Ficus Techniques : 79

How I Grow My Figs and Tropicals


by Jerry Peters

Ficus salicaria, Willow Leaf fig

My large Ficus pumila

Forest planting of Willow Leaf figs

Willow Leaf fig

Ficus pumila
Ficus pumila in cascading style

Shohin Ficus salicaria


Bougainvillea does very well under MH lights

I find string pull-downs a very useful way to shape trees

Ficus Willow Leaf in front of one of Jerry's paintings

My sister bought me my first bonsai tree as a birthday present some 24 + years ago. I still have the tree and consider it my most cherished tree although I have her to blame for all the time and money her little present cost me from that time to today.

As an architectural and interior designer I used metal halides for architechtural installations. My first grow space utilized fluorescent shop lights in my basement. I was able to grow certain orchids and found ficus plants grew quite well. Twenty four years ago I moved to a home and designed a grow room for orchids and ficus trees. I used industrial type metal halide light fixtures and found my ficus trees flourished. The orchids did not do as well - which I now know is due to a lack of warm light spectrum required for flowering plants.

Fast forward to what I have today. Currently living in a condo I have devoted the entire lower level to studio space. I was able to design my grow room to accomodate a guy who traveled weekly for business. Everything had to be aoutomatic such as timers, water system etc. I now have a separate room approimately 24' square with carpet tiles on the floor, suspended ceiling with six 400 watt metal halide light fixtures and two 250 watt fixtures. Ballasts are remote and located in another room to avoid heat build up in the growing area.

Metal halide lighting
My bonsai under metal halide lights and on rolling metal carts

I have lights on a timer set for 16 hours per day year round. I am amazed that my trees know when spring comes as they are not exposed to exterior window light. I withold water the first of May to cause leaf drop in preparation for their annual Spring spurt of growth. I do get continual growth year round. Each Willow Leaf fig tree produces figs but they drop off due to lack of a required small insect to pollinate and produce figs.

Water is no longer automatic but is a reverse osmosis system with a coiled hose and nozzle that I use for wateing.

Reverse osmosis water system
Reverse osmosis system provides clean water for my trees

Plant stands are polished chrome metro units with casters; making moving the trees quite easy.

Types of trees that I grow include ficus and bougainvillea. My Ficus Pumila is in fact one of the original bonsai trees from Dr. Seevers’ collection. Today the tree continues to grow vigorously. I keep the tree at an approximate height of 7" with a width of 9" to 15". The trunk continues to enlarge, (1" at the base), with great taper and twisting at the top of the tree. Each Spring I do a major pruning and stem examination and as illustrated in the photograph is now filling in very nicely. The container is a leaf green square with bowed sides from Sara Rayner..

Each tree sits on a black drip pan.

I use whatever fertilizer I have at hand and give a very weak application each week or so.

The room also has a long counter for planting and trimming etc.

If I was to do this again I would have created a grow room similar to Jerry Meisliks.

Comments: Jerry Peters is a great bonsai artist but also excels with his fine art paintings. To see Jerry's work click here.


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