Ficus benjamina is a flowering plant, belonging to the Moraceae family, which grows in abundance in the continents of Asia and Australia. It is commonly known as the ‘Weeping fig’, ‘Benjamin fig’, or simply Ficus. In its natural habitat, it can grow as tall as 30 meters. It consists of droopy branchlets and glossy oval leaves. It often has a light gray bark and is a relatively small-leaved fig, compared to the other species of the same genus.
For this Ficus species, the color and texture of the foliage vary according to the age of the plant. Younger plants have light green and wavy leaves while older plants have green and smooth foliage. In the wild, these plants can grow very unruly roots which can cause breakage and a lot of havoc on sidewalks and roads. These plants have three types of flowers: male, fertile female, and sterile female flowers.
Ficus benjamina Bonsai plants are very beautiful art pieces to keep indoors. They enhance home appearances and their beautiful umbrella-like canopies are great home decor attractions. They grow up to about 10 feet (3.05 m) in height. These bonsai plants are also known for their ability to effectively remove gaseous formaldehyde and xylene toxins from the indoor air.
Ficus benjamina bonsai are extremely popular in temperate areas because of their Immaculate tolerance to poor growing conditions. They show elegant growth in trying conditions. These plants are extremely suitable for beginner bonsai planters because of their excellent ability to adapt to different environments. You can grow a Ficus benjamina bonsai almost anywhere in the world. Ficus benjamina shows much faster growth, compared to any other species of their genus. They are apt for training to any style.
How long does it take to grow Ficus benjamina Bonsai?
Ficus plants are usually very fast-growing plants. Healthy Ficus display fresh growth within 3-4 weeks after trimming. The Ficus benjamina bonsai, however, is relatively slow-growing compared to other Ficus plants. They can take ten years to fully develop when provided with multiple repotting and constant pruning. Ficus benjamina needs the following basic requirements to grow and stay healthy.
Ficus benjamina Bonsai grows best when sheltered from direct sunlight. Keep it in a place where there is high moisture, like the kitchen. When placed in the dry areas of the house, its leaves can drop and the plant shows a general lack of vitality. Position the Bonsai on pebbles on a water tray to keep up the humidity levels. You can also use a humidifier.
Ficus benjamina bonsai shows the best growth in bright and sunny lighting but can also adjust to shade. Humid conditions like outdoors are very suitable for the plant to grow aerial roots, which are the main attraction of this particular bonsai. The aerial roots show much larger growth during the rainy season.
Ficus benjamina bonsai requires more watering than other bonsai because of the amount of sunlight it receives. It requires moderate watering during the summers and very little watering during the winters. In the winters, it only requires as much water to not dry out. You can check the concentration of water in the plant by its heaviness. A plant with less water will be very light when you lift it whereas a properly watered plant will appear heavy.
Ficus benjamina bonsai responds the best to long days. High day temperatures at night are favorable for its growth. The plant is cold-sensitive and often needs protection from drafts. Whenever the temperature drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 16 °C), move the plant indoors. Otherwise, the plant can drop its leaves.
How to Plant and Grow Ficus benjamina Bonsai?
Even though all the different Ficus species may vary a lot in terms of appearances, all require the same care. These Ficus plants are very tough and thrive in the plant hardiness zone of 10 to 11. Ficus benjamina bonsai is very easy to care for once it is settled. They are only meticulous in terms of light exposure, watering levels, and changes in temperature.
More often than not, stem cuttings are used for the propagation of Ficus benjamina Bonsai. Around 4 inches (ca. 10 cm) of stem cutting is enough for propagating a new bonsai plant. You should take care to pick healthy mother plants. Direct saplings can also be used for successful propagation.
To grow Ficus benjamina bonsai, use an ordinary terracotta training pot. For potting medium, use a mixture of river sand, Vermicompost, and crushed bricks in an equal proportion. Fill roughly two-thirds of the pot with this medium. Only expose the bonsai to partial sunlight and water it regularly. You can keep this bonsai in the same pot for two years. Take care to not water the plant too much during this period.
Very soon new branches will start to grow on the main trunk of the bonsai. Pruning the plant regularly encourages new branches to come out. Regular pruning is important to maintain the shape and size of the plant.
Start pruning the bonsai when new branches grow longer. Retain some branches according to the style you want. You can pick various styles like Formal and Informal Upright, Cascade and semi-Cascade, Literati, Broom, or Slanting. The plant is also suited for Rock-over-Roots and Clasped-to-Rock type plantings.
For pruning the roots, take the plant out and roughly prune about one-third of the roots. Use a sharp knife or shear for pruning purposes. After pruning the roots, use a fresh potting medium for potting the bonsai. Do not cut all the leaves of the branch as it may cause the plant to die. Ficus benjamina bonsai often shows a lot of growth extra growth and may require drastic pruning or replacing.
Use aluminum or copper wires for wiring your Ficus benjamina bonsai. Gently wind the wire and bend it according to the bonsai style that you want. Take care not to damage the branches while wiring the plant.
The plan should be repotted every year for the initial few years to provide optimum support for the growth of the plant. Well-draining soils are suitable for providing medium. The plant needs to be repotted when the roots start appearing at the drainage holes. Repot the plant during an evening, preferably in early spring.
When the main trunk grows to 1 inch (2.54 cm) in thickness, transfer the plant to original bonsai pot. Use the same ratio for the potting medium as the training pot. After repotting, keep the plant in shade for 15 days. Water the plant after repotting whenever the top soil feels dry. Do not wait for the entire medium to go dry before watering it.
Ficus benjamina Bonsai is extremely reliant on fertilizers for its regular supply of nutrients. Fertilizers need to be resupplied constantly to keep the plant healthy. It needs weekly feeding, initially, for strong growth.
The plant needs a balanced fertilizer. Chemical fertilizers should be diluted to half the strength before applying. Use half a teaspoon of 20-20-20 chemical fertilizer with one gallon of water and sprinkle the mixture over the soil.
How to Care for Your Ficus benjamina Bonsai?
The bonsai plant is extremely sensitive to changes in light, temperature, humidity, and movements. It often responds to relocation or movement by dropping its leaves. However, new leaves subsequently come out well adapted to the new light intensity.
Add organic manure to the pot every 10 days to keep it healthy. It is also important to protect these plants against very strong sunlight as their leaves get burned in high-intensity light. Do not keep these Bonsai directly in the afternoon sun.
When it comes to diseases and damage, Ficus benjamina bonsai is vulnerable to general human mistakes, insect infestations, and parasites. Regular inspection of the plants is important to check insect infestations and keep them in control before they spread out. Ficus bonsai usually suffers from the following diseases.
Loss of leaves
Loss of lives can be pretty normal if the loss is regular and not abrupt. However, if a lot of leaves are lost at once, check the watering levels of the plant. Ficus bonsai can also lose leaves after a transplant shock, after moving the plant from one pot to the other. Make sure the plant is not lacking in light and increase the moisture levels. These plants do not like cold drafts. Take these precautions and the plant will bounce back with vigorous leaves.
The plant can suffer from yellow leaves because of a mite attack. Using an organic mite killer, available in horticulture stores, usually solves the problem. Try not to use any chemical products to fix this issue.
White Blisters can appear on the leaves of the plant due to mealybugs or scale insects. These are sticky white blobs that appear on the leaves of the plant. For treatment, remove the infected branches. Destroy the shells of the mealybugs by using a rag dipped in beer and wiping the leaves. You can also use an organic scale insect spray to treat the bugs.
Whiteflies can appear on the leaves of the plant. Treat them simply by giving the plant a shower in the bathroom or you can also spray water on the leaves to get rid of the flies.