matt94gt
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Joined: Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:55 am
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada

Newbie, owner of my 1st bonsai, Ficus Microcarpa - Questions

Hi everyone. Now let me first say I have read some of the stickies and quite a few threads on here. Good forum Im glad to be here.

First off here are some pics of my bonsai. Yes it looks a bit wild I think its overgrown a bit, I picked it because I liked how it was growing off to one side.

[img]https://www.voltagenewmedia.com/matt/bonsai.JPG[/img]

[img]https://www.voltagenewmedia.com/matt/bonsai2.JPG[/img]

[img]https://www.voltagenewmedia.com/matt/bonsai3.JPG[/img]

Now my questions are:

1.) It seems like I have enough light, thanks to that big window in the picture. I don't get very much direct sunlight though. Will I be ok?

2.) Chances are its in poor soil. I will wait until late winter/early spring to re-pot it (since our summer is over I assume its best to wait till then?) and I will order some bonsai soil.

3.) The directions say to water it by sumburging it but I read this is bad and the idea scared me so I have not done it. I have been watering it via the tray below it (just filling it up with water and letting the plant/soil suck it up, then draining the excess). Now I read that I should just water it fairly heavily until water drains out the bottom. How much water is heavily I don't want to over do it, like 500ml/16oz? The reason I haven't done this is im afraid of it not draining properly due to poor soil. Also I have been using a general plant fertilizer (drops) every 2nd watering, I cut the amount of fertilizer suggested on the label by 50% because I heard that bonsai are very defecate. Should I just use tap water or can I keep up with the fertilizer?

4.) Pruning, should I just wait until I re-pot next early spring?

Thanks in advance,
Matt

Striferitus
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Location: Saint Louis

i don't wana be wrong soo gnome will help answer the questions alot beter than me. but ficus is tropical so make sure to keep it warm around it eh between low 60s and high 90s.
as for submerging that is only used in special circumstances, A- dry soil and plant, B-right after a reppoting, . (all i can think of)... but for watering water from the top not just the botom that tray is for keeping the humidity high. when the soild becomes slightly dry water till it is well moistend again. just don't waterlog the soil for days and days on end x.x your tree will die. as far as repotting yes late winter is idea. buttttt you can do it prety much anytime as long as your keep the pot warm afterwards to help growth. as far as pruning get some cut paste and prune in winter and seal the cuts imediately after to prevent bleeding.
hope that helps. alot of that came from a book :D :!: :!:

Strife 8)

matt94gt
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Location: Victoria, BC, Canada

thanks a bunch. so when I water should I make sure I drain the tray below my plant, I don't want it 'siting' in water correct.

Thanks again. Ill research pruning then maybe prune this winter.

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Gnome
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Matt,
so when I water should I make sure I drain the tray below my plant, I don't want it 'siting' in water correct.
Yes, you don't want the possibility of water wicking back up into the pot. A larger tray with a little more depth is often used as what is known as a 'humidity tray' This is usually used with an inch or so of gravel. This way you can keep water in the tray (below the top of the gravel) to raise the humidity in the area of the plant and not worry about the soil staying soggy.
Chances are its in poor soil. I will wait until late winter/early spring to re-pot it (since our summer is over I assume its best to wait till then?) and I will order some bonsai soil.
From what I can tell I agree that the soil should probably be changed. Being a tropical Ficus are not as picky about the timing of re-potting as temperate trees so a healthy tree can be re-potted as necessary. Many growers do Ficus during the summer when they are in a period of active growth.
How much water is heavily I don't want to over do it, like 500ml/16oz? The reason I haven't done this is im afraid of it not draining properly due to poor soil.
Don't worry about using too much water at any one time. Proper watering for most species is not about quantity but frequency. Strife is correct about not keeping the soil soggy. The trick is to know when to water, not how much. Try using the Chopstick method until you get a feel for the requirements.
Also I have been using a general plant fertilizer (drops) every 2nd watering, I cut the amount of fertilizer suggested on the label by 50% because I heard that bonsai are very defecate. Should I just use tap water or can I keep up with the fertilizer?
I fertilize at full strength about every 10 to 14 days. By full strength I mean mixed according to directions. Some growers do mix at half strength and apply more frequently feeling this is preferable. There is also some debate about organic Vs inorganic, both are effective and the most important thing is not to ignore this important aspect of bonsai.
Pruning, should I just wait until I re-pot next early spring?
Again with Ficus they can be worked on with more flexibility than other species. The real question is what are you going to prune? Styling decisions must come first.
It seems like I have enough light, thanks to that big window in the picture. I don't get very much direct sunlight though. Will I be ok?
Which direction does the window face? Ficus can do OK with lower light levels but will do better in stronger light. Are you intending to keep your tree inside permanently?

Norm

matt94gt
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Location: Victoria, BC, Canada

so when I water should I make sure I drain the tray below my plant, I don't want it 'siting' in water correct.
Yes, you don't want the possibility of water wicking back up into the pot. A larger tray with a little more depth is often used as what is known as a 'humidity tray' This is usually used with an inch or so of gravel. This way you can keep water in the tray (below the top of the gravel) to raise the humidity in the area of the plant and not worry about the soil staying soggy.
I will get a larger tray of rocks and fill water up below them. (they look better then sand lol)
Chances are its in poor soil. I will wait until late winter/early spring to re-pot it (since our summer is over I assume its best to wait till then?) and I will order some bonsai soil.
From what I can tell I agree that the soil should probably be changed. Being a tropical Ficus are not as picky about the timing of re-potting as temperate trees so a healthy tree can be re-potted as necessary. Many growers do Ficus during the summer when they are in a period of active growth.
Do you think it will be okay until spring?
How much water is heavily I don't want to over do it, like 500ml/16oz? The reason I haven't done this is im afraid of it not draining properly due to poor soil.
Don't worry about using too much water at any one time. Proper watering for most species is not about quantity but frequency. Strife is correct about not keeping the soil soggy. The trick is to know when to water, not how much. Try using the Chopstick method until you get a feel for the requirements.
Chopstick method??? So I only water it when the top cm of soil is dry correct. Which does not seem to be very often now, id say once every 5 days?
Also I have been using a general plant fertilizer (drops) every 2nd watering, I cut the amount of fertilizer suggested on the label by 50% because I heard that bonsai are very defecate. Should I just use tap water or can I keep up with the fertilizer?
I fertilize at full strength about every 10 to 14 days. By full strength I mean mixed according to directions. Some growers do mix at half strength and apply more frequently feeling this is preferable. There is also some debate about organic Vs inorganic, both are effective and the most important thing is not to ignore this important aspect of bonsai.
Ill keep using fertalizer then thanks!
Pruning, should I just wait until I re-pot next early spring?
Again with Ficus they can be worked on with more flexibility than other species. The real question is what are you going to prune? Styling decisions must come first.
All I want to know is if I wait and it gets large and bushy I can still trim it and not have any negative effects, Im not sure how I want to style it now. I was going to prune it then change the soil all at once, hopefully next spring?
It seems like I have enough light, thanks to that big window in the picture. I don't get very much direct sunlight though. Will I be ok?
Which direction does the window face? Ficus can do OK with lower light levels but will do better in stronger light. Are you intending to keep your tree inside permanently?
Yes I plan on keeping it inside, heat is included in my rent so during winter I tend to have the place fairly warm! The window faces North. I was going to put it up on my window sill with my other plants (see pic) but im worried the changing temprature near the window might do more harm then the light doing good. Since its fall during the morning and night it is cold and during the day it is warm.

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Gnome
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Matt,
Do you think it will be okay until spring?
Well we never really got into the exact nature of the soil but in general you can get by by careful monitoring of the soil and not watering too frequently. If the soil is really tight or compacted it might be better to re-pot sooner. As I noted earlier, spring is not as magical a time for re-potting Ficus as temperate species.
Chopstick method???
Sorry, you mentioned that you had read the sticky threads, perhaps you missed this one or overlooked the relevant text. The Chopstick method is outlined here.
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1479
So I only water it when the top cm of soil is dry correct. Which does not seem to be very often now, id say once every 5 days?
If it's five days, it's five days. This is an indication that the soil is not as free draining as it could be.
All I want to know is if I wait and it gets large and bushy I can still trim it and not have any negative effects,
Yes, you can do maintenance pruning on it as needed. Prune shoots back to a couple of leaves and new shoots should emerge from the axil or junction of leaf and stem.
The window faces North.
That's the least appropriate direction. East or West would be better with south the best. There is always supplemental lighting.
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=6955

Norm

JTred
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Location: Elizabeth, PA

As far as the window goes, glass filters a lot more light than you would think. If you can't get it in a window that faces one of the directions gnome mentioned, definitely get some supplemental lighting.

matt94gt
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Joined: Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:55 am
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada

thanks guys, problem is my bills are very tight as I got laid off, so I don't know if I can afford to leave a light on all the time. any suggestions on a light that will work and not use a lot of energy?

JTred
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Location: Elizabeth, PA

Get an energy saving fluorescent light, not an incandescent. They take less energy and don't get (as) hot. I think mine is around 1100 lumens? It doesn't have to be a special light, just an ordinary fluorescent bulb (the spiral ones meant to replace incandescent bulbs). This was my setup last year.
[img]https://img.photobucket.com/albums/v144/JTsoccer59/BonsaiRecovery007-1.jpg[/img]

If additional lighting is not an option then I would just try to keep it in as bright a location as you can find.

matt94gt
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Joined: Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:55 am
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada

thanks guys/gals!

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