Tag Archives: Ficus virens

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

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.

Aerial roots and growth

Aerial roots are one of the most unique and wonderful features of figs. Aerial roots start out as small fine filaments from the trunk or branches and grow down to the soil. Once rooted into the soil they thicken and can become as thick or thicker than the trunk or branch from which they originated.

Growth of the aerial is faster than growth of the trunk. Designs utilizing aerials may need to be adjusted over time to compensate for the aerials growth.

Ficus virens with aerial on the left side of the trunk, 2016

Ficus virens with aerial on the left side of the trunk, 2016


The same aerial on the left side of the trunk, 2013.

Ficus virens/infectoria

Seed grown and kept close together these trees are now fused at the base. I think this might be called a clump style.

Ficus virens is the species but in some areas it is called infectoria.

Leaves removed to show the nice branch structure that is developing.

2009, Several seedlings have fused together by being kept in a small container

2009, Several seedlings have fused together by being kept in a small container


2016, defoliated to show the nice branching that is developing

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






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 infectoria or is it Ficus virens


Multiple trunks fused together from separate seedlings

Ficus infectoria is an invalid name, according to the botanists, and should technically be called Ficus virens. This material shows a coarser grower than some of my other virens. It seems to be quite happy in container culture with no special needs.

This bonsai is actually 3 or 4 root fused trees that were grown from seed. The seedlings were never separated to their own containers so that over time the root and bases fused to form one tree.


Defoliated once or twice yearly to improve branching, produce smaller leaves and to allow visualization of the branches

As the trees grew they naturally fused to each other so that now this is one root connected tree.


Five years development with a fig

This bonsai was grown from seed and kept in a small container for its whole life. Development of a bonsai for size will occur most quickly in the ground or in a large container.  Although growing in a large container or ground growing can develop large bonsai often the tree will need finer branching and detailing. This should happen once the bonsai is containerized and nearing its final size.

Slant style grown from seed, 2009

Slant style grown from seed, 2009


Showing some good branching, 2014

Now that the size and branching are nearing a reasonable point, leaf reduction and increasing branch density will be next on the list for development.

Ficus virens, the White or Spotted Fig

One of my favorite of the larger leaf figs is Ficus virens, commonly called the White or Spotted fig. Although the species has larger leaves that make creating small sized bonsai difficult, it can be done.

Ficus virens is quite suitable for larger bonsai. It has attractive leaves that in some cultivars can  be quite red or bronze on the new foliage. Thailand growers have developed some that are very red. The red color in the leaves will persist for a week or two before turning to a deep, deep green color.

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In the photos above you can see that the mature leaf color varies from seedling to seedling. Some show a fair amount of red or bronze-tinged foliage. These plants are all about 7-8 years old from seed.

Moving An Aerial Root

Aerial roots are one of the very useful and impressive features of some fig trees. As with other design elements of a bonsai the aerials must augment the overall design scheme.

In this Ficus virens the aerial root crosses across the trunk and in addition it gives the appearance of a reverse taper to the trunk of this tree. It could be removed or a better option is to move it to the other side of the trunk and use it to improve the taper of the trunk.

The aerial crosses the trunk

The aerial crosses the trunk


Closer view of the crossing aerial


A chisel is used to separate the root from its adherence to the trunk


The aerial is repositioned to the right side of the trunk


Close view showing moss added to the base of the aerial to help promote new hair roots to form

Young root emerging after only two weeks

Young root emerging after only two weeks

The moved aerial is wrapped with sphagnum moss and placed into the soil. Within two weeks a new hair root is already formed.  The repositioned aerial is now a permanent fixture of the design.

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