Do Bonsai Trees Need a Lots of Sunlight?

  • By: Josh Koop
  • Date: August 24, 2021
  • Time to read: 6 min.
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The misconception most people have about bonsai trees is that, since they are miniature versions of trees they do not need much sunlight. But a bonsai tree will weaken, wither away and die if they do not get their required amount of sunlight.

Most bonsai trees need at least 5 to 6 hours of direct or partial sunlight depending on its species. Whether your bonsai tree needs a lot of sunlight or not depends on the type of tree. Temperate bonsai trees need a lot of sunlight compared to tropical or subtropical bonsai trees. 

There is more to the question “Do bonsai trees need a lot of sunlight?”. So, I highly recommend you to read on and find out how to properly provide light to your bonsai tree. 

How Much Sun Does a Bonsai Tree Need?

The amount of sunlight a bonsai needs depends on whether it is an outdoor or indoor bonsai tree. But most bonsai trees on an average require 5 to 6 hours direct or indirect sunlight daily.

Other than exceptional cases like right after extensive trimming or repotting, your bonsai tree will need proper sunlight daily. 

Outdoor bonsai trees need to be exposed to all the seasonal changes for it to survive. They need direct sunlight daily for 5 to 6 hours daily. 

 Some outdoor bonsai trees may even need more or less direct sunlight. For example, Juniper bonsai trees need direct sunlight to grow.

Again, Pomegranate and Japanese Maple bonsai trees although outdoor bonsai trees, it prefers partial sunlight over direct sunlight.

Bonsai tree over 100 years old at the Sun Yat Sen classical garden - post about Do Bonsai Trees Need a Lots of Sunlight
Bonsai tree over 100 years old at the Sun Yat Sen classical garden

Temperate bonsai trees are usually outdoor trees. Because they have dormancy periods which are triggered by temperature and season changes. In summer they soak up sunlight and in winter they are in dormancy. 

Tropical bonsai trees are indoor trees. Hence they do not like direct sunlight. But they should be provided with indirect sunlight. 

 If bonsai trees are kept in window sills or shaded balconies, they might even require 16 hours of sunlight. Hence, the location and way you place your bonsai tree are crucial for proper light provisions. 

Can Bonsai Trees Survive Without Sunlight?

Bonsai trees although a dwarfed version of larger trees, they are still the same. They do not get their miniature form through genetics. What makes the bonsai tree small is a pruning and wiring technique.

So, like its larger counterpart, a bonsai tree cannot survive without sunlight. Whether direct or partial, a bonsai tree must get its daily dose of ultraviolet rays. Now, how much sunlight a bonsai needs for survival varies from species to species and its placement. 

Where to Place my Bonsai Tree?

Outdoor and indoor bonsai trees have different light requirements. Hence their location and placing are different. Whatever the differences, it must be ensured that they have access to ample light according to their requirements. 

Depending on the climate in your place, you need to place your outdoor bonsai tree accordingly. But most outdoor bonsai trees need to be placed in a sunny and bright place. During hot summers a shade should be placed over them in afternoons. 

Some indoor bonsai plants can flourish in direct sunlight during the summer. But most of them should be kept indoors. Indoor bonsai trees need to be placed on a window sill or veranda where it can get enough sunlight.

 South-facing windows provide enough sunlight to indoor bonsai trees. But a combination of east, west and southern light exposure is best. 

If the window is north facing, the bonsai tree will need 16 hours of indirect sunlight along with artificial lighting. Keep the artificial light 2 inches above the tree. 

The closer the indoor bonsai tree to the window, the better. The tree must not be placed a foot away from the window. If you place it even a little distance away from the window, you will need to increase the artificial lights. 

LED grow lights or full spectrum fluorescent lights provide the light requirements of subtropical or tropical bonsai trees.

They provide the natural range of UV rays that bonsai trees need. You should not use incandescent light because they can burn the leaves of your bonsai.

Which Bonsai Trees Can Survive with Less Sunlight?

Subtropical or tropical bonsai trees survive in low or artificial lights. Although tropical bonsai trees need a lot of light exposure, they can thrive in an indoor environment. Because tropical bonsai trees do not thrive well in low temperatures and low humidity. 

If you live in a place where the season changes often, you should opt for indoor tropical bonsai trees. Here are some bonsai trees that can survive indoors with a minimum about of sun exposure,

Ficus Bonsai Tree (Ficus Retusa and Ficus Ginseng) 

 If you are a beginner in the art of bonsai, you should get the ficus bonsai. This bonsai tree is in demand amongst indoor bonsai tree owners. Because ficus bonsais don’t require too much heat or humidity to flourish. 

What makes ficus bonsai trees perfect for indoors is that they do like direct sunshine. But if you get one, do not keep it in a shady spot. Make sure it gets ample amount of light exposure. 

The most common Ficus Bonsai trees are Ficus Retus and Ficus Ginseng. The Willow leaf, Tiger bark, Micocarpa and Golden Gate are other types of ficus bonsai trees that thrive well indoors. 

Sweet Plum or Snow Rose Bonsai Tree

 Sweet Plum trees as indoor bonsais need reliable artificial lights. The snow-like white flower of this tree blooms in summer. Hence if the tree is kept indoors, it needs more light exposure than a sunny windowsill can offer. 

Although sweet plum bonsai trees can thrive outdoors in the summer, they cannot tolerate intense sunlight. It is better to keep them indoors all year round. 

Jade Bonsai Tree

The jade bonsai tree can thrive both outdoors and indoors. In warm weather, the jade flourishes under the sun. It does not mind direct sunlight either.

 If you want to grow jade bonsai trees all year round, you need reliable sources of light. Make sure the temperature does not get below 41°F.  

Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai Tree

The Hawaiian Umbrella or Dwarf Umbrella bonsai tree is perfect for indoors. It can thrive in dim or low light. 

You will not need to invest in any artificial lights for it to flourish. But if you do not have a sunny windowsill to place your bonsai on, you might need some artificial lights to make up for it. But the light intensity does not need to be high.  

Despite being a tropical tree, the Hawaiian umbrella does not need high levels of humidity or plentiful direct sunlight. Make sure the temperature does not drop below 50°F. 

Since the Hawaiian Umbrella can tolerate low levels of humidity and light, they are perfect for beginners who are looking for indoor bonsai trees. 

Carmona Bonsai Tree (Fukien Tea)

Although hailing from China, Fukien tea is grown in different parts of the world now due to its popularity. This type of bonsai is great for indoors because it does not like direct sunlight and is highly sensitive to cold. 

You should place your Carmona bonsai tree on a sunny window sill. But the window should not be opened. Again, the Carmona can tolerate direct sunlight in the summer. But it must be kept away from direct sunlight at noon or afternoon when the sun is at its peak. 

Final Thoughts on Do Bonsai Trees Need a Lots of Sunlight

Hopefully you have gained a better understanding of the sunlight needs for your bonsai tree or know better the type of bonsai you will now plan to purchase.

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Check them out the next time you are searching for a bonsai tree and I know you will not be let down, if you are looking for your kids as a gift and worry about them killing it you can always check on Amazon.

Here are some of my favorite Bonsai Items

Thanks for reading this article, I have a few items I love to use with my bonsai tree care and wanted to share the best options for the core needs for the new bonsai enthusiast!

Best Bonsai For a Beginner – Most of what you find online are starter plants where they are going to be difficult to start and grow successfully. Most beginners like to have a starter plant to work from. I highly suggest looking at Bonsai Boy directly (more options and good prices), or you can look at their inventory from Amazon.

Best Bonsai Tool SetTianBonsai makes the best quality tools for simple bonsai work, if you want tools that will last you they won’t come cheap, make the right investment the first time with these beginner tools on Amazon!

Best Bonsai PotBonsai Boy’s Beige Ceramic Bonsai Pot – The team at Bonsai Boy operates out of New York and has been perfecting bonsai in the US for over 50 years, there is a reason I love and share them, if you want to order directly from Bonsai Boy then click here, or click here to order through Amazon.