Ficus Techniques : 50

Ficus Rubiginosa - Port Jackson Ficus, Rusty Ficus

by Jerry Meislik

Ficus rubiginosa , the Port Jackson or Rusty fig , is one of the best Ficus for bonsai. This species is native to Australia and naturally grows to be a large landscape tree.

Under bonsai cultivation it is a vigorous tree that will shape into a lovely bonsai as it has leaves that reduce well, as well as the ability to produce aerial roots.

One of the most confusing aspects of F. rubiginosa is identifying them. The plant shows great variability in leaf size, leaf color, and bud color. The most typical form has a red color and a hairy texture to the underneath of the leaf. Thus the common name Rusty Fig.  Other rubiginosa varieties have none of the red under color and hair and are called Ficus rubiginosa ‘Australis’.

Leaves on rubiginosa plants can vary in size and be almost as large as F. macrophylla. Rubiginosa is most easily confused with Ficus macrophylla or Ficus obliqua. Macrophylla has leaves that are somewhat larger and more sturdy. A specimen with fruit makes the definite identification much easier.

One of the most interesting and useful cultivars of rubiginosa is called ‘Little Ruby’. This plant was discovered as a different looking seedling in a batch of normal rubiginosa. Little Ruby is a dwarf form and has much smaller and narrower leaves. It is a wonderful addition to the bonsai repertoire.

My bonsai friend Anthony Webb from Australia has this plant of Little Ruby in his collection. It is quite a lovely bonsai. Age is approximately 20 years. Care for Little Ruby or any cultivar of rubiginosa is typical for Ficus. Little Ruby can only be cultivated from cuttings.

Ficus rubiginosa 'Little Ruby', Anthony Webb, 2011

Very small foliage of Little Ruby, Anthony Webb

Ficus rubiginosa normal form trained as bonsai

Ficus rubiginosa, normal form showing unreduced leaf size


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