Jumping on the bonsai train

HallieReusch

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Hey all!

I was gifted a ficus bonsai by my best friend for Christmas. I’ve wanted one for a long time so I understand the commitment, but this is my first time owning one. My friend went through a reputable dealer in Chicago and transported the tree in her car to northen Michigan, then back down to the Detroit area which is where I live now (about 15 hours of car time total). We are zone 6a.

Based on my research, I’ve done the following:

I got the plant home on December 23rd and placed it in my living room which has a vaulted ceiling with a large window. I have watered it about every three or four days by submerging the pot up to the rim with water until the water soaks through to the top. I’ve sprayed it every day with a spray bottle. It is planted with Akadama Premium Bonsai soil.

  • Roughly how old is this tree?
    Is my timing on watering correct? How about my method?
  • Is spraying every day necessary?
  • How do I know when to repot? Do I prune the roots every time I repot?
  • How do I know when to prune the branches?
  • Do the leaves look a bit folded inward? I also noticed a few turned yellowish with some dark spots and then fell out. Could that just be from the stress of travel?
Any help is appreciated! I can provide more pictures if that would be helpful. Thank you!
 

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AZbonsai

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Welcome! Your tree looks healthy. Maybe best course of action would be to let it acclimate to it's new environment before you start thinking about repotting or cutting. Ficus can be pretty fickle about moving from place to place. Do not be surprised if you lose a few leaves. Plenty of reading material about ficus care on this site. Might be a good idea to peruse some of that while your tree is getting used to it's new home.
 

penumbra

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It does look very healthy. There is no way I can tell you the age but I can guess 4 to 6 years from cutting. It will lose a few leaves having to acclimate to new surroundings. Don't even consider re potting until spring or summer. These can get pretty pot bound without harm as long as the get what they need, including good drainage. It will probably not need much pruning during the winter. When you do prune it be prepared for white sticky latex sap. You can stop the fresh sap flow by spraying it with water. One settled in you can start feeding it a mild liquid fertilizer which you will increase in the spring and summer. You don't need to submerge the pot with every watering but it doesn't hurt unless drainage is impeded. Misting is always appreciated be plants. Consider additional lighting unless it is getting a lot of light already. Really can't have too much. All of my ficus are under either T-5 fluorescent or LED grow lights for about 14 hours a day.
Good luck and welcome to B-nuts.
 

sorce

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A reputable dealer in a place where you can barely grow the business version of a conifer cuz everything is so shady.

Welcome to Crazy!

Nice lil tree!

I Repot my Benjamin's in winter all the time.
🤫

Sorce
 

canoeguide

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It hasn't been fully mentioned, but if you don't know, you've got a Ficus benjamina. As other's have said, searching here on this site, or just on google for that will get you a wealth of info.

Ficus are pretty tough in general, and benjaminas have a few quirks but nothing too troublesome. The leaves are folded inward: that's just the way they grow and there is nothing wrong.
My tips are:

Not too wet, not too dry, as much light as possible. Water when the soil feels pretty dry about 3/4" down. Use your finger. Outside when it is consistently above 50f in the spring... take two weeks to move the plant slowly from full shade outside, to part shade, to full sun. Do this in reverse for a few weeks in the fall and don't leave the tree outside when it drops below 45f. No need to worry about pruning or repotting right now.

Check out this book. I recommend it: https://www.amazon.com/World-Ficus-Bonsai-Jerry-Meislik/dp/152553288X

Also: thank your friend for not buying you some cookie-cutter S-shaped garbage from the mall :) It's a nice tree. Welcome!
 

Warpig

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Welcome! If you get a min. you might want to add your location/hardiness zone to your profile. It will allow you to get better advise later if needed more tailored to your climate.
 

HallieReusch

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Thank you so much for all of the information every one!

I definitely plan to let it settle in before I do any pruning or repotting. Good to know I shouldn’t be concerned about the leaves. In the meantime I’ll check out the information on this forum and circle back with questions when I’m ready to repot/prune.

Thanks @canoeguide for the book recommendation. I’ll be purchasing. I’ll be sure to thank my friend again. :)

Many of you mentioned Ficus benjamina. The dealer called this a Ficus Rianne. Are they the same thing?

One additional question. Am I a total noob or is there an aerial root coming from the lower branch in this picture?

DFEA9F43-FA3D-4676-8997-9FBC3AB470CD.jpeg
 

Shibui

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I think that dead piece looks more like a branch than an aerial root. i think I can see nodes on it and roots are generally smoother. It may have been bent and damaged or maybe just died because it is too shaded down there. Just cut that one off.
Prune ficus whenever the shoots get too long. usually cut back a bit further than you want to allow for the new shoots to grow out to your chosen outline. Without pruning ficus tend to grow longer without producing side branches so cut as often as you can.
I don't think there's any point repotting unless some roots need to be cut. Root pruning allows more space for fresh new roots to grow and ficus can handle quite drastic root reduction. The other reason for repotting is to replace bad or old soil. Usually roots need pruning before the potting mix has broken down so root reduction tends to be the usual reason for repotting.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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The dealer was giving you good information, though abbreviated. Ficus Riane is properly written Ficus benjamina 'Riane', or just plain 'Riane', note cultivar names should always be in single quotes. That is botanical convention. A bit over wrought detail wise, but this is an international forum, getting names right helps avoid confusion.

'Riane' is a specific cultivar, or clone of Ficus benjamina. All plants with that name were propagated from a single specimen originally registered with RHS as Ficus benjamina 'Riane'.
It is not as common as it used to be in the USA, grown because its habit is different than typical benjamina, it is not as upright. New branches are prone to go off in different directions, where the normal benjamina tend to grow upwards and outwards. 'Riane' can grow up, down, out, in, any which way, resulting in a contorted looking tree. The internodes are not twisted as in contorted cultivars, but direction tends to change at every node. The end result is a contorted looking tree. It is considered a dwarf, though it can slowly become a large tree, the growth habit is not as rapid or as upright as the normal type form of F. benjamina.

Branches are more brittle than typical Ficus benjamina (or at least I have read that they are brittle) - so I suggest as much as possible style this tree by clip and grow, rather than by wiring. So when it comes to styling the tree, you will only need your scissors, or cutters, you won't need wire.

Sounds like the potting media is good. No need to repot in spring if the soil is still free draining when you water it. You only need to repot when the media no longer drains freely. With Ficus, likely once every 2 to 5 years. Repotting every year is not necessary.

Your method for watering is excellent. Check to see if it needs water daily, actually watering once every 5 days or as needed. The submerging it to make sure it is thoroughly wet then letting it drain is perfect. Makes sure there are no dry pockets in the pot. Make up a mild (not too concentrated) fertilizer solution and dunk it in that once a month or every other month. Brand of fertilizer is not too important, plants don't read labels. Use at half the label listed instructions.

Just keep it in the brightest window you have. Once it warms up in spring, staying above 50 F at night you can put it outside for the summer. Or if you windowsill indoors has really good light, you can grow it as an indoor year round tree. Most of us put our Ficus outdoors for the summer. Bring them back in well before first frost in autumn. Wait with putting outside until it is warm enough you can put it out and leave it out. Same with bringing it in, once it cools enough you have to bring it in, don't do the "in and out" dance trying to get a few extra days of sunlight. Ficus resent being moved around, and will drop leaves every time you change their locations, so moving it once in spring and back in once in autumn is best.

All in all a nice find. Keep it growing

The time to do all your pruning, repotting and any other bonsai styling is from May through July. In Illinois, and Michigan this is about the only period of the year Ficus are in active growth. Active growth is the best time to do work on your tree. Most Ficus are pretty much "semi-dormant" from September through April in our area. (I live between Chicago and Milwaukee and own a farm near South Haven Michigan where most of my outdoor bonsai live).

You can root cuttings from any branches cut off during styling. They will root best in warm weather, May to September. This is a good one to propagate and pass on to a friend.
 

HallieReusch

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Update. Here it is after pruning and wiring (I just couldn't wait until Spring). I am going for broom style, and I really have no idea what I'm doing. I see what people mean when they say benjaminas aren't the most flexible figs. I accidentally broke off a branch when I was trying to position it, so I was more delicate with it than I was with my tiger barks. You can see the spot in the second picture. Should I apply wound paste?

ficus 1.jpgFicus 2.jpgFicus 3.jpg
 

Katharsus

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There is some controversy over the use of cut paste. With full grown trees it is no longer accepted practice to apply any type of wound sealant. Faster, more reliable healing, with fewer infections is to be had when you let nature do it’s own thing.

That being said, who knows if this is applicable to tiny trees in little pots? Personally, I only use cut paste when I have a large wound with only relatively young/weak growth distal to it. There is plenty of strong growth above your cuts on the branch, so I would go without. I’m sure you will get some contrary opinions however.
 

Shibui

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I have found that sealing the cuts does seem to help them heal faster but I only use it on larger cuts and slow healing trees or ion places where i want to close a wound as quick as possible. Sealer also seems to reduce dieback in maples, probably because it protects the exposed cambium from dehydrating.
I currently have a trial going with about 20 trident maples to try to ascertain the effectiveness of sealing to aid healing over wounds.
 

Katharsus

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I have found that sealing the cuts does seem to help them heal faster but I only use it on larger cuts and slow healing trees or ion places where i want to close a wound as quick as possible. Sealer also seems to reduce dieback in maples, probably because it protects the exposed cambium from dehydrating.
I currently have a trial going with about 20 trident maples to try to ascertain the effectiveness of sealing to aid healing over wounds.
I’d be very interested in your results! We need more bonsai science!
 
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