kellimath
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Ficus Nitida Bonsai care

I received a Ficus Nitida Bonsai as a gift recently. I love it, but have no idea how to care for it. It is pretty big with lots a leaves. The brand on it is BloomRite. It is in an essentially rectangular pot about 10x8 inches and 3 inches deep. The tree is about 19 inches talls from the top of the pot to the tallest branch. The lower part of the trunk is coverd in lovely green moss and it appears to me that some thin branches have been brought down and are anchored under the moss somehow. I cannot see the soil in the pot becasue there are little pebbles covering it. The pebbles do not seem loose at all so I haven't actually touched the soil. The instructions say the following:

:arrow: Keep moderately moist.
:arrow: Medium indirect light indoors to full sun outside.
:arrow: 62-90degrees fahrenheit. Does not like drafts.

But that's all it says. I need to know HOW AND HOW MUCH TO WATER.
I live in Fresno, CA and the summers are hot. Today will probably reach about 101 degrees fahrenheit. So I know I have to keep in inside, where it will be 78-80 degrees all the time. But, will it get enough light if I keep it by a window?

Now, I assume that the tree is fully grown, but I don't know. Will it continue to grow? Do I need to prune it? Will it need to be repotted?

I think that is it for now. I appreciate being able to ask these questions. Thank you! :)

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Gnome
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kellimath,

Hello and welcome to the forum. I don't grow F. nitida but I do have some F. benjamina and I imagine care is pretty similar. First, don't put too muck stock in the tag that came with it. Second, remove the glued on pebbles. This is important so that the tree can breathe properly and so that you are able to better judge when to water.
it appears to me that some thin branches have been brought down and are anchored under the moss somehow.
These sound like aerial roots that Ficus sometimes develop.
[img]https://www.artofbonsai.org/galleries/images/jim_smith/jim_smith_ficus_retusa.jpg[/img]
I need to know HOW AND HOW MUCH TO WATER
Proper watering is not so much about quantity, which should always be sufficient to thoroughly wet the soil, as much as it is about frequency. Always water generously but the real issue is how long to wait between waterings.

Ficus are fairly forgiving in this regard. If the soil is approaching dryness it is time to water. Check beneath the surface, not just the top. A small dowel rod or chopstick can be inserted to the bottom of the pot and left there. Check the stick every day and if it is dry then it is time to water again.

I have my Ficus outside in full sun and we have had temps in the 90's here. Ficus like warmth and humidity but adapt well to indoor conditions that is why they are marketed as indoor trees, which is something of a misnomer as no trees evolved inside.

Your tree will do fine outside, with one caveat. Since we do not know what conditions it was recently exposed to try to find a semi sheltered spot at first. A spot that is sheltered from the hottest afternoon sun will be ideal for now. Once you are comfortable that it is doing well you can gradually expose it to more sun. Some Ficus tend to drop their leaves when exposed to a different environment but most always recover.

Ficus will not survive very low temperatures so if your area gets below 50F for extended periods it should be brought inside during that period.

Please post pictures if you are able and if I missed anything don't hesitate to inquire further.

Norm

arboricola
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Location: Minnesota zone 4

"Now, I assume that the tree is fully grown, but I don't know. Will it continue to grow? Do I need to prune it? Will it need to be repotted?"

Yes Kellimath, you will need to prune. This tree can grow to 35-40 ft. in the ground. I've seen some nice bonsai of this species at about 36" tall. So you can let it grew a little and prune to shape.

This species has an agressive root system, so repotting every 2 years or so would be ok.

As Norm said, I would remove the pepples and moss.

As a side note: The bigger the tree, the easier it is to care for. Larger trees are more forgiving of mistakes. Small trees may take years to recover. I grow trees that are under 8" tall and have lost a few over the years because of a mistake on my part.

So let your tree grow and enjoy..

Phil...

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Phil,

Thanks, I guess I did miss something. :oops:

Norm

kellimath
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Location: Fresno

Here are some pictures

Here are some pictures of my ficus nitida bonsai
[url=https://img140.imageshack.us/my.php?image=p1010002rf1.jpg][img]https://img140.imageshack.us/img140/2066/p1010002rf1.th.jpg[/img][/url]
and
[url=https://img118.imageshack.us/my.php?image=p1010003jb3.jpg][img]https://img118.imageshack.us/img118/4688/p1010003jb3.th.jpg[/img][/url]
and
[url=https://img118.imageshack.us/my.php?image=p1010009hy2.jpg][img]https://img118.imageshack.us/img118/1043/p1010009hy2.th.jpg[/img][/url]

Those glued on pebbles are REALLY glued on. I am not sure how to remove them without damaging the tree or the pot.

Also, when i prune the tree, do I prune old growth? Can I damage the tree somehow if I prune too much or the wrong part?

The leaves on my tree seem pretty large for a bonsai. Can I control the size of the leaves by pruning?

Can I keep the tree inside if I want to? Or do you think it would really benefit from being kept outside? We will be having triple digit temperatures for a month maybe two.

This has most helpful so far!

Kelli

GlassB
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Yes, you can control the size of leaves by pruning but it is not an instantaneous change. The size of flowers and fruit do not change however. To induce smaller size leaf growth for future leaves, cut large existing leaves in half with a sharp scissors. This is called leaf pruning.

You may prune off dead growth, dead branches, pick off dead leaves. If you want a branch to be bushier or more full, pinch back new growth on the tips. If you prefer it grow longer at the tips, pinch off branch side growth. Use this general guideline to shape and prune your tree over time.

Your tree would enjoy lots of humidity. It's not enough to mimic tropical temperatures if the humidity is out of whack and does not contain the moisture that the tropics have. My ficus enjoys direct sunlight but not for 8 to 10 hours a day and it would possibly dry up and die under triple degree weather. Considering your tree has been indoors for much of its life, and has so little space to contain water and moisture, not to mention a good portion of its roots are NOT in the soil, I would not recommend putting it out in your triple degree sun. Leave it protected indoors in bright light next to a sufficiently large window or french doors etc.

Unfortunately, most who engage in bonsai or most curious gardeners have come across "mallsai" - the mass produced bonsai with glued on rocks and miscellaneous junk that makes up a commercialized "art" with little care for the tree. These trees are usually not bred to last. With the right TLC however, they can bounce back and live for decades. Not only are these pebbles potentially damaging to proper aeration of your trees roots, I've personally never trusted inorganic matter or unnecessary chemicals leaching into the very medium in which the tree lives - its soil. In the past I have had to take out a large metal spade and use considerable force in breaking these rocks from "mallsai" so as to release the roots for easy pruning and repotting. If the tree is slightly damaged, some roots broken, so be it. Think long term. Be as gentle but as firm as possible when removing glued-on rocks.

kellimath
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Thanks!!

Thanks so much!! :D I will definately get those gluey rocks out of there somehow. And I will keep you posted on how Ficus is doing.

GlassB
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Joined: Mon Jun 16, 2008 6:03 am

I should also add that when pruning branches or leaves for ficus, the ficus family is infamous for its sticky white sap. Some are allergic to this white sap and it is normal for the tree to bleed a bit when pruned so don't worry if you see it "weeping" a bit at the cuts. Most are not allergic but in the case that you may be allergic, wear gloves. Allergy symptoms are mild and at the surface level itchiness, nothing terribly out of the ordinary or lifethreatening. The "weeping" or sap will eventually dry clear, sort of the same way humans form scabs or coagulated blood from platelets. Unlike humans though, you're not hurting it by pruning however. (Appropriate) pruning helps promote new growth and vigour in the tree.

If you would like, try an organic fertilizer. A good brand in the market is RainGrow. It is mild and a few drops mixed with water will go a long way in feeding the tree. This makes sure that the nitrogen, phosphorous, potash levels are adequate for producing vigorous growth in order to prevent disorders like yellowing leaves (lack of nitrogen) etc. Keep in mind that yellow leaves however can mean overwatering or underwatering. I hope that this is not too much information. I'm sure you know or will know your tree inside out in time. And still then, there will be surprises that come up! Makes life interesting.

kellimath
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Update on my ficus.

Hello! I removed the glued on pebbles and the moss. Here are some new pictures
[url=https://img138.imageshack.us/my.php?image=p1010016vk5.jpg][img]https://img138.imageshack.us/img138/3074/p1010016vk5.th.jpg[/img][/url]

[url=https://img71.imageshack.us/my.php?image=p1010018qi6.jpg][img]https://img71.imageshack.us/img71/3658/p1010018qi6.th.jpg[/img][/url]

I don't know if you can tell from the pitures, but underneath the pebbles was mostly empty space. There is a little dirt at the bottom in that area of the pot. Do I need to put more dirt in there? If so, what kind should I get?

I trimmed the tree a little and I gave it a good watering. I set the whole thing on the lawn and gently showered the whole thing and soaked the roots, and then I let it drain for about half an hour and then watered it again. Was that right? Is that how I should be doing watering?

I am going to look for RainGrow. Do I feed it every time I water it? I seem to recall reading that one should feed a bonsai every two weeks or so and only during the growing season. When is the growing season?

Things seem to be going well. I actually really enjoyed spending time witht that tree. Does that sound crazy?

Kelli

GlassB
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Joined: Mon Jun 16, 2008 6:03 am

No, doesn't sound crazy at all. Now the other part is maintaining that same care as needed for years to come! :) Nice work with removing the rocks and lovely potting work.

Dirt or the type of soil for bonsai can be a controversial issue. I personally couldn't care less for the fancy mixes, and mix my (crude) own with equal parts ordinary potting soil and sand. Others may advise differently. Whatever you go with, bonsai must always have fantastic drainage. Lousy drainage can destroy your plant. Ie. too much peat or organic matter or dust/tiny particles suffocate roots. This is why most professional bonsai specialists insist on using soil sieves when making their own soils. I am in no way a professional or a specialist, and I use ordinary cooking sieves found at any kitchenware shop and pay attention to the size of the holes when purchasing.

Your ficus is probably highly smitten with you right now for that shower on the lawn. Showers prevent leaves from getting dusty and affecting their ability to photosynthesize. They also love the humidity that comes from the water droplets. It's not necessary to shower all the time however. I only shower my trees every month or two. Some plants especially those with furry leaves tend to dislike showers and will grow mold on the leaves. It's more than fine with ficus. Don't shower in the winter time as this can cause rot.

Similarly, fertilizing in the winter also changes as you mentioned. Only fertilize in the growing season - this means the warmest season - summer. Even though it's a tropical, allow the tree to "rest" in the winter time and water a bit less. You'll notice that the soil stays wet for longer. Try to balance it out properly and get to know your tree so as not to drown it and do not keep the tree wet constantly. Again, rot will settle in.

If soil is new and depending on the type of soil, it may not be necessary to fertilize after the change in soil. Do not fertilize after any shocks - severe foliage or root pruning, when the tree is ill or sick (battling pests or disease), or when the soil is new (not necessary due to nutrients already possibly in the soil mix).

Yes, you may fertilize every two weeks but this is really ballparking it. To start, follow this guideline as it's foolproof and safe. After getting to know your tree, you may or may not want to tweak it a bit. My ficus has been in my care for 3 years and is now pushing 10 years. It is starting to be a bit more acclimated in its new pot (repotted 2 months ago) with excellent results - great new foliage and amazing mychorrizea and root growth. As a result I have started to up the ante and I fertilize at every watering for this summer season - about twice a week. After about 3 weeks, I give it a rest and do not fertilize for one week. As I said, after awhile you too will come up with a method and schedule that you like according to your plant's needs.

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