February 8, 2022

bonsai tree by sea

Can Bonsai Trees Survive Near The Sea?

Bonsai trees that are close to the sea can be impacted by salt in the air and water. If you live near the ocean, or your bonsai tree is located close to it, there are a few things you need to know in order to protect your tree.

Salt can cause damage to leaves and roots, so it’s important to take steps to prevent this from happening. In this blog post, we will discuss ways to protect your bonsai tree from salt damage, and how to care for it if it has already been affected.

How does salt spray affect your bonsai tree?

Salt spray will affect your bonsai tree if its leaves are exposed to it, particularly the younger leaves at the end of branches.

When salt is absorbed by plant tissues, especially young ones, tissue death can occur .

The damage you see on affected leaves may resemble signs of drought damage , like brown spots with yellow halos.

However, the damage caused by salt is permanent. The affected tissue will not recover even if you water your bonsai tree more often. In fact, excessive watering can make the damage worse.

Salt spray causes a variety of other symptoms that resemble those from drought or nutrient deficiencies.

These include chlorosis (yellowing), stunted growth, leaf drop, and tip die-back.

What causes salt damage?

Salt spray is a common coastal hazard that can affect bonsai trees that are exposed to it.

However, the actual accumulation of salt on the leaves is usually caused by naturally occurring salts in water or soil around your bonsai tree.

In coastal areas, the soil and water near the ocean contain a high amount of salt.

This is caused by a process called “desalination,” in which water from the ocean evaporates leaving behind its salt content.

Soils near or below sea level have a much higher salt content than soils above sea level.

Therefore, bonsai trees that are planted too close to the sea can be at risk for salt damage.

How can you prevent salt damage?

There are several steps you can take to protect your bonsai tree from salt.

If possible, move your bonsai tree further inland away from the ocean spray zone . If this isn’t an option, prune and remove the leaves and branches that may be in contact with it.

You can also cover your bonsai tree with a protective sheet.

To make a protective sheet, cut a piece of landscaping fabric to the right size and place it over your bonsai tree when you know that salt levels in the air will be high.

Make sure the material is secured well so it doesn’t move.

Another option (and one that’s less expensive than buying landscape fabric) is to use a tarp or plastic sheeting . This will need to be replaced every time the wind blows it away, which might be several times per day.

If you live near the ocean and can’t move your bonsai tree, there are a few other steps you can take to prevent salt damage .

  • First, make sure your bonsai pot has adequate drainage so water and salt don’t build up around the roots. Use a well-draining soil mix , and repot your bonsai tree every year or two so the roots aren’t kept in saturated soil for too long.
  • Don’t water your bonsai tree more than necessary, especially during hot or windy weather .
  • Make sure it is getting enough sunlight , and fertilize it accordingly so growth isn’t stunted.
  • Finally, keep the leaves of your bonsai tree pruned to prevent salt damage.

How can you care for your bonsai tree if it has been affected by salt?

If you discover that your bonsai tree has some salt damage, there are a few steps you can take.

  • The first is to reduce the amount of water and fertilizer you give the plant.
  • Next, flush out any salt build up around the roots with clean, fresh water. This helps remove the salt and reduces its effects on the plant.
  • Finally, prune away dead or damaged branches at their base, and remove any brown leaves.

If you follow these steps when caring for your bonsai tree that has been affected by salt, it should recover in 1-2 months.

If you can’t see any improvement, or if your bonsai tree doesn’t recover in six months, it may be time to say goodbye to the plant.

What types of bonsai trees are better suited to a seaside location?

If you live near or below sea level, there are certain species of bonsai trees that might be better suited to your region:

Junipers, boxwoods , and elms can tolerate salt spray.

Elm bonsai trees need to be watered well in the summer to prevent them from drying out too quickly.

Boxwoods do best in warmer climates with full sun exposure.

Junipers can handle less water and prefer well-draining soil, but they are typically hardier trees that can adapt to a variety of climates .

If you’d like a bonsai tree that is more likely to survive the salty air near the sea, consider one of these bonsai trees:

The Japanese white pine is a good choice for those who live near or below sea level, and especially so if you live in an area with salty air.  It can survive at altitude and loves full sun exposure.

The Scots pine is another tree that tolerates both hot and cold climates, which makes it a good choice for those who live near or below sea level. It also tolerates a variety of soil types and prefers a sunny location.

The Chinese juniper is a relatively hearty tree that can tolerate light wind and salt spray. It’s an evergreen with green to blue needles, and it’s a popular species for bonsai enthusiasts when it’s trained to look like a full tree.

The Japanese black pine is an evergreen tree that tolerates wind, salt spray, and poor soil. It produces dark green foliage on stark branches, which makes it perfect for shohin bonsai trees.


The answer to this question is yes. Bonsai trees, like any other plant, can grow close to the sea as long as they are given enough water and nutrients.

If you want your bonsai tree to thrive in a saltwater environment or on damp ground near the ocean, try planting it with some sand underneath its roots so that the soil doesn’t become too wet.

Read more about bonsai tree care here

About the author 

Greg Reed

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