Care Guide For The Chinese Elm Bonsai Tree

The Chinese elm is native to China and Southeast Asia. In its native environment, it can be a mighty tree, reaching heights of up to 25 meters (80 feet) and a trunk diameter of 1 meter (3 feet).

It develops a branch of thin branches with small leaves, which makes it a very suitable bonsai plant.

Chinese elm is the most popular of the elms for bonsai, although other elms are also suitable for bonsai. The Chinese elm is often confused with the Japanese zelkova.

Mature Chinese elm trees develop a scaly bark with orange spots, while the zelkova bark remains smooth. Chinese elm leaves have a brighter surface and zelkova leaves are generally narrower and more pointed.

Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) also resembles Chinese elm. Native to eastern Siberia, central Asia, Mongolia, and northern China, it has larger leaves with two teeth and develops a deeply wrinkled bark.

Siberian elm is very frost resistant, robust, can tolerate drought better, and is resistant to Dutch elm disease.

Specific Bonsai Care Guidelines for Chinese Elm Bonsai


Chinese elm grows in full sun and/or partial shade. In temperate climates, it can be left outdoors even during the winter months.

If you have an indoor Chinese elm bonsai, you can put it outside during the summer, but it is better to take it outside to a cool but ice-free environment in the winter.

Chinese elm can generally withstand some frost, but it differs depending on the region from which it was imported.

Trees in northern China are more resistant to frost than those in southern areas. Depending on winter temperatures, Chinese elms shed their leaves or keep them until spring, when new shoots appear.


Chinese elm cannot withstand prolonged drought or constant humidity. Wait until the top layer of soil dries and water well, making sure that the entire root mass is watered.


Make sure you provide enough fertilizer to nourish your Chinese elm throughout the growing season. No need to use fancy fertilizers.

A combination of solid organic fertilizer and a well-balanced liquid chemical fertilizer works very well. Fertilization is not needed during cold winters when the elm is dormant.


Chinese elm thickens quickly and requires frequent trimming to produce a dense network of fine branches. Allow the bud to spread 3-4 knots before pruning it back to 1-2 leaves.

The tree sprouts well from old wood after heavy pruning. The best time to prune the largest branches is in late fall.

Chinese elm is ideal for modeling with standard wiring and wire support techniques.


Chinese elm trees should be transplanted every two years when they are young. As they age and grow, they can be replanted at longer intervals.

No matter the age, the best time to replant is during the spring. Elm roots tend to grow crooked and tangled, so it is important that pruning is done with care and precision to create a good nebari.

You have no special soil requirements, but it is best to select soil with good drainage. A standard soil mix will suffice.


We recommend using cuttings to propagate Chinese elm bonsai. It's easy and you rarely have problems. Seed propagation is, of course, possible but not recommended.

Pests and Diseases

Chinese elm is often infested with mites or scales when humidity is low. Appropriate pesticides should be used, and frequent spraying with water helps deter pests and diseases.

Spraying with dilute lime-sulfur or systemic pesticides can cause Chinese elm to lose all of its leaves, so avoid these products.

We hope you enjoy this video about the Chinese Elm bonsai tree:

Source: Bonsái Empire

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