Willow Leaf Ficus

Redwood Ryan

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Hello again everyone,


I picked up this small Willow Leaf Ficus at my local nursery for a cheap price. This is probably the closest tree I have to being finished, even though this tree is nowhere near finished (that tells you what my trees are like). Most of my trees are just works in progress, and so is this one. This one is just a better looking working in progress. Anyway, I just wanted to see what you all thought of it. I don't think it's quite ready for a bonsai pot, so I will take it out of the pot it is in and place it into something else so I can work on the non-existent nebari. Any tips on what you think would help with nebari like this? Here is the tree:

002-82.jpg


And the non-existent nebari:
004-64.jpg


Comments, tips, etc. always welcome!
 

Kirk

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Hi Ryan,

I grow a lot of these in my greenhouse. If it were my tree, I would pot it in a very wide, shallow container with very good drainage and good soil. Ficus salicaria hate wet feet. As the weather warms, place it outside in lots of sun. Feed and water properly. As it grows, allow it to gain size and beef up. The nebari will improve as it grows in the shallow container. You can pick a new apex and begin to build your branches. Cut branches you do not need back to a little stub. Don't cut flush to the trunk if you can avoid it. As it is, the existing curves are a little too repetitive and predictable. Watch out for mealy bugs and spider mites.

Another option: Begin taking cuttings off of the stems until you have a dozen whips rooted. They will be genetically identical to the original tree. Once they gain a little size, pull the parent plant out of the pot and place the new whips all around the original's trunk. I use medical tape to bind them. In a short amount of time (several months) they will graft together, forming a more interesting trunk with attractive "ribs". You can use some of the whip's tops to create side branches.

Best of luck,
Kirk
 
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Redwood Ryan

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Hi Ryan,

I grow a lot of these in my greenhouse. If it were my tree, I would pot it in a very wide, shallow container with very good drainage and good soil. Ficus salicaria hate wet feet. As the weather warms, place it outside in lots of sun. Feed and water properly. As it grows, allow it to gain size and beef up. The nebari will improve as it grows in the shallow container. You can pick a new apex and begin to build your brances. Cut branches you do not need back to a little stub. Don't cut flush to the trunk if you can avoid it. As it is, the existing curves are a little too repetitive and predictable. Watch out for mealy bugs and spider mites.

Another option: Begin taking cuttings off of the stems until you have a dozen whips rooted. They will be genetically identical to the original tree. Once they gain a little size, pull the parent plant out of the pot and place the new whips all around the original's trunk. I use medical tape to bind them. In a short amount of time (several months) they will graft together, forming a more interesting trunk with attractive "ribs". You can use some of the whip's tops to create side branches.

Best of luck,
Kirk


Thanks Kirk!

I think I'm addicted to Willow Leaf Ficus. This is my 4th one :cool:

I will repot this guy tomorrow and place him in the fish tank. Should I cut back the branches at all? Also, you mentioned the curves being repetitive. Would you recommend me cutting it back? If so, how much and where?


Thanks!
 

Kirk

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Thanks Kirk!

I think I'm addicted to Willow Leaf Ficus. This is my 4th one :cool:

I will repot this guy tomorrow and place him in the fish tank. Should I cut back the branches at all? Also, you mentioned the curves being repetitive. Would you recommend me cutting it back? If so, how much and where?


Thanks!

Ryan,

They really are fun little trees. I'm using them to teach the "Beginners Tropicals" class at the Monastery this spring. You can also style them is several different ways (informal, RoR, Banyan...). If you want it to be a substantial and convincing looking tree it needs to just grow. It's much like any other species used for bonsai. If you start cutting now you will slow down development of nebari and trunk. It will gain lots of size and vigor if you repot and move it outdoors into sun.

When you repot, go ahead and remove any roots that are growing down under the trunk. It's easier now than later. I usually plant mine in a large nursery container with a clay saucer directly under the trunk.

Remember that when you move a plant from inside to the outside that you first move it into some shade then ease out into sun over the course of a week or two. Throwing it into full sun would be like dropping me on South Beach. It would scorch. Eventually in full sun, the new growth will start to take on a reddish hue against green.

After it grows for a summer or two, then you can start looking for the best place to reduce the tree and start building taper. Try to cut this type of ficus back to a branch when possible. If you reduce it to a bare stump, it may not like it.

Take cuttings this summer so that you have the option to graft more onto the parent or just to have more to play with. They root very easily in perlite, humidity and a little shade.

In the meantime, pick up a copy of Ficus, The Exotic Bonsai by Jerry Meislik. Also, take a workshop with Eric Wigert (Wigert's Bonsai) if he is in your area.

Kirk
 

Redwood Ryan

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This is my 4th Willow Leaf and I think it's safe to say these are my favorite. They are so easy to work with. I have reduced 3 other Willow Leaf Ficus down to bare stumps and boy do they bounce back. I've been in contact with Jerry Meislik about all of my ficus, and with this one he said the top is more powerful (I forgot what he really said) than the bottom, as it is much bushier. I agreed with him and he showed me where I should cut near the top. Right above the last branch on the left (going from bottom to top).

I personally like the curves and they are a main reason I bought the tree. Others, apparently, don't :(

P.S. I wish Eric Wigert lived near me, but isn't he in Florida?
 

Kirk

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Sounds like you are on the right track. As for the curves, it's just my personal taste. If you see the same curve happening all of the way up the trunk, it looks a little man-made or contrived. You can see the same thing in mass produced junipers and chinese elms.

I just worked with Kathy Shaner all day Friday. A recurring theme of hers was referring to each feature of the bonsai as "something you would see on a tree in nature". She may be talking about a curve, bump, stump... In the art, we certainly stylize, but in nature we seldom see a mature trunk with the same repetative undulations snaking the entire length of the tree. Not a point of contention. Just something to consider as you mature and evolve with your trees. Something I'm still doing, as well.

Eric is in Florida. He came up to the Atlanta club last year and will be here again this summer.

Kirk
 

Redwood Ryan

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Sounds like you are on the right track. As for the curves, it's just my personal taste. If you see the same curve happening all of the way up the trunk, it looks a little man-made or contrived. You can see the same thing in mass produced junipers and chinese elms.

I just worked with Kathy Shaner all day Friday. A recurring theme of hers was referring to each feature of the bonsai as "something you would see on a tree in nature". She may be talking about a curve, bump, stump... In the art, we certainly stylize, but in nature we seldom see a mature trunk with the same repetative undulations snaking the entire length of the tree. Not a point of contention. Just something to consider as you mature and evolve with your trees. Something I'm still doing, as well.

Eric is in Florida. He came up to the Atlanta club last year and will be here again this summer.

Kirk

Thanks again Kirk.

I went ahead and removed the top of the tree and repotted it. The top just needed to go so badly. Here it is:

004-65.jpg
 

Kirk

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Wonderful. Did you use the top to strike a new cutting?

Best,
Kirk
 

Kirk

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I hope to. I've never had much success with Willow Leaf cuttings though....

Use a well draining potting mix (perlite), place it in med. light with high humidity (your terrarium or plastic bag). You can also use rooting hormone powder if you have it. Keeping the cuttings with high humidity does the trick.
 

Redwood Ryan

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Use a well draining potting mix (perlite), place it in med. light with high humidity (your terrarium or plastic bag). You can also use rooting hormone powder if you have it. Keeping the cuttings with high humidity does the trick.

Thanks again Kirk. I dipped it in rooting hormone and it is sitting in my aquarium with all of the other trees.
 

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