cause too much stress for your dormant bonsai, so spring is a better option. 

Finally, you can tell your bonsai is out of dormancy and back in its growth phase when buds first appear in the spring. 

How Can I Tell if My Bonsai is Dormant or Dead?

It might be tough to identify the difference between a dormant bonsai and a dead one. 

But, here we have compiled a few ways to tell if your bonsai is dead or dormant:

  • Make small cuts in the bark. If there is a green layer beneath, your bonsai is still alive. If the underlying layer is brown, it’s dead.
  • Check for abnormal roots. If the roots appear discolored (black) or mushy, these roots are infected or dying. Prune these roots with a blade or scissors, being careful not to touch any intact roots. 
  • Look for unusual marks, patterns, or colors on the bark. Strange marks or colors can be due to disease or pests, and if you leave them untreated, they can do serious damage. 
  • Check for brittle leaves and branches. Your bonsai may become a bit more brittle during the winter, but you shouldn’t just ignore it. Follow the particular care instructions for your bonsai regarding watering and fertilizer to keep it healthy and luscious. 
  • Search for lost leaves. If leaves are falling or shrinking, your tree doesn’t have enough energy to maintain itself and is shutting down. Ensure you are properly caring for your tree. 

If you suspect your bonsai is dying, don’t worry. 


Bonsais go dormant during the winter, and there is typically no need to fret. 

However, you should gently check over your bonsai during this period to ensure it has not died.

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