Ficus Bonsai

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Mark | Poker and Life

Ficus Microcarpa Ginseng Bonsai

It is always good to have other interest than poker to fall back on if you need a break from the tables to regain focus. For some reason I like plants, in particular trees. So when I saw the Ficus Microcarpa Ginseng Bonsai tree in Ikea April this year, I had to have it even-though Ficus bonsai trees in that size are quite expensive (>100$). I rather cleverly presented it as a present for my girlfriend; being a poker player it always pays off to gain some goodwill on the home front, but more about this in a later post. This is a story of the troubles and victories of my ongoing battle to keep my Ficus Microcarpa Ginseng Bonsai alive.

In order to appreciate the effort it has taken me to keep my Ficus Bonsai alive here is a recap of the manual that was attached to my tree when I purchased it (yes, my tree came with a manual…you may laugh at this point if you wish).

First of all the manual gives a brief definition of the art of making Bonsai trees: “The goal is to recreate nature in miniature and to make the tree look much older than it actually is”

Well in retrospect I have definitely succeeded in the last part since my Ficus Ginseng Microcarpa Bonsai has lost so many leaves since April that it looks more like a dried up twig than a tree (see picture below).

So here is a resume of the most important points of the Ficus Microcarpa Ginseng Bonsai manual:

  1. Do NOT over water the Ficus Bonsai as this will kill it (Gasp!)
  2. Water the Ficus Bonsai from below, NEVER from the top
  3. Protect the plant against cold and draught during transportation
  4. Place it in a bright and slightly shaded place (NOT over a radiator, in draught or outdoors if the temperature falls below 15 degrees Celsius)
  5. The plant is sensitive to changes and will lose some leaves for 2-3 weeks

Point number 5 in the manual is just a plain old lie….your Ficus Bonsai will lose leaves continuously at a rate of 2-5 leaves a day until it dies or you discover the secret of keeping your Ficus Bonsai tree alive (you can hardly wait for me to reveal it right?).

Well up until a week ago I have painstakingly been following the instructions including only fertilizing my Ficus Bonsai tree with half the amount of fertilizer needed for your regular household plants. My breakthrough came when I decided to implement the following steps:

  • Buy a proper saucer and fill it with LECA (light expanded clay aggregate) pellets to ensure effective drainage and thus prevent a waterlogged pot which causes root rot
  • Spray the Ficus Bonsai with water twice a day using a regular water vaporizer (FYI this gizmo is also used to water orchids)

After implementing these steps a small miracle has taken place. My tree has only lost two leaves the last week compared to the regular rate of 15-20. In addition new leaves have started to shoot and grow at a rapid pace (see the picture below). So instead of shaking the tree each morning in despair and calling it really bad names, I am now looking forward to waking up to check the new growth.

New growth on my Ficus Microcarpa Ginseng Bonsai

While reading this post I realized I have forgotten two things. Number one is to mention that the total cost of my Ficus Bonsai is currently in excess of 200$, this explains in part why I have gone to great lenghts to keep it alive. Secondly, one of the reasons I have spent so much money on the damn tree is that it was attacked by some nasty creepy crawlers a few months ago. After some search online I discovered the name of the species:

The long-tailed mealybug also known as Pseudococcus longispinus (see picture below)

Apparently since this bug secrets a waxy substance over its entire ugly ass body it is resistant to many insecticides. Luckily I found one called Provado (expensive of course) which after being sprayed on the tree diffuses into the sap. When the nasty bug decides to snack on my tree it ingests the poison and dies a horribly painfull death, or so I imagine…MUHUHAHAHAHAHA

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12 Comments to Ficus Bonsai

Per Baltzer
August 8, 2008

That is a very unusual hobby mate. Good luck with it.

September 26, 2008

I just got a ficus bonsai a week ago. Don’t water from the top? I have been, but I will stop now I suppose. Also, how often do you water for a tree that size and a pot of that size? I’m trying to figure out how to know when to water it – my tree seems a tad smaller than yours and the pot is a bit larger. Thanks for a great post!

September 28, 2008

Hi Amelia

I water about once every 3 weeks, but I am having serious doubts as to whether I am watering my tree correctly. Since my Ficus Bonsai post my tree has lost almost all its leaves. The positive effects of watering with a spray bottle once a day were only temporary. I now only give my tree a spray of water once a week or so. My only hope these days is that the massive loss of leaves is due to the fact that we have entered the Fall/Winter season in Denmark and that it is somehow natural for the tree to lose all its leaves. If it dies all together I will plant some green climbing plants in the pot and make them grow up the trunk of the tree which is decorative in itself.

January 2, 2009

Hi, a relative gave my me and my parents each a bonsai for Christmas (theirs is a Ficus, mine is a Jade). I haven’t been able to find anything definitive yet as to how much fertilizer to give the plants, like how much of the stuff do you add to water, and then how much do you actually put on the plant / at what frequency? Any help for either plant would be greatly appreciated!

January 2, 2009

Hi Beth

As far as I recall the instructions for the Ficus bonsai said to fertilize the plant with half the amount of fertilizer you would use for a normal green plant. Usually there are instructions on how much fertilizer to give your plants on the actual bottles with liquid fertilizer.
My Ficus Bonsai actually ended up dying after roughly 5 months. The post mortem investigation revealed it to be a combination of too big a pot, and not enough water going up to the actual root ball.
We got some good advice from a flower shop on how to keep Ficus Bonsai trees alive, but at that point it was too late….the tree was already dying.
My advice: ask your local flower shop!



Mark’s last blog post..Poker New years resolution

January 16, 2009

I own dozens of plants, all possible kinds. My two cents: from your photos I think your tree probably did not have enough light.
A “bright and slightly shaded place” for a commom person might mean somewhere in a room with a window. For a gardener in the northern hemisphere this translates into: not more than 50 cm away from a west/east facing window, not more than 20 cm away from a north facing window, between 50cm and 100 cm away from a south facing window. This recomendations hold true for almost all plants (succulent plants must receive even more light).

January 16, 2009

Hi Sara

Thanks for your comment. I think the death of my Ficus Bonsai was due to a combination of factors, and the one you mention could very well be a key factor.

Best Regards


Mark’s last blog post..Putting the concept of poker levels into practise

May 13, 2009

Hey guys,
I have had my ficus bonsai for like 8 months now and i have been following almost the same tips like you mark….the only thing different is if it is an indoor plant DO NOT water the leaves because it can cause suffocation and leaves will die. I also use indoor miracle grow in filtered water once a week. Also for the ficus brand you want to water the bark and have running water on it for 5 minutes. I use a sunlamp for about 4-6 hours. The only thing i haven’t done and am very confused is the pruning(mostly cause im scared im gonna cut to much off and kill it) But… is the best site to check on which plant you’re growing and care.

Much luck!

May 21, 2009

Hi Kaitlyn

Thanks for your advice! I think I will now have a better chance of keeping my next Ficus Bonsai alive :-)


Mark’s last blog post..Personality Deficient

February 1, 2010

Didn’t expect to find Bonsai on a poker site, but clearly you have other hobbies. Good advise throughout, you mention that they do not like over watering this is very much the case, over watering is probably the biggest killer of Ficus bonsai
.-= Bonsai´s last blog ..Hello world! =-.

February 6, 2010

Bonsais are tough….I will have to gather all my mental strength to try a new one :-)
.-= Mark´s last blog ..The PokerBRB league is taking a break in February =-.

June 12, 2010

Hi, You all missed a very important step in bonsai cultivation. It won’t stay alive in that soil it comes in. You must change to a free draining bonsai mix, starting with 50% of bonsai soil mix (research online) at the 1st re pot and change all of it 2 years later. The ficus is considered the easiest species for bonsai to keep alive. Once it’s healthy, prune it in spring to stimulate more back budding and branch ramification.

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