Ficus Techniques : 6

Getting more leaves on naked branches


A Ficus Forum visitor asks " I have just purchased a bonsai and it looks a little weak. The branches seem long and bare except at the tips. How can I get more leaves on the branches?"

Ficus microcarpa with long bare branches.



Your tree has long branches without leaves. This may indicate poor soil and or watering or very low light.

As a first step, the tree should be moved to a bright position in your home. Gradually increase the light by one hour each day until the tree is in the brightest spot either under lights or in a south or west window.

Since your tree is new to you, you need to go slowly and make sure of how much water it needs. Check the soil surface about 1/2 to 1 inch down in the soil and do not water it until it is slightly dry. The soil should be dry in one to three days. If the soil is staying wet longer than 3 days, then the soil is too broken down and will require a soil change to a more open and airy bonsai mix.

Do not fertilize the tree for the first 2-3 weeks until you and the tree are settled in. Then you can begin fertilizing at half the normal strength recommended by the manufacturer. Fertilize only after the tree is well watered.

Once the tree is growing strongly and has 5-8 new leaves at each branch tip, its training can begin. As a first step in its training, defoliation will help get new branches and new leaves over the whole tree. Click here for information on defoliation. As a second step the two areas indicated with orange arrows will need to be trimmed to leave only two branches at these points.

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