The Ficus is one of the most popular bonsai trees around the world, most commonly known for its stunning aerial roots. This species originates from the jungles of Southeastern Asia and can grow up to 30 meters tall once fully mature! Taking care of a Ficus bonsai is not the simplest thing in the world, so I have put together a full Ficus bonsai care guide with everything you need to know!
If all of the growing criteria are met, a healthy Ficus bonsai will be very fast growing and the roots of this species are some of the fastest growing! The fast growth of the Ficus makes it a perfect tree for styling into a bonsai. One of the hardest parts of bonsai arguably is thickening the trunk of a tree whilst it’s growth is confined to a pot but the Ficus has a way around this!
When the correct levels of humidity are present such as in nature, this tree starts to produce aerial roots, which when allowed to touch the trunk, will actually bond to it very fast. This phenomenon can aid the illusion of the bonsai having a trunk a lot thicker, due to the roots clinging to it.
1. Watering Your Ficus Bonsai
The Ficus doesn’t have any special requirements when it comes to watering, it just needs a standard watering routine. In the summer it’s going to require being very well watered, maybe even as much as twice a day during the hottest weeks of the summer months.
To water your Ficus, push your finger about 3 centimeters into the soil to feel for moisture. The perfect time to water is when the soil is moist, but not wet – I know that’s a bit subjective but you’ll get the hang of the perfect timing after a short while. Pour water over the top soil from a low height until water is flowing out of your pots drainage holes evenly. At this stage, leave it to drain for about 2 minutes, then repeat the process – this will ensure your Ficus bonsai is evenly watered.
This species isn’t going to tolerate over-watering too well at all and it’s more the definitely going to lead to root rot or other serious diseases that could be fatal. Likewise if you deprive this tree from water by forgetting to tend to it for a while, it’s not going to be doing too well. The occasional mistake can easily be tolerated but if you are regularly over or under watering the bonsai, the health of the Ficus will deteriorate.
As the Ficus originates from Southeast Asia, it does very well in humidity so many owners like to mist their bonsai every day or so. To be completely honest watering your bonsai by misting is relatively pointless as it only really increases the humidity for about 30 seconds. Not only that, it can increase the possibility of the bonsai getting an infection which could be harmful to the Ficus. The only use misting really has for the Ficus is if you’re looking to grow moss on the top layer of soil, a fine mist is going to promote that growth.
2. Growing Conditions & Sunlight
In the ‘wild’, if you will, Ficus will usually be seen growing in full sunlight but this isn’t actually where they thrive. For optimum growth the Fig is best situated in a more shaded area, where it can keep its roots cool but still have the high levels of sunlight and humidity, without direct sunlight beating down on it.
The best place to grow your Fig bonsai would be outdoors, somewhere partially shaded but where they will still be able to get a good amount of light. Keeping them out of the direct sunlight in the summer months is very important. Although the Ficus is a very tough tree, your bonsai really won’t respond well to being moved to different growing conditions frequently so it’s advised that once you find a good spot for the tree, don’t try and move it unless you really need to. If the tree is positioned against a wall or something similar, make sure you spin it round every few days to ensure that all of the foliage is exposed to the light rather than just the one side.
Outdoor growth in warmer climates is the preferred option for the Ficus but if that’s just not an option for you, growing indoors will still work providing the tree can get enough light. Ensure the bonsai is positioned in the optimum place for sunlight, usually a window ledge but make sure it won’t get too much harsh/direct sunlight. It can be tricky finding the perfect spot but once you do, leave it there! This tree really won’t respond in a great way to having its conditions changed multiple times.
3. Pruning Your Ficus Bonsai
This species is great to prune as it responds very well to any sort of pruning from routine maintenance to a structural adjustment. The best time of year to prune a Ficus is during the winter months as it contains a sap (which looks like thick milk), which flows a lot less during the colder season – making it the ideal time to prune. When any structural pruning is undertaken, the sap is going to leak out of it – it’s nothing to worry about. You would usually want to be applying a wound paste on any cut made to a large branch of a bonsai but in this case, due to the sap, it’s not needed. That’s not to say you can’t do it, however, the tree is naturally able to heal itself just fine in this case.
Instead of using pruning shears, the best practice is to pinch the foliage off of the Ficus during a maintenance pruning. Pinch away the growth tip when it has formed 2-3 leaves for optimum results.
The Fig tree isn’t the simplest species to repot as you run the risk of all of the foliage falling off of the branches. Typically the best time of year to repot is during the winter months about every 3 years, 2 if you feel it’s necessary but 3 years is best. This species grows thrives in a standard bonsai soil mix like this one you can pick up on Amazon for £4.90, so it’s best to stick with that unless you mix your own bonsai soil. If you’re interested in mixing your own soil, you may find this article I published pretty useful, giving a step by step guide to mixing bonsai soil.
You’ll want to ensure the bonsai pot is relatively warm after repotting as this will encourage the root mass to start regeneration after pruning about a third of it away during the repotting. An important tip, if you water the soil too much after repotting, the bonsai is going to lose all of its leaves so be wary of that and try not to water it instantly after repotting. Beyond that, the Ficus is a very hardy resilient tree, as we can tell from how well it responds to aggressive pruning, so it should respond well to the repot.
Although the best time to repot a Ficus bonsai is every 3 years, you may even need to report it annually depending on the age of the tree. This species tends to grow incredibly fast, with amazingly rapid root growth so it’s best to keep an eye on the roots – if you notice roots seeping down into the humidity tray underneath your bonsai pot, it’s time for a repot.
5. Styling and Wiring Your Ficus Bonsai
This species can be styled into absolutely stunning bonsai, so a lot of owners will be looking to wire them as they mature. The Fig is slightly trickier to wire, due to the way it increases in size extremely fast. As the bonsai is watered correctly and in growing season, the bark will swell up and increase the thickness of the tree very fast. The issue here is that causes the wiring to start digging into the bark very harshly, which can lead to scarring on the bonsai.
It’s best practice to constantly keep a check on the wiring at all times and as the bark is swelling, causing the wire to cut into it, remove it temporarily. You can always add new wire on but removing a scar is more or less impossible and could really harm the look or value of your Ficus. If you want more information about the wiring process in general,check out my article teaching you the basics of wiring any bonsai tree.
One of the common reasons people love to grow Ficus as bonsai is the fact it can produce stunning aerial roots which give the tree the most amazing aesthetics. These roots will only grow if the humidity is high enough to encourage growth but when they do, they will grow fast from the larger branches and trunk.
The Ficus doesn’t require any special sort of feed, just a standard balance feed is going to be fine and the bonsai should respond very well to it. During the winter months dilute the feed to about 1/3 to 1/2 of it’s strength in comparison to the summer months. If you don’t know how to tell if the fertilizer you wish to use is balance or not, check for 3 numbers on the bottle. If the numbers are the same, such as 12-12-12, this means that is it well balanced in terms of the elements inside.
It’s advised to use a lower nitrogen content feed in the winter months but not essential. The best practice is to feed your Ficus about every 3-4 weeks throughout the year, diluting the feed as necessary. I’ve recently picked up a nice balanced fertilizer from Amazon, I’m very happy with it so far but will be doing a full review soon!
7. Diseases And Troubleshooting
As most Ficus bonsai are grown indoors, there usually isn’t too much of a problem with diseases infecting the tree but it can definitely happen. The most likely signs you will see are small brown spots forming on the leavings, which will eventually start spreading throughout the tree. To limit the spread of this, pinch off any infected leaves from the branches, which should hopefully help stop anything serious.
Quick Tips For Caring For A Ficus Bonsai
Sometimes it can be overwhelming reading a huge guide with a lot of information, so here’s a quick run down of the key takeaways you’ll need to know in order to look after your Ficus properly!
Watering – Use a standard watering routine for the Ficus to keep it well watered, it has no special requirements.
Growing Conditions – This bonsai should be grown outdoors all year round in partial shade but with a lot of light. Be careful to make sure it’s not in direct sunlight and don’t move the tree to different growing conditions too often, it won’t respond well.
Pruning – Make any structural adjustments (large branch pruning) in the winter as this tree contains a lot of sap, which will flow less during the colder temperatures. When doing maintenance pruning, pinch off the growth tip by hand once there are two leaves growing.
Repotting – Repot this tree every 3 years, in winter. A standard bonsai soil mix will be fine – make sure not to water the Ficus straight after repotting as this will lead to foliage dropping.
Wiring – Be careful wiring up a Ficus as the bark will swell up when well watered, which will lead to the wire cutting into the bark and leaving scars.
Fertilizing – Feed the tree every 3-4 weeks using a balanced feed. In the winter season you’ll need to dilute the feed to about half strength, compared to growing seasons.