Ficus bonsai trees are created from the large Moraceae family of plants (also known as figs.) Many are native to southern Asia and India.
There are well over 800 species of this genus. Many have become favorites as bonsai.
The bonsai shown below - created by Ed Trout - was displayed at a Bonsai Society of Miami Exhibit and took first place.
It is an excellent example of why so many people enjoy growing this tree as bonsai.
There are many reasons Ficus bonsai trees make good bonsai.
Figs manage to thrive in a variety of unique conditions, and easily adapt to bonsai pots and slabs. Shallow containers actually encourage the roots to spread as they can not go deep. As the roots spread the trunk also spreads.
In the tropics, Ficus bonsai trees may need repotting two or even three times a year.
Most bonsai hobbyists don’t trim roots often enough and eventually must use a saw to eliminate the mass (mess) created. The roots tolerate this radical pruning and proceed to fill the pot again.
Some species have light colored smooth bark, others are textured and some more colorful. One that has especially beautiful bark with white striations is the Ficus Golden Gate.
The Ficus nerifolia can vary in bark color from light brown to a reddish color. If you have a reddish bark fig, the color can be emphasized for exhibit with a light coating of cooking oil.
Read how the Ficus nerifolia was discovered for bonsai.
Deserted homes have been swallowed up by their rampant growth.
Ancient temples have been found completely covered by the invasive roots.
On the good side of this fast growth feature, you can develop quality Ficus bonsai trees in a matter of two or three years.
The small leaf Ficus shown here belongs to Indiana resident, Steve Moore. It is a Ficus burt davii and spends its winters indoors.
Many other types of Ficus bonsai trees also have small leaves and most make excellent bonsai choices. Why not try some of the best small leaf figs: Ficus benjamina variations, Ficus microphylla and Ficus nerifolia are just a few.
A close look at a Ficus branch will show how the leaves are simple and alternating in their growth pattern. Because of their rapid growth, this branch structure is ideal for directional pruning.
Some fruit actually grows directly off the trunk and branches.
(Similar to jaboticaba, Myciaria cauliflora.) Color varies from species to species.)
F. benghalensis - commonly called the banyan tree - has cherry red figs when ripe.
Ficus altissima which resembles the banyan in every other way has bright yellow fruit.
The "fruit" on tropical figs are not considered desirable for human consumption but are very popular with birds and monkeys.
Other figs have brown or reddish brown fruit, still others are vibrant orange.
In Ficus bonsai trees, the fruit is always to scale. On small trees they may look like cherries or apples, while on larger plants they resemble berries.
Ficus carica is the Mediterranean 'edible fig’ or ‘common fig.’ Although in the same family, it is deciduous, is not a tropical and it is rarely used in bonsai.
Also known as ‘prop’ roots or buttress roots, they often give extra support to massive spreading "arms" of the banyan tree.
Some Ficus species grow aerial roots primarily off the trunk, still others have none.
Occasionally, when the original trunk dies, aerial roots keep the tree alive.
The old banyan tree roots shown here are in Miami, FL
In the Calcutta Botanical Garden in India, one huge fig tree occupies over three acres; the aerial roots number beyond 3,000.
Aerial roots in Ficus bonsai are valued because they help these trees resemble old banyans.
During maintenance of a ‘banyan bonsai’, aerial roots are sometimes removed ... especially if they have inappropriate placement or have grown out of scale.
For growers who must keep their bonsai Ficus trees indoors, aerial root development is often a time to celebrate. Aerial roots are difficult under these circumstances and usually the owner has gone to great lengths to obtain them.
Overall, given enough light, growing Ficus bonsai indoors is not difficult.
Read the history of one of the most famous Ficus bonsai trees
Check out growing bonsai indoors information
Other Types of Bonsai Trees
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