How to take care of that Ficus Ginseng you bought at the grocery store.

I have tried to stay away form this topic for some time now. I received the photo above asking for help to try and keep this tree alive. After a few requests from friends, family and some of my corporate clients I have decided to answer the burning questions on everyone’s lips.

I really just want to state that I am really annoyed by grocery stores selling these Ficus Ginseng bonsai trees to people. It’s a waste of money as they sell them at a steep price and on top of that the caring tips attached to the tree is not good at all. It basically says water daily and fertilize every two weeks… I will try and keep my strong opinions to a minimum and try to help you take care of the tree you purchased.

Step one: Get the plant into the right environment.
Let’s get straight into it. Ficus trees are tropical trees. They love sunlight although I would recommend that you protect it from afternoon sun and let it get a good three to four hours of the morning sun. Most of these trees where placed under shading net or indoors for sometime now. So adjust the environment slowly as moving it into a sunny spot over night might just cause the leaves to drop. Just keep in mind it’s a tree so it grows best outdoor. Place it on you porch or area there it is protected but gets its share of light.

Step two: Fertilize the tree.
I recommend using organic fertilizers. I use Seagrow and Nitrosol fertilizers. Use as directed on the container. I use it once every two weeks during the growing season( spring through summer). Or you can fertilize every week with half the strength that’s directed on the container. Once you done with fertilizing the tree and there is still some of the diluted solution left, discard of it or use it on your other plants as the fertilizer will settle at the bottom of the container and not be as effective when using it again. Then fertilizing please ensure that you wet the entire root system as the tree will direct it roots to the area where it receives the most food. There are other ways of fertilizing but I found liquid fertilizers to be the most easy and effective way to get food to the tree.

Step three: Repot the tree.
With this part I would like to caution you when repotting the tree if you are not use to potting trees. Take great care when doing this. The best time to repot Ficus trees are in Summer. So in the Western Cape where I live that would be end of December to the beginning of January. Normally I would say it would be a great time to work on the nebari (Surface roots flaring out from the base of the tree) but because we do not know how long the tree has been in the pot or what the health of the tree is I would leave this for the next time you repot. Most of these trees have these huge unsightly roots that can hardly bend so best leave them as they are. Remove as much of the soil that the tree was planted in as possible without damaging the feeder roots (white small roots at the tip of the roots). Plant the tree in a bonsai container. Use mesh to cover up the drainage holes at the bottom. Feed wire through the holes provided to secure the tree in place. Use a chop stick to work a free draining soil mixture in between the roots making small circular motions as you work the soil into and under the root ball. After that is done water the tree till the water runs out the bottom of the container. Leave the soil to settle and then add ground cover on top of the soil. You can use small peddles or grinded stone. This will help keep soil moist for longer it also neatens up the display.

For the next few weeks you must keep the tree in a more shaded area as usual and also protected from strong winds. The new and tender roots do not like to be disturbed. The tree has under gone a major change so try and keep the tree damp and not to wet as this will lead to root rot. Monitor the tree carefully over the next few weeks.

If you take these steps mentioned above this would help you get to a place where you can then start to trim you tree and work on it again after it has recovered.


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