Improving our Bonsai – Curves

ficus ginseng
Improving our Bonsai – Curves Author – Mark Higgins
The previous article discussed some of the issues concerning taper in the trunk. This is not the only place taper should be evident and must also be present in the curves on the trunk and branches and the branches themselves. I guess the easiest way to describe taper in a Bonsai sense is going from bigger to smaller – thick trunk thinner trunk, big curves smaller curves, big spacing smaller spacing.Curve LinesIt is a lot easier to introduce the curve line in the beginning of our styling and this can be achieved very easily when propagating cuttings through selective pruning of shoots to extend the trunk line.The position or angle that the cutting is planted at will also help to create movement. If we are using established stock or an existing bonsai then wiring and other techniques may need to be employed in order to improve or establish the curvature and movement in the trunk line. The curves should flow in a general side to side manner but not all on the same plane as we need to develop a 3 dimensional structure. If the curve line flows backwards and forwards then the full extent of the trunk line is not visible from the front. This is so important to remember when establishing the movement in the section between the base of the tree and the first branch (Tachiagari).If the movement is strong and dramatic then this should be continued throughout the trunk line and even into the branches for that matter, but if it is gentle than keep the lines confined to this characteristic, in other words don’t mix them.Once again, taper is all important and as the curve lines ascend the trunk they should decrease in size. In regard to styling the trunk line, too often a tree is designed with only the now in mind and the future of the tree is not taken into account – use your imagination – think ahead. From the beginning, try to visualise the finished tree, in particular its finished height and the strength of movement in the trunk line that you want.All trees grow and curves with little movement from the vertical line can eventually grow out. So if you are developing a tree from a cutting or seedling then it may be necessary to slightly over exaggerate the curve to start with, both in length and width in comparison to its overall size right now. However in saying this, don’t go to the extreme and keep in mind that the end result must look natural.Also keep in mind that as a tree increases in height, short tight curves will only need to become shorter and tighter in order to maintain taper as they ascend the trunk line. This can restrict not just the height of the tree but the entire structure, especially in relation to the placement of branches which will be covered further on. As previously mentioned, curves need to look natural. If we are using a clip and grow technique to develop curve lines in the trunk then you will notice that at first the line can be very angular. In most cases this will grow out and become more rounded with time but it is still worth keeping an eye on.

If reducing the height of a tree or undertaking heavy pruning then it is important to keep in mind that the angle of the cut will generally form part of the curve line. If the trunk line is curved then avoid having straight sections in the trunk. These areas will stand out on your tree and if allowed to develop can be very difficult to correct without a major operation. When introducing curves to material don’t try to put too many curves in the trunk as this can cause problems with branch placement.

The branches

If we take a look at trees growing around us there is a strong tendency for branches to be positioned on the outside of curves. I’m not 100% sure why and perhaps someone can correct me if I’m on the wrong track but it would seem that the weight of a growing branch would pull the trunk in the direction of growth. As the tree develops branches further up the trunk line and they in turn pull the trunk in a different direction, movement is established and balance is maintained. Of course this would only be in an ideal growing situation and other factors such as wind and other forces of nature will have a bearing on the degree of curvature in the trunk. On the other hand there is the formal upright with no curve in the trunk line but if we look closely at these trees quite often there are a lot more branches than for example on an informal upright style. With the branches growing so close together and often in a spoked manner, there is very little opportunity for movement in the trunk line and consequently the close proximity of the branches appears to act as a brace for the trunk providing lots of support and keeping it nice and straight. Curve lines and taper are not just restricted to the trunk and should be evident throughout the tree. Too often you come across a well developed trunk line but there has been little or no regard for the design of the branches.

Taper, which is one of the most important characteristics of age must also be present in the branches as they ascend the trunk. They should decrease in thickness the further they are growing up the trunk line and any curves extending out into the branch should also show taper. One other important area of taper to focus on is the distance between each branch which should decrease as the branches ascend the trunk. We have previously spoken about how the thickness of branches can be addressed by controlling the growth of the branch and this needs to be a technique you become familiar with as the management of taper in the branches is ongoing. Taper in curve lines can be achieved or corrected with wiring or pruning techniques but unfortunately, more often than not, the branch structure is left very straight and this is one area we need to pay more attention to. Wiring can be a very tedious task but if we want our trees to move on to the next level then it is important that we address all the small details including getting that extra little curve in the branches. It can be an absolute pain but the end result is worth it. Once the main skeletal structure of your bonsai has been developed and you are happy with this aspect, then there is no real need to change it and it is then only matter of working with the outer growth which may need to be regrown and reshaped from time to time. A very old tree will appear to have a fine network of minor branches. In nature this is generally achieved from season to season and is more evident in deciduous trees especially during the winter dormancy. One of the best ways to view this network in evergreens is from below the branch and a well defined branch structure is one of the best aspects of any bonsai. A fine network of branches can be achieved through leaf pruning, pruning back the minor branches to two or three buds and also pinching out the new buds on growth as it develops.

Leaf pruning has two main outcomes :

  • it can reduce leaf size if undertaken in the latter half of the main period of growth, which in our case is generally after December and
  • it will force the tree to develop the axillary and adventitious buds which in turn will create new branches.

To achieve a fine network it is important to develop short inter nodal spaces. The first two or three leaves on any new growth is generally closer together but as a branch grows this spacing becomes extended. Therefore when pruning branches it is important to cut back to the first 2-3 leaves. This will help keep the inter nodal spacing short and also provide a much finer network of branches. Bud pinching has a similar impact in that when the apical bud is removed on a very new shoot it restricts the development of the stem forcing new buds to develop instead of extending the section of stem between each leaf. Just like the distance between branches on the trunk, as the branch structure increases, then taper should also be present with the distance between the fine branches decreasing as you move to the outer extremities of the branch. If we look closely at very old trees the branch structure is distinctly different to that of a young tree especially in the apical area, old trees have a very rounded apex where as the apex on young trees tends to be very pointed. In our designs, if we continue to grow the trunk line, then it is very difficult to get away from a pointed apex. At some point toward the apex we need to slightly diffuse the trunk line breaking it into several branches which when growing will have a more upward movement as opposed to those growing further down the trunk. Just keep in mind that the more branches you have in this area the risk of damaging the taper increases and regular thinning out will be required.

Of course, sometimes we already have in our collections or acquire material on which it is impossible to alter the Tachiagari or existing curve lines. In this case we need to select the front of our tree that provides the best perspective taking into account the Nebari, the Tachiagari, the existing curves and branch placement. It is highly unlikely that from any one angle all these aspects will be perfect and therefore we need to consider that :

  • the widest point of the Nebari should be visible from the front
  • the Tachiagari should generally move from side to side
  • the curve lines should be visible from the front in other words not curving backwards and forwards
  • the selected front should display the best taper in the trunk line
  • the trunk line should be three dimensional and
  • there is a natural taper in the branches as they ascend the trunk.

I hope that you have been taking more notice of the trees growing around you since these articles were introduced. If we continue to look at trees and identify the characteristics of age then we can refer these back to our bonsai and achieve better results and a greater satisfaction. One thing we need to keep im mind at all times is maintaining a naturalness to our designs and while something may look very artistic with lots of twists and loops in the trunk and branches, just ask yourself would the tree really grow like that.

Source: bonsai workshop

Why are my Ficus Ginseng’s leaves yellow/brown?

ficus ginseng

There are a number of possible reasons for this colour change in your Ficus Ginseng.

Let’s start with something which might not be a problem: your Ficus Ginseng tree is going dormant just like the big ones in the woods because of the time of year.


Not enough light: insufficient exposure to high-quality light (indirect light is what is recommended) will cause this problem.

Root problem: if the roots are rotting, the Ficus Ginseng needs to be transplanted, or it could be that there is no drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. You need to remove the tree from its pot and have a look at the roots. If they are mushy and black, or soaking wet, then you have root rot and the tree must be transplanted if it is to be saved.

Location: not many people know that only tropical and some semi-tropical species of bonsai trees can be grown indoors. There are many cases in which bonsai trees sold commercially as indoor bonsais are not really indoor bonsais. They are meant to grow outdoors, and if you don’t change the location your tree will slowly die.

Watering: have you considered the possibility that you are not watering it enough? This is a common cause of this problem. Your Ficus Ginseng needs to be kept moist at all times.

Insect attack or fungal attack: check the underside of the leaves for the presence of very small insects. If you find little dots on the leaves, it is possible that your bonsai tree is being attacked by fungus.

If you own an indoor bonsai tree, be sure that no air conditioner is blowing directly onto it.

If you own an indoor Ficus Ginseng tree, it may lose leaves after being moved to a new location.

Transfer your Ficus Ginseng to a Larger Pot

1. The first thing you need to check is whether your ficus ginseng needs to be replanted or not. You can do this by checking the roots of your tree. If the pot appears to be full of roots and there is little dirt left, it is time to replant your tree in a larger pot.

2. Use a water resistant or waterproof material and place your tree in the centre of it. Make sure that you won’t spill any dirt.

3. Time to separate the ficus ginseng from its original pot. The best way to do this is to lay the pot on its side and tug very carefully at the base of the ficus or the pot itself, in order to separate them.

4. Look after the roots of your ficus ginseng. You need to assess how badly root-bound your tree is, so start by brushing the soil away from the root ball. If you observe that some of the roots have begun to circle around the ball, carefully unwind them by using your fingers and try to separate the roots in the root ball. Finally using a small pair of gardening scissors or pruning shears cut off any dead or rotten roots. Don’t forget to prune any roots which may grow through the drainage hole in the pot!

5. When it comes to selecting a pot for your ficus ginseng tree, make sure that you choose a pot about 5 centimetres (2 inches) wider in diameter than the pot you are replacing. Don’t buy a larger one, as it will almost certainly retain too much water and this could cause the roots to rot. Once you have the new pot, line the bottom with several inches of fresh potting soil

6. Place your ficus ginseng tree in the pot. Ensure that you hold the tree upright with your hands and that the root ball sits 1-3 centimetres (around 1 inch) below the rim of the pot. More soil should be added to the pot if you believe that the ficus tree is too low in comparison with the pot. Finally, fill in the space around the root ball with fresh potting soil.

7. Now it is time to water your ficus tree. Make sure that you water it thoroughly, and then allow at least 30 minutes for it to sit. Finally, empty any excess water from the pot.

8. After this has been done, you may continue with your daily procedure. Place your ficus bonsai tree near a window but not directly facing sunlight, mist it daily, and water it when the soil becomes dry to the touch.

Advice for watering your Ficus Ginseng!

Ficus retusa Ginseng

One of the main reasons for which Ficus Ginseng trees are ideal for beginners, is, not only that these trees are particularly resistant to disease and pests, but also that they are less delicate when it comes to watering.

In practical terms this means that, whereas other bonsai trees may not survive if their owner forgets to water them on time, the Ficus Ginseng could make it (it can survive mild drought conditions, as it stores and soaks up water through its roots)… That said, you should never forget to water your bonsai tree!

Misting also is very important! Ginseng ficus plants respond very well to misting. For better results gardeners should mist these trees with water from a spray bottle every day. However, you also need to make sure that the soil is dry, as these trees grow very well if the soil is never allowed to dry out. So water every 2 – 3 weeks during the spring and summer (ginseng ficus bonsai trees need to be watered more frequently when it is warm) and then reduce the amount of watering in the autumn and winter months. Remember that the misting should take place every day!

Be careful, however. The right amount of water is something you learn with experience, but there are also signs to look for: bonsai trees which do not get enough water will begin to turn yellow in colour, whereas an excess of water can cause ginseng ficus roots to rot, so you need to find the right balance! (as a general rule, use 1/3 of a cup of water, then pour slowly at the base of the bonsai. Make sure that you don’t overwater, and also check that the water doesn’t stay at the bottom of the glass container ).

Watch also the following video:


Ficus Ginseng gardening – basic tips

Warm humid environment
A warm humid environment is essential. Your Ficus Ginseng can grow quite well in a cool environment, but remember that a warmer environment will be much more helpful! Note that it is not advisable to expose your tree to direct sunlight. You can also place a dish of water near the plant for more humidity.

Place your Ficus Ginseng in a larger pot!
Always remember that the size of the pot used for growing has a significant effect and determines the speed at which your tree grows.
Your Ficus Ginseng bonsai will grow well for the first few years in its original pot. However, once that time has passed, you should obtain a bigger pot for it. There are two reasons for this: the Ficus Ginseng has a large root system, and this will soon outgrow its small container. In addition, vital nutrients in the soil will have to be replenished. Continue reading “Ficus Ginseng gardening – basic tips”

How to Grow and take care for Outdoor Bonsai Trees

Author: Kathleen Lori

Growing bonsai trees are a reproduction of basically a natural tree but only miniature. Thus it requires basic bonsai tree care in order for it to grow properly since they are absolutely dependent on you for their proper care.

Whether you choose to buy bonsai trees or grow them from seeds which will make you wait for an awfully long time before you see the actual result, you will need the fundamental knowledge of bonsai tree care in order for you to have success in this form of art – growing bonsai tree. Continue reading “How to Grow and take care for Outdoor Bonsai Trees”

Ginseng Ficus Bonsai Care

Author: GregHal

This ficus has thick trunks and strong roots that make it one of the hardiest plants to bonsai. If you are interested in the bonsai hobby, I would strongly recommend starting with this tree.

Although the ginseng ficus bonsai can be brought outdoors for some fresh air from time to time, it is not necessary. The ginseng ficus should be kept indoors all year round where it gets indirect sunlight. If you set your bonsai in direct sunlight, the intense lighting will burn the leaves. The temperature where you are keeping your ficus should never fall below 65 degrees since it likes to be in warm climate. Continue reading “Ginseng Ficus Bonsai Care”