Japanese Plant identification please? Thanks!

dublin, Ireland

I got the below plant in Tokyu Hands while on a holiday to Japan. Can anyone tell me what it is or how I may go about looking after it? All thoughts appreciated :)

Thumbnail by kehilan
Keaau, HI

Yes, Ficus. Maybe Ficus benjamina, Weeping Fig, a popular bonsai plant.

(Zone 1)

My first thought was F. benjamina too but the leaves look too large ... could just be me viewing the photo though. I have F. benjamina with the bulbous base like that and the leaves on my plant seem smaller. I will try to post a photo of my plant after the afternoon/evening thunderstorms quit. Pic's are on the desktop machine which is shut down, can't access them from my laptop. We are under severe weather watches until 7:00 p.m.

Keaau, HI

F. benjamina leaves can vary from one inch to almost five inches long by a half inch to two and a half inches wide.

(Zone 1)

Wow! I've never seen one with large leaves. My sister and BIL used to have them growing in their yard in South Fla and they were large trees but still had the small leaves. I've grown some large ones in containers in the past but they too have had little leaves.

dublin, Ireland

Thanks for all the advice :) Any further thoughts on how to look after it? It seems to drink a lot of water. Is it harmful to it to let it get a bit dry or is it possible to have it too damp? I'm trying to keep it just damp but not soggy, seems to be a bit of a balancing act...

Keaau, HI

Sounds like you're doing fine with the plant.

If you give it a low nitrogen, high phosphorus and potassium liquid fertilizer regularly (monthly) it would help to keep it healthy and stay bonsai.

dublin, Ireland

Cool cool :) So that would be like tomato feed then? Would that suffice? :S

Do they like just light or sun does anyone know? Where I have it at the moment would get a lot of light on a sunny day...I'm thinking those type of plants don't mind too much so long as they're kept at an even temp, would that be a correct assumption?

Keaau, HI

If the fertilizer is liquid it seems to work better with bonsai plants, or use low analysis granular organics. Avoid using hot pelleted fertilizers as there is not much soil in a bonsai plant and it is easy to burn the roots.

Your Ficus does do well as a houseplant if it gets a good amount of light. Don't let the plant get cold.

Aloha, Dave

dublin, Ireland

Thanks for all thoughts and advice! As you probably gathered I'm a total newb at looking after anything that ain't a mineral or vegetable :P I usually kill anything green, so all advice is appreciated. I just got it 'cos I was suckered by how cool it looked :)

This message was edited Jun 18, 2009 10:07 PM

noonamah, Australia

It's a Ficus but doesn't look like a F. benjamina. The benjamina leaves have a waviness (even curling in some) to them, which the one in the image doesn't. A lot of Ficus are used for bonsai, it would be difficult to say which this one actually was.

Many ficus are quite hardy when it comes to lack of water but keel over with too much water. I've got about a dozen large tree benjamina and their seeds are often sprouting in other trees and palm trees where they only get water during the wet season. Dry season they go a few months without water and are still okay. That said, some of my large trees have their roots in my (wet season) dam and spend a few months waterlogged. They do lose some of their leaves during that time, but they still grow well.

Keaau, HI

Hi Tropicbreeze, can you point out any character that shows the plant is not Ficus benjamina. It is a variable plant.
I was considering F. microcarpa as well. It's hard to tell a Ficus species from young plants.

noonamah, Australia

The leaves seem proportionally too broad and too flattened. In bonsaied ones (benjamina) I've seen the leaves don't turn out that large. See that more with bonsaied F. virens or F. macrophylla (and probably lots of others).

(Zone 1)

Here's the photo of my little F. benjamina. Leaves seem narrower to those on kehilan's plant but it could very well have to do with cultural differences, or it could be my eyes as I have difficulty comparing from photo's.

Thumbnail by plantladylin
(Zone 1)

My plant has some problems ... last month it sat in a dark corner of the deck, sitting inside another pot that had no drainage. We had 21+ inches of rain so the poor thing was floating in water. I'm thinking about cutting the entire thing back and letting it re-sprout. I've also been thinking about potting it in a large pot and letting it grow to it's regular size like my variegated benjamina.

This is a close up of some of the foliage on the little one

Thumbnail by plantladylin
noonamah, Australia

Here's a photo of a couple of seedings growing on a young African Oil Palm. They seem to like these palms because they retain the frond bases where the ficus seeds can lodge.

Thumbnail by tropicbreeze
(Zone 1)

That is so cool, seeds lodging in the palm fronds and germinating there, plants are amazing!

Keaau, HI

Hi Tropicbreeze, considering that your Ficus is setting seeds, that would mean that the pollinator wasp is there?
Most Ficus species in Hawai'i don't spread because their specific wasp is not here. F. microcarpa does have the wasp here and it is very invasive.

noonamah, Australia

F benjamina is native to this area, along with virens, platypoda, hispidula, racemosa, opposita, scobina, coronulata, possibly a few more I just can't remember off the top of my head.

dublin, Ireland

Hi lads, just an update: this is doing well, growing lots of new leaves and even a tiny sproutling on the ball since I brought it home from Japan 2 weeks ago, but the ball is also growing roots which don't grow out but stick to the sides of the ball and kind of wrap themselves to it.

Should I be concerned about this? Should I trim them (I guess not?) All advice appreciated, as like I said before I'm a total newb to bonsais (I didn't even realise that this was or could be a bonsai until I posted here). Thanks!

Keaau, HI

Nothing to worry about; they are adventitious roots, which is common in many Ficus species. This is a trait that gives them the nick-name "strangler Fig". ( Ficus microcarpa, the Chinese Banyan, is infamous for this in the Islands. Birds drop the seeds in tree-tops; they sprout and grow down the tree, eventually strangling the host plant.)

noonamah, Australia

The thing with bonsai is that you train (control) the plant into the form you want and not let the plant do what it wants to do. Ficus love to send roots out to find better places. As Dave said, they'll even strangle other plants in the process. I've got a large Ficus benjamina which put a few roots across to a nearby Swamp Mahogany a number of years ago. Now those roots are like small trunks wrapped tightly around the mahogany and are killing it. The mahogany was on its last legs anyway so I've let nature take its course. I did save a Barbados Cherry from the same fate a few years ago but had to kill the ficus in the process. Ficus are an amazing plant, and a large 'strangler' is an impressive sight - but a bit too big for a bonsai pot.

Keaau, HI

Hey Tropicbreeze, There are some large Ficus trees in Hawai'i but they have only been cultivated here since the early 1900's (naturalized since the mid 1900's). Can you show or give an idea of what an old Ficus looks like (size).

Mahalo, Dave

noonamah, Australia

This photo (taken 3 years ago) is probably best because I have statistics for this particular tree - Ficus virens, Banyan, Strangler Fig, Tree of Knowledge.

Started off as a seed the size of a sesame seed dropped on the branch of another tree some estimated 500 years ago. It would have killed that tree centuries ago.

The crown extends over 2,000 square metres (about the area of 2 olympic sized swimming pools.

Estimated to carry about 1,000 kilograms of leaves. That's not counting all the epiphytes and vines it also carries.

Has a girth of 44 metres and a height of 48 metres (about the same as a 5 storey building).

Thumbnail by tropicbreeze
noonamah, Australia

Another photo I took of it about a month ago.

Thumbnail by tropicbreeze
Hillsborough , NC(Zone 7a)

Wow! ^_^

Keaau, HI

I agree with Jenn!

Thanks Tropicbreeze.

Kwajalein, Marshall Islands(Zone 11)

Great info on a magnificent specimen Breeze! Never knew that they got that gigantic.

Yokwe,
Shari

noonamah, Australia

I went into the 'big smoke' today, or as big a big smoke as I ever get into. Lo and behold in Bunnings (probably the equivalent of the US Walmart) there were all these bonsaied ficus plants just like the one in the first photo on this thread. Some of them were labelled "Ficus retusa" and some others were "Ficus microphylla retusa".

There were a few that looked like they were being kept small by cutting off all the branches coming from the roots. The biggest, from soil to leaf tips, were probably still less than 250mm. Forgot to look at the price.

Looks like they let the original plant grow to shrub size and then cut the top off at ground level, expose the roots and only allow small shoots/branches to regrow. With a ficus the procedure would be easy.

Keaau, HI

Ficus microphylla is the updated name of it's synonym Ficus retusa.

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