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Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 3:24 pm
Location: Ledyard, CT

Spring plans with new tree

Hi, I'm 16 and I am new to the bonsai world because I recieved a Ginseng Ficus (correct me if I'm wrong) from walmart as a present from my grandmother over the spring/summer.
Note: I have removed the glued on rocks and have done quite a bit of reaserch online.

I know that walmart isn't a good place to buy anything living due to the number of fish and plants that have died in the past but it has been around 6 or so months and it seems to have lived. The only concern that I have about the health of the tree is a bad spot on one of its roots which she didn't noticed when she bought it. Despite this the overall heath seems to be perfectly fine.

As for the forming and styling of this tree I was thinking about a Banyan style with air roots to fill in the gaps between the leg-like roots. Some air roots are actually starting to come in already. I would like the tree to be taller but walmart or someone choped the trunk of the tree stoping all upward growth and just growing new limbs and going outwards. Currently it's 10" high from the soil and 4" to the horizontal cut. Is there a way to reestablish a trunk? I was thinking about choosing the larger upper left limb as the new trunk, and cutting the horizontal cut on an angle so that it can blend in with the future trunk.

Also there are bumps on the trunk with 2 and some times three limbs coming off of these bumbs. is this a problem? Finally when should I do these things to my tree? I was thinking about doing it this spring but it is the first year that I have it and it still has to make it through the winter.

Also any tips about the cutting process, healing wounds, pruning ect. is greatly apreceated.



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Posts: 5122
Joined: Wed Jul 05, 2006 12:17 am
Location: Western PA USDA Zone 6A


Hello and welcome to the forum and to bonsai. I agree with your identification as Ginseng Ficus, (F. retusa / F. microcarpa) sometimes called 'Pot Bellied Ficus' as well.

You say you want it taller but it was cut for a reason. One common design concept of bonsai is the 1:6 ratio of trunk diameter/height. A tree with a one inch trunk is therefore six inches tall. This is done to create the illusion of a mature tree. Also, by chopping it the grower hoped to induce both taper and movement. It is common to grow trees out and then cut them back like this. A new leader is then chosen, as you suggested, and allowed to grow until the abrupt transition is less obvious.

If you wire it now then allow it to grow for a while you can go back later and change the angle of the chop so it less obvious. I think I would wait a while for the new leader to become established before carving the trunk.

Most often Ficus are worked, meaning re-potting, defoliation, hard pruning, during their period of active growth, mid-summer. They seem to respond better when it's warm. I keep my Ficus (F. benjamina) outside during the summer and yours will like the vacation as well. I know some people cannot accommodate this or simply want an inside bonsai but I just thought I would mention it. Also, you do not mention how much light you are able to provide it. Most indoor growers use some form of supplemental lighting.

Consider this tree as a trainer for you, something to learn with/about. Are you interested in bonsai in general or do you simply wish to maintain this tree? I don't know how much you have been exposed to quality bonsai but you might find this of interest.


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