Ficus Benjamina Chop

Boise_Guy

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I got this 20 year old Ficus off Craigslist about 3 months ago and have acclimated it to my house in this SE corner where it gets good light from windows. It was repotted 3 weeks ago in pine bark (organic), cinder (inorganic rock), sand mix (40/50/10% respectively). Its doing okay now after losing a lot of leaves after travelling (hanging out of my trunk on the freeway!!!). The old owners hadn't repotted it in 10 years and just let it go with minimal care.

My question is, ** What should I be doing in the winter to get this ready for a chop in spring and are there some prunes I should do now to get a start on shaping the trunks at the base? **

I know I need to wait until spring when the tree is growing and at its healthiest, and then I'm hoping to hack it way back down to 1-2 feet and hope for backbudding (thinking eventual broom style ficus bonsai...?). I know I want to do everything I can to get the tree healthy for that time in spring.

However, I'm wondering if I should prune some of these lower branches on the trunks now since they will almost certainly need to go at some point anyways? How much work might I do now on the lower parts of the trunks that will be kept? I'm thinking I might get a head start on shaping the lower trunks and prevent making any issues worse for myself down the road after the chop and I'm trying to Bonsai the tree.

This link is partial inspiration, although I'm sure most of you all know what I'm going for here.
http://bonsaihunk.com/ficusforum/FicusTechniques/FigTechnique15.html
 

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Boise_Guy

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Here were the roots when repotted almost 3 weeks ago. Not great I know...but again, keep in mind I've only had it for 3 months and only 3 weeks ago did I get it out of the old crappy soil the previous owners left it in for 10 years.
 

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MidMichBonsai

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Assuming that it's doing well, I would actually pull it back up and remove at least 1/2 of the large roots (possible all of them) leaving the smaller surface roots. Ficus regenerate roots quickly. I would then let it grown strongly for about 6-9 months to let the tree generate many smaller feeder roots and then dig it up again and remove the remaining large roots (if you left any).

For a bonsai, what you want is pot full of fine feeder roots which will allow the tree to reach its strongest/healthiest potential. Large, fat roots do not take up water or resources and monopolize valuable space that fine feeder roots that do take up resources could be utilizing. Once you have done this and given the roots time to fill in, THEN do your trunk chop. The tree will be in a much better place to flourish throughout the operation and bounce back more quickly and believe it or not, you will save time and have a healthier tree long-term.

Good luck!
 

Boise_Guy

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Assuming that it's doing well, I would actually pull it back up and remove at least 1/2 of the large roots (possible all of them) leaving the smaller surface roots. Ficus regenerate roots quickly. I would then let it grown strongly for about 6-9 months to let the tree generate many smaller feeder roots and then dig it up again and remove the remaining large roots (if you left any).

For a bonsai, what you want is pot full of fine feeder roots which will allow the tree to reach its strongest/healthiest potential. Large, fat roots do not take up water or resources and monopolize valuable space that fine feeder roots that do take up resources could be utilizing. Once you have done this and given the roots time to fill in, THEN do your trunk chop. The tree will be in a much better place to flourish throughout the operation and bounce back more quickly and believe it or not, you will save time and have a healthier tree long-term.

Good luck!
Thx for the advice. That will put me at next spring about 1.5 years from now to do the chop! Thats okay with me if its best, but do you agree its also best to chop in spring anyways? In spring-early fall I can leave the tree outside.
 

sorce

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Aaronkslater

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you will need to work the roots at some point. You can do it now, and then watch the growth next season to see if you can chop next summer. Or, you can do it later when you are trying to get it into a bonsai pot. They really tolerate root work well... although I hear they can drop leaves when roots are cut hard so it is good to do root and top pruning at the same time... I have done this and and the tree doesn't seem to mind but I'm not sure it is needed.

In my experience the best time for a hard prune or chop on Benjamina is late spring or midsummer, when it is hot and sunny and the tree is in its most active growth phase.

I also agree with sorce to keep the small branches as a safety net. When you do the chop you should get some budding on those branches even if you don't get budding on the trunk.
 

Boise_Guy

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Well I did the root prune 10 days ago and so far so good. Tree is still looking healthy (dropped one leaf). Here are pics of the root ball after the root prune. Now time to hurry up and wait...hope the tree generates a lot of nice little roots and gets very healthy for a chop in the summer (if the tree looks ready for it by then).
 

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sorce

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Nice Boise!

That spectracide. .....the roaches at my work have concocted an antidote for it in their little roachy meth lab.

An aerosol spray spectracide. ..1 minute.

Raid. 7 seconds.

Can't wait for summer!

Can you put it out?

Sorce
 

Boise_Guy

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Thanks Sorce! I can put it out in the summer, certainly not now though. It is in a decent corner with a large East facing window and a SE facing window both shining right onto it. I'm also considering an LED grow light with a metal fixture/clip...will see.
 

sorce

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Oh yeah summer!
Already got snow there don't ya?

It sounds dumb, but I'd put a light at the bottom, even if there's nothing there yet.

Maybe even chop on of the big trunk for S&g, maybe you can get a jump start.

I wish I had a window corner like that! Just beware the chill, my biggun is already feeling some cold effects by the window!

Sorce
 

Boise_Guy

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I might try a light in a while here...I'm ordering a bulb already to supplement additional lighting from a permanent light socket near another of my growing areas on a south facing window. If I like the light and results, I'm considering getting another bulb with a more portable setup that I can aim wherever I want.

I do worry about the chill and draft from all the windows...so I've been getting towels or blankets, rolling them up, and placing them on the window sills between the trees and the window to help try to prevent cool air drafts from flowing onto the trees.
 

Boise_Guy

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Haven't chopped yet...trying to be patient and let those feeder roots grow a lot. It was pretty unstable in the pot after major tap root cutting in the fall so i used large rocks for stability. Its been outside about 5 weeks after being inside with grow light since fall. Its much less wobbly in the pot now, but being outside with some wind, I've left the rocks there for support still. I wheel it into an alcove close to the house exterior wall when wind/hail is coming. We had a heat wave last 2 weeks, now we are cooling again to low 50s at night so Im thinkimg of waiting a few more weeks or (or more?) since our summers last well into August. It looks healthy and has lots of new growth, some of it right at the trunk (even at the base of lower branches where they meet the trunk). The first branch near the base is twiggy, but continues to proliferate and gives me hope.

Opinions on where, when and how to chop? I've read quite a bit and was thinking a flat chop just above the 2nd branch... See pics with potential chop line and chopstick for reference. The 2nd branch is fairly large, and will have to go eventually, but I should leave it for now as lifeline? Other option would be to just keep the low twiggy branch, which looks like a good primary branch down the road. More pics available upon request.

Thanks as always for the great help on these forums,
Boise_Guy
 

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Boise_Guy

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thinking a flat chop just above the 2nd branch.
See my post just above...but I should note, I would cut an inch or two higher than I marked...planning for die back. I wouldn't cut "right" above that branch.
 

Boise_Guy

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...and post chop pics. The biggest trunk had a knob on it that I decided to cut below, so its shorter than the other two trunks by a bit. This may be just fine though im thinking since the single large branch at the top is opposite the larger/shorter trunk -- so if i bend up this branch as a new apex, that would make sense then no?

The smaller "twiggy" branch near the base has been growing great and i am hopeful will continue and perhaps be my primary branch...?

Down the road I'm thinking maybe I raffia the trunks together to try and get them to fuse together to form a single trunk...good idea down the road??

I saw a small bud or two below the cuts as I was making them so im very hopeful for good back budding!

Im sure plenty of folks will have strong opinions on my using cut paste...in the end i decided to do it...yes, even on a ficus. Its done now, so lets not belabor this point if thats all right.

Im trying to propagate two of the large chopped branches if I need material later on.

Sooo....opinions...comments....concerns?
 

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aml1014

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...and post chop pics. The biggest trunk had a knob on it that I decided to cut below, so its shorter than the other two trunks by a bit. This may be just fine though im thinking since the single large branch at the top is opposite the larger/shorter trunk -- so if i bend up this branch as a new apex, that would make sense then no?

The smaller "twiggy" branch near the base has been growing great and i am hopeful will continue and perhaps be my primary branch...?

Down the road I'm thinking maybe I raffia the trunks together to try and get them to fuse together to form a single trunk...good idea down the road??

I saw a small bud or two below the cuts as I was making them so im very hopeful for good back budding!

Im sure plenty of folks will have strong opinions on my using cut paste...in the end i decided to do it...yes, even on a ficus. Its done now, so lets not belabor this point if thats all right.

Im trying to propagate two of the large chopped branches if I need material later on.

Sooo....opinions...comments....concerns?
Looks good! I'm sure you'll have a mess of branches soon!

Aaron
 

sorce

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Damn!

You sure did get it banging with new growth since before!

You might a should a fused it prechop...
But the deed is done now.

Nice.

Sorce
 

eferguson1974

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Nice Boise!

That spectracide. .....the roaches at my work have concocted an antidote for it in their little roachy meth lab.

An aerosol spray spectracide. ..1 minute.

Raid. 7 seconds.

Can't wait for summer!

Can you put it out?

Sorce
Sorce, try boric acid in powder form. They walk thru it and it dries them out, killing them. I dont think they can develope immunity from it. And its not so toxic. Just use a fine layer. Its worked for me in the past..

I cut/air layered a big benji, leaving a branch. So far, no backbudding from the trunk. I bought it for the trunk!! Bummer. I hope my veriagated benji is better, its in the same process, but was cut/layerd later. Fingers crossed! I checked the air layer, one root after a month. Very slow, even even here in the tropics....
 

Boise_Guy

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I have some buds down on the trunk that has a branch at the top. The other two trunks are essentially branchless and nothing on them yet.
 

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