Fig - Ficus sp.
General information: This is a huge tree growing to 60 feet tall and 60 to 70 feet
wide. The dense, rounded canopy and gracefully drooping branches of
Weeping Fig made it quite popular as a landscape tree until recently. The
thick, shiny, two to five-inch-long, evergreen leaves generously clothe
the long branches, and the tiny figs eventually turn a deep red. Branches
will weep toward the ground forming a canopy so dense that nothing grows
There are over 600 species of Ficus, most of them
tropical and evergreen, although some, most notably F. carica, the common
fig, are deciduous. Ficus produces a unique "fruit" which is actually an
inverted flower. Not all Ficus produce edible fruit.
Ficus is one of the most loved bonsai for many
reasons. It is an excellent tree for beginners, as most species of Ficus
are fast growers, tolerant of most any soil and light conditions, make
fine indoor bonsai, and perhaps most importantly, are remarkably forgiving
of those just learning bonsai watering techniques. Most Ficus grow
"banyan" roots naturally; this feature is often showcased by styling Ficus
in dramatic air-root and root-over-rock styles.
Lighting: Most Ficus
will grow decently in low light, but thrive in high light
Temperature: With the exception of F. carica, most Ficus are
tropical, and require temperatures above 55F. An excellent choice for an
indoor bonsai. Indoor Ficus appreciate being brought outdooors during
summer. Does not like draughts.
increasing in summer and decreasing in winter. Many Ficus are very
tolerant of being over or under watered, which makes them ideal for
beginners. Ficus likes a daily misting to maintain humidity.
Feeding: Every two
weeks during growth, every 4-6 in winter, using a half-strength plant food
or a bonsai fertilizer.
Pruning and wiring:
Ficus are suitable for most styles of bonsai, but are especially suitable
for styles which make use of their property of extensive rooting, such as
air-root and root-over-rock styles. Ficus can be used for all sizes of
bonsai, although, obviously, the small-leaved species make the best
miniature bonsai. Leaf pruning can be used to reduce leaf size. Ficus can
be wired, but become quite stiff when lignified, and thus are best wired
while the shoots are a bit green. Watch carefully to see that the wire
doesn't bite in, as Ficus is a very fast grower. Prune back to 2-4 leaves
after 6-10 leaves have grown. Ficus will bleed a milky latex profusely.
I never use cut paste or other sealant for this reason, since the
oozing latex makes it difficult for the cut paste to adhere. In any case,
when the latex dries, it forms its own natural seal.
Propagation: One of the
easiest plant to root from cuttings; although the specifics for maximum
success vary with species. Very large diameter cuttings of Ficus can be successfully
rooted. Air-layering is also quite easy. Ficus can be grown from seed, but
require heat and humidity, and easily succumb to mold.
Repotting: Every 2-3
years, although some will grow rapidly enough that yearly repotting may be
necessary. Ficus is the single most forgiving bonsai in terms of repotting
season. The best time is before a new growth spurt, especially in spring,
but Ficus can literally be repotted any time of year if reasonable
after-care is given. Roots can easily be pruned by half. Basic bonsai soil
is recommended, although Ficus tolerates many soil conditions.
Pests and diseases: Pests: Scale, eelworm, black fly, thrips. Diseases: Anthracnose
fungus and various forms of rot. Some ficus will lose leaves if
overwatered or given too little light
Can be grown successfully
indoors, but requires temperatures of 41-46F in winter to induce
dormancy. Allowing the leaves to droop slightly before watering aids in
leaf reduction. May go 2-4 years between transplantings. Forms very
thick branches which are best wired when young. The best time for wiring
is in early spring, before new growth begins. Leaf pruning to reduce
leaf size is recommended. The plant will also dwarf leaves naturally
after some years in a container. Take cuttings in spring, before they
Ficus ilicina: laurel
Can be treated much the same as F. benjamina. A
monthly dose of Superthrive can be safely given, and will encourage the
formation of banyan roots.
Ficus microcarpa: banyan, Green
A very robust tree that does well both indoors and
out. Can tolerate low light, but grows more strongly with high light.
Grows extensive banyan roots, and will probably need to be transplanted
every two years. Leaf pruning is used to reduce leaf size; a total
defoliation can be performed at the end of spring on healthy specimens.
Wait until the branches have lignified slightly to wire. Summer is the
best time to take cuttings.
Ficus natalensis: Natal fig
A very low maintanence tree: tolerates low light
, dry soil, and even being placed in a hot, dry spot, for
example, near a radiator. Temperature should be between 59-75F, and near
the cooler end in winter. Can take vigorous root pruning, and will
probably require transplanting after 2 years. Cut back shoots after 12
leaves have developed. Can be wired from mid-late summer, but wait until
branches are lignified. Cuttings are best taken in summer, and root more
successfully when bottom heat is applied.
Ficus retusa: fig, banyan fig,
Much more sensitive during repotting than the
average Ficus. Root pruning should be gradual in temperate climates. Do
not attempt to wire or prune extensively for three months after
transplanting. Sudden changes of temperature may cause all the leaves to
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