The Challenge: get this ficus green by December 31st

I have taken upon myself a very difficult task: to get this tree green and pretty by December 31st.
Here is the tree.
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I picked it up from Old Florida Bonsai for a good price but, alas, without a pot.
Oh, look!
A pot.
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It’s a big pot.
It’s a big tree too.
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What kind of tree?
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Awwww, it’s a weeping fig.
Or, as I prefer to call it, ficus benjamina.
That’s right, go ahead and pour the derision and scorn over my head like that green slime on the old TV show “You can’t do that television!”
Why? Why did I spend good money on this tree?
Well, for one, it’s big. Let’s go back to the first photo:
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For scale, the tires on the cart are ten inches tall.
Second, I feel confident (I’m still crossing my fingers though) that I can green this up by my oh-so-short deadline (it’s the beginning of November. We are talking two (cold) months here in la Florida).
I have a secret weapon today though.
My youngest son, Mathew is helping me.
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He’s smarter than me, he’s wearing gloves.
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Let’s get to it, first, root work…..what?
Root work in November on a tropical?
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I thought, Adam, that you only recommended root work in the summer on a ficus?
I do, I do, but…..BUT…this is a case where I’m going to have to invoke the “do as I say, not as I do” rule.
I’m in Florida, I should have (mostly) a month of 60 degree Fahrenheit nights ahead of me.
I’m still gonna ask you, my dear readers, a favor…..pray for the tree.
Right now, the root mass is square.
The pot is oval.
I know I’m a bit of a rebel but, generally, a square peg doesn’t fit into a round hole.
Unless……
Where’s my saw?
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Imma gunna need some more implements.
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Wow, these roots are tough. I’m actually breaking a sweat.
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Except for those wedges I sawed off, I’m really just combing the roots out.
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While Mathew cleans up after his dear-ol’-dad…
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….I prepare the pot.
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Wow, that is a big center hole. I have shohin trees that would fit through that hole.
I got the pot a few years ago for very cheap money.
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Did I have a tree or even a tree in mind for it?
Nope. I bought it just in case.
This is one of the best tips I have for you: if you see a unique pot for a good price, buy it.
Pots, unlike a tree, don’t die!
I’m not sure what country the pot is from, but here’s the chop.
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It doesn’t matter to me, really, I like the pot and it will work today.
The soil I’m using is a mix of pumice (sifted DryStall, what a waste, I lost about a third of it), red lava, calcined clay, sifted pine bark and expanded slate.
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My standard mix mostly.
Now for the big decision: where is the front of this tree.
Here:
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Or here:
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Mathew, or should I say, “Mario”….
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….prefers this side.
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I told you he was smarter than me.
The tree is so big it needs some double chopsticking.
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Then it’s a maximum strength prescription: I put fertilizer (Milorganite), some chelated iron (granular Ironite, to help green up the leaves faster), a granular systemic insecticide (Merit), and a pre-emergent herbicide (Oh2, kinda like Preen).
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Quite a lot of things, I know, but it’s gonna take all I have to get the tree growing.
I might even (gasp!) have to resort to some fish emulsion.
I think I have a good chance, what do you think?
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It might even be getting greener already.
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Wish me luck.
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I’m gonna need it.

About adamaskwhy

Visual artist specializing in bonsai, mostly.
This entry was posted in Horticulture and growing, rare finds, roots and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Challenge: get this ficus green by December 31st

  1. Evan Luse says:

    nice ficus! Great helper too!

  2. James says:

    That plant will be fine-be careful using fish emulsion if you have any raccoons in your area (as I do) they will dig up the plant looking for the fish! The systemic insecticide is definitely needed. That’s a really nice looking tree already.

  3. Darlene Kittle says:

    Miracle Grow will green it up fast. However, that may be one of the biggest trees you have owned but it is not the biggest tree you have workked on by a long shot.. Big foot is doing great!

  4. Bonsai Bruce says:

    Once it has settled you need to cut out any of the arial roots that cross in front of a main trunk. The two really big ones on the side should make another tree as they will always look wrong on this tree. Good luck, happy bonsai.

    • adamaskwhy says:

      I might go that way in the spring Bruce but going into winter, it’s probably not the best idea. I’m trying for greening and growth and for everything I cut off the tree has to compensate for. Being so yellow it’s already stressed. Besides, even though I usually remove crossing roots, I think this tree might be an exception. I’ve studied many ficus and some have crossing aerial roots, some don’t.

  5. Vern Maddox says:

    Great tree, I don’t care what the “experts” think. I’d be proud to own it.
    Your boy made a good choice for the front.
    The chop on the pot looks Aztec or Mayan to me, but I think weird anyway and that makes the pot seem more interesting (I know it really isn’t either of those, but what the hell……)
    Thanks again for your interesting blogs.
    Vern

  6. Jess says:

    Fantastic aerial roots! My worry would be leaf drop from the change/stress, but not necessarily death… they are hardy little buggers.

    • adamaskwhy says:

      They arw tough Jess, leaf drop might be a good thing though. New leaves will come out greener.
      When talking plants we should be careful using the word “hardy”. That means they are not damaged by cold, and ficus surely are. Ficus are tough though, and can handle all sorts of rough treatment.

      • Jess says:

        Whoops, I think we use the word hardy a bit different in Aus… we use it to describe something as tough. Or at least I do!

      • adamaskwhy says:

        No problem, that’s what it means in regular usage, but in the plant world (where everyone thinks they’re experts and need to prove it, especially bonsai) it means cold tolerance. So, with me writing a blog, even a misplaced letter gets me all kinds of damning email.

  7. Bonsai Bruce says:

    Greetings from Brisvagas,
    I think you should give the tree a leaf trim. If it were my tree I would Cut off every growing point and every leaf at least in half, probably 2/3 of every leaf off. Just to slow down the growth. Hot and dry here tonight, 26C and expecting 37C plus for the weekend, look us up on G20.
    Happy bonsai, Bruce.

    • adamaskwhy says:

      If it were going to be that hot for me, I would too. But I know my ficus here in Orlando. I did prune the top and cut back quite a bit but, in my experience, it’s best to leave growing tips in the winter on a ficus, especially one like a benjamina that is prone to die back.
      I might defoliate soon but that depends on the buds behind the leaves. I’ve already had one night that was about 38 Fahrenheit (32 is freezing) and that’s not helping my cause.

  8. albert mcmillan says:

    Hi Adam , This is Albert from Ft Wayne Bonsai Club. I really like this tree that you did . What kind of price would be on this tree? I am hopeing for you to come back to Indiana this summer. Albert 

  9. Pingback: This time, I will not fail! #bonsailife | Adam's Art and Bonsai Blog

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