If you are looking for an entry into the ancient Japanese art of Bonsai, a great place to start is with a Ginseng Ficus. It looks terrific and requires minimal care when compared to other Bonsai, which can be quite difficult to maintain. The difficulty level of starting, maintaining, and training a Bonsai scares a lot of people from getting into a really fascinating hobby, but the Ginseng Ficus will hopefully enable you to push through and enter into the world of Bonsai.
The Ficus is part of the Moraceae or Mulberry family and it grows throughout the tropical regions of the world. The Ginseng Ficus particularly is native to Southeast Asia. It is an interesting looking plant for a Bonsai, with narrow elevated roots that swell into a potbelly trunk and narrows at the branches before spreading out to the crown.
Bonsai artists especially focus on the raised roots on these funky little plants to create a certain aesthetic. In their natural habitat, these aerial roots are grown with ease in high humidity environments. At home, you need to recreate these humidity levels which often means an artificial enclosure. The effect is achieved by roots growing vertically downward from branches until they reach the soil, where they develop into thick strong trunks. This can achieve the desired pillar style or the root-over-rock Bonsai style called deshojo.
The biggest rule to remember is that, in the end, it is an art form and, like all art, there are no rules. If you can keep your plant alive you have created a masterpiece.
|Botanical Name||Ficus retusa and Ficus microcarpa|
|Common Name||Ginseng Ficus|
|Plant Type||Tree, Evergreen|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun|
|Soil pH||Acid, Neutral|
|Hardiness Zones||9 - 11, USA|
|Native Area||Southeast Asia|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets|
Ginseng Ficus Bonsai Care
Growing and maintaining a Ginseng Ficus Bonsai is easy if you follow some simple guidelines. Do not be afraid of entering this amazingly rewarding artform just because you are worried you have heard it is hard.
Your Bonsai will need a good amount of light. Indoors, placing it on a windowsill is a good idea. If this is not available, plant lights can aid in growing your Ginseng Ficus. If you take your tree outdoors during the summer, plan to place it in a spot that gets plenty of sun. The Bonsai will not tolerate shade at all.
Ginseng Ficus trees do well in a soil mix that is sixty percent aggregate and forty percent organic matter. You can buy a premix or make your own using pine bark, lava rock and a product called akadama which holds water and slowly breaks down over time.
Water your Ginseng Ficus thoroughly whenever the soil gets slightly dry. Misting the plant daily is a good idea, but do not water to the point where the Bonsai is dripping, or else fungal issues can occur. If your plant is in an especially warm environment more frequent watering will be needed.
Temperature and Humidity
The Ginseng Ficus is an indoor Bonsai and is not frost hardy. It can be brought outside once temperatures are consistently above 60oF but must be kept in the sun and not allowed to dry out. Low humidity can be tolerated due to the waxy surface covering the Ficus’ leaves, but it will thrive in a humid environment.
Pruning is a necessity and part of what makes a bonsai a bonsai and not just a plant.
You can forego the pruning for a year or longer to achieve a thicker trunk. When ready to prune leaves, a good rule to follow is to prune back to two leaves after six to eight leaves have grown.
If you have left the trunk to thicken, new shoots will grow from old wood. But be sure to tend to any substantial wounds with cut paste so disease does not occur. Always use sharp and clean tools when working with your plant.
Repotting a bonsai must happen when the root system has filled the pot. It needs to be done to give the tree new soil and to encourage a more compact root system.
You will only need to repot your Ficus every other year during the summer. Do this by removing the tree and soil from its pot and trim the outer and lower quarter of the tree's roots. Be careful not to over prune or remove too much root material. Place the bonsai into the original pot or a new container using the bonsai soil mix.
Bonsai draw on very little soil, so it is necessary to replenish their nutrients occasionally. Any multi-purpose liquid fertilizer available at your friendly local nursery or garden center should be adequate. For Bonsai, dilute the mixture by fifty percent with water before applying monthly.
Training Ginseng Ficus Bonsai
To train your plant, you will want to use anodized aluminum or annealed copper wire. Wiring your Ficus’ thin and medium branches is easy since they are very flexible and will bend easily. Make sure the wires are not cutting into the tree though, and readjust if needed.
For larger branches, guy wires will be necessary and will need to stay on the tree much longer. One great and interesting thing that Ficus trees are able to do is to fuse their branches, roots and other Ficus’ together. This can achieve some pretty amazing results. Have fun!