Hello everybody. Welcome to the Ma-ke Bonsai channel again. I’m Mark D’Cruz and and today I’ll be talking to you about one of my favorite genus of trees that I like to bonsai. It’s from the Moraceae family or the mulberry family and it’s called ficus or the fig genus. The ficus genus is believed to have about 1500 different species in it. Many of them are in Asia but I think the majority of them are in Africa at the moment with many of them being discovered as we speak. I grew up with the fig tree in India and it has always been one of my favorite species. The one that I remember the most is the Banyan tree or the ficus benghalensis.
The ficus benghalensis is native to India and a lot of Asian countries but it’s known for its rather large leathery leaves. Even when you bonsai them, they tend to be a little bit on the large size which is why you really need to have large to very large bonsais with a banyan tree. In India, they are very, very popular and they are usually significantly large bonsais. They are commonly called the bar tree in India or Bargad is also one of the other names. It has a lot of auspicious significance attached to the fig tree and the bargad tree. The ficus benghalensis happens to be one of the largest trees in India. The large ficus tree in Calcutta is about 300 years old or maybe slightly older, and it covers an area of four acres, some 12,000 square meters or something like that. But about 4 acres of land. The main tree or the original tree seems to have died away some time ago, but the tree, because of its aerial roots that it does have, tends to be growing outwards and outwards, and now it’s moving back into itself where the central tree had to be removed.
It is in the national heritage park in Calcutta by the Hooghly river and well, it’s going to be there for generations more I’m pretty sure. As bonsais, ficuses too can live extremely long. In fact, theoretically they’re infinitely long, which means if you look after your bonsai properly and your fig properly, you should be able to be able hand them down from generation to generation quite easily. The ficus leaves do reduce and they will reduce as long as you can get the ramification going.
The smaller the stem is, the smaller the leaf size tends to be. So, the best way of reducing the leaf size in a ficus, as with most of the species, is to increase the ramification on the tree. You can see this particular one is a runaway shoot which I’ll cut off later on. But leaves on that shoot are extremely large. So, the Ficus can be grown from cuttings and they grow quite well from cuttings with a very heavy success rate. The ficus can grow from seeds. It has a short viability the seeds, so the seeds have to be very fresh. The ficus banyan has big red fruit, big in the sense that they’re about 1 to 1.5 centimetres in diameter globus. The flowers of the ficus is the fig itself, while the inflorescence is the fig. Oh, and the ficus benghalensis is pollinated by just one species of wasp. Most ficuses are pollinated by only one or two species of wasp, and the wasps are usually very, very small because they have to get into the inflorescence which is the opening of it.
It’s very, very small. One of the reasons why they do not normally become invasive when moved from country to country. Having said that, in Hawaii, the ficuses have become quite invasive because I think when they imported the tree, inside they imported berries with some larvae in the fig itself which kind of escaped into the environment, which being very friendly to it. Well they thrived there, and now they’re having trouble trying to get rid of the ficus from Hawaii. So, the ficus is benghalensis one of my favorite trees and in India, it is grown all around from the Deccan Plateau all the way up to ? I am not sure whether it reaches Delhi or not yet but I’ve seen them growing but I don’t remember Delhi, it is some while ago, and in my recent trips, I haven’t seen any. Delhi is becoming quite full of buildings. So, the ficus benghalensis a great, great bonsai tree. You find them in many containment areas where they grow as shade trees and in fact, many of the old highways used to have miles and miles of ficuses, fig trees or the Banyan tree on the sides of them because they used to provide tremendous amount of shade for the traveler, perhaps on the bullock or on the old cart, and also later on, by cars and trains or whatever else.
But yes, so the ficus benghalensis is my favorite tree and I’m sure that you will enjoy it once you start trying to grow them. In the UK, this particular one has been grown from a seed and the seed ficuses tend to have a little codex at the bottom. Many, many ficuses have that ability. They store food during season times of plenty and then, they release it to the trunk and the leaf during lean times. So, I will feature that the ficus benghalensis and many other ficuses have adapted.
This particular ficus has a leathery leaf feel to it and most ficuses that are drought-tolerant that live in the drier areas tend to have this feature. The ficuses from wetter areas tend to be very waxy and have shiny, waxy leaves that help ward off too much rain as can happen in many parts of India and China with monsoons. So, it’s a protective mechanism having the wax in them. This particular one, of course, has a leathery feel and it has inflorescence on top which kind of, I think, helps keep, one the dust off, and two, cut moisture from the air as and when it’s there. The ficus I don’t think like to be repotted too often. I try not to repot them too often. They can get, their roots tend to be not as fibrous as many of the other trees that we grow, but nevertheless, if you don’t repot them often enough, they can get pot bound and then they don’t quite like being in a pot bound situation either so you do have to take care when repotting.
So, when you’re repotting, if you repot, just removing the fringes of it, you’ll find that the ficus doesn’t suffer any disjointedness. Bare rooting the ficus is problematic, I find at least in this part of the world. In India and in warmer parts, you most probably can get away with it quite well. Of course, in that part of the world, don’t try and bare root them if it’s not in the monsoon period. That’s the best time for them to grow, as in the monsoon period, the ficus benghalensis actually grows down a whole lot of hairy roots from the branches and from the trunk, so the moisture helps very much with the propagation and growth of the ficus benghalensis. Right, I think I’ve talked enough about the ficus benghalensis. I get a bit carried away. It is my favorite species. Another one of my species that I like and I’m very fond of is the ficus panda. It’s a ficus microcarpa which has roundish leaves. But at times, it has been called ficus Americana and in fact. I’ve called it a ficus Americana on my website bonsai guide for quite some time.
But it’s most probably just a ficus microcarpa with the variant of round leaves on it. The microcarpa, or this particular ficus panda, the variety tends to propagate very, very easily from cuttings and I find that any cutting that I take grows very easily as we grow them along. Because they’re from cuttings, you can even see the fruits tend to form on them, even as little trees. These are one & half, two-year-old cuttings. You can take them from practically any size of stem. The ficus does well as cuttings. The ficus panda is not as common as I would like it to be, mainly I think because the leaf size tends to put off many growers. Having said that, compared to the banyan, the ficus panda is minuscule.
Compared to a ritusa, it’s a little bit on the larger size, but nevertheless, it’s a great, great species. It has darker leaves than a ficus ritusa. The leaves are a lot more tough and the leaves can become quite large if you will let them. They’re leathery to the touch and thickness and quite robust. The bark has the tiger bark kind of markings on them which is commonly found on ficus microcarpa too.
But this particular ficus was much much taller. I aerated the top of it up and eventually, it’s going to be a much smaller tree as I increase ramification of this particular species. This ficus panda is an import from China. I have a few of these or had a few of these, I think I have two of them left but I’m going to keep one of these for myself, I think.
But the leaves on the ficus panda can reduce very, very easily and again, this whole tree was pruned because it had a fungal attack on it and I had to remove all the leaves and clean up the bark and all the crevices. I use Neem oil and a soap solution to help get out the bugs. The Neem oil tends to smother the pests and the soap dehydrates them, so we need to be sure of both. The ficuses in general don’t mind Neem oil and a soap mixture. Some of the other trees can be either finicky to the soap or to the oil so you just have to test what works with your trees. Anyway, look up my video on the homemade pesticide, organic pesticide. And now I’m going to talk to you about another very popular species in India. It’s called ficus virens is its scientific name but the ficus virens is also called lipstick ficus because it’s got smaller pink little leaves on them when they are young. So, when the tree has new leaves on it in spring and perhaps in the rainy season when lots of lots of growth is happening, this is an evergreen tree like most ficuses, they are evergreen.
But when it gets cold, then some ficuses will drop their leaves and then come back in spring. Others don’t take kindly to being cold so you have to keep them at a higher temperature. I for one grow all my ficuses either indoors in my home or in the greenhouse. In the greenhouse, the humidity is very high and the temperatures are not allowed to drop below 10 degrees, 6 degrees at worst times. Having said that, occasionally if the temperature really plummets outside and it doesn’t really happen too much in London. It’s happened once, maybe twice in the 20 years that I’ve been round here. But, then the greenhouse may just about get to 0 and my heating system needs to be boosted to take care of them.
But anyway, the ficus virens has a leathery leaf. The leaves are a lot more lancelot longer in shape than most of the other ficuses. I quite like the shape of the ficus virens. It has lots of aerial roots like with most other ficuses. Again, this one was grown from seed and as you can see, it has quite a bulbous trunk. In terms of age, it must be about 10-15 years old. I think it’s about 15 years old, closer to 15, but I’ve taken a lot of cuttings from this fig tree, and they grow very easily from cuttings, the ficus virens.
Yeah, here we are. This is a ficus virens taken from cuttings. Now, when you take it from a cutting, it tends not to have this bulbous structure at the bottom but the virens do have a great ability of making good nebari so it’s not a problem at all. The nebari sets in quite well as do most ficuses. The nebari are quite beautiful. But yes, they propagate very easily from cuttings. I grew this while growing from seed, the success rate is not very good. This is perhaps the only one that survived out of a batch that I had, and in the UK, there can be problems in the first few years of these things.
But when you grow them from cuttings, they tend to be a lot stronger. Of course, take the cuttings in spring in the UK and in India and all, I guess you can take it just about any time but the monsoon period is perhaps the best time for taking longer term cuttings if you want them growing fast enough with the humidity around and the heat being quite good. So that is the ficus virens or the lipstick ficus as it’s called in India. This particular one is the ficus macrophylla, again grown from cuttings about the same time as the ficus virens was growing. It’s commonly called the Australian ficus. The seeds were sent to me by an Australian interneter and most of the seeds that I got grew so I have quite a few of these ficus macrophylla or had quite a few ficus macrophylla in my collection.
I must have about a dozen of them also left now, but I take cuttings from these things and they grow from cuttings very, very easily. This burnt out thing is caused by slugs. For some reason, the slugs seem to love this particular variety of ficus. I’m not quite sure why but the slugs tend to eat the back of the leaf off and then the leaf just dies away in that area where the slug has eaten it. I left the leaves be on because the leaf helps with the part that is live, still helps with the photosynthesis of the tree. If it’s going to be displayed or presented for an exhibition, then I cut it off but otherwise I don’t really fuss about it. The ramification on the macrophylla is quite coarse and this one is 15 years old or more and it still hasn’t really ramified too much. It was allowed to grow quite tall which is why it’s built up quite a bit and we cut it back and then the ramification has started on it, and the ramification has only been in the last few years, maybe four or five years, but it’s beginning to happen so let’s see.
I’ve seen some specimens online and it shows that they are quite attractive. The leaf size on the macrophylla itself, macrophylla means big leaf, is quite huge. But as a bonsai, it reduces extremely well. Again, the more the branches you have on it, the more the smaller leaves will get. You can see it loves its aerial roots and with a little bit of humidity and grown in a greenhouse without doing anything to the tree, no misting, no nothing, just keeping the humidity high around it. I grow these, all my ficuses in humidity trays. Large trays. I’m moving more and more towards having all my trees on these trays because it keeps the humidity higher in London and London tends to be quite dry during summer time in terms of humidity at least. When it rains it rains. It can rain rather erratically, but humidity doesn’t tend to stay around too long in London in the summertime so you have to provide humidity for the ficuses. And I found that lots of my other trees also seem to enjoy the humidity with it.
So, as a practice now, I tend to grow most of my trees, especially the smaller mame-sized trees on humidity trays. They really, really appreciate being on humidity trays. The roots will come down from the trunk and branch. I leave it and every now and then, I’ll remove some of them but in general, I like the aerial roots. It reminds me of my childhood when I was swinging on the banyan trees so I keep them. It looks sometimes dishevelled and unfashionable but there are trees and there are trees and there are trees, and if all my trees look the same, I would get little bored. They will grow underneath into the humidity tray so every now and then, cut roots off from the bottom. When you do that, it just increases the ramification in the pot so it helps both ways. And so, even if the pot gets dried, the tree doesn’t dry out because the humidity tray usually always has water in it, and the tree just does very well with it.
So, this is the ficus macrophylla or Australian ficus. Here are some cuttings I have taken from this subspecies and they do quite well as cuttings. The nebari on these things is quite substantial, so when I pot one, I expose the nebari and it becomes quite well. You can see the leaf size is quite big. I haven’t really done anything to these trees. They must be about four-year-old cuttings but I like the macrophylla. The leaves are nice and dark, they’re quite beautiful. Here’s how I would take a ficus macrophylla cutting. I’d put four or five of them in a pot and just let them grow, and you can see, they do quite well as they grow on. This one has been left to grow for a while and the main stalk which is much, much taller and they develop the thickness because I’ve cut off the stalk.
It’s died back to the node below, and from there, they started off its own journey again. So, it’ll be there for another five, six years before I decide to prune back and then I’ll have movement in the trunk anyway. So it will be kind of nice. So the ficus macrophylla or Australian ficus as it’s called. This particular ficus is one of the few ficus creepers. Ficuses don’t generally, are not generally creepers but this particular one, I think has also a variegated variety that I’ve seen. I have one somewhere in my collection but I couldn’t find it for the video which happens to me often. But there you are. I have selected quite a few trees and sometimes they do tend to get lost between themselves. Anyway, this is a whole lot of cuttings that I’ve taken from the main tree, well not the main tree from some of these creepers on this, and you just stick them in a pot and they take off. As long as you keep them in a nice greenhouse, warm and humid, they just flourish.
They have no problems about carrying on growing. This one has been grown on a tanuki. It’s not a full tree by itself, it’s a dead Chinese Elm that I’ve tied the creepers when they were about this size onto it. And as you can see, it’s taken over the tree quite well. The nebari or the root has just clearly started out quite beautifully so it’ll carry on as we grow. The leaves are almost heart-shaped, I think they’re quite cute and they’re very small so they make nice bonsais. As tanukis, they are ideal little things for tanukis.
You can see I’ve held the tree down with heavy aluminium wire at the bottom which anchors it to the base of the pot. Again, this has also been grown in a humidity tray and has with most ficuses, it enjoys the humidity. I have to give this tree a pruning at some stage, maybe in spring when I can take some more of these prunings and grow them on. There are not many people who grow these as bonsais and I want that to change a bit so I think they’re quite rewarding. So anyway, the creeping ficus or ficus pumila as it’s called, ficus pumila. Ficus Ginseng. The ficus ginseng is nothing more than a baby ficus microcarpa, and the codex that is grown from seed. The growers tend to let it grow for a few years and then they push the soil lower down and then this exposes the codex root. The roots have stored the food and because they don’t really have much leaves on top, it’s not used them as yet. I pruned off some of the more uglier roots on this tree.
This particular variety has something called a ficus India grafted on the ficus ginseng or the ficus microcarpa. The ficus India has very, very dark leaves on it and these trees are commonly sold in supermarkets and in the UK and in IKEA and in many, many places. The thing to look out for when you’re buying these if they’re sometimes sold as bonsais, if you do happen to chance across one, check to see that the grafts are not grafted badly, because many times, the grafts are the first thing that will go, especially in drier conditions. As soon as you bring them home from a nursery, you will find that you may end up losing all the grafts on it. Then sometimes, they will revert to the ficus microcarpa underneath and they’ll have lots of new shoots from it which is the state that I prefer them to be in, but when they just have a codex and no trunk above it, it’s kind of difficult.
But you do have lots of much, much bigger specimens like this and they’re not very expensive at all. And then, you’ll have a whole lot of these grafts, and often these trees suffer a lot. During the last eight years or nine years, they were quite popular at many of the supermarkets which were sold at about 50, 60 pounds each. But I had at least 20 or 30 of them brought to me because they were dying away, and then I figured that the best way of actually letting these things carry on is to let them revert back to the ficus microcarpa stalk underneath.
They are much more robust than the Indian ficus which is just grafted on them, and the weakest point is of course, at the graft joint. So any time there is the lack of humidity or lack of watering or you forget to water it, the graft is let go and you’re back to the original ficus microcarpa underneath. So watch out for these ficus ginsengs. I think they are real cute little things but they’re susceptible to quite a bit of problems, so take care when selecting one of these things. This one is a strange looking tree. I don’t know, maybe a goblin. But anyway, a ficus ginseng, baby microcarpa is just about all that it is. This is the ficus elastica and in India, it’s called the rubber tree. It’s not really the tree that we make rubber as we know from for making tires and tubes and what have you, but the latex on this sometimes confuses people as they thought it would be good for rubber.
But anyway, this is just a normal ficus species. It’s a ficus elastica and in India, it’s very, very common as houseplants. The leaves can be a dark green to an almost black color, and I’ve seen lots of nice black ones. I ‘ve even see variegated ones too and they’re quite lovely. They could be dark and light green or they could be green and yellow, but the ficus elastica is a great species of bonsai, but the tree is quite coarse, the branches are quite coarse, so it never really makes specimen great bonsais if that’s what you want to call them, but I just love them.
They’re different, they’re big leaf, they have so much color and so much character on them, and then they have tons of aerial roots when you do let them grow in humid conditions. These ones have been growing indoors so they’re not really as profuse. I’ve tried to earlier do this which as you can see, the roots have already started developing quite well in the tree so they’ll make great cuttings afterwards, but yes, you can see the roots have filled out quite nicely in this. So the Indian rubber tree or ficus elastica. So, for you guys back in India, this is a great tree to experiment with.
This is a ficus religiosa. Seedlings that have been grown. They are all the same age but some of them have grown better than others. I had three, four pots of these. Most of them have been given away to my Indian friends, but they are an auspicious tree for lots of Hindu families. And so they tend not to last too long with me because they are taken away by my Indian friends. But I’ve been growing them to try and bonsai them.
They make great bonsais. When I was in in India, I saw some real good specimens. I have a few friends that have grown lovely ones in Pune and Bombay. The ficus religiosa goes up all the way to Odeppa and even Delhi, I am pretty sure. It has more of a waxy leaf than the ficus than the bird itself so it tends to grow more in the wetter areas then in the drier areas, but the ficus religiosa is a great tree to bonsai. In the UK, they are quite problematic but I’m persevering. They get attacked by bugs and fungus and they don’t like the cold so they can suffer a bit.
They do very, very well indoors. I have friends who’ve taken batches of seeds from me, pots from me, and their trees are three four times the size of mine. All they’ve done is grow them indoors on little trays so we shall see how they progress. But yes, the ficus religiosa. Well that’s my collection of, some of the collection of my ficus. Well, that’s some of the collection of my ficus. I have about 20 different species but I’ll carry on with them some other time at a later date. Well, I hope you enjoyed watching this video, and if you have liked it, click on the thumbs up below. And do remember to subscribe if you haven’t already subscribed as more and more videos will be released at least on a weekly basis. Thank you for watching and do take care. Bye for now. .