Ask Dr. Phipps: The Bonsai Blues
Q: I purchased a bonsai a month ago (the leaves are two shades of green) and the leaves have been browning and falling consistently. I purchased a tray with pebbles to place underneath the bonsai to keep the humidity around it and water about once a week. I don’t know why it seems to be dying so quickly. It sits by a window all day. Can you assist? Is it totally dead?
A: Unfortunately, I don’t think that your bonsai will come back from this. The bonsai that you have is a serissa. It is a very common plant used in bonsai but, it’s one of the most challenging plants to keep alive as a bonsai. They won’t make it through our winters and they generally won’t do well indoors, either, regardless of your efforts. I would recommend you try easier plants to bonsai such as ficus or schefflera for indoors or pines or juniper for outdoors.
If you want to try another bonsai in the future it may be beneficial to visit the Pittsburgh Bonsai Society webpage and maybe attend a meeting. Members are knowledgeable and usually very keen to share what they know with newbies. Or attend a bonsai class offered by Phipps. This fall there are beginner bonsai classes with juniper plants.