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Bonsai Ficus Trees
- An Introduction

It's not uncommon to have more than one bonsai Ficus variety included in a personal collection.  Although they are the same genus, different varieties can vary greatly.  It is often referred to as the banyan tree bonsai.

Many types of Ficus have aerial roots.

The roots may hang from branches.  Some species grow aerial roots primarily close on the trunk, still others have none. One thing most figs have in common is a white to yellowish latex (which can be very sticky while working with them.)

All referred to as figs, most are not considered edible for humans.  The Mediterranean Ficus carica is the only one raised for its "fruit." Although in the same family as others, it's deciduous, and is not a tropical.  It is rarely used as bonsai. 

Ficus Bonsai Around the World

Ficus benjamina by Bradley Barlow
Queensland, Australia

One of the most common figs used for bonsai is the F. benjamina.  For those who want to do-it-yourself, it is often readily available in garden centers as a "house plant."  It also grows easily from cuttings.  As most figs do, benjamina tolerates many of the novice mistakes. 

One thing that makes them a little different from other fig varieties is, they do not like to have all of their leaves removed at once. Doing so can cause branches to die.

Many times, bonsai artists have other creative outlets! 

In addition to Brad Barlow's award winning bonsai (one of which is shown above) he has created a realistic 'tree making technique' that results in what he calls "Virtual Bonsai" that you can never kill. 


Another Aussie favorite is the native Port Jackson fig - F. rubiginosa. Dorothy Koreshoff styled this bonsai Ficus from a 1949 cutting. This semi-cascade style is unique for a fig, but it in this case, it works.

Photo by Roger Hnatiuk at the November 2006 Australian Plants as Bonsai Exhibition held at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.


Bonsai from Indonesia - artist unknown

Sometimes I receive photos from other people without sources, if you see your bonsai on any page of this site, or recognize someone's, please let me know. 


Ficus nerifolia forestFicus nerifolia by Ernie Fernandez
Bonita Springs, Florida

F. nerifolia, more recently named Ficus salicaria, is especially popular because of its naturally small leaves. It is most often designed as a canopy shaped bonsai. This grouping is a beautifully unique interpretation.

The bark on this bonsai Ficus tree can vary in color from light brown to a reddish color. When reddish, the color can be slightly emphasized for exhibit with a very light coating of cooking oil. 

Read the story of how this  "willow leaf fig" was discovered for bonsai.



Bonsai retusa "Tiger Bark"

So named because of the thin, almost white, stripes on the bark.

The bark is very textured.  Created by artist Norberto Rodriguez Arroyo of Puerto Rico.


The Ficus species shown on this page are just a few of the many available as good Ficus bonsai subjects.

Bonsai Ficus Care

Light - Just because figs tolerant poorly lit areas doesn't mean they like it!   A sunny spot is best, and don't forget to keep it warm. Cooler weather slows growth.

Water - Allow to dry a little between waterings.  Never keep soaking wet. Indoors, mist frequently. Be sure to read about water variables!

Trimming - Because this plant grows quickly, you will need to trim new growth more often than many other plants.

Root Pruning - Many bonsai hobbyists don’t trim Ficus roots often enough and eventually may use a saw to eliminate the mass (mess) created.

When necessary, the roots of most types of Ficus tolerate this radical power saw pruning and proceed to fill the pot again.

In the tropics, bonsai Ficus trees may need re-potting two times a year. In other areas, check them once a year.  If grown indoors, pruning roots may be every two years.

Wire - Young branches are very flexible.  If you use wire to change or move branches, be cautious. Fast growth can create unsightly damage very quickly. (Especially in warm climates.)

Indoors -  A warm , bright location is most important.  For growers who must keep their bonsai Ficus trees indoors, aerial root development is unlikely.  However, some greenhouses do provide enough humidity. A summer outdoors will help maintain good health.

Where to go From Here

Leave Bonsai Ficus and read about Favorable Ficus Characteristics

The Ficus nerifolia story

More about Growing Bonsai Indoors





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