Styles / Pruning / Training: Train into any style. The ficus responds well to severe root and top pruning. Most ficus species can be wired for shape but be careful of scarring due to the quick growth. Branches can be tied down for shaping. With most ficus new leaf buds should be pinched ack to maintain shape, reduce leaf size and thicken foliage. Some species do better being clipped back. When shaping use directional pruning. Some species including the nerifolia and green island can be completely defoliated 1 - 3 times yearly to reduce leaf size and thicken foliage. Other species such as the benjamina can be defoliated but it is risky as branches can die-back. Instead, remove a few of the largest leaves at a time.
Propagation: Cuttings, air-layers, seeds and collecting.
Repotting Special Instructions: Repotting can begin when minimum night temperatures are in the low to mid 60's. Ficus are quick growers and should be repotted every year or two. Check for signs of being root bound.
Salt tolerance: Moderate
Insects and Diseases: Although ficus are resistant to most diseases and insects, keep watch for aphids, scale, thrips and fungus which can infect the tree usually during the growing season.
Ficus Benjamina - Evergreen with pointed, glossy leaves that can be reduced by removing approximately 1/3rd of the largest leaves at a time. The fruit is red, round and paired. Use moderate water.
Varieties of Benjamina include: var. benjamina - Weeping fig. Bark is gray to white, thin, glossy green leaves and dark red figs. This variation can grow to 80 feet in height and has a banyan habit. Like many ficus it begins life as an epiphytic strangler. var. nuda (synonym: F. philippinensis) This fig has large dark green leathery leaves with long tips that weeps. The new growth is a bronze-rose color. var. Too Little, Kiki and Natasja A dwarf benjamina. These are all dwarf varieties with tiny leaves. var. wianda A very unusual fig which is very brittle and cannot be wired. Gray to white bark and thin dark green pointed leaves with limbs which grow in all directions. Difficult to train because of the brittleness, clip and grow with much patience can produce an impressive tree. Use moderate water. var. rianne a sister of F. wianda but with smaller leaves. As the wianda the rianne has very brittle branches and should not be wired. Clip and grow for training.
Ficus benghalensis (synonym: F. indica) The true banyan fig/banyan tree. This is considered the world's largest tree because of its spread. Tan to light gray color trunks. Aerial roots are reddish brown. Leaves are dark green, wide oval, leathery and have a small tip with midrib and lateral veins prominent and a distinctive white to yellow. The figs it bears are orange-yellow to red and in pairs.
Ficus carica - Common fig/ Brown fig. Found in zones 8 - 11 this is the fig most associated with edible figs. One such edible fig is the 'Mission fig' which is a quick grower and does not need special pollination to produce figs. With proper pruning, two crops can be produced during the year. Large, fuzzy leaves can reduce a great deal and this tree can be made into large bonsai.
Ficus microcarpa (synonym: F. retusa / nitida) - Cuban Laurel, Chinese banyan and Indian Laurel. This fig rarely produces aerial roots in dry climates and the trunk rarely buttresses. The trunk is light gray to white with dark green leathery leaves which new growth is either light green or rosy with larger dark purple figs. Leaves reduce by pinching back. The microcarpa is suitable for all styles and sizes.
Ficus nerifolia - (Also called Ficus Salicifolia) Narrow Leaf or Willow Leaf ficus. Gray - brown bark, green, slender, pointed leaves which are light green to rosy color when new. The nerifolia can be totally defoliated in early spring to produce a denser growth and smaller leaves. Moderate water requirements. Suitable for all styles and sizes in bonsai.
Ficus deltoidea (syn. F. diversifolia) - Mistletoe fig. This fig gets its name because it often begins its growth from a seed dropped in a tree. Slender, zigzag branching, gray bark and unusual dark green thick leathery leaves that are spatulate shaped. Foliage is naturally cascading. Produces clusters of orange to dark brown figs. Water moderate to heavy.
Ficus religiosa - Peepul / Bo Tree / Sacred Tree. This is a strangler species which begins as an epiphyte but rarely produces aerial roots or a banyan style. The bark is deep brown with bluish green thin leaves with long tapering ends and a whitish yellow midrib. The leaf is almost heart shaped. Produces tiny dark brown figs. Hardy to freezing but will naturally drop its leaves. Suitable for many styles but larger size bonsai are best with this material. This fig can grow up to 100 feet. It has been said that this is the tree that Buddha sat under and attained enlightenment and then died.
Ficus aurea - This is the famous Florida Strangler fig/ Golden Wild fig. Native to southern Florida and the West Indies and is one of only two native Florida figs. This tree starts its lige as an epiphytic, is semi-deciduous, it is a banyan and has a buttressed trunk. This tree produces yellowish figs. Leaves are large but reduce greatly over time with proper pruning. This tree spreads by aerial roots that change to trunks after reaching the ground. Water moderately. Although suitable for many styles, the banyan is used most often.
Ficus burtt-davyi - Veld fig. The bark is whitish gray with leaves which are soft and slightly pointed. Figs produced begin green with wite coloring and turn yellow when ripe. Water when slightly dry and use low nitrogen or a balanced fertilizer. Varieties of the burtt-davyi are the 'nana' which has the smallest leaf of the variety, the 'normal' with moderate leaf size and the 'longfolia' which has the largest leaf of the variety.
Ficus rubiginosa - (syn. F. australis, F. microphylla) - Port Jackson fig / Rusty leaf fig. In its native Australia, this fig is a strangler. Beginning as an epiphyte, it produces aerial roots and a large buttressed trunk. To develop these characteristics it requires a wet tropical area. The undersides of the leaves are often coated with a rust colored down.
Ficus macrophylla (syn. F. magnolioides) - Morton Bay fig / Australian Banyan. Native to Australia, this fig tolerates drought, salt and light frost. The leaves are evergreen, oval and taper at the ends and are brown on the underside. The leaves are large but will reduce greatly. New leaf sheaths are reddish in color. The fruit is round, purple and has white dots. This tree begins as an epiphyte and does produce some aerial roots in wet climates. This tree produces one of the most impressive buttressed trunks with wonderful surface roots.
Ficus natalensis (syn. F. triangularus) - Natal fig / Common wild fig. The leaf shape is similar to F. deltoidea as both species have leathery, spatula shaped leaves. The leaves on the Natal fig, are much longer and narrower than the Mistletoe fig. It has brownish bark and clutters of round brownish-orange figs.
Even though some varieties are considered "strangler" figs, this fig is not truely a parasite and does not strangle its host tree. As the tree grows its roots search for the ground. Eventually the strangler will cover its host tree and the host will die because it is covered and cannot get sun nor compete well for root space. True 'parasite' trees actually begin life on the host tree embedding into the host trees branches and uses the tree to get its nutrients eventually starving out the original host branch.
Many of the figs have been classified and reclassified over the years. An effort was made to draw a consensus from the vast material, perhaps due to the immense number of species.
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