Huge ficus

florrie2June 5, 2012

Hi everyone: I have an enormous potted ficus in my living room. It's 11 inches in circumference and is about 10 feet tall. We've transplanted it many times over its 20 year lifespan, but now it's too big to transplant. It takes up the whole pot, so watering is now a problem, since there's no space for the water to go, it just runs off, or out the bottom.

I'm going to have to hire someone to transplant it into a larger pot, but would like to consider other options. My husband wants to throw it away and get a smaller one, but I'm opposed to that. Can we root-prune it this summer, and put it back in that large pot?

Do these trees have a finite lifespan? The tree is healthy, but is dropping leaves b/c of watering problems.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks, Florrie

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

First, if you can commandeer some help, I don't think you should be intimidated by the trees size, or the size of the root mass. As long as you can get the tree outdoors into the shade, the first step in root pruning your tree would be to eliminate (saw off) the bottom half of the root mass. Don't gasp - I've done dozens and dozens of trees with trunks larger than yours & never lost one yet, and I've also done dozens of repotting demonstrations for mostly bonsai clubs, but occasionally for other clubs, too. I usually select a large tree or I have to talk for most of the allotted time - usually 2 hrs. ;-)

I have a Ficus salicifolia (willow leaf fig) that has a 6"+ diameter trunk (19" circumference) and is in only about a gallon of soil. It's about 3' tall, including the pot.

Genetically, the tree has the potential to outlive us, our offspring, and and several more generations. The only thing that limits the tree's potential longevity is your willingness to tackle the root work and ability to provide the cultural conditions it prefers. Obviously, you're doing a good job of that already. The tree I referred to above is probably about 30 years old, and was about 15 years old (nursery grown in FL) when I got it. It shows no sign of waning, other than the normal reduction in vitality and growth associated with it being in need of a repot. BTW - mid - late Jun is ideal timing for repotting Ficus. I have at least 30 to repot, along with other tropical trees, but I'm waiting for our MI weather to settle into a pattern that makes it look like I can depend on something warmer than the 60s and 70s we've been experiencing.

If you decide you want to tackle it, I'll walk you through it. It's really not that difficult, and I'm guessing you'll easily get another 10 years out of the container you have with one or 2 more root work sessions in that time span.

Ball's in your court.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 4:29PM
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Thanks, Al, I guess i AM intimidated by the size of this thing, but trimming the root ball will fix all my problems.

Now, I have to get it through the door and onto the (shady) deck!

Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 8:26AM
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I would love to see this fanastic plant/tree..could you post a picture???
don't throw it out...
I know a lady, that had a huge, huge milk cactus...
she ran a ad in the paper, and a teacher from a near by college came and took it for the green house at school..
so lots of kids and others see it and learn, from it..

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 9:50AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

My pleasure - Al

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 1:52PM
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