Ficus Neriifolia, a species of fig (ficus), belongs to the Mulberry or Moraceae family. You may also know it as the Willow Leaf Ficus or Willow Leaf Fig due to its leaves resembling those of the weeping willow tree. A lover of heat and humidity, it is native to Asia, including Bhutan, Burma, China, India, and Nepal.
The Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) tree grows up to 15 m (50 ft) tall with a smooth, dark gray bark. It has asymmetrical leaves, oval or spear-shaped. The figs are 8 to 10 cm in diameter, and shaped oval or cylindrical.
Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) can be regarded as having three varieties:
- F. Neriifolia var. Nemoralis
- F. Neriifolia var. Fieldingii
- F. Neriifolia var. Trilepis
Small-sized leaves, dense foliage and a fondness for the indoors make the Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) tree a favorite amongst Bonsai tree enthusiasts. It can be easily shaped and pruned. Its ability to produce aerial roots, easily, adds to its appealing beauty.
How long does it take to grow Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) Bonsai?
In hot and humid conditions, you can find them growing rapidly. The Ficus Neriifolia (Fig), as a Bonsai, will grow up to a height of 3 ft (91.44 cm).
Before discussing how you can plant and grow your Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai, let us go through the best conditions and requirements needed for the Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai tree care.
Position and lighting
Always place your Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai where it will receive full sunlight. It also requires as much humidity as possible. The placement will vary throughout the year. During spring, summer, and fall, you can place the bonsai on a sunny windowsill. In winter, when the light level seems to dip, you can use a grow light to fulfil the light requirement. Placing it on a windowsill facing south or with a eastern or western exposure can also work in its favor. When you provide it with the right conditions, it will grow quickly. Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai needs at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight every day. Growing it as a bonsai, you will want the plant to produce aerial roots to present it as a ‘banyan’ style tree. For that, you will have to provide extremely high humidity.
The ideal temperature range for the Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai tree is between 60-95°F (18-35°C). It will not survive the cold and will stop growing. If you live in a place cooler than USDA 10b, you will have to provide a warm and comfortable environment during winter.
The Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai tree loves a lot of humidity. The ideal level of humidity is more than 50%. For aerial roots to grow in a bonsai, you will need a humidity of nearly 100%. You can achieve this by using a fish tank, a glass cover, or a construction with transparent sheets. When the aerial roots develop, place them in plastic straws and let them stay inside. The straws will prevent the roots from drying up. It will enable the roots to reach the soil and get established.
The Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai thrives in well-draining soil. When growing as a bonsai, use a combination of more than two potting media. Though this plant does not have very specific soil requirements, as a bonsai, the soil requirement cannot be compromised. You will need to provide adequate nutrition, water retention, and aeration through a small amount of soil. The recommended soil pH is 6.5-7.
The Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai tree prefers room temperature soft water. Water your bonsai, once a day, for the first 2 weeks after planting. Once it has become established, you can water it whenever the surface becomes dry. You must take care to keep adequate moisture available in the soil constantly. Water until the soil is thoroughly soaked and water drips out of the drainage hole. The leaves will dry up and fall off if you let the soil dry out completely. You can use water retaining ingredients in the soil. In winter, your plant will require extra moisture. Take a shallow tray filled with a layer of gravel and place your plant on it. Watering over the gravel will supplement the extra moisture needed.
You can feed your Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai every 3 to 4 weeks during its active growing period. A balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer will help increase the growth rate. Practice fertilizing on a regular basis for healthy foliage. As a bonsai, when the plant gathers nutrients from the little amount of soil, the soil gets exhausted quickly.
The Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai is best presented as a ‘Banyan Tree’ style. Since they can grow aerial roots relatively easy, bonsai growers often present them in aerial root pillars or root over rock styles.
How to plant and grow Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) Bonsai?
The most commonly used ficus for Bonsai cultivation are:
- Willow leaf fig (Ficus Salicifolia/Neriifolia)
- Chinese banyan (Ficus Retusa, Mitida and/or Green Island)
- Weeping fig (Ficus Benjamina)
- Creeping fig (Ficus Microcarpa, Pumila, Repens)
There is one aspect of planting and growing the Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai that you should note. The plant produces a white sticky sap whenever any cut or break is made on it. It might irritate the skin or eye on some people. When allowed to build up and dry, it leaves a sticky mess on bonsai tools and work tables.
The Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai is best grown in spring or the rainy summer season.
Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) can be propagated from seeds, stem-cuttings, or air layering. Air layering is the best method to propagate it as a bonsai. It will allow you to obtain branches as thick as 3 inches (7.62 cm) in diameter. When you are air layering, work during spring. Cuttings can be obtained from a mature plant. You can plant the cuttings during mid-summer for highest success rate.
Pruning and wiring
Pruning it right is the key to a beautiful Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai. If you want to promote dense foliage, prune during the growing season. You can cut above the node of a branch to stop linear growth and force it to grow more branches. As the foliage is small-sized, you will need to employ precision cutting and pinching techniques. For a bushier growth, regularly pinch the tips of the plant during the growing season. Pruning and pinching is essential to keep your tree in its miniature form.
The thin and medium Ficus branches are flexible, enabling you to wire and bend them easily. But keep a regular check on the wires. They can cut into the bark quickly. You will need gray-wires for the strong branches.
Using a basic bonsai soil mixture, you can repot the Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai, every other year, during spring. A pH neutral standard bonsai potting mixture will provide good aeration and drainage. When training it as a bonsai, you can use a round, glazed bonsai pot to compliment its elliptical and bright colored foliage. Transplant the plant in the early evening to give it time to recover before receiving light. It tolerates root pruning quite well.
You can give your Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai an appealing structure by approach-grafting. You can take aerial roots from one part of your plant and graft them into a different position. Experienced bonsai growers unleash unlimited creative freedom through grafting, while growing the Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) tree as a bonsai.
How to care for your Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) Bonsai
Warm and humid weather are the most ideal growth environments for the Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) bonsai tree. A tropical plant, it is best suited for plant hardiness USDA zones 10-11. Spring or the rainy summer season is the perfect time for potting it. This plant thrives in well-drained and evenly moist soil. It must be fed every other week during the growing period.
Pests and diseases
Irregular and improper watering practices will weaken the Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) tree. Normally, it is not susceptible to a lot many diseases but can be attacked by root rot or fungal diseases. Poor soil drainage or over watering leads to root rot. The early symptoms are wilting leaves even when the soil is moist. When you notice significant leaf drop and black mold appearing on the base of the trunk, it signifies severe root rot.
You will notice discolored patches on the leaves and stem when the plant contracts fungal disease. Keeping the foliage wet for too long in high humidity often leads to this. You can prevent it by avoiding watering the plant from top.
Apart from these, keep a look out for aphids, scale insects, and spider mites. Spraying insecticides will get rid of them. For a healthy plant, you must provide excellent living conditions.
The Ficus Neriifolia (Fig) tree is perfect for beginners to train as a bonsai. It is unique and aesthetically very pleasing.