Ginseng Ficus - Inside the World of Bonsai
The term for ginseng ficus, or any other small potted tree was originally known as hachi-no-ki meaning a tree in a pot. The word bonsai (bone-sigh) was used much later during the Meiji period (late 19th century) by the Japanese. Its terms bon and sai mean respectfully tray and tree, or tray planting. Bonsai takes traditional gardening techniques to an artistic level. It is taking something from the natural and creating a growing living work in miniature. Bonsai is not a specific type of tree but is, rather the process by which the gardener undertakes in his path to creation.
The foliage of the Ginseng ficus varies somewhat depending on the area it comes from but generally has small dark green leaves that alternate as they grow up the stem. It is the perfect accent piece for an indoor environments (home, office, or dorm) as this species can do well in low light with a once a week watering-very tolerant though it does need a good bit of humidity.
The grayish to reddish bark of the Ginseng ficus is marked with small horizontal streaks (tiger-like). They have heavy trunks with what looks to be exposed aerial roots. It actually has one of the most amazing trunk developments of all the bonsai with the cave-like pass throughs of the root system large enough for small figurines or rocks to be placed within for creating an even more exotic look and feel to your space.
The Ginseng ficus is not generally finicky where soil is concerned. They do better in rich, healthy soil, but fare well in whatever they are planted in. Fertilizers may be of benefit especially when conditions are depleted. Though soil richness depends on tree species generally soil should be made of 70% humus (organic matter that has reached stability), and 30% grit (very small gravel used for mixing into soil to improve drainage). Many custom mixtures work well also-such as peat, turface (porous ceramic soil conditioner resembling crushed terra cotta with ability to prevent soil compaction and absorb moisture), and perlite. This is important because for best result the soil should be kept moist; excessive drying will kill your plant.
As with other bonsais, the Ginseng ficus will eventually need repotting. This is the one time it is okay to let the soil dry out a bit. It will be easier to remove the tree from the pot this way also. If the tree is totally root bound choose a larger pot to replant it in, other wise reuse the same pot.
Remove all surface soil from the roots carefully. Using a nylon brush, brush soil away from the trunk being careful not to damage roots. For the roots themselves use a fine bristled paintbrush to remove any soil that has collected or is stuck within the root system. Carefully comb out the roots when all soil has been removed with a bonsai fork from underneath.
Finally, with scissors prune the roots of your Ginseng ficus by about a third being careful to cut out small wedges around the root base as well. This will ensure that fresh soil will be allowed to collect. Many find that adding a thin layer of grit at the bottom of the pot before replanting with a good bonsai medium helps keep the soil fresher, longer.
Take the time to position the Ginseng ficus before completing the planting process, pushing more soil in where needed for support as well as good health. Before setting the plant back in its favorite spot trim any leaves that are straying outside of the trees graceful form. Remember, with the appearance of every six new leaves snip back 2-3 to keep symmetry. This does nothing for the health of the tree-it just makes it look great.