How to Care for the Ficus Bonsai Tree

ficus bonsai tree

Introduction To The Ficus Bonsai Tree

Between 800 and 2,000 ficus trees exist in the tropical climates of all continents and are particularly favored as indoor houseplants. Each variety has unique properties, which may include flowers. The weeping fig remains the most popular for the plant’s lush array of dark green leaves and simple care requirements. The banyan varieties boast aerial roots that emanate from the branches and anchor into the potting medium. The tree also has a visually appealing trunk. The Ficus retusa is also popular for the tree’s S-shaped trunk and dark green oval leaves. Although most species have smooth bark, some feature unique bark patterns, which include the Ficus microcarpa. Care must be taken when keeping the plants around pets, as some species have toxic leaves.

Ficus Bonsai Tree scientific names: The most common species include the following:

• Ficus benghalensis-banyan
• Ficus benghalensis-weeping fig
• Ficus carica-common fig
• Ficus microcarpa-Chinese banyan fig
• Ficus neriifolia-willow-leaved fig
• Ficus retusa
• Ficus rubiginosa-Port Jackson fig

How to Care for Ficus Bonsai Trees

Ficus bonsai trees are typically kept indoors unless you live in a predominantly warm climate or enjoy warm summers. In this case, the trees benefit from trips outdoors for some fresh air and sunshine. In fact, they thrive in direct sunshine. Indoors or out, the temperature must never fall below 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius). Although the fig varieties have thicker, waxy leaves that enable the trees to survive in lower humidity, overall the trees prefer high humidity to develop their stunning aerial roots. If exposed to cooler temperatures, the trees may lose some leaves. Should this occur, simply move the tree to a different spot and protect it from drafts.

Watering

The potting medium of ficus bonsai trees should be allowed to dry between waterings. However, the tree should never be dry for extended periods of time. Test the soil by inserting a finger approximately one inch into the medium to determine the moisture content. To water the tree, soak the medium and container in water for approximately 10 minutes. Afterwards, allow the excess moisture to drain from the medium. The hardiness of the plant enables it to tolerate periodic over or under-watering without causing damage. The trees can also be misted on a daily basis in order to maintain the proper humidity. However, excessive moisture can lead to fungal infections. Just remember that the warmer the environment, the more water the tree requires.

Fertilizing

Feed the bonsai once a week or every two weeks during the summer. During winter, the tree only needs fed every two to four weeks. The trees do well using liquid or pelleted fertilizers.

Pruning

You must prune your ficus bonsai regularly in order for the tree to maintain the desired shape. Once the tree has six to eight leaves, prune the growths back to two leaves. Pruning the leaves routinely helps reduce their overall size, as some species produce very large leaves. The Benjamina and Carica varieties of ficus do not bud well unless you leave a few leaves on the tree above the pruned region. In this way, the areas have a sufficient amount of sap to encourage further growth. If desiring to have a thick trunk, allow the tree to grow for one or two years before pruning. Any cuts made after this time will not affect the health of the tree. However, wounds must be covered with cutting paste.

Wiring

The thin to medium sized branches of the ficus are flexible and thus perfect for wiring. However, since the wires can damage the bark, the process must be monitored continually. The rapid growth of the trees may require wiring and rewiring up to five times during a single growing season. After approximately two years, wired branches grow in the desired upward positions.

Special Training Techniques

Ficus trees have the ability to fuse multiple plants together when touching, which creates more visually appealing features. Simply tie multiple young plants together to form a single strong trunk. The trees also respond well to branch and root grafts. Some bonsai enthusiasts take aerial roots from a tree and graft them to a different area. Grafting techniques are also helpful for closing large wounds. Simply graft young roots or shoots across the wound. These characteristics enable ficus growers to use their imagination to create unique looking trees.

Repotting the Ficus Bonsai Tree

Miniature ficus bonsai trees require repotting once every two years. However, the process should be done during the warmest time of year. Some prefer to repot during spring. However, if the tree undergoes a growth spurt that threatens to overtake the container, you can repot the plant without causing undue trauma. Use medium that drains readily. Appropriate growing matter includes coarse sand, diatomite, decomposed granite, fired clay pellets or pumice. You can also use composted tree bark.

After repotting, water the tree thoroughly. Then, keep the tree in a shady area for two or three weeks, which enables the root system to fully develop.

Ficus Bonsai Tree Propagation and Cloning

If you live in a warmer climate, you can take ficus cuttings and plant them any time of year. Otherwise, wait until the middle of summer or the active growing season for a greater degree of success. Merely take a cutting, plant it in soil, water the young plant thoroughly and wait one or two weeks for growth to appear. On the other hand, air layering is more successful during spring. This time of year is also ideal to grow trees from seeds.

Getting a Ficus Bonsai Tree

Inexpensive ficus bonsai plants are typically available in the majority of DIY home improvement stores and nurseries. However, be on the lookout. Cheaply mass-produced trees may feature wire scars, unappealing shapes and poorly grafted branches. The trees are also commonly potted in poor soils and in pots not having sufficient drainage. Specialized bonsai growers offer quality young plants that receive a higher degree of care. But, the plants are considerably more expensive.

Pests/Diseases of the Ficus Bonsai Tree

Ficus are particularly resistant to pests. However, depending on your geographical location, problems may arise. Dry air combined with an insufficient amount of light weakens the tree and causes it to lose leaves. The tree is then also susceptible to scale or spider mites. There are insecticide sticks that you can place in the potting medium to alleviate the problem. However, the overall environmental conditions must be improved. In areas that do not receive an abundance of sunlight, you can expose the tree to a plant lamp for 12 to 14 hours each day. Misting the leaves also hastens the recovery process. You can quickly diagnose tree problems by assessing the leaves.

• Limp leaves means insufficient watering.
• Green leave loss means over-watering or insufficient light.
• Bud loss means over-watering or cold climate.
• Pale leaves mean the tree needs fertilizer.
• Yellow leaves and green veins signify iron deficiency.
• Mottled leaves represent a pest infestation.