Category Archives: Root-over-rock

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.

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Root-over-rock style

Ficus microcarpa placed on this rock about 12 years ago

Collected Ficus microcarpa placed on this rock about 12 years ago

Figs grow very well when placed on or grown over a rock. Root-over-rock designs are also very much admired by bonsai lovers.

Figs with their aggressive root systems easily tolerate being placed over a rock. The rock is covered with soil and the tree is allowed to grow vigorously to attach the roots to the rock. The soil is gradually removed over time to reveal the roots.

This Ficus microcarpa tree was collected with my bonsai friend David Fukumoto about 12 years ago and placed on the rock, roots initially covered by aluminum foil to protect the new roots. Over time the foil was removed and the roots were now air adapted.


Root-over-rock design

One of the most popular designs is the root-over-rock design where a tree or trees is growing draped over a stone.

In this example a Ficus ‘Mystery’ was placed on a rock about 9-10 years ago. It was a piece of a larger plant see

This section was frankly quite ugly and I almost discarded it. Rather than throwing it away I decided to place it on the rock. It was strapped to the rock with plastic tape and grown for years with most of the rock and the roots buried in soil. Over time the roots and the stone were exposed.

You can see the result in 2014. The bonsai has improved dramatically and one day may become one of my favorites.


The ugly plant was strapped to this stone in about 2004


The bonsai as seen in 2014

Root-over-rock designs can be done in many ways but the best and quickest results will be achieved with plants that have super aggressive root systems. Plants that grow slowly and have fibrous root systems generally will not succeed as root-over-rock designs.