In this blog post we'll demonstrate how to create beautiful Bonsai out of humble, mass-produced Ficus trees.
The Ficus is by far the most popular tree chosen by beginners, as it grows well indoors. Most trees sold as Ficus Bonsai however have obvious flaws that were created during the fast development of these trees. They are often propagated in large nurseries in China, where lots of movement is created in young trunks, and then they are left to grow out several meters tall to thicken the trunks quickly. A year later the trunks are chopped back to create small trees, and young shoots are selected to shape the new branches. This results in small, thick trunked Ficus trees, with a massive wound at the end of the trunk and a few undeveloped branches. One term used by experienced bonsai growers for these trees is 'Malsai'.
For beginners at the art of Bonsai however, these trees are great; they are strong, can be kept in the living room, grow fast and are quite cheap. But even for the intermediate to advanced bonsai enthusiasts, these trees can be a source of low-budget material to build great bonsai. In this article we'll show how to develop a refined Bonsai out of a cheap imported Ficus tree. It all started with placing the Ficus tree in a large container and let it grow out unimpeded for 1-2 years. This way, we develop the branches and make sure the tree is healthy before we start working on it.
Video of styling the Ficus retusa Bonsai
The styling steps explained
After purchasing the Ficus tree, we placed it in a large container and let it grow unimpeded for 1-2 years time. This way the branches could develop and thicken, and the tree's health was ensured. The steps below demonstrate the progression of the tree over about one year time - so the total time needed to develop the tree to the end result shown here was only about 2 years time.
Aftercare and next steps
Although the silhouette of the tree has improved significantly, the tree still needs to be refined over time. Most importantly, we'll prune the tree regularly (about once a month during spring til fall). Eventually we would also like to place it in a much nicer Bonsai pot.
For more information about Ficus Bonsai care check our website. Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see future updates of this tree!