Monday, 28 March 2016

Ficus Ingens - creating a family of trees

April 2012 - as purchased
This is a tree I bought at a local nursery in April 2012. At the time it was about 3 foot tall and straight as a pole, but it had two things going for it - it had decent nebari (roots) and it was a variety of ficus which I didn't have in my collection. It was also really cheap.

It's a Ficus Ingens, the red-leaved fig. The foliage starts out red, but as it matures, it turns green. The leaves are quite large, but I believe that they reduce well so I'm hopeful that it will make a decent bonsai one day.

I love to propagate my own trees so my first step was to air layer the excess height, which in this case meant everything about the first couple of branches. I'm not sure when I started the air layer, but I'd guess that I waited until the South African spring, so that would have been late 2012.

Ficuses tend to air layer very easily and by February 2013 I was the proud owner of two trees - one long and straight, and this little one on which I could start work developing branches:

February 2013 - after removing air layer

Once the top had been removed the existing branches started to grow well and, despite one trim, by June 2014 it looked like this:

June 2014 - before pruning

At that time I took it to a workshop where I was persuaded to remove the lowest branch, something I now feel may have been a mistake. After some hard pruning, this is what was left:

June 2014 - after pruning

Since then I've pretty much left it to grow, and it currently looks like this:

Current appearance - March 2016

Now I'm starting to wonder what my next step should be. I considered reducing the height but I'm wondering whether I should develop it into a slightly taller tree than I originally planned. I don't want to rush the decision so for now I've done nothing.

Any suggestions would be welcome.

Here's a 360° view:

While the original tree was growing branches, my new tree was fattening up quite nicely but all of its branches were high up, so last summer I air layered a small section off the top in the hope of encouraging more branching lower down. My collection now consists of these three:

The tree and its offspring - March 2016

Despite my efforts the tall one still has no low branches, so this week I decided it was time to start another air layer just above the lowest branch.

New air layer on the tall tree

Now I'm impatiently waiting for roots to develop.

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