Root over glass Ficus benjamina

walawelo

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Hello Everyone, I have been dabbling with root over rock noob experiments (over 20). I say experiments because I wont find out if I succeeded till next year :). I have been watching some amazing threads on this forum and I have tried to watch every video there is about root over rock and exposed roots bonsai. I have noticed that it has been done on quartzite, quartz but never on glass. I decided to try root over glass using this glass paper weight and a Ficus Benjamina cutting that I rooted end of 2019 after pruning my indoor tree (not bonsai 1.8 m tree). I know how to care for Benjamina as house plant well for years as I root and gift cuttings often. this species of ficus is known for woody bulgy roots which I think makes it perfect for this experiment as I need it to completely trap the smooth glass inside its roots. First, I rinsed the substrate, then mounted it on the glass using tiny pit of clay from garden to glue it upright. I arranged the roots to cover all sides of the glass and wrapped it tightly with a piece of cotton kitchen cloth, then tied all with organic twine so that no fine roots will grow horizontally. I encased the wrapped glass in a cut piece of plastic soda bottle and planted. I had to use something very thin to get the substrate to cover around the glass, I improvised.
I plan to cut it as indicated next year and expose half of the glass, then the other half on year 3 at which point I plant to repot in a bonsai pot and substrate. The plant is kept outside all summer and brought inside near the window in winter. wish me luck, if it dies its no biggie :)
 

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walawelo

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Photos part 2
 

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Shibui

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Interesting project.
It is probably far less important to have ficus roots covered than other species. Most ficus are quite capable of growing aerial roots and many become 'strangler figs' when seeds germinate on the branches of other trees so they are more than happy to grow roots without soil provided there is some humidity an regular water.
Ficus roots also continue to thicken after being uncovered.

I arranged the roots to cover all sides of the glass and wrapped it tightly with a piece of cotton kitchen cloth, then tied all with organic twine so that no fine roots will grow horizontally.
Probably unnecessary to wrap ficus roots. I have found that they are programmed to grow down more than they grow horizontally, unlike many temperate species. I doubt that cotton will provide any barrier to roots anyway. Once a root tip penetrates it will just keep pushing through. I use aluminium foil to wrap root over rock plantings. It effectively blocks roots and can be moulded to the shape of the rock to keep roots pressed close to the surface and does not need tying.
Foil does need to be replaced every year or 2 as the soil seems to dissolve it eventually.

Benji are not as robust or as cold hardy as the ficus I use here but it should still do well in this planting.
 

walawelo

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Interesting project.
It is probably far less important to have ficus roots covered than other species. Most ficus are quite capable of growing aerial roots and many become 'strangler figs' when seeds germinate on the branches of other trees so they are more than happy to grow roots without soil provided there is some humidity an regular water.
Ficus roots also continue to thicken after being uncovered.


Probably unnecessary to wrap ficus roots. I have found that they are programmed to grow down more than they grow horizontally, unlike many temperate species. I doubt that cotton will provide any barrier to roots anyway. Once a root tip penetrates it will just keep pushing through. I use aluminium foil to wrap root over rock plantings. It effectively blocks roots and can be moulded to the shape of the rock to keep roots pressed close to the surface and does not need tying.
Foil does need to be replaced every year or 2 as the soil seems to dissolve it eventually.

Benji are not as robust or as cold hardy as the ficus I use here but it should still do well in this planting.

What ficus do you use? I collect ficus houseplants. I have few benjamina, elastica, bengalis, microcarpa, pumila, lyrata and longofolia but with exception of benjamina and microcarpa none of the ones I have are bonsai material. I quite like them as house plants. I saw some impressive Benglais bonsai online but the cultivar I have 'audrey' has huge leafs. My climate is cold in winter and bit dry for tropicals indoor in winter (I use a humidifier for my houseplants). only outdoor ficuses that can survive here are carica (I tried a rooted cutting on a rock), sycomorus and hardy pumila cultivars.
 

Shibui

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Ficus rubiginosa - Port Jackson fig - is the most southern Australian species. It seems to be more cold hardy than most, grows really fast, has relatively small leaves and ramifies really well. It is the favorite for bonsai here in Australia. suitable for large or small bonsai.

It is also a little cold for ficus outdoors here. Winter temps get down to -4, occasionally -6 C but I can keep PJs in an unheated poly house when most others die.
Ficus carica is fully hardy outdoors here and is even weedy because birds drop seeds anywhere. They come up in the vegetable garden and all through the orchard. Larger leaves make them unsuitable for bonsai.
F. elastica is also quite hardy. It can also survive outdoors here with just a little protection. We have a large potted one protected under the eaves of the house. Leaves are also far too large for bonsai and growth habit way too coarse.
 

walawelo

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I would never find a Ficus rubiginosa in Serbia. Maybe I will order some seeds online. you are so lucky to be in Australia :) I wish I had your climate. so many native ficuses, eucalyptus and you even have the only parasitic tree in the world Nuiytsia :)
 

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and you even have the only parasitic tree in the world Nuiytsia
Actually Nuiytsia is really only a hemiparasite. It does take water and nutrients from the roots of nearby plants but has green leaves so makes its own food.

Also it is not the only hemiparasitic tree. Most of the Santalaceae are also hemiparasites. We have 9 genera here including Exocarpus and Santalum which both include tree sized species. Santalum (sandalwoods) is a wide spread genus with species naturally occurring from India through Malasia, Australia and the Pacific islands.
 

walawelo

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Actually Nuiytsia is really only a hemiparasite. It does take water and nutrients from the roots of nearby plants but has green leaves so makes its own food.

Also it is not the only hemiparasitic tree. Most of the Santalaceae are also hemiparasites. We have 9 genera here including Exocarpus and Santalum which both include tree sized species. Santalum (sandalwoods) is a wide spread genus with species naturally occurring from India through Malasia, Australia and the Pacific islands.

I knew Nuiytsia is hemiparasitic but my mind was blown when I learned its a mistletoe (we have some small mistletoes that grow on trees here in Europe). the growth habit for growing as a bush for several years before one leader turns into a mature tree was pretty interesting as well. I saw some sandalwood on a trip to Indonesia many years ago when I was a kid but I didn't know their botanical names let alone that they are hemiparasitic :) I bet you have a very unique bonsai collection of exotics that most never heard of :cool:
 

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Most just the traditional species but I also experiment with lots of Australian natives to find out which are amenable and which are worth pursuing. We are still working out the best times and techniques for many of our native species. The best so far appear to be the ones many people will know - ficus, banksia, callistemon and melaleuca.
 

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