Bonsai Tonight

New ficus bonsai

Posted in Bonsai Development by Jonas Dupuich on April 6, 2012

A few weeks ago, I found myself walking away from the Golden State Bonsai Federation’s Mammoth Fundraiser with three new stands and a large ficus. The ficus sported a funny, bulbous trunk and a nice, full silhouette. So I did the natural thing people in bonsai so often do – I removed the bulk of the foliage, inadvertently creating a sort of tropical Charlie Brown tree.


Ficus before cutback

After cutback

Ficus after cutback – ouch!

I fully – and regularly – accept my non-bonsai friends’ critiques about the “beauty” of my collection. I consider this to be part of the intake process. When I get new trees, I focus on getting them healthy, and tree health always begins with the roots. I knew I would soon remove the tree’s soil and would therefore need to remove a commensurate amount of foliage – that’s what led to the big cuts.

The repotting went smoothly. I began by removing the old soil and trimming the roots.

After detangling the roots

Long roots

I then went to work on some large roots that didn’t make sense for the tree. One large root in the front of the tree was too large for cutters so I gnawed away at it the best I could and then smoothed the wound with a chisel.

Chiseling the remains of a large root

Removing a large root

I didn’t leave many roots. Healthy ficus can typically withstand fairly severe root pruning, especially if the tree is well cared for after the repotting.

Rootbase from above

Rootbase from above

Rootbase from below

Rootbase from below

Such a small rootbase made finding a bonsai pot easy. When I was finished repotting, I placed the tree in a greenhouse where it will be misted, but not watered much, for the next month or two.

Repotting complete

Ficus – side A

Repotting complete

Side B

I have yet to select a front for the tree, or an apex – it’s too soon for that. I still need to remove the top third of the trunk to address a large, open wound, and I don’t want to make that final cut until the tree has more vigorous shoots – and plenty of roots. I’ll start thinking more about the future style of the tree when I get to that point.

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7 Responses

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  1. Daniel Dolan said, on April 6, 2012 at 5:47 am

    Dear Jonas:

    Surprised by your interest in a Tropical……..but it prompts one question.

    I have just 2, a Brazilian Raintree and a dwarf Bougainvillea and have been advised by the Tropical secialsts to repot only at mid-summer.

    What is the optimal temperature range in your experience?

    Thank you.

    Best regards,


  2. Daniel Dolan said, on April 6, 2012 at 5:48 am


    Meant to type …”Tropical Specialists”

  3. Chris said, on April 6, 2012 at 6:22 am

    I like the belly as the front. The tree has a womanly Venus like quality.

  4. Zack Clayton said, on April 6, 2012 at 7:08 am

    I was thinking of Buddha. But the repot question is anytime there is active growth and the temperature is warm. For me that means daytime above 70 F and night over 60 F. you can go all summer at that range although I would hesitate to try if the daytime temps were over 100 F. Those usually correspond with droughts in Ohio. See if you can borrow the book “Ficus: the Exotic Bonsai” by Jerry Meislik from your club library.

  5. Jonas Dupuich said, on April 6, 2012 at 7:34 am

    My understanding lines up with Zack’s – as the outside temperature is a bit cool, I’m placing the tree in a greenhouse for a while. To date, the tree has spent winter outside, and even with highs in the 50s and 60s, new buds appeared after the major cutback.

  6. gaycarboys said, on April 6, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    I love figs. They grow like weeds here. They can’t be allowed to grow in the ground or they take over and their roots destroy everything in sight. It makes collecting them easy!

    Love what you did with it and can’t wait to see in a few year. Cheers.

  7. Steve Moore said, on April 7, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    What Zack said: the “belly” made me think of the little “Happy Buddha” statues sold in knick-knack shops. It will be interesting to see how you incorporate that in the design.

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