How to Improve Ficus Bonsai

Improving an Ficus Bonsai

One word of warning: if your tree is a Ficus benjamina (as opposed to the F. microcarpa Peter was working on) don’t cut twigs and branches back to a bare stump without leaves. On F. benjamina branches are very likely to die back to the last location that has a leaf at the end. Of course if you cut back to just one leaf you very likely get shoots further back; then you can prune to those.

We are just post christmas and many of you will have had presence of indoor bonsai and the most popular indoor bonsai that we sell is without doubt the ficus reducer the indoor ficus these are all very healthy trees some of them are with a bit of yellow leaves but let me explain to you what you should do with your ficus i brought here two four six ficuses which are typical of the trees that we stock and when people get their body sign i find that for some reason they have this incessant urge insatiable urge to do something to it the worst thing you can do with an indoor bonsai at this time of the year and in fact at any time of the year is take it out of the pot and repot it i don’t know why people like to take it out and repot it they think that by repotting the tree they will help to improve the tree not so you will do more harm than good and they are always afraid to burn so let us see what we need to do with these trees let’s look at each of these trees in terms because these are all typical of the practices that you will get as presence so let me look at some of these simple ones by degrees of difficulty if you look at this one [Music] this tree is in fairly good shape the conical shape is quite obvious but you can always improve it by taking the tips off don’t let them grow indefinitely if you just let the shoots grow you will get bare twigs at the ends here so you need to prune the tips back and keep it in that conical shape you see these long shoots growing up that is typical but don’t be afraid to prune it back here i know that we’re in january but even then don’t be afraid to prune because you’ll get new shoots i here find that there are one or two leaves that have spots on it look at that now don’t be afraid of that you know that is typical before the leaves fall you get the all spotting and the leaves will drop so i brought it back into that conical shape by pruning that so that’s all i need to do to that tree now i have here stephen from seattle and i want you to see a video that you showed me a short photograph can you show us the picture of your fighters and if i can just point out stephen was asking me what you do with these long shoots here those long shoots you should prune back to about there if you keep letting it go it won’t butt back but if you prune it there it will force new shoots to grow so that needs to be pruned that needs to be pruned this tree is in seattle so i can’t do anything with it here but this is typical of the situation you get so let me find one tree which is similar to that now this tree for some reason it’s got a few yellow leaves but don’t panic all trees will shed leaves at some point so if you get the yellow leaves it doesn’t mean the tree is dying and for god’s sake don’t repot it so it is quite natural but let me show you how i would improve this tree this tree hasn’t got a classic conical shape i can improve it by taking the branches out this way so let me just put a piece of wire around and just show you typically what happens in this situation so i can prune the tree so that the branches spread a little more and then i will give it a bit of wire to lay the branch flat remember that the tendency of most plants in fact all plants is to go upwards they want to face the light they want to reach the sky but in bonsai because we are having a small plant we want it to resemble a much older plant with branches that hang down so let’s wire this down like that now what do i do with these long shoes this as you saw in that stevens photograph long shoots if you don’t prune it it’ll get longer and longer and look untidy so don’t be afraid to do this with these broad leaf trees you can do this with impunity because it will bud back further into the branch like that if you wanted to you could wire those down now these vertical branches this is typical if you didn’t want to wire it flat you could wire it like that simply prune it back like that simply prune it back like that and you will get a pad which is much tighter not so long let’s look at this one at the back here these are also too long so all these very long shoots you should prune back there i know that you say why should i prune all these lovely leaves off but don’t forget you’re looking to the future if you don’t look to the future then in future the plant will just go downhill by doing this i’m going to encourage more back budding and i’m going to get a very dense pad from this and i’ve prevented it growing too tall so it may look a bit sorry for itself like that but it will become good i can do a little bit of wine to improve that and ficuses they grow from cutting so easily you stick this in soil you get a plant almost immediately so please have a good propagating your focuses because they’re very easy to go from cuttings never so easy to grow from cuttings now let me just see what i will do with this i’m just going to wire this a little bit again even in this situation i’m trying to use this two branch principle and these long shoots again don’t be a fruit be afraid to prune it back like that it may look as if you’re scalping it and if you have the time you can wire all these outwards like that let me find another greater wire so simply find two branches and wire the two together and you can’t go wrong most of these ficuses are bought as presence and if it’s for people who are not very experienced in bonsai they’re afraid to do it but if you want to really progress in bonsai don’t be afraid to practice on these trees but as i said don’t repot it that’s the last thing you should do you can wire so you can see i’ve reconfigured the shape of the tree and in fact i can do even a little more drastic stuff cut it down and then i’m going to start again so i’ve got a much better shape tree okay i just noticed that having pulled these twigs you notice that the sap coming out that’s the white milk which is the latex of all ficuses and that is what is used for making your rubber tires and things like that so ficuses belong to the rubber plant family now ficus number three what do i do with this so i can do a bit of wiring to improve it now this is very typical you see the branch coming back on itself i can improve it by not letting it kick back i can wire that out and i can just generally do a little more wiring i’ve see i’ve got that situation i can do that so let’s have a go at doing that okay anchor and then take it out to the next bunch there’s a fork there two branches i will show you what to do with those because you have to wire the two together but let me just take the first branch out so i can do that as well so i put another piece of water to do that so i’ve just used two mil and this is one and a half mil so i’m just anchoring onto an existing wired branch and then take it off to this one and wire it this way and the long shoots always take the tip out so that it branches some more now this one is at a loose end i can improve it a little bit by see that’s on its own so i will wire to this one just anchor to an existing wired branch and take it off to this one so you’re still fulfilling the two branch principle and you’ve got a flat pad so you see that’s how the shape of the fico should be so that’s springing upwards you can wire this flat this is curling this way you can take this out so even a simple tree like this there is so much scope for improving it so don’t just accept the tree at its face value but just look on it as a potential nice tree that you can improve okay so probably these striking wire to open out a lot of these commercial trees especially the so-called indoor trees they’re produced by the million in china and taiwan place it like that and of course because they’re mass produced they’re just grown as ordinary shrubs with a dome shape or a ball shape but among these commercial trees there are some beautiful little gems that can be improved no end so if you just care to look for them you can find these little gems to improve okay i’m not going to do too much in case it frightens any of you so i’ve just put like a couple of pairs of wires i’ve improved that a little more so more of a dome shape like that so that is number three let us see this one now this is again a typical ficus going well in fact it’s so healthy what do you do with these long shoots unless you’re wanting to grow it long you should always take the tips out so that it doesn’t get any longer now these again can you see how long these branches are you can let these grow endlessly you must deal with it if you don’t deal with it you will store up trouble for yourself later on okay so i’m just giving it a prune look at these long shoots these long shoots have all grown in the last two or three months on the nursery but you think that i have nearly a thousand ficuses it takes a long time to prune them all but for the sake of the tree you need to do it okay that’s just pruning i haven’t done any wiring so you can wire it by improving it so this one i can wire out let me just practice what i preach now this is a situation where i get one branch on its own but i’m going to link it to this little stub here and then take it out to this branch so i’m still fulfilling the two branch principle where possible always attach it to something so remember what i said the true branch principle is really a means of anchoring the branch it’s a convenient way of anchoring the branch you can do it many other ways but as long as you provide an anchor that will work so i’ve made the branch go down in a more logical way so i can improve it a little more by doing that now that can encourage that branch to grow now let me see what i can do with this one again two bronze principles okay for those who are serious and bonsai very few people who are serious in bonsai hardly ever regard the indoor trees as proper bonsai i’m talking of people who live in the western hemisphere if you live in the tropics warm countries like india philippines indonesia where the temperatures are very high and ficuses grow naturally in the open then these are the standard trees that you would be working on anyway but those of us who live in this temperate climates we seldom regard these as proper bonsai so we never practice or work on them but i can assure you it is very satisfying to work on these because you can get some really beautiful results from these trees they may lose leaves but if you keep it in a moderately warm room with a lot of humidity the leaves will come back very quickly so don’t be afraid i often get trees from clients who have bought these ficuses and through neglect either not watering enough they lose all their leaves but as long as they’re not dead i can revive it and bring it back to almost perfection in a matter of three to six months ficus is a lovely plant to work with i remember when i used to go to india virtually all the plants there were ficuses and you can get some beautiful results so i’ve only put one piece two piece three pieces of wire and i’ve improved the shape of this tree more of a conical shape and i’ve trimmed the ends so that is number four done let me look at number five now this is a classic one that has not been pruned or dealt with it’s looking a bit yellow because it needs more fertilizer how can i improve it again the trick is to open up the structure see the principles are the same as for your outdoor guys you can just see by doing that opening it out more of a conical shape the tree immediately starts to look better i noticed that there are one or two dead stumps here i can take those out don’t worry when you get the odd dead twig because it’s quite natural as trees grow you will get some dead growing now let’s open all the branches out so let me see i don’t have the right grid of water here just combing on that tree and i will find the right there okay i’m going to find two branches to one ounce now this is a very convenient two branch case where these two branches can easily be wired outwards the branches of ficus set very easily so we are now almost into january and i would say by the end of the year by september these branches will set in position and you will get a very nice looking tree now there’s some more branches let me keep wiring them remember as long as you wire two branches together you can’t go wrong so one branch here go up the trunk and do another one here okay now let’s look at the tree again from the front see i’m spreading the base like that so the conical shape has got a nice wide base the more you open the tree out the more interesting it looks but i think that’s enough i’ve only put two pieces of wire look at it and i’ve changed the look of that tree make it look more pleasing now this is the last one this last one look at that verdant foliage it’s got so much going for it that i think sometimes you can have too much of a good thing and it is just a jungle i think you need to thin it out a little bit to see the structure of the tree you know the expression you can’t see the wood for the trees this is that sort of situation where if you have too much of a good thing you don’t see the better parts so let us see how i can improve this tree this one is struggling a bit because all the energy has gone to the top but i want to thin the top a little more and if i need to wire i will certainly wire it this is typical of many people’s bonsais they get a situation like this so they don’t want to bother to do anything but i think you can be storing up a lot of trouble for yourself if you don’t do anything so i’m going to think about it i’m going to take out the extraneous branches to show the branch structure mind you in nature in the world sometimes these big trees grow like this you can’t see anything inside because we grow bonsai on a smaller scale you want to show more detail i’m trying to find the bronze structure that’s what i’m doing it’s one of the rare instances i’m using the branch cutter because it can go into the structure whereas my falco sectors can’t do that try to open it up much more okay i think i’ll have to use some pretty thick wire for this one no matter okay so let me wire these two branches with a fairly thick piece of water i hope my video editor will show you the before and after of this because this was a very dense tree and i’m trying to rationalize it by finding the main branches and making it look more ordered rather than just a massive branches i think i’ve changed it you can still see the main trunk and you now can see the bronze structure i know that for a beginner this could be quite daunting but i’m lucky that there are so many branches if you have a lot of branches and you can afford to take some of them off if you didn’t have a lot of branches then you don’t have many choices so if you were faced with that situation then you have to be more prudent and careful so i think you will agree that we have improved this somewhat i’m not sure about this much i’ll keep it if it doesn’t survive i can take it off it won’t matter but these ficuses do throw new shoots and new branches very easily so i could get back budding there and these shoots are ideal cuttings all these are ideal cuttings if you just stick it into pete and sand i can guarantee you in three months you will get a very vigorous plug and if you live in the tropics in two weeks you will get a new plant so there you are i’ve dealt with all these six trees so this is what you can be doing with your new ficuses that you got for christmas and help to improve them but remember don’t repot the tree whatever you do just feed them well and deal with the branches while the branches prune the tips and that’s how you keep them well and of course never let it dry out keep it in a moderately warm room with plenty of light and in the summer when the temperature gets to about 20 plus or more you can keep it outdoors so there you are i hope you enjoyed this focus video [Music] you

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