Tag Archives: root-over-rock

Root-over-rock style

One of my favorite forms of bonsai is the root-over-rock design. It incorporates an attractive stone with nice texture and fissures and a bonsai tree growing over it.

In this case it is a Ficus ‘Mystery’ that was planted on this rock about 15 years ago. The original plant was quite boring and frankly ugly but over the years it is maturing into a lovely piece that surely will improve over time.

More secondary branching is needed to mature out the design.

The ugly cutting placed on the stone about 15 years ago


The same plant on the left before trimming and on the right after trimming and some wiring.

Ficus glumosa, uncommon bonsai

An uncommonly found Ficus species, Ficus glumosa is from Africa and has nice round, hairy leaves. It is in the grouping of rock-splitter figs. Those that seem to be found growing over and around rocks in the veldt.

Since they seem to enjoy rock growing this seedling was placed over the rock to emulate a root over rock style. It is in a small pot so its growth is quite limited and despite its age, about 12 years, it is still a very immature bonsai design.

Ficus glumosa root-over-rock style

A haircut

Developing a bonsai requires many steps. One critical step is allowing the bonsai in development to grow wildly. This allows the tree to gain strength and to form branches that will be used in its development.

Periodically the overgrown tree will be trimmed back, given a haircut to bring the design back to a more compact design while also keeping the needed branches and eliminating the ones that are not necessary. This process is repeated until the later stages of a bonsai’s maturity.

Once mature and the design is set growth is kept more restrained. The cycle of growth followed by trimming back is kept up for many years until the tree hits maturity when a more restrained growth and tim back cycle begins.

Willow Leaf fig that has been allowed to grow wildly in order to strengthen it, provide more branches for the design and to thicken the roots draped over the rock

Willow Leaf fig that has been allowed to grow wildly in order to strengthen it, provide more branches for the design and to thicken the roots draped over the rock




Branches and foliage are reduced back and branches to be kept are selected – now further growth will be allowed 

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 http://www.bonsaihunk.us/info/BreakingUpIsEasyToDo.html

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.