by Jerry Meislik
Good friend and Ficus lover, Zubin Madon of India, grows many Ficus trees in his collection. He writes inquiring about a Ficus microcarpa 'Variegate'.
"Attached is a picture of the "Golden Leaf Ficus". Is this also as hardy as microcarpa? I really like the look of these and I want to buy them on my next trip. But I'm worried they may not be as easy to look after?"
As a generla rule I find that almost all variegated forms tend to grow more slowly than the normal green forms. Leaf texture tends to be thinner, as well as branches a bit weaker. The yellow, golden or white coloring in the leaf replaces the normal green chlorophyll. The green cholorophyll is responsible for capturing light energy and feeding the plant. So any leaf with less of the green will capture less light energy for the tree. This makes these variegates less vigorous and quick growing than the normal green tree.
Still, variegates add a colorful and new dimension to bonsai collecting. Many people will keep a few of these interesting trees to spice up their bonsai tree collection with a bit more color.
Variegates must be vegetatively propagated as seed may not carry the ability to form the white colors. Some variegates also are unstable and may revert to green and then back to variegated.