A tree on the windowsill? This is possible with the ficus ginseng. We will show you how it works and how to properly care for the bonsai ficus.
Ficus ginseng (Ficus microcarpa) is a popular type of bonsai with a modern, yet Far Eastern flair. With its dense, compact growth and decorative dark green leaves, ficus ginseng works in any home. We reveal what you should pay attention to when caring for them.
- Ficus ginseng: origin and characteristics
- Planting ficus ginseng
- Ficus ginseng care
- Overwintering ficus ginseng
- Repotting ficus ginseng
- Is the ficus ginseng poisonous?
Ficus ginseng: origin and characteristics
The synonyms by which the bonsai is known are just as diverse as the forms that Ficus microcarpa can take. The name most commonly used in our country is ficus ginseng. This name is derived from the particularly thick root of the ficus, which resembles a ginseng root (Panax ginseng) in shape. However, Ficus microcarpa is also often called Ficus microcarpa-ginseng, coutain fig or Indian laurel.
Originally, the bonsai ficus comes from the subtropical regions of Southeast Asia and Australia. In its natural habitat, the tree reaches a height of around 30 metres. Ficus microcarpa naturally branches very strongly and is also particularly tolerant to pruning. This results in a good suitability for cultivation as bonsai. This includes growing cuttings, a single strong pruning and then repeated topiary, plus a strong reduction of the root zone. The result is a gicus ginseng measuring 30 to 150 cm, just like those that can be purchased in the garden centre. In the case of particularly small saplings, the ficus ginseng is cut off just above the root when it is about ten years old and a native shoot is grafted onto it. The decorative curved base of the plant is actually not a stem, but part of the root.
The leaves are dark green in colour and have a slight sheen on the top of the leaf. If visible, the trunk is covered with a brown to grey bark.
Generally speaking, chinese fig as a bonsai in an apartment does not bloom. However, the plant is beautiful to look at even without flowers. If ficus ginseng does form flowers, they are small and inconspicuous in the leaf axils.
Planting ficus ginseng
Since most Ficus microcarpa ginsengs are cultivated as bonsai or at least in the style of a bonsai, the planter is an important part of the appearance and proper care. As a rule of thumb, the shallower the tray, the more frequent the need for watering, and the more important it is to choose a high-quality and structurally stable substrate that does not slump. Furthermore, the smaller the planter, the weaker the plant will grow and the easier it will be to keep as a bonsai. That is why bonsai bowls are shallow and offer little room for the roots to develop.
If you want to water less often and use a normal soil, you can choose a larger bowl. This should be at least half as tall as it is wide and provide space for the roots to develop. Keep in mind here, however, that a ficus ginseng in a large bowl may soon cease to be a small bonsai.
Ficus microcarpa feels most comfortable in a bright location without direct sunlight. A normal room temperature of 18 to 22 °C is just right for the period between March and October until overwintering. Strong drafts or temperature fluctuations are not tolerated by the chinese fig. Ficus ginseng is thus also well suited as a plant in the bedroom. In midsummer, the ficus can be cultivated outside, but only if the temperature at night does not fall below 15 ° C and it can be protected from direct sunlight.
Procedure for planting
Since a relatively small planter is often chosen in relation to the plant, the quality and especially stability of the planting substrate is particularly important. Ficus ginseng requires a soil with a high water-retaining capacity and at the same time good aeration. A mixture of high-quality potting soil, lava chippings and akadama soil in equal parts is recommended. It is also possible to mix loose herb compost or seedling soil, akadama and pumice in a ratio of 2:1:1.
For example, our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost or Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost can serve as a basis, both of which are peat-free, loose and structurally stable due to a high coconut fibre content.
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Ficus ginseng care
Above all, an adapted water supply and a good supply of nutrients are important for the successful care of the bonsai ficus. Increased humidity, such as by spraying weekly with low-lime water or locating in a bathroom, will have a positive effect on the health of the ficus ginseng. However, the chinese fig is rarely affected by plant diseases anyway. Infestation by pests is also rather rare.
Watering ficus ginseng
Watering is one of the key points for successful maintenance of Ficus microcarpa ginseng. Due to the small planter, the substrate dries out quickly but should always be kept moderately moist. Usually, the right time for watering is when the substrate has dried on the surface. Rainwater is best suited for watering. If you do not have this to hand, mineral water is also a good alternative. Tap water containing lime is not recommended as this can cause unsightly lime deposits on the planter.
Fertilising with a liquid fertiliser is particularly important in the cultivation of ficus ginseng – as with all bonsais. Especially in the period from March to September, due to the growth and the small amount of substrate, care should be taken to ensure a good supply of nutrients. During this period, a fertilising interval of once a week or every two weeks is very good. We recommend you look for a special houseplant fertiliser like our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food.
In winter, an interval of one fertilisation per month is quite sufficient for the plant due to reduced growth.
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Pruning ficus ginseng
Regular pruning is very important when cultivating a bonsai. If you have chosen a bonsai ficus that is already shaped, pruning is made easy. As a guideline for pruning in the spring: it should be shortened by half no later than when a shoot has formed eight new leaves. If you feel that the crown is getting too big overall, the plant can be pruned more. Since ficus ginseng is very tolerant of pruning, it is forgiving of cuts to perennial wood.
Tip: To direct shoots in a particular direction of growth, they can be wrapped with a wire and bent slightly – this process is called wiring or shaping.
Ficus ginseng loses its leaves: what to do?
Lack of light or a change of location are common causes if your ficus ginseng is loses green leaves. If you purchased a new tree or placed it in a new location, moderate leaf loss is normal. This stops after a few weeks. If lack of light could be the cause, a brighter location should be chosen and the plant should be left in the new location for at least four weeks. If there is no improvement, the water supply could be the cause. For leaf loss also occurs in drought or waterlogging. If the soil always feels very moist or smells musty, you should reduce the water supply. If the substrate is dry, on the contrary, watering should be more frequent.
If the leaves of the ficus ginseng have become lighter in colour or are turning yellow, a more frequent application of fertiliser or repotting may help.
Overwintering ficus ginseng
Ficus microcarpa ginseng is easy to overwinter. A slightly cooler room such as a guest room, stairwell or the bedroom are very suitable. The optimum temperature is 15 to 18 °C. A bright location is also important in the winter quarters. However, a window sill over a heater is not recommended because of the very dry air.
Although ficus ginseng can be propagated by cuttings, bear in mind that small bonsais are not created immediately, but initially start as large, vigorous plants. The mother plant was cut and cultivated in a very special way, which requires some effort and a few years of patience.
Cut off woody shoots about 7 cm long and put them in seeding soil such as our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost. These shoots often occur when you prune your bonsai. Cuttings along with the pot should be covered with foil and cultivated in a warm place with a temperature of 25 to 30 °C. After about three weeks, the cuttings will take root and new buds can be seen.
Propagation by seed is possible, but very laborious.
Repotting ficus ginseng
The right time to repot the ficus ginseng is when the substrate is completely rooted or the roots are growing in circles on the container wall. As a rule, this is the case every two to three years. Then, in the spring, the plant can be removed from its planter and the roots, as far as possible, freed from the old soil. The roots should be trimmed slightly, but nowhere near as much as is done with other bonsai. A bonsai bowl that is about 1 cm wider in diameter than the previous one is suitable as a new planter. The new substrate can now be pressed firmly with a wooden stick.
Is the ficus ginseng poisonous?
All parts of the plant are poisonous. Therefore, it is important to be careful that children or pets do not swallow leaves or other plant parts. Nausea and gastrointestinal discomfort are common symptoms.
Ficus ginseng is also toxic to pets – especially rodents, cats and dogs – and can even be life-threatening.
When pruning and caring for the bonsai ficus, be careful that your skin and mucous membranes do not come into contact with the white sap of the plant, as this could cause skin irritation.
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