Ficus benghalensis bonsai are one of many species of the famous Ficus tree family. They have a fantastic reputation in being excellent plants to grow as bonsai—both indoors and outdoors! Ficus benghalensis goes by many names. Banyan, banyan fig and Indian banyan are other names it is known by. Another interesting title given to the Ficus benghalensis is the ‘strangler fig’ because of the way it begins life as epiphyte—an organism that steals the nutrients of another plant. Quite notorious as it leans on another plant and ends up suffocating it!
A tree from the Indian subcontinent, the Indian banyan or Ficus benghalensis have huge canopies—making it one of the largest trees in the world. It is resistant to mild frost and drought.
Just like its sibling—Ficus rubiginosa—it is an evergreen tree with a charming aesthetic owing to its dark-green leaves that create and enlarge its thick and enchanting canopy.
The Ficus benghalensis is definitely one of the most beautiful option for bonsai. Its compact and miniature structure develop vibrant aerial roots that give your indoor bonsais an exotic look. The thick canopy can be well-maintained to look show-ready.
Ficus benghalensis is a rapid growing tree that is evergreen and mainly found in monsoons and rainforests. It is also the national tree of India. They can reach a decent height of 20 meters. Another fantastic observation is that its aerial roots upon reaching the ground take root and become woody trunks and supportive.
Being a miniature version as a bonsai tree—Ficus benghalensis has a moody and protective look to it. The large canopy and strong trunks that gradually welcome the aerial roots are one of a kind indeed.
Ficus benghalensis has a spreading crown. When grown as a bonsai or a potted house plant indoors—they can reach up to 5-10ft tall. As a canopy that’s outside, they can tower to a mammoth 65-98ft!
How long does it take to grow Ficus benghalensis bonsai?
The Ficus family usually reach 25ft in about 10 years.
How to plant and grow Ficus benghalensis bonsai?
Now to dive into the gritty details on how to grow an itsy banyan tree inside your very own home as a bonsai. Remember, following the guidelines and tips mentioned below can help you loads! But once you get the hang of it and have a real heart to trunk with you bonsai, be sure to raise it as you wish. The bonsai is yours and after a specific period of time, only you can know its true conditions and needs.
Many bonsai cultivators suggest diffused and indirect lighting for the Ficus benghalensis. Just like its huge original banyan structure, the bonsai prefers to grow best while given bright indirect light. Optimal growing condition could be when placed near a bright window sill. But do keep in mind that they do not tolerate nor love prolonged periods of low lights or direct sun.
So when choosing a position for your Ficus benghalensis, try to find an east-facing window. This way you can be sure to achieve optimal growing conditions in indirect light.
Ficus benghalensis bonsai is a plant that favors the warm sun. The bonsai cannot tolerate cold temperatures of any amount. Low temperatures and messy drafts of air can harm the Ficus benghalensis. A temperature above 15˚C will normally do the trick, but optimal growing conditions are 21˚C and above.
Be warned, never let the temperature around the plant die down below the 15˚C threshold.
When placed indoors, be sure not to let any sort of cold drafts from windows, air conditioning, doors and any other loop holes affect the dear plant.
As the Ficus benghalensis prefers a humid environment, be sure to regularly mist its leaves. The spraying of water is quite necessary for its growth and should be carried out once a week—even during winter when the heating is on. Adding a pebble tray at the bottom can do wonders.
When being grown in a pot, the Ficus benghalensis needs fertile soil with plenty of drainage holes. When the bonsai is healthy, it immediately outgrows the pot, but repotting will help in fixing this problem and hold it back. Basics on repotting will be explained further down the line.
A good specific soil mix can be fertile, weakly acidic or neutral. 1 part of the turf ground, 1 part of the leaf earth, 1/2 part of the sand. Either 1 part of the turf ground, 1 part peat, 1 part leaf earth, 1 part sand. Adding charcoal is also preferable.
Do remember, following the right soil mix will do wonders for the bonsai’s growth.
Just like many other Ficus species, the Ficus benghalensis does not like overwatering. It never wants to sit in a pool of water and it never wants to lay atop dry soil. As mentioned earlier, mist spraying is essential but so is basic watering.
Always make sure the soil is dry before watering the next time. If the soil is moist, leave it be and come back when it’s not. It is observed that watering once every 3-4 days during the season of summer is an ideal routine. The soil is always dry by the next watering period and that helps the plant a lot for optimal growth.
Now the reason overwatering is not preferred is because the bonsai reacts very poorly to it. It is observed that too much watering will yellow the leaves and completely destroy its beautiful roots.
Also very little watering can have adverse effects like the leaves becoming brittle and dry. So always look out for what your bonsai might need. Once you establish a connection with the plant, the bonsai will grow happily.
Applying a week’s dose once or twice a month, during its growing season—has been observed to help the plant a lot. Use a liquid fertilizer alternating between organic and mineral. This has been quite vital for the Ficus benghalensis to achieve maximum growth.
Mix and Repotting
The favored mix for the Ficus benghalensis is a soil based one. A soil based mix provided the bonsai with adequate nutrients for it to achieve maximum and optimal growth.
Ficus benghalensis is a rampant growing plant. As we know, the outside banyan tree can grow up to be as tall as a building. So naturally does the ones that grows indoors in pots or as a bonsai. Bonsai cultivators advise repotting annually to hold back and stunt its vigorous growth. Keep using a soil-based mix and the bonsai will be good to go every New Year. Also do not forget to make space for drainage holes as we know that it is vital for the bonsai’s growth.
While pruning remember the basic reason for why we are doing it. The ultimate aim is to ready the bonsai or plant for new growth before the leaves fall out. The leaves falling off is a natural process and it is not something one should worry about.
In Ficus, new foliage grows and hints a color of light green before reaching the mature stage of darker green. It then turns yellow and falls off. Again, this is a natural process so cutting or pinching back the new foliage is recommended. Allow the leaves to grow and extend to about 7 to 10cm before carrying out the process. Milky saps are normal when cutting, but it is easily fixed by spraying water.
Thrips, root-knot nematodes and spider mites are the regular customers and can be very harmful to your bonsai. Ficus mealybugs and scale bugs will also pop up in the season of winter.
Bacterial and fungal problems are also common. But no not fret bonsai cultivators for there is a remedy to all of this. Neem oil is studied to be quite the protection for Ficus benghalensis against all of the above pests.
Other difficulties of the plant can be the leaves falling off due to over moistening. This has been discussed earlier so following the correct watering guidelines will do the trick.
For Ficus benghalensis, normally seeds and tip cuttings are used for propagation. When using seeds to propagate, it is important to let the seeds dry first before removing them from the plant. When using cutting, place them in a rooting mixture and developments will be seen in a couple of weeks.
Other species of the Ficus family
- Ficus Salicifolia/ Narrow Leaf or Willow Leaf Fig
- Ficus Benjamina/Weeping Fig
- Ficus Retusa Var. Microcarpa/ Chinese Banyan
- Ficus Macrophylla /Morton Bay Fig
- Ficus Retusa ‘Green Island’ /Green Island fig
- Ficus rubiginosa/Port Jackson fig
In conclusion, the Ficus benghalensis is a beautiful plant for both outdoors and indoors cultivation. But as bonsai, it is indeed a vibrant and exotic variant like none other. Bonsai cultivators will surely have a fine time growing and nurturing it as another splendid addition to their home.