An Easy Guide to Ficus Ginseng, aka Bonsai

Ginseng ficus trees are tiny trees steeped in history and make great additions to your houseplant collection. If you are interested in the ancient Japanese art of bonsai, this is the perfect starter plant. It requires minimal care compared to other bonsai trees, making it a great entry-level option. You can start learning the art of bonsai and creating your own Zen garden in no time.

What is a Ficus ginseng and where does it come from?

Ficus ginseng grows in all tropical regions of the world and is native to Southeast Asia. They have narrow, raised roots with a trunk that often resembles legs. The miniature tree has tiny leaves protruding from the crown of the plant, giving it an interesting look.

The art of bonsai uses techniques of growing and training small trees. With lots of practice, root pruning, crown pruning, and root containment, Bonsai artists can create small trees that actually look like their full-size versions.

Ginseng is a Chinese word meaning roots. Thus, the Ficus ginseng is named because of its unique roots and shape. Generally, if you were to purchase one, your plant will already be quite mature as popular bonsai will need tending before their thick trunks grow.

Ficus ginseng at a glance

botanical name: Ficus ginseng, Ficus retusa and Ficus microcarpa.

Other names: Ginseng Ficus, Bonsai, Ficus Bonsai.

Height and growth rate: Adult height is 31-61cm. Slow growth.

Light: Direct sun.

watering: Water when the soil dries out slightly.

Temperature: Indoor domestic temperatures.

Pet Toxicity: Toxic to pets.

Plant parent level: Beginner level.

How to take care of your Ficus ginseng

Light

Ficus ginseng is slow growing and really depends on a good amount of light to thrive. Placing the plant on a windowsill is a great option as long as it is filled with bright, indirect light. The best place will be in a window that receives morning light. Afternoon sunlight may be too harsh on the plant.

watering

Be sure to water your plant thoroughly, but only when the soil becomes slightly dry. You don’t want to overwater your plant so it drips because it can get fungal issues that way. It’s best to keep the soil a little moist during the summer and less water during the winter months, as most of these plants will go dormant during the cooler months. Make sure your plant’s roots are not lying in water. A great way to prevent this from happening is to place the tree on a tray filled with pebbles. This will also help regulate humidity.

Temperature

Ginseng ficuses do well at normal household temperatures. You want to avoid placing them in places where there are too many drafts because a rapid change in temperature is never good for the plants. Be sure to mist your plant occasionally to ensure it gets enough moisture. However, the waxy leaves of the plant will tolerate lower humidity if you don’t have the best conditions. In the summer, you can take your plant outside if the temperature is 15 degrees Celsius or higher. As long as you keep it in the sun and make sure the soil stays moist, you should be fine.

Maintenance

When it comes to bonsai, maintenance is really important. You will need to prune your plant to create the full bonsai look. If you want your trunk to thicken, avoid pruning for a year or two. This will cause new shoots to grow from the old wood. When you’re ready to prune the plant, most people say to prune two leaves after six to eight leaves have grown. Just make sure you’re using sharp tools that have been cleaned to ensure your plant doesn’t get a disease.

When it comes to repotting, you should always check the roots first. Also, with Ficus ginseng, you really don’t need to repot it every year because it is slow growing. If it’s time to repot your plant, you will need to cut the roots of the plant. Take only a little from the lower part of the roots. This will help it settle into its new pot that you’ve filled with bonsai soil.

ficus ginseng, bonsai

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ficus ginseng in a pot on a yellow background

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Common problems with a Ficus ginseng plant (and how to fix them):

Falling leaves: The ficus ginseng can lose its leaves for several reasons. It may be because they are overwatered or there is not enough moisture in the air. They may not be getting enough light or they may be in a draughty area. You really need to assess your personal situation as everyone’s homes are different. It may take a while, but you will find the perfect place to keep your bonsai.

Fungal problems: If you overwater your Ficus ginseng, you may end up with fungus. If you start to see white or black fungus or mold, there may be a more serious problem. Before you do anything, be sure to move your infected plant away from the rest of your collection so it doesn’t spread. You will then want to remove the tree from its pot. This is when you can check to see if root rot is the cause of the fungus. Anything that appears to be infected will need to be pruned. Then you will repot your tree in a clean pot with new bonsai soil. You can spray your plant with a fungicide to kill any remaining fungus.

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