Ficus rubiginosa is among the ideal Ficus for bonsai. Home to native eastern Australia, the Ficus rubiginosa goes by other names such as Port Jackson fig and the rusty fig. It naturally grows to become a big landscape tree as its leaves can differ in size and be nearly as massive as F. macrophylla. Beneath its Bonsai cultivation, the Ficus rubiginosa is a dynamic tree that may shape into a beautiful bonsai because of its leaves and its capabilities to produce aerial roots. Rubiginosa is one of the strongest Ficus species and it responds quite well to growing indoors under lights. Defoliation helps in considerable reduction of the ones that have large leaves—it is often recommended as one of the best trees for beginners to experiment with in the field of bonsai cultivation.

Ficus rubiginosa matures into a tree at about 30ft. Outside, it is found in rainforest margins and rocky outcrops. It is noted that planting it apart from one another in 8-12m can result in a canopy! It is usually used as a shade tree and when potted—it is well suited in bonsai or as an indoor plant. This fantastic Ficus is also used a houseplant, owing it is well looked after under low, medium or even brightly lit spaces—although a variegated form requires a brighter light.

Being plants from tropical and sub-tropical areas, they are not naturally frost hardy and need to be taken serious care of whilst indoors especially when day/night temperatures are below 15˚C.

Ficus rubiginosa have over 800 different species of shrubs, wooden climbers and evergreen trees that are usually found in tropical and moist areas around the world. There are at least a dozen species and about a hundred varieties that are suitable for bonsai cultivation.

Physical Description

Probably the most confusing part of the Ficus rubiginosa is being able to identify the magnificent plant. It has excellent variability in leaf size, leaf color, and bud color. It is well researched that the most common kind is noted to have features of red color along with a hairy texture for the underneath of the leaf. Therefore the creation of another name, the rusty fig.

Ficus rubiginosa is an evergreen plant with a dense crown that can grow from 15 to 30ft. Their interesting aerial roots hang from their branches until they curl upon meeting the ground, helping form columns that stabilize the tree. They have leathery oval leaves with a dark green upper surface and a light, hairy underside which is smooth and bear tiny. Their fruits are small, round and yellow—and can ripen at any time of the year. A spreading and densely shading-tree when mature, the Ficus rubiginosa hardly exceeds the 30ft mark—hence, its popularity in forests and parks. Its bark is yellow brown and can also grow in other plants.

How long does it take to grow Ficus rubiginosa?

With the Ficus rubiginosa, you can expect the growth period to be about 30 years for it to grow its matured height of 30ft. That’s about 1ft every year!

How to plant and grow Ficus rubiginosa

Before we dive into the gritty instructions on how to grow and take care of this beautiful plant. Let us first take a look at some of its basic specifics that is a must know:

The Ficus rubiginosa can be used outdoors and indoors. The outdoors variant may need tropical climates such as its native of Australia, but indoors—the ficus rubiginosa is favored as a bonsai tree. Particularly in large containers where it can receive adequate sunlight and water.


Ficus rubiginosa can be grown in full sun or semi-shade exposure. Even though tolerant of poor light levels, try to find a place as bright as possible when indoors or a sunny window-sill. You can put the Ficus rubiginosa in a bucket on your terrace, but the blazing midday sun is not favorable.


The ideal temperature is between 16 and 22˚C in summer and around 15˚ in winter. However, the temperature should not fall below 13˚C. Although the Ficus rubiginosa tolerates lower temperatures for a short time, it is recommended not to push it below its limits.


The soil can be a mixture of coarse sand, compost and garden substrate. It requires drainage, the best option is if the lower layer is composed of expanded clay and sand.


Keep in mind that it is important not to flood, but water regularly so that it does not dry out completely. Water 1-2 times per week during summer—the soil should dry well before the next irrigation. During the winter season, watering is reduced to 1 time in about 7-10 days. Always avoid over-moistening.

Another summer tip, try a technique called ‘immersion’ watering. The idea is to have the whole pot submerged in a vessel of water until the resultant bubbles stop. This could be done daily during the hottest months. A casual ‘misting’ helps compensate for the dry air too during the warm seasons.


Compost or manure can be used as fertilizers during the end of the winter season. Fertilize from spring to autumn every two weeks by alternating organic and mineral that is rich in nitrogen.

The amazing aerial root formations’ development can be precluded by the dry summer air. Using a half-strengthened liquid fertilizer during these warm months will surely do the trick.

Mix and Repotting

Standard bonsai mix will give excellent results as long as it is well drained. Like most variants of figs, the Ficus rubiginosa is a vigorously rooting tree and is tolerant of major reductions to its rooting system. Root-pruning can be as long as 4 years, but a 2 year interval is preferable.

Pruning and Styling

Often pulled on a high stem, ficus rubiginosa likes to grow bushy. If it is regularly cut back, a compact growth can develop. Because it can be kept in shape by pruning—the bonsai variant is a huge success. Note as well—the trimming of the roots is very important. Styling is best undertaken during the latter months of the year. Trimming the tree’s foliage is very important in its presentation as a bonsai. As it tolerates defoliation, it limits leaf size and encourages black budding. Some suggest the pruning should be only undertaken during winter—because of its milky saps from cuts, but this can be easily fixed and controlled by spraying water.

Do remember to allow the Ficus rubiginosa to grow over extended periods of time. Allowing it to grow untrimmed for a while before shaping it back to your ideal style will have a positive effect in its capabilities to store energy during the period of unrestrained growth. As a bonsai subject, it is equally applicable to most of the other species being trained and grown as a bonsai. Always remember, the tree is a growing subject—keeping it permanently immaculate and trimmed is not good for its health. Let the poor plant breath!


They are sensitive to drought but quite resistant to pests and other diseases. However, if it is in a conservatory, greenhouse or glasshouse, it can be affected by spider mites or scale insects.


Easy propagation by cutting or air layering.

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Locations of the plant

Even though the Ficus rubiginosa is found in Australia, it has proven to be a particularly robust plant that can thrive in many regions. Its fruits—which are also called figs—are also loved by animals, particularly birds who love to eat its small ripened red berries. The fruit though is not a fruit in literal sense, but reverse inflorescences.

Not just in Australia, the Ficus rubiginosa can often be seen used as a large ornamental tree in New Zealand, Hawaii, California, and other such tropical landscapes.

Little Ruby

One of the most fascinating cultivars of the Ficus rubiginosa is the little ruby. As the name itself suggests, little ruby is a dwarf type with narrower and a lot more smaller sized leaves. Little ruby is a much slower growing tree, resulting in having a lot of patience if looking after one.

Also note some of the other siblings of Ficus rubiginosa under the Ficus bonsai family tree:

  1. Ficus Salicifolia/ Narrow Leaf or Willow Leaf Fig
  2. Ficus Benjamina/Weeping Fig
  3. Ficus Retusa Var. Microcarpa/ Chinese Banyan
  4. Ficus Macrophylla /Morton Bay Fig
  5. Ficus Retusa ‘Green Island’ /Green Island FIG

Having taken everything in consideration, the Ficus rubiginosa is an absolutely fantastic tree to grow both as a bonsai and for outdoor decorations. It is in need of close care when indoors and ample looking-after when not. You may not know it park-goers, but the tree that offers you shade might just be a Ficus rubiginosa! For all bonsai cultivators, hope the above instructions were very clean and thorough in helping you set up a Ficus rubiginosa bonsai tree! Known by many names, the Ficus rubiginosa could be a major companion in houses belonging to the lovers of plants.