Ficus Alii propagation

fandog(6a)July 28, 2013

Id like to take some cuttings of this and start some new plants, but ive never propagated anything like this before. Any advice?

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pelargonium_gw

You could just try to take a few cuttings, and stick them in soil, water, put a plastic bag over the whole thing and see what happens. I know that some people have rooted cuttings of benjamin figs in water, but it should be possible to root in soil. Just try!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 11:57AM
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asleep_in_the_garden

Since moving up north I've had more difficulty rooting many plants that came much easier to me down south,but after failing a few times at it,I can say that I have succeeded in rooting one and it's doing well. I start most of my cuttings(seeds too) in terrariums,..but I'm pretty sure the bag method would work as well. Starting them in water on your kitchen windowsill may be easier,but that seems to vary from person to person.

Keep us posted and let us know how it goes! :)

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 2:51PM
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petrushka

I have one just like that, but it was NOID and I thought it was ficus salicifolia (willow leaf ficus).
I just root it in water or in perlite/starter mix (bag then). it roots very easily. you can take sev cuttings and tape them together - they will fuse and you'll have a much thicker trunk.
it grows ultra slow, it's used for bonsai extensively. it makes large sculptural roots, that you can slowly expose.
it grows wide and droops. you'll need to prune it to keep it shapely.
here's mine that I rooted 10 years ago from 2 twisted twigs.
it's 30" wide and 20" tall.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 3:42PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

F salicifolia (aka nerifolia/salicaria) is a common bonsai subject. Alii is not - in fact, I've never seen one at any show I've attended or in any of the friend's collections I've visited, or in any bonsai magazine. It is a very common potted plant, however.

Take a cutting with 3 leaves, and stick it in a highly aerated medium. Perlite is good - I use gritty mix. Make sure you have 2-3 nodes in the soil. Cut the leaves across the venation so only about 1/3 of each leaf remains attached to the petiole. Put the cutting in open shade and wait for it to root. You can also make yourself a mini greenhouse from a milk jug.


The cutting is F benjamina "Too Little". It's the very top of a larger bonsai that needed restyling. I know I sent it to a GW member, but can't remember who. Laura in VB perhaps? It was almost an instant bonsai.

Cut some vertical slits in the bottom of the top part so it slides inside the bottom part easier. After the plant roots, remove the cap from the jug, then a few days later you can remove the top. Keep the soil damp - never wet. Rooting aid isn't necessary, but can be marginally helpful. Withhold fertilizer until you see new growth, which is a sure sign the plant has rooted. A leaf bud opening isn't new growth, btw. If you take an intermodal cutting, any growth activity in leaf axils (crotches) is a sign the cutting has rooted.

Al

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 7:52PM
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petrushka

so what is the difference between alii and salicifolii? they look quite similar to me. and which one is mine?
if the pic will help - these are my 2 older plants, I've had them for close to 20 years. they are similar in size, just on the pic one looks bigger, since it's upfront.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 9:50PM
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fandog(6a)

Al,

If you dont mind me asking, why do you cut the leaves across their venation? Ive heard of this before, but never got an answer. Also, will this method work for most ficus species? When is air layering appropriate? Thanks for all your advice.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 10:27PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Your plant is alii. This is salicifolia:


a new cutting ^


^ should have taken an after pruning picture - hardly looks bonsai-ish here. It's newly repotted, thus the ties to hold it secure in the pot.

The leaves on salicifolia/nerifolia and alii are both lanceolate in shape, but the leaves of the former are only a small fraction of the size of alii, even before reduction as a result of bonsai training.

FD - Cutting directly across venation causes the least amount of dieback - in most cases none, except at the immediate point where the dissection was made. If you cut on a diagonal, the leaf will likely die back to even with where the cut crosses the main vein. It works for all Ficus species, but not all ficus species has a single central vein. The hardy fig (carica), for instance, has lobate leaves (usually with 5 lobes) and reticulated venation - with a main vein dissecting each of the lobes. You'd want to remove entire lobes or cut each lobe you reduce across (90* to) the main vein on that particular tree.

You can air layer any time, but starting air layers in the spring to late summer yields fastest results. Start early (spring) so you can separate the layer in time for the plant to get its feet under it before winter. If you're going to layer the tree come next spring, tightly secure a 3/16" zip tie around the spot where you're going to layer now. The constriction as the trunk swells causes a build-up of carbohydrates and auxin above the constriction. The swelling will become clearly visible. Then the layer will be really primed to go. Here, I'm layering off the entire top of the tree from the old roots up. Essentially, I'm discarding an ugly root system and growing a new root system, but it's the same as an air layer.



Here's a tree I've already separated. You can see the wire I used to constrict the flow of photosynthate & auxin. Presto - a perfectly formed new root system that will make an exceptional bonsai in a few years.

Al

    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 9:26PM
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petrushka

thanks, al. so essentially on salicifolia the leaves are much smaller. is the plant itself smaller too? I went thru a lot of sites trying to pinpoint the differences - and the scale seems to be the main thing. wonder about the bark.
my bark is not smooth, it's brown, not gray and has lots of little spots, from aerial roots I guess, they form readily, if I bag the plant (which I do on occasion when I am away).
air-layering:
so instead of making a partial cut of the bark you do these cute round cuts around the perimeter ? what tool do you use? and the root is formed from them?
the roots on the last pic are very large - these are the roots formed above the zip-ties? from these round cuts? or am I misunderstanding smth? these are quite large roots - how long did it take to form them and how old are they on the last pic?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 10:07PM
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fandog(6a)

What. Do you mean youbag your plant when youre away?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 10:23PM
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asleep_in_the_garden

Bagging is effectively making a humidity trap out of a clear plastic bag large enough to surround the plant and ideally tented in a way that the leaves don't touch the sides. In 100% humidity,the water in the plant's tissues can't evaporate because it has nowhere to go...the air around it is already saturated.

This way when she is away she knows her plant is not drying up. :)

    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 11:13PM
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petrushka

correcto;)!
AND I put them on water wicks for self-watering - been away for 3 weeks without a problem! these particular ficuses are 32" from the pot and they take good amt of water, they'd be caput by now.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 9:31AM
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petrushka

double

This post was edited by petrushka on Thu, Aug 1, 13 at 15:46

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 9:32AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The leaves of salicifolia are smaller, but the plant might not be smaller at maturity. I'd prolly bet that salicifolia is larger at maturity than alii because it's much more (genetically) vigorous, but I'm really not sure. I'm limited mostly to seeing either in a pot, which doesn't give a good indication of the plant's mature size. ...... I went & looked it up. Alii to 55 ft. salicifolia - all I could find about salicifolia was a mid-sized tree would be about 15M or 50 ft, so it does get larger than alii. You're right, it's about scale. In order to make a believable bonsai from alii, it would need to be a huge tree so the leaves were in perspective - even if the leaves were reduced by 2/3 by bonsai training.

I came up with the 'hole idea on my own. I fill the holes (made by spinning a brad-point drill in my fingers) with rooting gel, then pack sphagnum moss (not peat) around the wounds & cover with soil. It works great. If you're planning ahead for a layer, it also helps to wrap a rag or electrical tape with the sticky side out, just above the constriction. Etiolation and the extra moisture under the tape helps root initials form and hastens rooting. You can layer branches/stems the size of a good size man's wrist by if you set things up right.

Al

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 8:36PM
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petrushka

the 'hole idea is great :)!
... but...but the roots would be on the edge of the hole? it can't form a tube? that would be incredulous! 'cause the fat round roots on the last pic look like they grew out of the perimeter of the hole... well, that's what it looks like to me...is it like the callus? and then it continues growing into the root? or it's just an illusion and these are already old roots that fattened up much later and covered up the hole scar?
it's most peculiar...
another thing, how long do you keep 'the air-layering pouch' on? just for 1 growth season?
if you could control where the root is originating by hole placement - within a short distance at least, that would be very interesting.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 9:04PM
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fandog(6a)

A little off topic, but since were talking about ficus i thought id post a pic of my new ficus and ask the question - what am i going to do with this thing?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 9:27PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Ficus triangularis "variegata"

Grow
Repot
Chop
Grow
Repot
Chop
Grow
Repot
Chop
ad infinitum

Al

This post was edited by tapla on Fri, Aug 2, 13 at 18:10

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 6:09PM
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fandog(6a)

Will this easily root and do you think its time to chop since its so top heavy?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 8:38PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

This plant likes a LOT of humidity, so keep that in mind. I don't grow this plant, but my experience with the viney species of Ficus is that they usually have preformed root primordia at every node, making them exceptionally easy to root.

I would shoot for an annual chop, prolly around Father's day. Rather than chop because the plant is top heavy, I'd stake it and take advantage of the food/energy produced by the leaves you would have removed to add girth and strength to the main stem. I have a F pumila 'Curly' that I started 15 years ago (a viney ficus), and the main trunk is only about a half inch in diameter. Most viney plants tend to focus almost all of their growth on extension instead of radial thickening. If you want it to grow full, prune all branches back to 2 leaves. As new branches form from the axils of leaves remaining, let them grow to 4 leaves, then prune back to 2 leaves. That maximizes the number of branches and leaves (ramification) and keeps your plant nice & full. After a single season, you just prune off the growth you don't think fits with whatever your vision for the plant is.

Take a year to get to know the plant and learn how to keep it healthy. Tree time moves ahead much more slowly than people time - a year is nothing to a tree.

Al

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 11:00AM
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kayteeleanne

I recently succeeded at propagating a clipping off of my moms ficus alii after one failed attempt. Here's what I did; I took two clippings that had four leaves on them. I took off the lower two leaves and cut the upper two leaves in half across the vein. I put them in a cup of water and set it on my kitchen window sill that gets direct light for about an hour in the AM, but bright light throughout the day. Once I saw roots and new growth I placed it in a pot with a mix of potting soil and coconut dirt and a pot big enough with room to grow in an all day sun window and watered every other day for a week, then went to every three days for a week and finally got it on the watering schedule of all my other bazillion house plants (just once a week). I have new leaves growing and its doing amazing! My first attempt I tried all the complicated ways stated on this thread, but then said screw it and went old school this time around. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 4:50AM
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grrr4200(z3 MI)

To be honest the plant that's first pictured isn't an all I at all but an amstel king. Ali has thinner leaves, I noticed a few years ago that they started labeling amstel kings as alli's. The story I got from the growers was because amstel grow faster and aren't as fussy in regards to leaf drop etc... they root very easy in water I've also had great success in 100% perlite. Happy growing

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 10:26PM
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petrushka

what about the 2nd plant? that's mine. the leaves do look thinner. and it grows very slowly. but then i keep it in a smallish pot and i don't want it to grow faster.
the big ones in the 4th pic i prune every year quite a bit too.
and last time i put them in slightly SMALLER pots then previously. are those alii in your opinion? i have elevated the roots over a 10 year period so i can repot in the same pot but with more soil. plus i like the exposed roots too.
i think i'll give them back a little room next time though.
i just don't have space to let them grow large.
they are not fussy at all. they don't shed leaves either, unless they totally dry up and for quite some time.
i've made plenty of water-rooted cuttings from them. they root very easy. in anything.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 11:01PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

F maclellandii 'Amstel King' has a leaf shape that is closer to ovate than lanceolate or linear, while the leaves of alii are definitely lanceolate. The best way to tell the difference between alii and 'Amstel King' is by checking the new growth. Because of it's greater vigor, 'Amstel King' always shows red in the new apical growth under all light conditions and temperature ranges. The picture in the OP and those posted by Petrushka don't show any red in apical growth and show leaves that are definitely lanceolate, so I'm pretty certain FD's and P's plants are alii. Also, AK leaves are about twice as wide as alii and about 1/3 longer, so about 3x the surface area.

Al

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 1:23PM
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asleep_in_the_garden

Hey Al !

Is this one red enough to be an AK?

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 5:04AM
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grrr4200(z3 MI)

ive had both, and only had amstel turn red with its new growth in very high light, otherwise a dilute green is achieved. Alli has very thin leaves, the original line anyways, and i truely dont believe the first plant is an alli, however Pet's are definitely true. just based on leaf shape alone. There are also many cultivars of Amstel that i've gotten into the greenhouse where i work. They're constantly changing. Al i really respect you, you have helped me in many ways and with so many issues, but i believe we may have to agree to disagree on the name of the plant in question. Also, I have an amazing rare ficus for you, its a variegated form of alli. figured it'd be a great addition to your collection

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 2:49AM
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