A few years ago (4ish, I think) my girlfriend at the time brought me a small bonsai, a Port Jackson Fig (if I remember right!).

I have managed to keep it going so far. At this point, it is more a "small tree in a pot" than a bonsai. It hasn't really even been shaped, and I enjoy it looking normal.

I'm going to be honest - over the last 5 months it has been left totally unloved. My watering was random, often with large gaps in between and when I did water, it was normally too much water. So now it's looking very sad. It only has about 4 leafs left on it, they look healthy but there are very few!

I'd like to know how to get it back on track. I haven't changed the soil in ages, so I assume that's step one. What next?

Also should a fig bonsai be inside or outside? Full sun or shade? Even through I've had it for 4 years now, I feel like a bad dad and I'm asking for your help with a crash course in bonsai love.

Any help would be amazing. I've had this thing for so long, that I would hate for it to die because of me!

  • A photo (of the fig, not you ;-)) would probably evoke some advice. It's too easy to make bad assumptions without one, and no one wants to indirectly kill your plant.
    – Ed Staub
    Nov 17, 2011 at 21:49
  • good idea, ill grab one short :-)
    – TrewTzu
    Nov 18, 2011 at 0:11

1 Answer 1


Your bonsai is suited to be outside, but where it sits in your yard / balcony depends on your climate. If you've had it inside next to a window etc. you will just as likely kill it by sticking it outside in full sun.

As your bonsai is a tree it prefers sunlight, water and fresh air. If you've ever visited a place with plenty of bonsai you will notice they elevate them on pedestal or on benches so that they can catch the breeze and are in a position where they can get access to regular sun.

The problem with having a plant in sunlight most of the day is you need to have a good watering routine.

If you've had it for 4 years and it is in a small container there is a good chance that it is root bound and the roots need to be trimmed. There is also a good chance the nutrients have been sucked out of the soil. Most nurseries will sell a bonsai potting mix. If you take the plant out of the container and there are way too many roots in there you are going to have to do something about it...

But wait! If your plant is near death, the worst thing you can do right now is go and hack off a third of the roots. What I would do is get a bigger pot, even if it is one of those ugly black plastic things and transplant the poor thing into something where it can recuperate. I wouldn't even remove the remaining dirt from the plant, just tease out the roots and plant it in a larger tub with more dirt, add a little extra dirt on the top layer and add some slow release fertilizer.

At least a year later when your tree has grown a full head of hair then it is time to think about moving it back into a smaller pot. If there is still a problem of too many roots you can, now that it is healthy enough to survive, cut back the roots of the plant so that it has room in the smaller container. Make sure you leave a good mix of feeder roots and established roots and I would suggest not cutting more than a third of the roots.

So the process should be:

  • Get a good bonsai soil mix
  • Get some slow release fertilizer
  • Transplant to a larger tub
  • Move it to a position where it can get enough sunlight and fresh air
  • Leave it for a year to recover
  • Once healthy and you want to move it to a smaller container consider trimming the roots
  • Establish a better feeding / watering / pruning cycle
  • this is a really great awnser! since i had posted this question i had relocated the bonsai to get heaps more full sun (it was in partial sun) and in more of a wind chanel and started rapid watering and it has made a full come back! healthist its looked in ages! im going to keep thing going for another month then heavily trim it back, then after say another month change the soil and cut the roots back. :) thanks.
    – TrewTzu
    Dec 8, 2011 at 1:40
  • @TrewTzu - Thanks, hope it is of some help. Apologies it has be a while since I visited the site last, so took a while to spot your question.
    – going
    Dec 8, 2011 at 1:44

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