Ficus Techniques : 49

Replacing the Whole Top of a Ficus

by Jose Orlando Rivera

This is a Ficus microcarpa 'Green Emerald' that I felt would look better as a shorter tree. Normally I would cut off the top and re-grow a whole new apex. The top could be air-layered or grown as a large cutting to create a second tree.

I chose instead to take off the whole top, remove the center section of the tree and then make the old top as the new top to a shorter tree. To make the process more likely to succeed, I layered the top of the tree wtih moss in January of 2010 to form a new root system.

In March 2010 the center section was cut out and the top of the tree was grafted to the base.

The top was inserted into the base by drilling out a properly sized hole in the base. A mortise and tenon type of joint was used to make the graft secure.

Moss was added around the graft point to keep the top air layer living while the graft took time to take and roots were grown into the ground. A clith wrap around the moss was used to keep it moist.

The tree with air layer in the top

Saw used to cut off the top below the air layer

The bottom of the tree

The top is in hand

Sawing off the middle section of the tree

Removing the mid section

Checking the fit

Creating the tenon joint with a knife

The top with the tenon joint

Drill creating a hole in the base

Top being fitted to the base

Ficus with the top in position

Roots brought out of the moss

Close up of the joined sections

Ficus right after grafting

Cloth cover placed over the joined sections

Close-up view of the joined sections, June 2010

Rear view of the joined sections

Healthy new growth and new roots added to the nebari, Sept 2010

September 10, 2010

March 9, 2011

In summary, I was able to shorten a Ficus tree by removing a center section and grafting in the existing top. Air layering allowed the graft time to fuse successfully. Much time was saved in this process as contrasted to growing whole new top after a reduction cut.

Wiring will be done soon to fine tune and adjust all the branches.

***Thanks very much to Jose Orlando Rivera a dedicated and talented bonsai artist from Puerto Rico who has an active and informative website. Please click here to access his website.



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