A ficus, really?

When we moved to Alabama, the growing seasons were long enough that there was no need for tropical trees to keep me busy in the wintertime. I’ve long-advocated for growing what grows in your area, and have managed to steer clear of tropical trees for the last 15 years…until last August.

Not to make this a post on the genealogy of my in-laws, but a twice-removed cousin in-law who practiced bonsai in New Orleans, and later moved to Virginia, passed a couple years ago, and his ficus nerifolia eventually made it’s way to me in Birmingham, via North Carolina. Got it? Good…quiz later.

His wife recalled that he owned and trained the tree as a bonsai for 50 years. At one time, he thought it was dead and threw it down a hillside at the back of his property; so it spent a couple years laying on the backside of a Virginia mountain, until he discovered it there, still alive. Enough history exists that I want to at least make a respectable attempt, despite the tropical nature if the tree!

Here it is, as I received it on August 5, ’14:

Complete with the requisite scale insects!

So pause here for a second. If this tree was yours, what would you do first? Why?

You noticed that it’s far too tall too? No taper along the trunks? Height minimizes the strength of the base?

Chop chop chop!

Much better now…

Spraying cuts with cold water stops ficus trees from bleeding.

When I got it back to my garden, I reduced the root mass to encourage it to begin growing again. Clearly it had been in the container for many years:



And planted in good bonsai soil:

It was misted several times a day, and within 2 weeks, new buds were emerging.
12 weeks later, it’s looking pretty furry:

And after a winter in my bathtub, under an east-facing window and mostly benign neglect from Mid-November to mid-March, it seems to have fared well. Didn’t drop a leaf all winter, and kept on growing.

In a few weeks, I’ll cut it back again and start developing a new leader for each trunk, and begin to think about establishing a broad canopy.


4 thoughts on “A ficus, really?

  1. Did you root the three chopped trunks? That’s how it happens. First you only have one focus but you save some cuttings and pretty soon your growing area looks like a jungle.

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