Seed grown Ficus microcarpa, Clump style

I collected and sprouted a seed about 13 years ago that resulted in a plant that had low branches which I decided to keep as secondary trunks. The bonsai is what I would call Clump or Sprout style and is not that common in the bonsai world. It may be close to needing a nice container rather than its plastic development pot. Height is about 10 inches.

Ficus microcarpa, seed grown, in the sprout or clump style

One way to create a bonsai

There are many ways to shape raw material into a bonsai. In this case the bonsai was created from a Ficus rubiginosa cutting. At first it was allowed to grow long and healthy in a large container. It was then chopped down to a short segment and it was allowed to grow for several years. Next stage is to select branches and apex.

In the last stages it was moved to a smaller container to develop secondary branches and reduce leaf size. This process has taken 7 years but can be accomplished in a shorter time if grown outdoors in a tropical or sub-tropical area and kept in a large container or the ground until the refinement stage of development.

Even raw materials can be transformed into nice bonsai with this sequence of development.

Large healthy cutting of Ficus rubiginosa has been grown with no trimming to develop trunk size

The plant was chopped back(reduction cut) and allowed to sprout out. 

All new growth is allowed to grow to regain vigor. Tree is kept in a large development pot and not a small bonsai container during this phase.

 

 

Seven years after starting the cutting was beginning its transition to a bonsai. Further development will involve more secondary branches and leaf size control. Pot is about 8′ long.                                                                                                                                   

 

The definitive reference work on Ficus for bonsai. The book is a softcover, 8 by 10 inch volume, with 144 color pages, containing detailed information for the beginner as well as the advanced hobbyist. Click here for more information

 

 

 

Ficus ‘ExoticaJS’ and defoliation

This Ficus ‘ExoticaJS’ has been in training for only a few years from rough pre-bonsai stock. It is an excellent material for bonsai and it is not often available for sale.

Periodically I defoliate many of my bonsai figs. Doing this produces smaller leaves and makes the tree more showable. It also allows me to see defects or problems in the tree more easily than if leaves are covering the tree.

Ficus ‘ExoticaJS’ seen with all its leaves

After defoliation the structure of the tree can be seen and it is apparent that the right lowest branch needs thickening and more sub-branching while the left lowest branch is too thick and needs to be kept from growing too much

Fusing a fig tree

Using fusion to improve a fig tree is a valuable technique. However, it is necessary to use genetically identical material or the fusion my show differences in bark, leaf, etc. that can detract from the uniformity and believability of the design.

In this case seedlings of Ficus virens while very young were fused to create a sprout style tree. On careful examination of the trunks it is clear that they are not identical in bark character.

Ficus virens in a clump style created by fusion of seedling trees

Note that these three trunks do not look identical because genetically they are not the same

The base of your fig

One of the most attractive features of Ficus trees is their amazing, wide-spread surface rootage and the strong buttress of the base of the tree. This occurs more quickly when the tree is kept in relatively shallow containers. The fig responds by developing a very strong base and radiating powerful roots. However, care must be taken in shallow pots to keep the roots from rotting.

Ficus salicaria with powerful basal rootage and buttress base of the trunk

Ficus ingens, the Red Leaf Rock fig

Ficus ingens, the Red Leaf Rock fig, is an African species that is not very commonly used for bonsai. I have been working with several plants and do not find them the easiest species for leaf size control, and proper density of branching.

Here is one before defoliation with old, tired leaves. The appearance is quite messy and disorganized

The leaves are large, worn and old. So defoliation is undertaken.

Without the large leaves one gets a better view of the branching

After defoliation the appearance is much neater and looks more refined.

The new leaves will be red for a week or two after they grow in, giving it its common name.

Root-over-rock style

One of the most interesting styles of bonsai is the root-over-rock design. Simply a tree is designed to grow over a rock. There are many variations to this form but Ficus do very well in this configuration as their roots are aggressive and will cling to a stone if given a chance.

One caution is to use a normal form of a fig and not a dwarf form. The dwarf forms grow more slowly and it will take longer for them to anchor on the stone and to form good branching that will be needed to bring the design to life.

Ficus microcarpa ‘Taiwan Medium Leaf’ in a recent photo – more detailing and refinement of the branches is needed

Five years ago the tree was attached to the rock and it was buried deeply and allowed to grow freely

This is a Ficus microcarpa ‘Taiwan Medium Leaf’. It is one of the smaller microcarpa forms and is much slower growing. Initial work attached the tree to the stone and I buried the stone quite deeply. Growth was allowed with little trimming for several years to get the tree to stabilize and adhere to the rock. In later stages the branches and sub-branches will need to be defined to bring out the best in the bonsai.


The definitive reference work on Ficus
for bonsai. The book is a softcover, 8 by 10 inch volume, with 144 color pages, containing detailed information for the beginner as well as the advanced hobbyist.

Fusing Ficus

One of my favorite techniques to obtain larger material is to fuse young rooted cutting together. I use cuttings all taken from the same mother plant so that the bark, leaves and general character of the fused plant will be completely the same. In this way I can develop larager plants since my growing space is limited to one indoor growing room and I do not have space for really large pots or the ability to grow plants in the ground. Growing in the ground or in large growing containers would be faster and easier ways to get larger material.

Some images of fusing materials follows. Most are just early on and not totally fused. It takes anywhere from 1-7 years to achieve good fusions depending upon the age of the material, growth and the genetics of the plant.

Ficus virens

Ficus virens

Ficus virens

Ficus natalensis

Ficus virens of a special deep red leaf color

 

What I do when I am puzzled

Very often I have some trees that just seem to be a puzzle. I can’t quite figure out what design might work for the tree. I usually put these on the bottom shelf and just let them grow and wait for a burst of inspiration. Perhaps the tree will speak to me and I can listen to it and style and train it to become a wonderful bonsai.

But, sometimes the tree isn’t speaking or I am not listening. Not all bonsai creations will be created “instantly”. Sometime the bonsai will evolve after the tree or the designer mature.

Ficus virens which has been allowed to grow wild

No brilliant ideas so I take the tree back to the best basic structure and allow it to grow

Another Ficus virens that has not worked for me and it was allowed to grow wild

With no inspiration, I just cut it back to the best trunk line that I could think of. Time and growth may show me a way in the future.

Taking a tree apart to improve it

This is a young rooted cutting of Ficus natalensis but the two roots as indicated did not look right to my eyes. So I split the tree and allowed it to sprout back. I like the two new pieces and with more growth I think each may work out to be a reasonable bonsai tree.

Ficus natalensis, rooted cutting, with arrows showing the roots that I did not like

Ficus natalensis, rooted cutting, with arrows showing the roots that I did not like

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The small root on the right sprouted out

The small root sprout has been potted up and will be allowed to grow to develop an apex

The small root sprout has been potted up and will be allowed to grow to develop an apex

The larger piece will need more development but I like it better now

The larger piece will need more development but I like it better now