All Things Gardening forum: Ginseng Ficus Bonsai

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Name: Sadie
North Carolina
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Sadiet
Nov 20, 2017 8:35 PM CST
I bought a young ginseng ficus from Ingles yesterday. When I brought it home, I removed the glued rocks from around the base (I don't know why they insist on doing that) but, as you can see, the pot is really small. What size and kind of pot should I put this in? Specific products, sizes, or companies would be a huge help Smiling Also, I have seen where people put moss around the base of the tree to retain moisture and to cover up the dirt, I spread out the generic shredded moss stuff that they put over the dirt. Is it a good idea for this type of tree to put live moss on top of the soil? Lastly, how should I shape this tree? I've been looking for good shapes for a ginseng ficus but are there specific ones that look best for this type of tree? Thanks!
Thumb of 2017-11-21/Sadiet/0c762b

Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Nov 20, 2017 10:18 PM CST
Hi Sadie, Welcome!

Removing the glued rocks was good but adding the green moss was a bad thing. You don't need to hold moisture in and you could cause some rot problems. If you want to decorate the top of the soil, a single layer of small pebbles would be best.

Does that pot have a drainage hole? If not, your first project will be repotting. If you want to keep this plant as a bonsai, the pot needs to be small. The art of bonsai isn't just about pruning to a shape but also keeping the roots pruned also. The pot never gets bigger but the plant will need to be repotted and the top and roots pruned every other year or so.

The tree can be any shape you would like. Look at photos of Ficus bonsai and choose something. The training will be a life time project. Ginseng Ficus take very well to pruning but because of their fat trunks and roots, they can't be easily wired or bent in new directions.

I have never liked wiring but have always managed to achieve the shape I want with pruning. Part of it is being able to predict what direction the plant will grow if you cut it here. Or here. And also by weighting new branches to pull them down or tethering to change direction.

I would suggest, for a couple reasons, that you just concentrate on keeping it alive and prune it into a simple ball like this:

https://www.google.com/search?...:

The reasons I am suggesting this pruning style is that you are a new bonsai owner so don't take on something too challenging quite yet.

And, because of how this tree was grown, it will never be anything more than what it is. The trunk was cut and allowed to sprout in every direction. It will be hard to overcome that original cut.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Nov 21, 2017 6:14 PM CST
The pebbles and moss are there solely for decorative purposes. If they don't interfere with your watering, they can stay without harm. Otherwise, it is an aesthetic choice that suits you.

Likewise, you have to decide if you want to keep your Ginseng as a miniaturized bonsai or if you want to grow it into a much larger plant. No right or wrong, just a decision based on what you want its future to be.

If you opt to keep it as a bonsai, then I suggest you keep it in that pot indefinitely. Just monitor the soil moisture regularly as it may need frequent watering as the roots expand. If you choose to move it into a larger pot, then it will start to grow much larger.

Pruning is also very much a personal aesthetic choice. This plant will give you a chance to experiment with how you want it to look. Pruning is like getting a haircut. Neither affects overall health, but both alter the appearance.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
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Name: Sadie
North Carolina
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Sadiet
Nov 21, 2017 8:01 PM CST
DaisyI said:

Does that pot have a drainage hole? If not, your first project will be repotting. If you want to keep this plant as a bonsai, the pot needs to be small. The art of bonsai isn't just about pruning to a shape but also keeping the roots pruned also. The pot never gets bigger but the plant will need to be repotted and the top and roots pruned every other year or so.


Thanks for your response! It is super helpful. If I put it in a larger pot, will it continue to grow bigger and bigger or will it stop to where t fits the pot? I would like it to be slightly larger than it is now, but not overwhelmingly big. It's currently about 6-7 inches tall.

Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Nov 21, 2017 8:53 PM CST
It will continue to grow bigger in its current pot but it all depends upon how much bigger you want it. They are trees so, if your pot was big enough, it could be 50 feet tall. Smiling

The size determination is how big you allow it to grow. Even in a HUGE pot, you could keep it small, but that would be silly. Choose the pot and grow the tree into it. I have a 25 year old Ficus benjamina in a pot that is 15 x 15 x 15 inches. The tree itself is 4 - 5 feet tall. I prune the top constantly and, every couple years, I dump it out and prune the roots and replace the soil.

In plants, all plants, there is a very close relationship between the roots and the crown. The stems act as conduits between the roots and leaves and also support the plant. The top of the plant will not grow larger unless the roots of the plant are fulfilling their part of the bargain. The roots will not grow unless they are getting enough support from the leaves. The balancing act is yours - you have to keep all the parts happy and synchronized by watering, pruning, ferilizing and providing sufficient light.

Don't panic! Every plant in your care, whether in a pot or in the ground, is living with the decisions you make (Oops! Sorry! More stress). You are the Goddess of the Garden. How's that for power?

Relax everybody. The species will survive inspite of you. Rolling on the floor laughing

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Tofi
Sumatera, Indonesia
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tofitropic
Nov 22, 2017 1:09 AM CST
Ginseng ficus is an exciting caudiciform root type, but their leaves are not so great, (large leaves, not so compact habit), so I often having fun by grafting other type of ficus on them. Here is a pic using three types of F. benjamina as a top scion.
If the stock grows shoot, I cut it, and grown for another plant.
I once even try F carica, and F elastica on it, and it grows OK (ended up as a gift for visiting friend, sorry no pic), perhaps in the future will try again, or will try other kind of ficus or even multiple ficus on a single plant.

Thumb of 2017-11-22/tofitropic/973e0a

[Last edited by tofitropic - Nov 22, 2017 1:16 AM (+)]
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Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Nov 22, 2017 5:26 AM CST
Awesome creations, Tofi!

I'll never understand why they don't package these "bonsai trees" with books about the art of bonsai, or at least have an adjacent rack of bonsai books. I bet people would buy several plants to experiment with various styles. It seems like there's an assumption that nobody is interested in learning or working for decades on a project.
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Name: Sadie
North Carolina
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Sadiet
Nov 22, 2017 4:24 PM CST
purpleinopp said:Awesome creations, Tofi!

I'll never understand why they don't package these "bonsai trees" with books about the art of bonsai, or at least have an adjacent rack of bonsai books. I bet people would buy several plants to experiment with various styles. It seems like there's an assumption that nobody is interested in learning or working for decades on a project.


I have probably 30 plants in my bedroom (I love them all equally) but I have recently become very interested in the idea of bonsai trees. As you said, it does take decades and result take a while to show, but I am super excited at the idea of possibly still having these trees in 50 years! I might be in a minority because of this...I don't know how everyone doesn't have dozens of plants in their houses. I've actually started growing pomegranate seeds — this is my next big project and I already love it :)
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Nov 22, 2017 5:14 PM CST
When I first started, I attended classes and read everything I could find to read.

One of my favorite books on bonsai is called "The Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and Landscapes" by Yuji Yoshimura and Giovanna M. Halford.

I Googled to see if this book is still in print and I don't think it is but found it at several online secondhand booksellers. Barnes and Noble had a copy for $1.99!

My oldest bonsai is about 45 years old. My youngest is 5 years old. Mine have all been started as seedlings I dug up or purchased in 2 inch pots.

I'll post a couple photos in a minute.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Frenchy
Falls Church, VA (Zone 7b)
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Frenchy21
Nov 22, 2017 5:22 PM CST
Sadiet said:

I have probably 30 plants in my bedroom (I love them all equally) but I have recently become very interested in the idea of bonsai trees. As you said, it does take decades and result take a while to show, but I am super excited at the idea of possibly still having these trees in 50 years! I might be in a minority because of this..


I might hope to keep my bonsai trees 20 or so years but by that time I'll forget what to do with them. Hilarious! Hilarious!
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Nov 22, 2017 5:25 PM CST
I kept my Ginseng in its small container but I did a repot to improve the media. It likes our outdoors during warmer months but in shade. Quite slow growing and likes getting a good shower during the warmer months. During late Fall to winter I keep it indoors near a south facing window. I have learned now to continue watering but with intervals since it ably keeps moisture in its caudex. It keeps me occupied while I wait for my Adeniums to wake up in Spring. Smiling
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Nov 22, 2017 6:33 PM CST
Here are a couple photos, as promised.

A Japanese Maple that has changed a lot over the years. Until about 25 years ago, it was a cascade but my husband knocked it off the front porch and it became something else. Then a deer ate it and once again, it became something else. This is what it is now and how it looked in October. The bamboo stakes and orange cording is keeping the pot from flying away in the wind and changing shapes once again.
Thumb of 2017-11-23/DaisyI/11bc54 Thumb of 2017-11-23/DaisyI/b71a5d

This is my oldest bonsai at 45 years - Five Gingko trees in a landscape. Bonsai are always planted in odd numbers, never even and NEVER four.
Four and death are almost the same kanji so don't plant four of anything (I don't even buy 4 of anything). My DH's cousin lives in Japan town in Los Angeles on the 5th floor of a four story building - its the same as never having a 13th floor. The ginkgos now and in August.
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This is a dogwood bonsai in training at 5 years. I dug it up because of its fall color and twiggy nature (don't worry, in my own yard). Its wintering over in the garage because it too cold outside and too warm in the GH.
Thumb of 2017-11-23/DaisyI/47b900

This is a group of 3 Hedge Maples, dug up as seedlings (from my yard). These trees are about 10 years old.
Thumb of 2017-11-23/DaisyI/1745b3

This is an Ume' tree grown from a pit from the Asian grocery - about 20 years old. I'm not sure it will go to the garage this winter as the mound it is growing out of is a 4 inch bonsai pot completely covered in Baby's Tears. I think the pot is now firmly attached to the GH floor.
Thumb of 2017-11-23/DaisyI/b4879f

I used to try to keep a whole bunch of bonsai trees but its hard to take care of that many. I have whittled my collection down by choice and attrition, but am always on the lookout for something new and exciting. My newest is a naturally weeping cherry that (yes, I'll admit that) I bought in a 4 inch pot. I also have opted for mostly larger plants - those tiny pots have to be watered multiple times a day when its hot. All the small ones live their summers in the greenhouse under the sprinklers for the orchids. In the winter, they live on racks in the garage.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: Tofi
Sumatera, Indonesia
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tofitropic
Nov 22, 2017 11:36 PM CST
@Daisy...whoaa.. I tip my hat to you. . what an awesome maple...and I believes that ginkgo would no less spectacular in bright yellow...
unfortunately thoose marvelous color changing plants wont grow here in my country, so I will sticks to Ficus and tropicals alike...

@Tiffany purpleinopp... yes I also think that if people been given example, exposure, and encourage to do a long term project, something like bonsai... many will actually becoming fan, if not fanatics

I have another project on combining ficus ginseng (also given as a gift to friend). just by combining many types of figs in single pot. but I cant find those images... I'll try later..
Name: Frenchy
Falls Church, VA (Zone 7b)
Container Gardener Dog Lover Houseplants Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Tomato Heads Hostas
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Frenchy21
Nov 23, 2017 12:08 AM CST
Daisy thanks for sharing your photos. Beautiful trees! Lovey dubby
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Nov 23, 2017 3:41 PM CST
Aw shucks... Once I had about 40 of them but I am down to a dozen or so. They are way too labor intensive.

Tofi, your little Ficus trees are beautiful. But... It is a whole lot easier to grow plants that appreciate your weather. Luckily, the Gingko forest and maples can live outside. The dogwood can spend the summer out but its too cold here in the winter. The little ones have to live in the greenhouse just so they get watered. So most of mine are large and living out year 'round on an automatic drip system. In the winter, I do shove them up against the walls of the house for a little protection.

I have to admit that I tossed a perfectly healthy Japanese maple this summer after trying to make it into something I liked for about 15 years.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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[Last edited by DaisyI - Nov 23, 2017 3:42 PM (+)]
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