Tag Archives: Ficus natalensis

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

Slave branches

Slave branches are used to thicken a bonsai trunk or even branch. By allowing wild and untrimmed growth of these branches the trunk or branch can be thickened.

Once the thickening is done the slave branch can be removed or trimmed back.

 

Wild and untrimmed growth to thicken this branch on a Ficus natalensis/thonningii complex bonsai

Wild and untrimmed growth to thicken this branch on a Ficus natalensis/thonningii complex bonsai

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The branch has been shortened back once it has the proper thickness but needs secondary and tertiary branches to be developed

The branch thus thickened, as in this case, now has a proper thickness but will need more work to ramify it and develop secondary and tertiary branches. This can be done with repeated nipping out of buds and defoliation techniques.

Aerial roots are kept on this branch as they speed branch thickening

Aerial roots are kept on this branch as they speed branch thickening

How to thicken a branch

On this bonsai Ficus natalensis the lowest branch on the right side is not thick enough. Most often the lowest branch should be the thickest on the tree. In order to achieve proper thickness the branch is allowed to grow longer than the style dictates. Note the leaves are also larger than the rest of the tree which is being trimmed regularly.

In a year or two the branch will thicken because of its continued growth and then it will be appropriately shortened. The next step will be to continue the process of shaping the branch properly.

The area in red is allowed to grow without trimming to thicken the branch

The area in red is allowed to grow without trimming to thicken the branch

Slave branches

Slave branches are used to thicken a part of the trunk or branch that needs to be heavier. Slave branches are allowed to grow wildly without trimming and when the thickening has been achieved they are removed.

This Ficus natalensis has a slim trunk that would be improved by thickening it to introduce some more taper. The branch outlined in red was allowed to grow for a year or two to thicken the trunk.

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Slave branch on this Ficus natalensis to thicken the lower trunk of the tree

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Lower trunk has been thickened sufficiently so the slave branch has been removed

 

Exposed root styles

One of my favorite styles for tropical bonsai is the exposed root style. This may represent trees whose roots have been gradually exposed by a river washing the soil away from the roots or with trees growing on a hillside which is being eroded away. It also could be the end stages of a tree starting life as a strangler or epiphyte and then having the host trunk die and rot away leaving the strangler exposed by itself.

See how these various figs in this style work for you.

 

Ficus natalensis

Ficus natalensis

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Ficus natalensis

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Ficus ‘Mystery’

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Ficus ‘Mystery’

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Ficus ‘Mystery’

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Ficus ‘Mystery’


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

Splitting a fig into two future bonsai trees

Sometimes splitting a fig into several parts is the way to go with initial styling to maximize the material’s potential.

The pant is a Ficus natalensis grown from a root cutting and perhaps two years old. The only exciting thing about it is the twisting lower trunk which should make a nice tree using that as the focal point for the future bonsai.

An appropriate spot was chosen to split the tree into two sections. This point was selected since it would leave the top section with a good aerial root to keep it alive. This section will live happily on this one root until it is time to give it a styling.

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The start

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Close up of the top section of the plant

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The two sections are now split apart leaving the top part with a good root to carry it

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The top section planted using its one root

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The bottom section potted and several branches remain to form the future of this bonsai

The final design is not done but this is just the initial blocking out of the future bonsai. Consider breaking up a tree when the parts are more exciting  than the original tree left intact.


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
 

Which side do you like the best?

This is a young Ficus natalensis. Ficus natalensis is one of the best figs for bonsai as it is vigorous, develops aerial roots, tolerates growing in containers as well as growing well in relatively poor light.

Which of the two sides do you prefer?

This is side one, showing a prominent bend in the trunk/root

This is side one, showing a profusion of exposed roots

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This is side two showing a major prominent root/trunk movement