Ficus branch help

SnickersUK

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Hi Guys,

Here is a ficus I picked up at a garden centre as a typical chinese stock plant. I've been developing it over the past 2 years. Last month I defoliated it and overall I'm happy with the new growth. However, the branch closest to me in the photo had a small leaf on it and a shoot but in the past few days it turned black and dried up almost like the tree decided to kill it off for the stronger growth. My question is, should I keep the branch in the hope that it will bud again or turn it into a jin?

Thanks
 

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Shibui

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It is common for trees to let branches die that are not efficient or contributing to the tree's net energy.
Sometimes that's just because there are other stronger growing branches. hormones produced by strong, upper shoots travel down the branches and trunk and suppress shoots and branches lower on the tree. Always remember that trees are in a race to become the tallest in the forest so will always put resources into upper branches. This is called apical dominance and still occurs even when there is no competition or forest nearby. These functions are programmed in and most trees just cannot help themselves
More often it is because there is limited resources - light, water or nutrients and the tree needs to decide which parts to concentrate the available resources on.
Lower branches like the one showed are often shaded by the upper ones. Turning the pot weekly so that the lower branches get better light will help retain foliage. Weakening the stronger upper branches by defoliation or pruning is another way to retain small lower branches.
Lack of nutrient can also cause branches to die back. Ensure the tree is well fed for less loss of branches and for best response to pruning.
Ensure good watering so roots are healthy because all above relies on what the roots can supply. Compromised roots from too much or too little water will result in death of branches.


I think it is likely that most, if not all of that small branch has died. The outer half looks wrinkled indicating it is dead. The lower section is probably still alive. There will also be dormant buds at the branch collar where it joins the trunk. If you really want that branch to grow drastic action is required. You will need to prune all the string upper branches hard. Remove all leaves. That should stimulate an eruption of dormant buds all over the remaining branches. Hopefully some will sprout from or near that small branch. After that more careful management to keep all parts healthy and alive. There is no guarantee that this will result in the shoots you need but is the best option I know of to get growth down lower on a tree.
Now it is up to you to decide how important that small branch will be and how much risk you are willing to take for it.
Next option is to accept the loss and look for another style or shape for the tree. No bonsai is fixed in one shape/style forever. Growing things must develop and change over time and our bonsai are no exception.

I just noticed @sorce comment about 3 branches from 1 place and agree that one of that trio will need to go at some stage so the tree may be trying to help you develop better bonsai style.
 

sorce

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3 branches from 1 place

I didn't even see how close they were, that second pic sure shows it better.

This is one of them blessings in disguise!

Good catch.

Sorce
 

Forsoothe!

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I agree with all of the above, except it has not been said that Figs should not be defoliated unless & until it it is outdoors and a good growing weather. Some Like it Hot is an old movie about Figs...:rolleyes:
 

SnickersUK

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Thanks for the advice guys, pretty happy with the semi cascade I have ended up with 😆
 

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