How To Grow Japanese Elm Bonsai (Zelkova Serrata) in 2023 | Easy Way

Japanese Elm bonsai plants are popular as they are reluctant to commit numerous morbid diseases which usually attack other species. This is a deciduous tree creating branches extensively in a pleasant way. Japanese zelkova is mostly local to Japan and Eastern China and Taiwan. The botanical name of Japanese zelkova is Zelkova serrata.

The green leaves of zelkova in spring convey a sweet smell consistently due to gelid and raw weather. But it disappears when the leaves change their color in summer and autumn. 

What is Japanese Elm

Japanese Elm belongs to the kingdom of Plantae. Its order is Rosales and belongs to the genus of Zelkova. Zelkova Serrata is also known as Keyaki.

Usually, the height of the Japanese Elm is 30 meters, which is medium-sized in nature. The leaves of this tree are 5 cm in length and 4 cm in width containing 8-14 pairs of veins. Japanese elm usually grows 40 feet tall at maturity having 30 feet of spread. It has a growth rate of 8 to 12 inches per year. It seems that Japanese Elm is often contradictory to Ulmus Parvifolia (Chinese elm) as they possess many similarities. As such they have similarities in their leaves but Ulmus Parvifolia is very rare and costly too.

How to grow Japanese Elm Bonsai

Japanese elm bonsai
Japanese elm bonsai


As this tree is highly counteractive in cultivation so it can be both indoors and outdoors. 


It needs maximum sunlight to grow outside to receive the bright sun of early morning and the windy and pleasant sunshine of the afternoon. But if it comes in contact with intense noon sunlight, then leaf burn is supposed to occur. As it is a deciduous tree it tends to shed leaves in winter. Then by the following spring, it starts budding again. 


This species can smoothly adjust indoors too. We maintain a moderate temperature and humidity in our rooms which is convenient for them to adjust. However, as they are more prone to sunlight so never forget to place them under bright sunlight and the place where optimum light falls.

During spring it remains contained with the maximum amount of sap. And in spring it is convenient to put them under sunlight (outdoors) for their fresh and lively growth. We suggest putting them back indoors in summer as the intensity of sunlight increases and has a possibility of having a bad impact. 

Soil and repotting

A potting mixture of gritty, loose, friable, and loamy soil works the best for this tree. The inclusion of Fuji grit works magically for its growth. You can certainly use normal potting soil in planting bonsai trees. No exceptional soil is needed apart from the ordinary ingredients.

Its advanced growth is tender and the young leaves are to be re-potted during spring. We suggest not to use any fertilizers if the plant starts shedding its leaves. It is imperative to use solid ground or dry soil and not to squeeze the soil. Rather the soil is gently settled by going in and out to the container.

When repotting is completed, the tree needs to be watered plenty directly until the layer gets well immersed. The leftover water needs to be drawn off or else the bonsai roots will deteriorate resulting in death.


Japanese elm bonsai is to be watered in regular terms just like other plants. It needs to be watered very often to assure that the soil never becomes dull or dry in summer. Their watering timetable also depends on the weather patterns and also the width of the container where it is planted.

In hot and humid weather it is better to water twice a day to keep the soil hydrated and clammy. In the same way, limited water is to be poured in winter but the soil should remain fertile.


As Japanese Elm bonsai is a rapidly growing species so it needs to be enriched with fertilizers periodically. The amount and the types of fertilizers used in this species are changed from one season to another.

Like in summer, it is recommended to use (N4-P5-K1) or (N4-P6-K3). While in spring (N5-P4-K1) and balanced fertilizers are to be used.


By this procedure, you can exquisitely trim the unexpected, needless branches and form delineation of the bonsai. Out of the three different types of pruning they are done in different stages and in different cycles of the bonsai. Such as when the bonsai starts to grow it develops different branches and we trim some branches allowing it to grow in a graceful manner.

You should do this structural pruning in spring. Again when it completely takes the shape of a tree then we trim it to design its shape and size. That is known as maintenance pruning which can be done in summer, spring as well as in autumn as its trimming is quite trivial. 


Among all seasons spring is the most convenient time for grafting your bonsai as it is just then before shooting up. It has to make sure that the tree is retrieved effortlessly and effectively. Transplant of a bonsai can usually be done after every 2-3 years depending on the surface on which bonsai is.

Blight and disease care

Bonsai can normally suffer from different disorders or diseases. Some of them are:


Due to deficiency of iron Chlorosis happens. Usually, the leaves of bonsai turn yellow due to the deficiency of iron in the plant body. This is to be treated with Ferrobonsal.

Twig and Tip blight:

This is a fungal infection that occurs when needlessly turn brown and shed from the plant or fresh and newish shoots die. This usually happens because of torrid weather and poor drainage. 

Red spider:

This is an ordinary pest for both indoor and outdoor bonsai. There are many species of red spider and are different in color as such, yellow, orange, or even green. After becoming mature within three weeks these red spider mites start weaving webs on the bonsai.  

Root Aphids:

These aphids end up devouring the roots of bonsai making less nutrition attain to the branches and ultimately leading it to death.

The anthracnose:

This is also a fungal disease. This ends up making the leaves and branches spoil. The cause of this disorder is not enough sunlight reaching the species.  Cupric fungicide is the prevention of this.

What Is Hydroponics Gardening System? 


Summer is considered the most convenient period for this step. However, this can be done during any time of the year. When the bonsai start shedding their leaves then it becomes easier to wire their branches and reform the structure. And now are you wondering when you should remove the wire? Well, the answer is when the branch is slightly inflated and the wire seems to be really close-fitting.

Japanese Elm Bonsai
Japanese Elm Bonsai


Compatible for all forms, shapes, and structures particularly for the broom style. If you want to attain the broom style then you have to make sure that the trunk remains upright and in continuous succession. You have to permit the tree to grow till it ends up reaching its intended thickness. 

It is comparatively easy to take care of Japanese Elm bonsai, nevertheless, the beginners must not look forward to the rapid and spontaneous outcome that they can get easily from other species. For growing an aesthetic and perfectly styled bonsai it may even take a few years but then again it is worth all the endeavor and persistence.

Bonus Tips

At times it is seen that sprouts start developing in untoward places on the branches, sometimes on the stem, and even on the trunk during spring at the time of the budding period. You will need to cut those sprouts from the unwanted places smoothly and carefully. To ensure the maintenance and physical beauty of bonsai the twigs and sprouts are meant to be cut. 

Bonsai fanatics usually face the situation where they see that the roots of the tree come through the surface of the soil. This normally happens when the plants are at a very young and tender stage. The solution to this problem is to subtly cover the exposed roots of the bonsai. In order to develop the root healthy and perfectly it needs to be in the inner side of the soil. 


Japanese Elm is a beautiful tree having upright branches and vase-shaped habit. In younger stages, the color of their interesting bark remains reddish brown and is as flat as a pancake. They are also resistant to Dutch elm disease. 

This is an alluring tree and of course, is well worth planting. Following the steps above you can easily grow Japanese Elm Bonsai conveniently. We assure you that you won’t regret it if you are a bonsai enthusiast.