Bonsai, defoliation, ficus, repot, shohin, style, summer work, wire

I am finally starting the work that needs done on my few tropical bonsai. These poor, abused plants really struggle with the outdoor/indoor cycle they must endure. In my area (Northern Virginia, USA) I need to keep them inside very nearly half the year to protect them from cold night time temperatures — from sometime in October to sometime in May. They pout and just barely hang onto existence while inside over the winter, and it takes a while, once back outside in the summer, for them to rebuild strength and grow well.

Ficus salicaria in April 2020

This shohin-size Ficus salicaria looked okay in April, but it really hadn’t done any notable growing for 6 months. The June and July heat have been good for it, though, and new growth is my sign that it is time for me to get to it.

This is a great time of year to work topicals hard. They are in growing mode, and for tropical, that means quick recovery. This is NOT the time to do this sort of work on most other trees! To repot a maple or a pine this time of year would be a death sentence!

So let’s be clear. If you are trying to learn from this, it only applies to healthy tropical plants. In fact, I should probably say ficus. I’m sure there are other tropical that require different handling. I don’t really want to know. Tropicals are a nasty habit when you live in a temperate zone, and I’m trying to quit!

The video, linked above is a quick time-lapse of the work done on this tree (and your best chance at seeing a before shot).

I removed all the leaves and repotted it into a slightly larger container. I am hoping that giving the roots a little more space will encourage slightly stronger growth, even if that still only occurs in the “outside months.”

Once repotted, I took advantage of the bare branches to wire it up and adjust the branches. To get it into shape, I trimmed a few tips that had extended outside of the silhouette — even if just by a quarter inch or so. It doesn’t take much to require a trim on a tree that is only six inches tall!

I will keep it in the shade until it starts growing, and I expect it to build and harden off a nice new canopy in what remains of its growing season.

After today’s work.