Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

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Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

Postby Light » January 12th, 2019, 2:03 pm

Hi All,

Just got this starter.

Front.jpg


Back.jpg


I've read these two posts:
viewtopic.php?f=7&t=8312
viewtopic.php?f=7&t=6717

Going off those guides, I think a truck chop here would be the way to go?
Trunk Chop.png


Here is a different angle of the trunk if you guys think there is a better place to cut
Side Trunk.jpg


Here in Sydney, we should have warm weather till about mid/late April, so do you think I can cut now or wait till early Spring (or should I wait even longer to let the plant grow fatter)?

Another question is about getting more plants started from cuttings off of this plant; if I just cut new growth, take off the leaves and stick it in a small pot, will it take root? Or if I trunk chop it, will the top part of the plant take root?

Any and all advice welcome!
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Re: Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

Postby demps » January 12th, 2019, 4:32 pm

Hey mate nice bit of material to work with there, Im up on the QLD/NSW border so weather is a little different but alas I have chopped and pruned etc all throughout the year with my figs and they bounce back really well! Defiantly respond better during growing season though. Im sure you will find they are quite a forgiving species :yes:
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Re: Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

Postby shibui » January 12th, 2019, 4:38 pm

It really depends what you want from this tree. How tall do you expect the tree to be? How fat do you expect the trunk to be?
I can't see any point cutting off good taper to make good taper so I think I'd go a bit higher up and use the first part of one of the newer shoots as the leader. First branch at around 1/3 final height usually looks 'balanced' so see if any of those existing branches might fit that criteria and match the existing trunk bends.
Everyone will have a different opinion so be prepared for lots of conflicting advice here.

Now is a good time to prune or repot ficus, even down here in the colder south we are still working PJ figs.
PJs are one of the few species that thicken quite rapidly , even in a small pot so no need to wait until the trunk is full thickness unless you want much larger trunk than current.

Cuttings are easy to strike, even quite large ones so put all the pieces in and get more trees. A plastic bag or clear plastic bottle over the cuttings will help them to root. Note that cuttings don't seem to have the same swollen base as seedlings for some reason but there are techniques that can enhance thickening bases for figs.
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Re: Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

Postby Light » January 13th, 2019, 1:42 am

A big inspiration for choosing a ficus for a starter is this article: https://bonsaipenjing.wordpress.com/201 ... ng-awards/

I envision something a bit smaller, about 30-35cm. So how does trunk thickness of about 8cm at the bottom, and a wider root flare of about 15cm sound?

But I don't mind something smaller, as I really like this shohin too: viewtopic.php?f=148&t=14685&start=15

Shibui, I'm not sure what you mean by 'match the existing trunk bends'. Specifically with this plant, there isn't much trunk bending and the branches are all very vertically angled. Where would you chop the trunk at and would you wire the branch to be more horizontal?

A few more queries:
- Should I cut off any branches lower than the leader and all the aerial roots?
- If I don't cut the aerial roots, what can I do with them? I've heard you can fuse them with the trunk to thicken it further.
- Does defoliating twice yearly/cutting leaves in half promote future leaves to become smaller?

Thanks for the advice.
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Re: Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

Postby dansai » January 13th, 2019, 8:10 am

I would not chop where you indicated, but rather as the pic below,

Trunk%20Chop.png


This retains the taper already existing in your trunk. You could leave it all on at the moment and really let it go. However with a lot of branches coming from the same spot you might end up with a big bulge. You will find if you do cut you will get a lot of new shoots developing. Ensure there is only one at each point and let it grow for a while. Ficus branches are pretty flexible, so no need to wire just yet. Definitely leave the low branch as it will help thicken the trunk.

Personally, I would remove the aerial roots. You could get them to go flat against the trunk and they will fuse with it over time, but they come off pretty perpendicular so may look a little odd where they leave the trunk. Better to remove them and let the existing roots do the work. It looks like this was a seedling. As Shibui mentioned, seedlings tend to get a swollen base around soil level, where as cuttings don't. You will probably find that below the swelling you will have a few fat roots like short carrots. If I find this I usually cut straight across at the widest point, even if it leaves no roots, and at the same time do a hard cut back and bury the base about 1-2 cm below the pointing mix. I have done this with both trees this size and much larger and never lost one. It will give you a bunch of roots around the base that will help widen the base and give you a good nebari to work in the future.

Here's one I did about a month ago. As you can see it already has lots of roots. It was good that I pulled it out to photograph for you as there is one side that didn't have roots. So I scrapped the edge back a bit and put it back in its pot.

IMG_3676 copy.jpg


As for defoliating, yes it does promote smaller leaves. If you have a tree with a few branches you will get a new flush of growth that will have smaller leaves for the first 2 or 3, then they will start to get larger again. If you have a well developed tree with main branches, secondary and tertiary branches you will get many new small leaves and because there is lots to diffuse the energy, they will generally stay small, especially if you tip prune after a few have developed. However this is for trees that are fully developed and only need to be maintained. With a young tree like you have, there is no need to defoliate. If fact you probably will be removing all the leaves, but when you cut back hard after a time of free growth.

One other thing to keep in mind. Robert Stevens, and others, have said on a number of occasions that tropicals, like figs, don't tend to have a single line all the way to the apex. So unlike a pine or a deciduous tree where you will develop a trunk by replacing a leader and have branches moving up the trunk until you reach the apex, you should be thinking of having many branches all contributing to the canopy. Like a big old fig in a paddock.
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Re: Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

Postby matlea » January 13th, 2019, 10:26 am

Initially I would keep a couple of the branches to either make as the new leader or as a sacrifice branch for thickening. Choose one leader to grow free to thicken up tree and then cut back... then repeat. Keep some branches where you may want to use in the final design as you go but control by cutting back.
This is an example of where I have done this. Had about three chops so far. At some point I will then focus on sorting out branches and ramification. Image
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Re: Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

Postby shibui » January 13th, 2019, 9:16 pm

The cuts shown by Dansai are about what I was thinking. In fact all he said is good info.
Shibui, I'm not sure what you mean by 'match the existing trunk bends'. Specifically with this plant, there isn't much trunk bending and the branches are all very vertically angled.

I think maybe you are looking at the trunk as it is. I'm looking at the future and seeing that the current trunk will just be the first section of your final trunk. Have a look at Dansai's proposed cuts. Note that Leaving either of the 2 top shoots as the continuation of the trunk will put a small bend into the new trunk. Pretty much every time we prune we end up with some degree of bend. If you want more bend you can wire the new leader to give more change of direction.

Does defoliating twice yearly/cutting leaves in half promote future leaves to become smaller?

Don't get too obsessed with small leaves in the growing phase. defoliating will slow down growth and your project will just take longer to achieve. Small leaves can wait until the tree looks good. The surest way to small leaves is to have lots of small branches on your tree. The more branches the more leaves so each leaf can be smaller to give the tree the same solar collection area. As the trunk nears final size you should begin regular pinching and pruning to promote branch ramification. Defoliation can also help with ramification. Also take a look at how these ficus grow. The first leaf to open on any shoot is smaller. Each successive leaf is a bit bigger so pinching the tips of new shoots stops those larger leaves from forming and we get more small 'first' leaves. No need to worry about that yet. Grow the trunk first, branches second and leaves last.
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Re: Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

Postby Light » January 15th, 2019, 3:38 pm

Thanks for all the responses!

I'll follow dansai's diagram and cut the branches:

Trunk%20Chop.png


Then I'll chop the roots horizontal at the widest part of the 'carrot' like bulges of the roots.

For now, is it better to repot into normal potting soil or bonsai soil? And I should wait a week or two before fertilising, to avoid risk of 'burning' the roots?

As for the cuttings, just stick them into soil? I assume they won't be needing a plastic cover for a good while, as it's already so hot (especially with this heatwave going on right now)?

Cheers.
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Re: Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

Postby bonsaeen » January 15th, 2019, 3:44 pm

Hey Mate,

Any soil will do I believe but keep it in the so called bonsai soil which drains freely. As of the fert, I have heard all sorts of things. Some say don't fertilize for two months after root work and I am pretty sure I was also told I can do it anytime as it's better to have some nutrients for the roots than nothing. But yes to be on safe side avoid for a month or so.

I stick my cuttings in soil and cover with a plastic bag and that way I don't have to water it everyday as it retains the moisture. Good luck
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Re: Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

Postby shibui » January 15th, 2019, 3:58 pm

Please don’t use soil. Potting mix is designed for pots. Soil is for garden beds. I know everyone has their own special favourite mix that is better than all the others. But any reasonable potting mix will be ok for developing ficus. There is not really much difference between a good potting mix and bonsai mix.
A cover over your cuttings is not to keep them warm but to keep the humidity high so they don’t dehydrate before they make roots.
Ficus love fertiliser and I think you can start fertilising almost straight after repotting
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Re: Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

Postby Light » January 16th, 2019, 1:49 am

I don't have photos atm, but I've pruned branches and roots and re-potted.

Not gonna lie, it was a bit scary having to use a hacksaw the cut the big swollen root base (I don't have shears large enough to cut something almost 5cm wide).

There are a few leaves left, do I defoliate them all? Where on the stem do you actually cut each leaf off? Up close to the branch or close to the leaf itself?

I'll update with pictures tomorrow during the day when there's better lighting.
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Re: Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

Postby shibui » January 16th, 2019, 4:34 pm

You do not need to cut off the remaining leaves. Leaves produce the plant's food and can help the new roots to grow. Just keep it somewhere that the leaves don't get too dry before new roots can supply more water. A bag or clear container over it can help retain humidity for a while.
:fc: :fc:
When defoliating it does not really matter where you cut through the stem. Whatever you've left of the leaf stem will drop off after a week or so.
Don't go too close to the base as there is a tiny risk of damaging the dormant bud in the axil.
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Re: Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

Postby Light » January 17th, 2019, 12:46 am

Some extreme weather we're having atm:

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/weat ... 50rmr.html

Apparently very high humidity in Sydney incoming too, so might not need a cover?
Should I keep the tree indoors or in complete shade for this week?
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Re: Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

Postby shibui » January 17th, 2019, 6:42 pm

Many move recently root pruned trees to a shaded, sheltered location for a couple of weeks. I generally put mine straight back in the normal location because I noticed that new leaves that grow while in the sheltered location can get sunburnt when moved back to the sunny area afterwards.
By the sound of it your tree now has no roots at all? so is really a large cutting. It therefore needs some extra care. Complete darkness is not good - food needed to grow new roots is made by leaves in light. Good light on leaves = good root growth but needs to be balanced against the plant dehydrating in hot sun. Some shade is probably warranted but I don't know your area or what you consider 'full shade' so can't really make a useful call. Indoors is usually drier and can vary from bright, sunny, hot window to dark laundry so also hard to make meaningful advice.
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Re: Ficus PJ starter - any suggestions?

Postby Light » January 27th, 2019, 5:49 pm

It's been over a week now and this is how the tree looks:
Side 1.jpg
Side 2.jpg


It also gave me 2 cuttings which I've covered with a plastic bottle, while the tree is covered with a plastic bag:
Tree and cuttings with their covers.jpg


I've noticed that the cutting with the bottom of the bottle as a covering still has very moist soil (having only been watered on the 17th when I put them all in pots), there is very little water evaporating out of the plant. The tree with the bag also had moist soil until yesterday when a particularly strong gust of wind must have blown it off, at which point the soil dried up fast.

Should I uncover the plants at night to let water leave the soil a bit? I know roots can rot if the soil is constantly moist, but I don't know if that's a issue I should be worried about, considering these plants probably don't have many roots to begin with?
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Last edited by Light on January 27th, 2019, 5:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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