I have a special bond with my ficus. As a matter of fact, it was one of my first bonsais. In fact, many consider the ficus to be the most beginner-friendly type of bonsai you will find out there. Nevertheless, they can’t live on their own, you need to follow some basic care guidelines so your tree can thrive.
To take care of a Ficus, it should be grown indoors near a sunny window, so it has constant exposure to the sunlight. It is vital to keep it in temperatures above 59 Fahrenheit (15 Celsius). The ficus has reduced watering needs, simply hydrate it when the top layer of the soil is getting dry. It is suggested to fertilize it every 2 weeks.
But should you expect your ficus to start dropping its leaves at some point in time? How much sunlight or water is too much? No worries. We created this beginner’s guide, so you gain more confidence to take care of your ficus bonsai.
(Side note: I am not an expert, nor a botanist. So I have researched and compiled the best practices I have found in books and articles online.)
How to Take Care of a Ficus Bonsai Tree
One common debate that you see online on bonsai forums is concerning if you should keep your ficus outdoors or indoors.
As a rule of thumb, Ficus are mostly kept indoors near a sunny window, where it can get as much light as it can. However, be mindful and allow a couple of inches between our tree and the glass to prevent overheating.
What about outdoors?
Sure, during summer they shouldn’t have any problem living outdoors in a garden or backyard if its foliage is not exposed to extremely hot air. Winter is a different story. Your Ficus won’t be able to stand the frost or temperatures below 59 Fahrenheit (15 celsius) so be sure to bring it back as soon as the temperature drops.
As a side note, if you choose indoors and you don’t have a sunny window that gets more than 8 hours of direct or indirect sunlight, then you should consider using an artificial light. We wrote an article on how to grow bonsai indoors if you want to learn more tips regarding light.
In addition, you should avoid drastic temperature changes with your bonsai. For instance, if your tree has been sitting outside and in warm temperature, avoid bringing it into a cold room where you have an AC turned on. The damage won’t be instant, but it will occur.
One of the things that makes Ficus trees stand out is their watering needs. In contrast to the majority of bonsais, the ficus can thrive with very little water in comparison. This one of the reasons they can stand beginner owners, as the number mistake one that most of bonsai beginners make is to forget to water their bonsai.
So, the watering rule of thumb is very simple. Check your bonsai daily. If you notice that the top layer of the soil is dry, then water. You can expect this to happen no more than 4 times per week. The quantity of water will depend on the size of your Ficus, just take it easy and pour some water until the soil gets moist.
If you still have questions about the ins and outs of how to water a bonsai, we have a bonsai watering guide here for you
If you overdo watering, don’t worry. Most ficus bonsais can take this newbie mistake as well. To correct this issue, stop watering it so profusely and simply, make sure that the drainage hole has space to let wastewater to come out.
That being said, humidity is not a top priority for the ficus bonsai. However, some advanced bonsai artists promote aerial rooting (see example below). You could also get fancy (hopefully after you gain more experience) by artificially increasing the ficus humidity and mist the tree on a daily basis.
How to Trim a Ficus Bonsai
In order to achieve the desired shape for your ficus, remember to prune your leafy friend regularly. Ficus trees tend to grow large leaves so you will have to prune more often than you might have expected. A rule of thumb you can apply is to prune it with a 2:6 or a 4:8 leaves ratio. This means that when your tree reaches 6 leaves or 8 leaves, you should prune back to 2 or 4 leaves respectively.
This process can be done year-round, however, you should take advantage of spring to perform most of the pruning. Just keep in mind that in the case of the ficus, trimming is something more aesthetic rather than a must.
Similar to any bonsai pruning, if you make big cuts that cause it to bleed, remember to cover the wound with cut paste. But you can be relieved by knowing that ficus bonsais respond very well to regular pruning, and will make them stronger in the long run.
Advanced Ficus Care Guidelines
Experts agree that it is recommended to fertilize your Ficus every two weeks to promote its healthy growth. If you forget about this, no worries, it’s not the end of the world. However, you should keep in mind that fertilization cycles are important to replenish the soil with new nutrients, as they tend to leave fast with the water.
Seasonality matters when fertilizing your ficus bonsai, most experts suggest:
- End of spring and during summer: every 2 weeks.
- Fall and winter: every 4 weeks.
2 years is the bonsai owner consensus in regards to when you should think about repotting your ficus tree. This should be done so the roots have more room to expand and your ficus can keep on thriving. Some bonsai experts recommend that you double-check the following before repotting:
- Place your bonsai on a table.
- Gently dig your fingers between the pot sides and the soil. Make sure a body that combines soil and roots has formed. This body should have the shape of the pot.
- If this is true, then you should be good to go with the repotting.
After repotting, keep in mind to water your ficus with a considerable amount of water. Also, give it some weeks with not too much sunlight, so the new roots can grow faster.
Wiring and fusing sections:
If you want to shape your ficus to the desired figure in mind, you can use a thin wire to start wiring it from the trunk up to an individual branch or a group of branches. Also, keep in mind the following:
- Avoid wiring a bonsai after repotting it.
- Wire the branches in a way that doesn’t go against the branch’s natural direction.
- Be careful when cutting the wire, avoid unwinding it as you could break apart your bonsai.
One really cool feature about the ficus is that you can fuse its branches by tying them with a wire. This can give your bonsai a more robust look. This allows you to get very creative and start exploring your bonsai artist side a little and design your design how you want it to be.
Pests and diseases
As with any bonsai tree, beware of mites, bugs and scales. Instead of using Malathion insecticides that can harm your ficus, you can go with a mild solution of soap and water to wash away the pests.
Why is my ficus bonsai dropping leaves?
You should know that a ficus bonsai expresses its reaction to changes by dropping or changing the color of its leaves. By changes, we mean moving it to a new location or even the transition between seasons.
However, the most likely cause for leaves dropping is overwatering. So,as discussed before, only water your ficus when you notice that the soil is dry. Another possible reason could be that your ficus is not getting enough sunlight.
And why does it have yellow leaves?
If you notice that the leaves of your ficus are turning yellow, this could be a sign that it has low humidity. This can be very common during the winter as the air gets dry. A suggested turnaround to minimize the leaves’ yellowing is to mist the leaves when you water your bonsai.
Another cause that is not so common is the lack of nutrients. You can prevent this by making sure your ficus is fertilized often as we described before.
Are there different types of Ficus Bonsais?
Yes, there are more than 800 varieties, however, the 5 most popular are the ones we describe next. As it’s hard to describe each one in detail, take a look at the pictures so you get a better idea on how each variety looks like:
Ficus Retusa (also known as Banyan Fig):
It is the most common type of bonsai for sale. Mainly characterized by its oval-shape and dark-green leaves, which give shape to its characteristic rounded foliage.
Ficus Benjamina (also known as Java Fig):
A less ovalled shaped cousin of the Retusa.
A more flexible variety of the ficus family. It can be shaped like a semi-cascade like this:
The main characteristic of this bonsai is that its leaves can grow up to 10cm.
How long do ficus bonsai trees live?
On average, most owners report a ficus lifespan period between 15 and 20 years. However, there is a ficus bonsai tree that is over 1000 years old!
Is ficus the best bonsai indoor species?
Definitively. Ficus bonsais are easy to care indoors and they can easily thrive if you follow the basic watering and sunlight rules.