Ficus or Figs - Bonsai Lesson Plan

Informal Upright Style Bonsai
Scientific Name: Ficus macrophylla

There are many species of Ficus which make an ideal indoor Bonsai, Port Jackson or Morton Bay Fig make excellent choices for indoors. One of the reasons for this is that they can change their structure by adapting to their indoor conditions. Lighting plays a very important role in this, for example the less natural light you provide, the foliage becomes darker and richer in colour.

Examples of Fig or Ficus suitable for Bonsai training:

  • Port Jackson
  • Morton Bay Fig
  • Ficus Benjamina
  • Ficus Retusa
  • Ficus Retusa Mycrophillia
  • Ficus Retusa Mycrocarpa

Morton Bay Fig
Placement and exposure:

When placing your fig indoors, as mentioned before lighting plays an important role to the colour and more importantly the overall health of the tree. For example if your Bonsai is placed near a window, then exposure should be for morning sun only. You may have to rotate the position within the room in order to find out the best placement of your bonsai.

Soil recipes used in repotting:

We all have our favourite recipes and these will change from time to time in order to provide the best results for our bonsai. I find by using one part Debco Bonsai mix to one part Akadama and one part fine sharp gravel give me the best results. One reason for this is that it is a good free draining soil and this is important for the health of the root system.

Watering:

The best method of watering is by immersion. This means that you cover the surface of the Bonsai tray or pot with water so that any air pockets in the pot will be removed by bubbles coming to the surface. When all the air bubbles have stopped this means that the root system is thoroughly watered. Allow the tray to drain, and place your bonsai back to its original position.

Fertilising:

Figs as all other Bonsai respond really well to regular feeding. I find that most people do not feed their bonsai enough unless they have been informed how and when to feed. Figs respond very quickly to a good liquid feed. I have found that a combination of Maxicrop (mineral) and Nitrosol (organic) using 15mls of each to 2 litres of water gives me excellent results. This should be applied by using one cup or mug full of the mix the day after immersion, the reason for this is that every feeder root in the pot or tray will absorb it straight away and feeds the tree straight away. Commence the liquid feed from the first week in September, which is spring until the last week in March, then just Norman immersion until the following September.

Morton Bay Fig

Pruning or nipping the foliage:

Fortunately Figs can be pruned at any time of year, but best ramification is achieved in spring through to mid summer. The best results are achieved by going back to the first leaf and remove the complete head or branch. For every head that you remove the tree will grow 2 to 3 new heads which means that there is less feed distribution to each part but still retains the maximum health throughout the tree. In effect the tree will reduce the size of the leaves itself thereby allowing you to create pads or flat branching throughout the tree.

Pests:

Fortunately I haven�t had any problems with figs or Ficus in my garden or indoors. Possibly if you do encounter problems with aphids, green fly or spider mite, this can be easily treated by using Safer soap or a good spraying of Confidor. If the infestation is severe then an alternative is mitacide or lime sulphur, 1:30. Spray on the foliage as well as the branches and trunk and leave on for half-an-hour in the late afternoon in a shady spot and then hose off. If this doesn�t do the trick then increase the dosage and repeat the process. Bearing in mind this can take up to 2, 3 or 4 treatments. Pesticides usually attack weak or stressed trees but can also be introduced by an infected tree that you might have just recently acquired.

So enjoy your Fig bonsai.

"Bonsai is the creation of living art and the blending of elements"

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