The common image that comes to most of our minds when we talk about ficus is a “ fiddle leaf fig or that big potted tree in the lobby of your office”. But on the contrary, they make great additions to your bonsai family.
Bonsai ficus is beautiful and extremely satisfying to care for, and a lot of beginners find them easier to work with than any other type of bonsai. Due to their tolerance of low light conditions, they make great indoor trees compared to a lot of options available to us.
Before we know and understand why these plants are so great, let us try and learn about various types of ficuses available for planting.
Types of Ficus
Like many plant species, ficus as a tree has over 850 types but when it is limited to the size of a bonsai, the number of options available to you tends to fall. With leaves that make wonderful centerpieces and benefits that melt everybody’s hearts, ficus is a beloved species of tree.
Here are the types of ficus bonsai you need to know about.
A type of evergreen woody plant of the fig genus, ficus retusa is one of the more popularly available bonsai versions of a ficus. Also known by the name Chinese Banyan or common fig, this plant is famous for its thick leaves.
The maximum height the plant can attain is between 16 to 32 inches if it is cared for properly. For the plant to thrive it needs abundant indirect sunlight and a moderate amount of water, once the soil feels like it is drying. If you want your plant to be comfortable, make sure you use a well-drained, indoor plant soil mix.
Ficus retusa is one of the rarer tree species, when we talk about ficus, they can grow indoors as well as outdoors. It is because of its small size and thick trunk that it makes a very decorative plant, ideal for modern designer homes.
The plant is known by a variety of names, some of which include Small-leaved Rubber Plant, Weeping Fig, and Indian Rubber Plant. If you are a beginner, this might be the easiest ficus bonsai you can opt for!
With its ability to adapt to change quickly, supported by strong roots and leaves that make it easy to prune and shape, we might be looking at a winner!
Not just this, it is an amazing decorative addition to your living room with its vibrant foliage that brightens whatever room it is placed in. Ficus Benjamina grows quickly, making them easy to train as bonsais.
Although tough the plant can be easily harmed if it is overwatered, hence you need to keep the moisture in check. Also, sunlight plays a very important role in its proper growth. Make sure it has a place near the window in your house so that it receives an adequate amount of sunlight.
Often confused with common fig, Ficus Ginseng or the laurel fig, is most known for its striking appearance that is courtesy of the thick roots it grows that are often exposed above the surface of the ground.
If you have ever seen one of these, you’ll find the dark green, oval-shaped leaves hard to forget. The trunk of the Ginseng Ficus is quite thick and bulbous, reddish-grey, and more often than not, has tiger-like stripes.
The leaves show dense growth, giving you a thick canopy. The best part of growing ginseng ficus as a bonsai tree is that it doesn’t need a lot of maintenance.
Your little ginseng ficus will grow well indoors with the right amount of warmth and light, but it also appreciates trips outside. Although the plant can keep up with a little underwatering, overwatering might be very harmful to your plant.
The willow leaf ficus or the Mexicana ficus is known for its elongated, light green leaves and its tall trunk. It derives its name from its uncanny resemblance to the popular weeping willow tree.
The sharp plant is known to appeal to your indoors with its sharp and prominent looks. The plant is quite forging and thrives well in indoor conditions. Adding to the glory is the fact that it is very easy to care for.
This variety of the ficus plant enjoys high light and appreciates spending time outdoors during the spring and summer seasons. It is better that you bring the plant indoors when the sun sets, especially when the temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius.
As a general rule, watering your bonsai must never be neglected. Make sure that you water your plant when you feel that the soil is drying because it is never a good idea to let your plant completely dry out.
The Ficus macrophylla or Moreton Bay Fig is known for adding root flare or nebari to the bonsai design. Another one of the common ficus bonsai family, these plants are known for their unique design and texture.
Other than the prominent root design, this bonsai is also known to have a larger set of leaves that often grow out of proportion with the size of the bonsai. Like any other bonsai ficus, these are heat-loving greens and appreciate their time in the sun a lot. And like most other bonsai we know, it is better that the soil that they remain in is moist but never overwatered.
The plant also benefits from pruning every once in a while because the leaves, as was mentioned before, tend to grow out of proportion sometimes. Post pruning, the newer leaves turn out to be smaller than the previous ones.
Also known as the Bodhi Tree Bonsai, or the Peepal Tree (in the states of Odisha and Haryana), this green beauty got its name from being the tree that Gautam Budhha got his enlightenment under.
The leaves of bodhi tree bonsai usually are cordate in shape and have a drip tip. Other than this, they tend to produce purple figs when fully mature. The plants can live for up to 1500-3000 years or longer.
They are fast-growing plants that, in addition to growing tall, spread out in width, extending a beautiful canopy. Other than their fast-growing nature, you can also cultivate the plant for their fruit. The seeds that these plants give out are also used to make sacred beads.
Something else that can grab your attention is the medical benefits the plant has, such as its use in treating wounds, ulcers, cholesterol, diabetes, and asthma.
The slow-growing plant from the fig family in Moraceae also goes by the name of Green Island Ficus and Ficus Nana Plant. Its glossy leaves are different and the plant is known for being smaller in size and a more ‘friendly’ root system.
Ficus Microcarpa is relatively easy to grow outdoors in warm, humid regions but requires a little more patience in cooler areas. The plant doesn’t flower often but grows dense, deep green glossy leaves when given exposure to the right kind of light and temperature.
This ficus variety is a low-maintenance green that doesn’t require frequent watering except when young hence you can easily add it to your list of bonsai.
This variety of ficus is a miniature version of a rubber tree, often considered a popular indoor and outdoor gardening plant. The rubber tree gets its name from the thick, sticky white latex that oozes out of the fleshy leaves when they have been snapped apart.
Rubber plant thrives indoors and outdoors as long as you are responsible plant parents to them and give them the right environment to thrive in. more mature versions of the plants can endure cold winter nights without protection because these become relatively hardy.
Why are they a good fit for beginners?
From all the discussions that took place till now, we know that ficus is an amazing and beautiful addition to our bonsai family. But what is so special about them that they are one of the best choices for beginners? Let’s look into each factor individually.
The plant is not particularly choosy about light. Just make sure that it gets a place near the window in your house and can be exposed to direct sunlight easily in the said position.
Although south-facing light is preferred, Bonsai ficus trees can also thrive in an east or west-facing window, as they tolerate lower light conditions than other types of bonsai without much complaining.
Choosing a bonsai pot is not as simple as you might think. It is definitely harder than picking out a cute planter for a regular houseplant.
Potting is a crucial element of the art of bonsai and requires care and thought. This is because bonsai go on to live for years and if they are not given the right space to grow and thrive, they might not grow properly.
All that is kept aside, you should be able to leave your ficus bonsai in its original pot for at least a few months before it will need to move on. Young bonsai trees are supposed to stay in a starter pot until they establish a strong root system before they can be moved to a more permanent display pot.
If you manage to maintain the plant well, they can stay in their pots indefinitely!
For all of us micromanagers, it’s tempting to simply water on a schedule, but you need to learn how to tell when your ficus is actually ready for a drink!
Bonsai ficus trees tend to have different watering needs in the winter season than in the summers. Other than this, their lighting conditions and the temperature and humidity of the environment also affect their watering requirements.
Make sure that you keep the soil evenly moist for most of the day. If the topsoil is dry and the rest of the soil is barely damp, water your plant thoroughly and allow it to drain completely.
Be careful that you don’t water so often that your soil is consistently soaked, or you risk your plant developing root rot or other significant health problems related to overwatering.
Temperature and Humidity
Typically, ficus is a tropical plant so it is natural that they prefer warmer temperatures and higher humidity levels.
Maintain consistency in the temperature for them, preferably around 21 degrees Celsius, and don’t let the temperature fall under 15 degrees.
While ficus species with waxy leaves, like the laurel fig, can tolerate lower humidity, they will thrive when the humidity in their environment is on the higher side. And unless you keep the plant in a fairly humid environment and don’t run the heat or AC often.
Put your bonsai in the sun when the temperature outdoors is consistently over 15 degrees celsius and the outdoors are humid in general.
When your plant is in the growth phase, make sure that the plant gets fertilized weekly so that it receives the right amount of nutrients to stay healthy and in proper shape.
During the dormant season, cut back the fertilizer and feed your plant monthly. And no matter what the season is, be sure that you use a gentle fertilizer on your green friend.
We suggest you use a urea-free fertilizer with a 3-3-3 NPK ratio, and preferably one specifically formulated for bonsai trees.
Which is the easiest ficus to grow?
All ficus bonsai are in general easier to grow than most bonsai, making them great beginners’ plants. But among all the options available to us, ficus benjamina and retusa are pretty convenient to be parents too. This is owing to their durable nature and resilient will to survive.
How often should I repot my ficus?
Repotting any plant can be tricky because plants tend to get comfortable in the place they have been living in for so long. But make sure that the repotting is not done while the plant is in its growth phase.
The container that you repot your plant in should also be bigger than the previous pot it called home.
How long do ficus bonsai take to grow?
If you are starting from scratch, it is safe to assume that it will take from 5 to 15 years for the plant to be called fully grown. In about 5 years, your sapling will start looking like a miniature tree. And when the plant is in the 10-15 age group, it can be called a mature bonsai tree.
From all the discussions we had so far, it has become quite obvious that the amount of care that these beautiful babies need is quite rudimentary.
With a wide range to choose from, these make a wonderful addition to your indoor family of plants. If you are just starting your bonsai journey, know that this might be one of the easiest plants that help add greens to your house.
So what are you waiting for? Bring your share of greens in the house today!
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