Ficus religiosa experiment/murder

Lou T

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To begin, I took an airlayer off a Ficus religiosa today. I know, terrible time of year but I got bored. Also, it’s been a relatively mild winter here in NE Florida and the plant is still pushing growth.

The whole point of this experiment was to induce the accelerated formation of nebari by splitting the trunk at the airlayer, effectively forking the root mass. I was inspired by youtuber/bonsai artist “Bonsai Iligan” and this video:


Here is a photo of the airlayer once I removed the plastic and began painstakingly removing the spaghum moss with a pair of tweezers.

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I lost about 60 percent of the roots doing this. Once I was happy with the removal of the moss and could see the base of the layer better, I created a fork using a pair of pruners.

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From here I very carefully pulled the split apart and probably broke a bunch of stuff but whatever. I ended up with this:

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I wedged a piece of lava rock between the fork to keep it separated. Then I planted in well-draining substrate and placed it in the shade. Might throw some plastic over it to limit transpiration some more. Here is a final image:

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Things I would do differently:
1. Use a less fibrous yet still water retentive layering medium such as vermiculite so as to allow ease of cleaning up the root mass.
2. Make the layering vehicle looser around the site. For example, use a suspended pot. I found the roots to be compressed against the trunk and a bit too dense to work with.

What do you all think of this potentially murderous experiment? Will it live? And if it does how do you suspect the nebari will look like in a couple years?
 

Lou T

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Update for the record on this project. I lost all the initial leaves on the tree. I also duplicated the project with another, larger air-layer but instead of 4 prongs to the forked base I divided it further into 8.

The two seem to be doing well with buds in some good spots including right at the base at soil level. Some pics:
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Lou T

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Update for the record on this project. I lost all the initial leaves on the tree. I also duplicated the project with another, larger air-layer but instead of 4 prongs to the forked base I divided it further into 8.

The two seem to be doing well with buds in some good spots including right at the base at soil level. So far no murder. Some pics:
View attachment 228030
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View attachment 228032
 

Forrestford

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What soil are you using? Looks like dirt covered in sand. Dem roots gots ya breath my man
 

Lou T

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What soil are you using? Looks like dirt covered in sand. Dem roots gots ya breath my man
Yeah man. Whipped up something real quick in a pinch. I have some nice soil in my yard due to leaf litter and mulching I do. A few inches below the duff and there’s Florida sandy soil mixed with some good organics. Tons of earth worms, mychorizzea and a host of other bugs and critters. Super light and fluffy stuff that can host most any plant I put in it well. The mother plant I sourced these layers from for example is planted in it and thrives. Took some of that and mixed in some coarse sand. Does the trick in the bonsai application for me at least. Plus I don’t have to water everyday. But the reason there is sand on top of the one is because I ran out of my mix and just slapped some sand on top out of laziness. I do need to fix that.

As far as the roots go, after just a month I can already see some poking through the smaller specimen’s drainage holes. This tells me that the original layer roots have taken instead of the plant forming new roots as if it was a cutting. Combined with the shoot vigor, I’d assess its doing just fine. But hey we Floridians have been blessed with a mild winter and a very early spring! I can’t wait to dig it up in a year and see how the split has developed. Gona be freaky.
 
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Ali Raza

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According to my experience with ficus religiosa, i found that they are very hardy and difficult to kill. They grow like hell when pruned and grows almost all the year in my region. They grows on the walls and top of the house in my region and grow again no matter how much you punish them. So thumbs up for your work.
 

Lou T

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According to my experience with ficus religiosa, i found that they are very hardy and difficult to kill. They grow like hell when pruned and grows almost all the year in my region. They grows on the walls and top of the house in my region and grow again no matter how much you punish them. So thumbs up for your work.
Aye my man. I reckon I’d gave to agree with you. I like a plant that can take abuse. Opens up opportunity for...unorthodox procedures.
 

eryk2kartman

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I like the idea, will watch the tread for further updates.
 

Lou T

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Update on this experiment:

I unearthed the tree to find substantial root growth. The plant is healthy as can be in our Florida summer. The roots on all four “forks” survived and are fattening the forks themselves. Still a little unnatural looking but I removed the lava rock as enough callous has formed to stabilize the spread formation. Trimmed the roots back 50% and replanted in an Anderson flat. Kept the two shoots emerging from the forked area to help fatten them further. Hopefully more roots will form inside the forks and over time the base will look more natural.
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Zach2

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Nice results. Anything you would do differently next time?
 

leatherback

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I wonder though.. Is this really a better result than taking the layer, removing the roots that were not at the same level on the trunk, and then planting the thing on a tile, and letting it shoot?
I am in the wrong climate for this species. Would be curious to learh the difference. If you have another airlayer and willingness to experiment..?
 
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I wonder though.. Is this really a better result than taking the layer, removing the roots that were not at the same level on the trunk, and then planting the thing on a tile, and letting it shoot?
I am in the wrong climate for this species. Would be curious to learn the difference. If you have another airlayer and willingness to experiment..?
I think this will gain quite a few years on nebari taper, however it will also take a few years for it to look like real nebari? Still a good idea if you have the time?
 

Lou T

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This is really cool, I might have to give it ago. Any photos with your 8 split?
The 8 split is alive but I am waiting to unearth it as I am trying to coax out some some low buds through pinching.

I wonder though.. Is this really a better result than taking the layer, removing the roots that were not at the same level on the trunk, and then planting the thing on a tile, and letting it shoot?
I am in the wrong climate for this species. Would be curious to learh the difference. If you have another airlayer and willingness to experiment..?
This species (any species of ficus really) grows very well here so I do see what you mean. At this point I figure I wait and see if the trunk split proves to develop into something interesting and natural looking as it calluses and forms new roots from within the split. I have many more layer opportunities and one larger one going right now that should be ready in a couple of weeks. I’m going to spread the roots radially over a tile in the ground as you mentioned and hopefully draw some interesting comparisons over time. Will continue to update.
 

Trenthany

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The 8 split is alive but I am waiting to unearth it as I am trying to coax out some some low buds through pinching.


This species (any species of ficus really) grows very well here so I do see what you mean. At this point I figure I wait and see if the trunk split proves to develop into something interesting and natural looking as it calluses and forms new roots from within the split. I have many more layer opportunities and one larger one going right now that should be ready in a couple of weeks. I’m going to spread the roots radially over a tile in the ground as you mentioned and hopefully draw some interesting comparisons over time. Will continue to update.
Reviving to check on results!
 

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