Training a ficus houseplant into bonsai.

shur2February 17, 2007

Instead of purchasing an established bonsai..I decided to purchase a small ficus (benjamina I beleive) and train it. It has roughly nine (trunks?.) I tried to remove about 1/3 of the lower branches to remove some of the clutter. i am confused though..not sure if i should attempt a multi trunk or take several shots at growing 1 trunk plants...If so, how would i plant them? air layering possibly? the plant is no bigger than 10-12 inches high and around 10 wide and is still in the original pot, where it will stay for some time I'd imagine. Any ideas?

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lucy(6)

Well, what you bought is a house plant, but really 9 seedlings stuck in one pot (as you'll see if you take it out and untangle it all. What you could do is choose some or all of them into a clump (necessitating removing branches which would grow in toward the middle) and then wrap the clump from the bottom halfway up with something like raffia (craft stores should have it) and wait a year for them to fuse into one trunk. You'd also first have to separate them to some extent and regroup, unless there are already a bunch whose bases are already very close together. Or you could grow any individuals out for a few years on their own til their own trunks fattened up. What wasn't such a great idea was to remove lower branches, because those are the ones responsible for fattening lower trunks as you want to do for bonsai. Here's a great place to look for information on ficus bonsai growing (bottom half of page... then look at the top for lots of other good info) - www.bonsaihunk.us/cultural.html.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2007 at 12:34PM
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shur2

thanks lucy..is it possible for any of the lower branches to return? You mentioned the plant is probably just seedlings planted together..if all the roots are tangled, is it still possible to seperate them w/out damaging the plant?

    Bookmark   February 18, 2007 at 11:31AM
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lucy(6)

They'll return if you don't have the trunks all wrapped together (of course), if you cut some off the top (though don't do it below the lowest branches because not all trees will bud below them and I'm not 100% about those). BTW, one of the articles in the link I gave you is about fusing (under ficus).

    Bookmark   February 18, 2007 at 3:35PM
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lucy(6)

Hi forgot your other Q - you should be able to do it fairly easily if it's still small (a 6" pot or less) and if you're patient. I just start crumbling away the soil from underneath and/or poke and pick between circling outer roots, and you end up with some that almost fall away with very gentle tugging or disentangling with fingertips, and a couple that are a bit harder, but if you've pulled them (very carefully) mostly apart except for the ends, you can snip the knot on either side if it's not holding the majority of the roots and don't worry about it. Or if you want to fuse anyhow, you can just pull them apart enough to reposition slightly (not 360 or anything!) relative to each other and the rest.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2007 at 3:40PM
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