Ficus Techniques : 69

Figs in Southern California

by Phil Tactill
Jiusan Bonsaiwest

Ficus burtt-davyi
Ficus burtt-davyi, larger specimen tree

Burtt-davyi fruit
Figs of Burtt-davyi has small figs that are in scale

Four burtt-davyi tree
Figs of Burtt-davyi, smaller size trees

sFicus thonningii
Unusual material, Ficus thonningii in root-over-rock style

Ficus salicaria
Ficus salicaria, Willow Leaf, another good small-leafed species

Willow Leaf young trees
Younger specimens of Willow Leaf

Edible Fig
Ficus carica, Edible Fig, large leaves restrained by defoliation

Ficus microcarpa
Ficus microcarpa, small specimen bonsai

Ficus benghalensis, Ficus microcarpa Ginseng
Ficus benghalensis on left, microcarpa'Ginseng' on right-
benghalensis leaves are very much reduced!



I have grown Ficus for many years, because I was always searching for a plant that would fill all the needs of a Bonsai enthusiast. Alas, there is no one answer to that question.  When I lived in New York (JIUSAN BONSAI STUDIO), I tried many different species of Ficus and found that they worked well for indoor growing. Now that I live in Southern California all my plants are grown outdoors. 

Each person visualizes Bonsai differently.  My favorite for developing a Bonsai is Pine, so I utilized Ficus to create a Pine-like structure – like a painter or sculptor, I utilize plant material to form trees that do not necessarily look like what they do when growing naturally.

I found most Ficus responsive to training with few exceptions.  Some were more difficult for varied reasons:  such as, brittleness causing the branches to break when attempting to bend them.

Size, also, became an important factor as well as a challenge, because so many of my students and customers desired smaller Bonsai to grow in their homes and apartments. Smaller bonsai were less expensive and gave the Bonsai enthusiast a larger, theoretically, more impressive collection.  It also required pruning to reduce leaf size and retain the miniature forms. Using smaller leaf forms like Burtt-Davyi  and Willow Leaf ficus made this task easier.

The photos show a collection of Ficus that respond favorably to training and were just pruned back to maintain basic form. Burtt-Davyi  has been a favorite of mine because of the size of the fruit in proportion to the tree. Aerial roots develop easily in climates where there is plenty of humidity; even where I live in Southern California, which is an arid climate, I can develop the aerial root with some difficulty.

Ficus trees are most rewarding with the only limitation being one’s imagination.  Give them a try – you will be rewarded!


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