Category Archives: defoliation

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

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.

How to work with a large leaf bonsai

Utilizing large leaf plants for bonsai is difficult. There are various techniques to deal with plants that have large leaves, like Ficus benghalensis.

The first shot shows the tree with its various sized leaves. These are large but already reduced just by being grown in a small container.

Ficus benghalensis with leaves that are too large

Ficus benghalensis with leaves that are too large

The second shot shows the tree in a defoliated state. In this leafless condition the branching and structure can be studied and analyzed. The bunjin/literati style is now appreciated once the distraction of the large leaves is removed, albeit temporarily. Once the new leaves grow out they will be smaller but eventually the newest leaves will grow out as full sized and ruin the illusion once again.


Defoliated the bunjin character and style of the tree can be analyzed and the scale of the design is now appropriate

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Defoliation of my Ficus rubiginosa, PJ fig

I have had this fig for many years. In the last year or so I have just pinched out areas that needed restraining and left other areas to grow out to create heavier branches where needed.

You can see the wide variation in the leaf size depending upon how the branch was maintained.


Ficus with leaves varying from small to large


Now defoliated so that branch posiition can be assessed and wired into position  if needed. New leaves will come in smaller in of uniform size.