Making a Root on Rock Style Ficus

Making a bonsai grow its roots over a rock is sometimes a good way to introduce style and creativity to a tree. It can take anywhere from a year to two to do this technique and can be done with young or old trees. Any rock or material can be used to grow the tree on, as long as it is porous or complex enough for the roots to wrap around and get a good hold.

Here is a ficus microcarpa my Grandma gave to me after she found it in her church yard. It had very little roots and took ages to become established again. This is in early 2015 when I didn’t know too much about soil and thus was keeping this one in poorly drained high organic material.


January 2016. Here it is after a re pot sometime in 2015 and some better care. It’s even growing its own sacrifice branch which will really help in the future shaping of the tree. You can see here there are also some nice areal roots growing, though the tree trunk itself is still very small. About the size of a pencil.


This is the rock I have decided to use and have tied the tree firmly in place. Over time because the tree base and rock will be completely covered, it will grow roots down all over the rock and will eventually hold itself on. These aerial roots will help to bring overall stability to the tree.


The ficus was then placed into a deep well drained container with well draining soil and is now being left alone for a good 6 months to grow its roots over the rock. In spring I will be lifting it out and seeing if it has grown fast enough or needs more time to grow around the rock. But so far it is looking really good with a long growth branch and new leaves every week. This is in late autumn now and there have been no signs of slowing growth. I have also placed it ontop of the garden so the roots can grow through the pot it is in and it can supergrow for a few months.



Ficus Microcarpa Progression


I picked this one up at a local nursery in Wollongong. It had really really nice natural taper and some branches to work with. The soil in the pot above was almost like mud. No good.

First I re potted it into a new blue pot. It’s about the size of my fist. I potted straight into this pot as I was happy with the trunk size/shape and wanted to refine the canopy more than anything else. At this point i’m starting to learn a little 😉 This was back in August 2015.


Next thing to do was wire those branches into shape and give it a good trim.


This is the same tree 😉 one week later. I follow the moon cycles when doing ANY bonsai work and have found that what they say holds true. A waxing moon is good for top growth and a waning moon is good for root growth. So I prune at the beginning of a waxing moon and most often find the shoots come back up very quickly. This is also the time of the moon cycle that all my other trees have the most growth.


Now here it is in February 2016. It has had good growth and I have been fertilising regularly over the summer. The wire had also been removed as all the new growth caused the branches to hold in their positions.


Even though I had just repotted the tree a few months ago I decided to do a complete de-foliation to speed up the ramification process.


This is the tree two weeks later with a few more branches and smaller leaves from the defoliation.


In March I decided that the soil was no good at all so I repotted it into a new soil mix of 1/3 perlite, 1/3 bonsai mix and 1/3 coco husk. It also got a little bit of a re-positioning with the left branch (below) being curved over from the right. I think this will look good once the canopy fills out.


Hard to say which is the better front?



Port Jackson Fig Yamadori

Near my house lies a small mountain that is filled with wild Ficus Microcarpa Var. Port Jackson. I had been keeping my eye on a few low lying figs in the area that may have had branches low enough to sprout roots and be collected for bonsai.
When I went to check it out I was lucky enough to find this beauty! A nice thick trunked root that had grown up its own branches last season. With a shovel, a saw and some clippers I got it out and took it home, ready to wrangle into as small a pot as I could.


Most of the roots were already gone so there was no prior root work to do. I just had to keep cutting back the thicker legs until it finally fit into this nice turquoise vessel. Underneath it is some mesh over the drainage holes, some light gravel and a layer of soil. I also put in some wire to hold the tree in place so it doesn’t have the chance to escape.


So, I can’t figure out whether it is best to write about a photo before or after? Maybe i’ll try both!
This is the fig in it’s pot from a different angle. Looking good, I like the bend back towards the center.


Soil has been added now with a mix of 1/3 perlite 1/3 “bonsai soil” and 1/3 coco husk. His seat belt is on and ready to roll. Yes it is a he. There are some nice looking surface roots coming away from the main laying down trunk.


Another angle shot and application of some wire and pruning. I kept these branches in the hope that the tree would take on this bent back to the center shape. But now looking at it, it really needed to have that long left branch completely removed.


Here he is again, on display in my garden. Didn’t last long here though as it was gifted as a wedding present to my -kind of- sister in law and her husband.



A Chinese Elm

LOOK it’s a $7 elm in a pot lets buy it! -Best choice ever.


I purchased this one from a nursery in August 2015. My amateur bonsai mind looked straight at the branching instead of the trunk and said “Yea this one looks awesome”. The tree was in really damp clogged soil so the first thing was to re pot. A good time too, just before the start of spring. New buds are about to pop which is an excellent time to re pot a deciduous.

I used some “bonsai mix” as the soil.


Seemed like it needed some shape, so in comes the string to hold them branches down!


And then I decide I really don’t like all those branches after all and trim it up keeping only the better placed ones. They will grow thicker and branch out more soon anyway as it is the very start of spring.

Looking a bit bare.


Just one month later and yes, would you guess it has grown lots of new branches. I had cut off the back branch that was originally tied down so that there were only two large lower branches at that level on the trunk.


Here it is in February 2016 and it is actually starting to look like a bonsai! The string has been removed and the branches stuck in their place.

I think some of the growth on this tree has been slowed by the use of poor soil. Just waiting now until the end of winter when it can be re potted, shaped and ready for a new season of growth.


A Bunnings Ginseng Fig

This is my second bonsai blog post and my second owned bonsai. This little fella is one of those Ginseng figs that can be seen at most garden stores, either sold as a bonsai or in a nursery container. This one came in a nursery container so it was only about $5 and all I had to do was re-pot it higher up in a bonsai pot and walla! The bonsai worlds most annoying commercialized non-bonsai bonsai. I’m only saying this because most other bonsai blogs rip on ginseng ficus or otherwise more correctly known as either ficus microcarpa or could be variations of tiger bark fig. Yea so I wanted to fit in. But really I like this tree because I like all trees, and this is a fig, so they can become very nice aesthetically with proper care. This guy, though at the moment in his state as was in 2014 is not a aesthetically good looking fig. It needs some work.


First off, I will criticize all of the mistakes I made that I am now currently aware of, so that you may be able to not do the same.

One big no no, or atleast if you want your tree to look like a real bonsai anytime soon is potting into a bonsai pot before the tree has grown properly. The specimen above doesn’t even have any main branches or a leader. In a bonsai pot the tree will grow alot slower and therefore in the long run it takes alot longer to get the look you’re after.

Also, no pebbles. They make it hard to identify whether the soil is moist or not and can also stop surface roots from forming a nice nebari. If you are really set on having some presentation other than a soil base then find some moss. It’s better.

I have left the legs on this ficus, these legs are why the ginseng ficus gets its reputation. Often they are chunky and spread, sometimes with inverse taper at the bottom. Nothing like a real tree in the ground.

February 2016. Okay a long time has passed since photos were taken but pretty much I fixed a few of the initial problems and some main branches were identifies and grown out. No lead, but I think I was going for a round canopy style? That seems to fit the bill for figs anyway. It has been repotted into a slightly larger pot and fertiliser added to stimulate growth.


Same day defoliation! Great, I actually took some before and after shots for this work. I had completely defoliated the tree in order to stimulate more growth at all of the terminal buds on these selected branches. I also applied some wire in an attempt to shape the canopy a bit as it was too close and crowded. I used the branch to branch method as the trunk on this tree is too thick to use as a anchor.


BAM! I decide that the trunk just has to be reshaped. After reading all the complaints about this type of tree online I fell for peer pressure and chopped it. You can see here that I made a straight cut with a garden saw at about the level the trunk is widest. This was so the tree would have better taper, and in the future a good nebari. With figs it can be good practice to trim top and bottom of the plant in order to maintain balance. With this kind of tree they grow back really well from the trunk as this is where they store all of their energy. This fig will now be placed DEEP into a pot to stimulate root growth around the cut area.
BE WARNED, this kind of practice should only be done in summer when figs are thriving and only on healthy trees. Works best on figs but can also be done on some maples if your lucky 😉


Deep in its pot. This time with a new soil mix I am trying. This mix is 1/3 coco husk, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 “nursery bonsai mix”. The mix seems to retain moisture and is airy enough to stimulate lots of root growth.


Just a week later and the tree is looking healthy. I would put it down to those huge energy stores in the roots/trunks of these things.


Unfortunately I was not yet into the habit of taking lots of photos. So here it is just a month later, lifted up a bit in its pot. I guess I got impatient and wanted to re-pot ASAP to get the tree looking okay. The roots had grown alot! I don’t think the change will effect overall root growth because no roots were cut in the process.


I took the wire off and the branch bends straight back!


More wire this time. There are longer branches in the canopy so I have taken the chance to shape them up. I also made sure the lower branches were bent alot lower in case they choose to bounce back again.


More to come with this guy. In the meantime it will be making the bathroom look somewhat more, decorative?


My First Bonsai

My journey with bonsai trees began in February 2014 when my partner gifted me my first bonsai. I was so happy and eager to begin shaping it, however little did I know it had a long way to go. I had no experience in bonsai and did not know the difference between a sappling and an actual tree. The tree given to me was a Serissa foetida or “night of a thousand stars tree” it was quiet pretty and I left it to grow on it’s own, watering it as it should be done to keep it healthy. At one point though somewhere around March there was a storm and it feel out of it’s pot that cracked. The tree then proceeded to freak out and lose all of its leaves. I had faith in it and kept watering the tree in its new pot and sure enough it came back.
This is the tree in June 2014


As you can see it really was just a twig, (and still kind of is…).

This is the tree in November 2015. After a year of growth it hadn’t grown too much. Probably because I was still just starting out with bonsai and hadn’t quiet got the hang of the whole “use fertilizer” thing.


As you can see it is back in its original pot courtesy of Bunnings Ptd. This is also about the time that I began to use fertiliser.

This next photo taken in February 2016 shows just how much a small tree can grow with some fertiliser and through the growing season. It has thickened up a bit and I have left some wips growing on the lower branch to strengthen that up.


This is in March 2016 and I have added some moss from the garden, purely for fun. Moss at the bonsai base usually mostly for aesthetic value however it can also stimulate better surface roots for a better nebari. It can be seen here that I have done some experimenting with a wip that grew up from the very base of the tree. I thought I had photos of the work but they have gone MIA… Anyway, I wrapped this young branch around the lower trunk in the hope that it would fuse and thicken up the trunk a bit. A month later I took it off. Maybe with a little more patience it would have worked, but I decided the spiral did nothing to add to the aesthetic look of the tree and off it went.


April 2016. A flower! It is near the middle right of the foliage. First flower since caring for this bonsai, maybe evidence that it is doing well? The branches certainly have filled out a bit and the trunk has even doubles in thickness from 2014.


More photos and a huge re-shaping to come soon in August this year!