Opinions on new ficus

Ichigo

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I stumbled into these two the other day and brought them home. They were labeled as Ginseng Ficus and they look grafted. These are what I am going to repot which is why I was asking about soil in the other thread.

Questions:
1) Is it OK to prune them back at the same time I repot?
2) Any ideas on the style direction I should take them or are they too overgrown to tell?
3) They are both roughly 24" tall. Does that mean I need about a 16" pot?





Thanks as always
 

Bonsai Nut

Nuttier than your average Nut
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Hi Ichigo;

I want to offer constructive criticism without being demotivating :) These two trees are going to be difficult to turn into bonsai. I'm not saying impossible - but you have probably read several of the recent threads here about bonsai "return on investment" or how quickly you can create bonsai from different material. These tree will take a while, because they have not been prepared for bonsai development. Their roots will probably not be good, and they have tangled trunks without taper or branch structure. If you are interested in ficus bonsai, I might recommend you try a bonsai nursery in Florida for ficus pre-bonsai that already have many years advantage over these two trees.

That is all the bad news. The good news is that, being ficus, they are probably the single most forgiving tree to do massive overhaul work on. If you want to work with both trees, I would recommend you study pictures of great ficus bonsai that have tangled multiple trunks so that you can start to plan for the future of your trees. It is often helpful to have a photo right next to you when you work on a tree. When you repot, you will want to start spreading the roots out as flat as possible, eliminating any deep or thick tap roots, so that after several repottings (after several years), the tree will be in a broad, flat tray or pot that will help accelerate a flair at the base of the trunks. You need to work on developing the taper of the trunks, which will mean eliminating almost all of the branches and chosing a new single leader that will become the sole new apex. All other branches will probably need to be developed from scratch - but they should pop easily from the trunks once you have cut the other branches back hard.



The key to ficus is keeping them warm, humid and in bright sun. I can't kill ficus here in Southern California (I have several growing in my yard, in containers, etc) and conditions are not nearly as optimal as they are in Florida. My dog just chewed through a 3" ficus and it completely recovered and is busy healing over a scar from having half of its bark removed. I have completely defoliated ficus year after year with no noticeable bad side effects. Just don't try to force them into small pots too early - you need a lot of wild growth from them yet and putting them into small pots will slow them considerably. Consider a large growing tray or growing flat.

I would also recommend checking with local resources (clubs) in your area since I am sure they will be crawling with ficus enthusiasts. There are some nice resources at the Bonsai Societies of Florida page, with some nice photos of ficus bonsai as well.

I hope this helps! By the way - it would be rare that someone would graft a ficus tree. They reproduce very easily via cuttings. I can't quite see where you think they might be grafted, but it may just be a wierd bump or hump in the growth of the tree, something quite common with ficus especially as they age.
 

Ichigo

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Thank you for the assistance and honest opinion.
 

Bonsai Nut

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Thank you for the assistance and honest opinion.
For the record, I have several trees that I know I should not be working on - that I could achieve better results faster another way. Yet for whatever reason I still have those trees and still work on them. Do not let my honest criticism derail plans you might have - if you like these trees go ahead and work on them and enjoy the experience. Then in several years I will enjoy seeing the progress even more :)
 

Ichigo

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I am going to go for it anyway. So should I go for a shallow yet wide training pot? If so, about what width would be good?
 

Bonsai Nut

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I think your best results would be had by constructing a couple of grow boxes about 6" deep and 24" square. These will be larger than the final pot you will move them into, but you want the trees to be able to grow quickly and the roots to develop quickly - both of which require larger space. Actually, an even faster way to get these trees to develop would be to cut them hard and then plant them in your yard on top of a plate (to keep the roots growing horizontally instead of vertically) but I don't know if this is practical for you.
 

Ichigo

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As I was walking out of home depot I found the best improvised grow box in my opinion. Rubbermaid makes this wire mesh storage bin that can hold up to 30lbs. Since it is mesh it should have the advantages to root development that growing in a pond basket or colander would have and it was the dimensions I needed.

As I suspected the ficus was horribly root bound. It took me a good half hour untangling and combing out the roots. I spread them laterally as much as possible and planted it in a 50/50 mix of lava rock and fig bark per the suggestion on another thread.

Next step is pruning.

 

Tachigi

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Ichigo...that is pretty cool for a pre-made container. However looking at your picture your soil particles look HUGE. At least in relationship with the trunk. If there are much bigger than 3/8ths I would venture that you will have a dead ficus pretty soon.
 
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