I recently bought a young gingko biloba (maidenhair) bonsai from a nursery that looked healthy two weeks ago. I brought it home and have since watered it twice. I put it outside in the day and it gets 1 hour of full sun but is in the shade for the rest of the day.

Since I bought it, the lower leaves have started browning in a weird way that starts from the middle. So far it has effected one leaf very badly and some other leaves are displaying brown spots.

I'm guessing the problem is that I'm overwatering it, but I wanted to make sure I'm not overlooking a larger issue.

I've included a picture of the badly affected leaf and the whole ginkgo!

Any advice would be appreciated!

Full ginkgo Ginkgo leaf

  • When was the last time this little tree had a balanced fertilizer? I hope that you are using potting soil and nothing else in that bonsai pot? To water Bonsai, one takes the entire pot and dunks it in a bucket of water. Allow the bubbles to subside. Depending on the age of the bonsai this is done almost daily. Have you root pruned yet? Looks like it is more than ready for terminal bud pruning. Definitely needs a bit of a balanced fertilizer and put on a program of fertilizing. Bonsai are the most artificial of all our 'plants'. Every little thing it needs has to come from us.
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 8, 2018 at 3:26
  • Once per week watering is too little. You really need to ask those store employees what this plant was fertilized with and when. When it was last root pruned and ask stuff like, "what do you think the goal for this bonsai is...for form"? A bonsai is more delicate than bringing home a new pet. Far more exacting. Water at least every other day...feel the heft of the pot after soaking. Check the heft the next day. You'll be able to tell right away by the difference in weight. I would use boring old Osmocote 14-14-14, 1/3 their directions if you've never used any fertilizer.
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 8, 2018 at 3:32
  • The store should most certainly tell you exactly what to use and how much.
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 8, 2018 at 3:33
  • you say you put it outside during the day; that suggests you don't leave it out overnight, is that the case?
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 8, 2018 at 10:42
  • @stormy I spoke to the nursery that I got the gingko from and from my description they thought my bonsai was getting scorched since it has been particularly hot in my area (+80F). I was actually surprised when I asked about fertilizer and they said they hadn't used fertilizer. I don't think fertilizer is the issue since I only had it for a little over a week and the leaves started to look brown. In any case, I did fertilize it with fish emulsion once I heard that they hadn't fertilized it at all. I also haven't root pruned it yet, but the trunk was a little wobbly when I got it. Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 20:43

1 Answer 1


This particular tree is an outdoor bonsai, not indoor, so outside is where it needs to be all the time. The only exception is during winter, if you have very cold winters, when it should be removed to somewhere it will be protected to a degree, such as a cold greenhouse, because it requires the dormancy induced by a cold period in winter anyway to remain healthy.

Because it's young and fairly small, it should not be exposed to full sunlight in the middle of the day - dappled shade or shade between the hours of roughly 11.30 through till 3 is advisable, otherwise, sun exposure is fine. It might well be sun exposure that has caused the problem you're seeing - these trees rarely suffer from pests or diseases. It should be fertilised a couple of times a month during the growing season with a balanced fertiliser (NPK equal). Further information here https://www.bonsaioutlet.com/ginkgo-biloba-care/

  • These are street trees in Toronto, Canada. IOW, they are quite cold hardy, but like any other potted plant, the roots need some protection from cold to emulate them being in the ground. Things like piling bark chips over and around the pot generally works.
    – user13580
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 22:25
  • You have good advice here in this answer (and I thought Bamboo was not into bonsai!). To add to this, some plants (especially bonsai) are sensitive when they are moved. They have to adjust to the new habitat (your garden), while it was adjusted to the nursery's environment. This stress can also be the cause of shedding some leaves.
    – benn
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 9:17
  • @b.nota - your thought is right, I am not into bonsai - but I do know about plants and the basics. My dislike of bonsai is purely personal, based on a perception that the plant, this living thing, is being not only rigidly contained, but twisted, tortured, effectively; although I can appreciate some are aesthetically pleasing... I feel the same about overbred dogs!
    – Bamboo
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 9:39
  • I second that, about the dogs!
    – benn
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 10:28

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