Tag Archives: ficus

Identifying a Ficus by using the leaves

Fig leaves are very variable from species to species. This is helpful in trying to identify a fig as belonging to a certain species. The problem is that the leaves on even a single plant can show great variation depending upon cultural conditions of light, moisture, growth in a container, wind, etc.

As an example the shot below shows several leaves removed from a single Ficus plant. The variability would make an attemp at a scientific identification very difficult. Many factors must be used to help in correctly identifying a fig. These include the leaf, bark, syconia, stipules etc.

Figs are wonderful plants to use for bonsai but they can infuriating to correctly identify without figs/syconia.

Ficus leaves removed from one plant showing the highly variable shape and character of the leaves

Ficus leaves removed from one plant showing the highly variable shape and character of the leaves

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

 

Ficus cuttings, a great way to get more trees

Over the years I have taken many hundreds of cuttings. Most Ficus can be started easily from cuttings and even large size cuttings can be rooted with success.

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Ficus cutting about 8-9 years ago

This is a Ficus microcarpa cutting taken from one of my very large bonsai.

It was allowed to grow without trimming to recover strength and over time branches were selected to keep, other branches were removed and other branches were grafted into areas needing a branch. The bonsai after 9 years of training. Still not completed but it has come a long way from the start.

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Years later the same cutting is beginning to be an attractive bonsai

Consider rooting your extra cuttings to use for future 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.

Beefing up a branch

If a bonsai needs to have a heavier branch than it must be allowed to grow faster than the other branches.

Thickening will occur in direct proportion to the number of leaves photosynthesizing on the branch. Keep more leaves to produce more energy and more growth to thicken the branch. After the branch has enough thickness it will need to be shortened back to proper length for the design and then twigging density can be accomplished.

Branches also can be kept on the trunk to accomplish trunk thickening and later removed. Thickening only occurs on the trunk below the branch and not above it.

Branch on right needs to be heavier so more leaves are left on the branch

Branch on right needs to be heavier so more leaves are left on the branch

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Branch 1 and 2 are kept to thicken the base of the trunk. They will likely be removed at a future date when the trunk is thick enough.

Growing figs from seed

One of the ways that I obtain material that is not commercially available is to find seed of rare species. Growing from seed is not the fastest or easiest way to obtain bonsai but it does allow one to exert complete control over the development of a bonsai.

While there are many ways to sprout seed I am currently sprouting my fig seed by sowing the seed on the surface of rock wool plugs. These plugs are available online or from garden centers.

The plug is kept in a shallow dish with a bit of water in the dish. This keeps the plug from drying out. Ficus seed take somewhere from 1-12 weeks to sprout or even longer.  Plants are kept growing on this plug until they have 4-5 leaves on each sprout.

Once the seed has sprouted and two or three leaves have appeared the plugs can be placed  into a bonsai soil mix. The surface of the plug should be 1/4-1/2 inch above the surrounding soil mix and allowed to grow for a year. Once the seedlings are quite sturdy with about 8 leaves on each one they can easily be removed from the plug and rooted into a pot of bonsai soil.

It normally takes 3-4 years from seed to get a plant large enough to begin bonsai training, so the process is not for the impatient bonsai grower.

Click below to read more details about seed growing.

Ficus tremula growing on top of a rock wool plug, Several sprouting seeds are outlined in red.

Ficus tremula growing on top of a rock wool plug, Three weeks after sowing, several sprouting seeds are outlined in red.

http://www.bonsaihunk.us/ficusforum/FicusTechniques/FigTechnique33.html

http://www.fukubonsai.com/1a9a14.html

 


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

 

How to thicken a branch

Often a branch on a bonsai is too thin. To thicken it allow it to grow wildly without trimming it back. Keep the rest of the tree trimmed as normal.

Once the branch is of the proper thickness it can be shortened back and proper taper and ramification can be developed.

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Red arrows point to the thickening branch

Red arrows point to the thickening branch

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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 virens, Red balete, Lipstick Ficus, White Fig

Ficus virens has many common names; Red Balete in the Philippines, Lipstick Ficus in India and White Fig in Australia. Whatever it is called it is a huge tree growing in its native environment. It can stand alone as a single trunk tree or exist as a strangler fig with many aerials. The most famous trees of this species are the Cathedral fig and the Curtain fig in Australia.

The species can make excellent bonsai. Leaves reduce well in container culture. Some cultivars show very extensive red or bronze coloring on the new leaves. Unfortunately this lovely red color does not persist for long as it fades into a dark green as the leaves mature.

Ficus virens is not often available as plants in the US so all my trees are grown from seed. The following are all about 8 years old and beginning to show signs of becoming good bonsai. All the trees are under 10-12″ tall or about 30cm.

Ficus virens seed grown

With some Ficus virens new leaves are quite red

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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
 

Fusing figs

One way to get larger bonsai material is to fuse smaller figs together. Basically tieing together several figs that are genetically identical can produce larger trunks. Growing a tree in a larger container or in the ground will produce faster trunk growth but is often not suitable for indoor growers.

Fusion is a useful technique for rare or unusual materials and for adding in branches, roots etc. to a fig that needs these parts.

Bind the trees together with anything that will distribute the compression forces over a wider area to lessen scarring and use a binding material that does not stretch. Allow rampant growth of the materials to speed the fusion.

Marks left from the electrical ties can be reduced by allowing a year or two of un-restrained growth after the ties are removed.

For another article on this topic see http://www.bonsaihunk.us/FusedFig.html

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Ficus natalensis only one year since the start of fusing

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Lower trunk with fusion remaining to be accomplished with more growth

Ficus virens 'Thai' with multiple rooted cuttings pulled together with electrical ties

Ficus virens ‘Thai’ with multiple rooted cuttings pulled together with electrical ties

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Close up view of the ties and some marks left from earlier ties that were removed


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Ficus natalensis (type two) allowed wild growth to speed the fusion process

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Close up of the lower trunk showing nicely fusing trees


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