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Ficus benjamina progression

October 13, 2013

I bought this little Ficus Benjamina as a fun project in Oct. 2012 It was just a stick in a pot.

A week later it was transplanted in river sand in a training pot.Roots were spread in radial fashion.

A month later, my gardener had washed all the media on top of the roots. It was time for a trunk chop.I want a small shohin sized tree.

F. Bejamina is known for branches drying if chopped without any leaf behind or rather at the end of the cut. It was known also as a tree that does not tolerate trunk chops , but recently I found documented posts showing that the trunk chop can be successful, if the tree has enough energy and it is done at suitable time.

I had a very large ficus Benjamina that I decided to radically trim all the branches of, that died soon after the trim.  I always try to be careful when trimming branches. I think branches die if left without foliage. Trunk chopped trees might shoot but small branches left without foliage on the end I have noticed die.

Knowing that I had to make a strategy for developing branches and pads.

Growing branches in order to thicken them, and then chopping them very short, in order to create taper and movement,  to a place without leaves, is not suitable for this tree.

So I just decided to develop branches and ramify them and use sacrifice branches to thicken them.

So far what I did is I chopped every branch to two leaf, before the leafs had a chance to drop. Almost every month, I trimmed and nipped branches to two buds. You create lots of extra branches this way which allows you to chose later what to keep, what to discard and what to use as sacrifice branches.

After the tree was established I did the first trunk chop., hoping it will back bud lower in the trunk, but that did not happen, so two month later I did another trunk chop just above that left lowest branch.

After that I got lots of buds lower on the trunk and decided to shorten the leader. After 3 more trunk chops this is how the tree looked like. I wanted a shohin sized informal upright tree.

Notice the top most right,  little branch without foliage? It died.

I often use pegs to give initial direction to branches. I put the branch inside the hole. It works very well. I wrapped the trunk with duvet fiber, and a plastic on top to try and create aerial roots in the lower portion of the trunk.

12/10 /2013, before styling and wiring This is one year exactly since I bought it

While I was in Japan the tree had really grown.

Ficus Benjamina is known for another characteristic: It does not leaf reduce. I dont believe that yet. The outer leaves on the branches have larger leaves as is common on many trees, but the inner leaf, and the leaves in general are much smaller than my large ficus benjamina. I suspect in time after I put it in bonsai pot and ramify well, the leaf will reduce. Probably not as much as I want but at least some. We shall have to wait and see and meanwhile think how to reduce the leaf. Defoliation and selective watering and fertilization are one way of reducing the leaf. Ramification helps too. But this fig I would never dare defoliate…maybe partially…some leaf…half leaves????

12/10 /2013 after styling and wiring.

Dont pay much attention to my wiring…Oyakata will be horrified by it…This is a good example how  not to do it. But since the tree is in early stage of development, and it is a fig…that grows so fast…the wire will not be there for long.


I cleaned all the old wounds but they will need to be hollowed with the grinder. In few month time, I will try to work on the nebari. Figs need to be worked often on the root system since they tend to develop fat roots faster than fat branches. I occasionally clean the soil over the roots and chop one roots short, and cover it again. That is why it is a good idea to use part of the root system as a trunk or thicken the trunk with air roots.

They say Ficus Benjamina does not leaf reduce…I have not started leaf reduction yet, just pinching and trimming in a training pot, and the leaf has reduced a lot compared to the same fig in a large pot left to grow free.

30 March 2014

Leaf reduction is 1/4 of normal leaf

May 4,  2014

Trimmed it today…still looking very messy but I left lots of sacrifice branches to thicken the primary branches.

and after the trim



May 30

Removed some wires and a light trim.





More to follow.


  1. Nice article Neli,
    Leaves do reduce, you are on the right track 🙂

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