garmy yo
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When to divide a ficus

I recently purchased this ficus from a local nursery. I have done some minor pruning, bending, and wiring. I am now considering whether or not to separate it into 2 to 9 bonsai. When would be a good time to separate, if that is what I end up doing? Spring, summer, let it grow for a year?

edit: Mods: I should have posted this in "indoor bonsai"
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tomc
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Re: When to divide a ficus

It is quite unlikely that that pot is a single raft-planting. I expect they were planted as a group and are individual saplings.

Inasmuch as these are indoor trees, as long as you do not use peat or loess based potting soils they should be fine.

The learning forum should have good recipes on how to mix bonsai soil.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: When to divide a ficus

Yeah, they look like individual trees. So it isn't really a question of dividing them, they are already separate. So let's call it repotting to give them their own pots. Tom do you want to speak to the question of when that should be done.

We often say re-potting should be done in the spring, but I think that is particularly for deciduous trees. Ficus is a tropical evergreen, which will grow year around. It does grow less when the days are short and it is getting less light. Do you still think this re-potting should wait until spring? They are going to be competing with each other, all those trees in one pot and the roots will get more and more tangled together. I would lean towards going ahead and doing it right away, but let's hear what tom says; he knows a lot more about bonsai and generally trees in pots, than I do.

(I would so far call yours trees in pots that aspire to be bonsai some day-- they are still in the nursery pot and have not yet had much pruning or shaping. But that is fine. People often rush in to trying to make bonsai and start chopping away on trees they just got. Once you have yours in individual pots, then definitely leave them alone until next year and spend the time just learning how to take care of them and keep them healthy in pots and studying your trees, thinking about what the tree might want to look like as a bonsai.)
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Re: When to divide a ficus

No I wouldn't wait for spring. If I have a concern; 1., It is the reduced light of winter. 2., Soil mix with very tiny particle size, which holds too much water, and too little air. 3., Placement too near to central heating.

My tender trees get as much light as I can cobble for them (and I believe it to be too little). And my HVAC does not adequately humidify air for trees. Our OP may be in my shoes in this regard too.

Low light levels, makes for bigger leaves with longer internode lengths. Both of which are kind of a fork to the eye of bonsai training, Rig up just as much light as you can. You can always reduce light levels later if you need to.

Figs back bud well enough. As always be a little conservative as you prune, and leave on a terminal leaf on each branch.

When ever you start with saplings, You are building from the soil-line up. A long looping sacrifice branch can be allowed to grow for years to fatten up the base of your tree. An' cause its a fig the sacrifice branch when finally cut off, might just root...
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rainbowgardener
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Re: When to divide a ficus

Agree, good advice from tom. Go ahead and repot them into their own pots now. And when you do, don't put them in potting soil like they are in now. They need good bonsai soil, which is much more mineral and free draining. Here's an article about bonsai soil:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/bonsai/03/soil.html

If you can't find bonsai soil, cactus mix is better than regular potting soil. Your trees will benefit from daily misting, while they are indoors in dry air.

And I wouldn't worry too much about wiring at this point. Like I said these are not bonsai, these are saplings just starting bonsai training. They are going to go through a lot of steps before they get to a finished style.
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garmy yo
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Re: When to divide a ficus

Well, I took your advice and did the separation. I'm glad that is over with. Now they can rest and recoup for the next year. A few had common roots, so I left them in the same pot.
However, I didn't use bonsai soil, as I was advised to. I have had success with my ficus house plants using a 1-to-1 mix of perlite and potting soil. So I went with what I am comfortable with. I will use bonsai soil when it is time to move them into bonsai pots.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: When to divide a ficus

Your mix should be fine for now. Mixing your potting soil with equal parts of perlite makes it much more free draining than just potting soil would be. Your trees are looking good!
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Re: When to divide a ficus

Update:
The smallest tree died. But it didn't have many roots. Bummer, it was one of my favorites.
The rest went through a short period of dropping leaves, but they have since turned around and have a lot of backbudding going on.
I just transferred the largest to a new pot and did some pruning and wiring. Soon I will re-pot the rest and in the spring sell all but one or two.
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garmy yo
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Re: When to divide a ficus

I kept the three that seemed to have the most potential of someday becoming a bonsai. The other two I gave away to neighbors as Christmas gifts. Now it is a matter of training up the branches, filling out the leaves, and increasing the trunk thickness. That should only take a couple years..
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garmy yo
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Re: When to divide a ficus

Update photo
I trimmed the primary tree way back. This is the direction I see this one going..
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garmy yo
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Re: When to divide a ficus

Update:
The smallest ficus is now a ROR project.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: When to divide a ficus

Looking good! You clearly know what you are doing and have some idea of where you are headed with each tree.
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garmy yo
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Re: When to divide a ficus

I went ahead and air-layered the biggest of the trees. I had to do something with that tall trunk. The bottom I was going to just throw away, but it sprouted some shoots so I am going to grow it out and see what happens..
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rainbowgardener
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Re: When to divide a ficus

The bottom one doesn't look like much right now, but it may be the one with the most potential to some day be a bonsai of distinction! You are doing good work!

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garmy yo
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Re: When to divide a ficus

A few update photos:
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rainbowgardener
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Re: When to divide a ficus

Nice work!! I particularly like the semi-cascade one on the bottom.

Thanks for coming back to update us! :) :)
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applestar
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Re: When to divide a ficus

Another fun project! I really enjoy seeing updates like this. Looking good 8)
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Re: When to divide a ficus

Nicely done.
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garmy yo
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Re: When to divide a ficus

It's been almost a year since I last updated this thread. They have grown lots of foliage this summer and I just recently cut them back hard. So here is how three of them look now:
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rainbowgardener
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Re: When to divide a ficus

It's a good lesson for people on what a slow art bonsai really is. You are doing good patient work.
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