Building Taper And Detail Into A Bonsai With Reduction
 By Jerry Meislik



Ficus salicaria, also called nerifolia, salicifolia, Willow Leaf fig etc., is one of the best Ficus for bonsai because of its small leaves, aerial roots, tolerance of bonsai techniques and ability to survive in a pot. A Ficus salicaria was purchased as a pre-bonsai in 2001. After purchase it was stripped of all its soil and repotted into a temporary ceramic container and allowed to grow and establish itself. Its initial appearance, photo one, is pleasant with a great banyan base but with rather long branches leading to the canopy.

1. Potted but untrimmed Ficus salicaria, 8/02.


My thought was to shorten all the main branches back to produce a more compact form with increased taper and ultimately to increase the density of branching and detail in the branch structure. In doing this the base of the tree would be emphasized and the long line of the trunks would be eliminated.

The next picture shows the tree after its initial reduction. All the branches were sawed off to a much shorter silhouette and virtually no leaves were left.

2. All the main branches have been reduced, 8/02.


Picture three shows the tree in October 2003, after the regrowth of foliage. Essentially the plant was allowed to grow without any trimming for over one year. This allowed the tree to recover its energy stores and to regain its vigor so that it could be reduced back again.

3. Regrowth 10/03.

Picture four shows the tree minutes later after removing redundant branches.

4. Trimmed back to needed foliage and branches, 10/03.

5. The tree after another year of growth and again trimmed back, 9/04.

6. The tree in 2005, foliage regrown.

7. Excess foliage and branches are removed, 2005.


8. In March 2007, the tree trimmed back again. Branch grafted to the right side.


9. Detail of the upper right branches in 2002.


10. Detail of the same branches in 2007.


The pattern followed for this bonsai, as well as any other deciduous trees in a reduction sequence, is to allow free and rampant growth. Once the foliage is regrown, it is thinned back to the necessary branches in a repitition of the same process. Under my growing conditions these steps are done at yearly intervals. With each growth and reduction step detail is being built into the branches. Once the detail is there the a maintenance regime will be followed.

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