How to Grow Ficus Ginseng Plants at Home

While Ficus ginseng grows as large trees in their native habitat, plant parents have learned how to manipulate these plants to grow them as bonsai trees. As far as bonsai grow, they’re relatively easy to maintain, in my experience, which makes them a good choice for those new to the hobby. The plants offer a trunk with smooth gray bark and leathery evergreen leaves. In this guide, I’ll run through how I care for my Ficus ginseng plants at home including planting tips, best soil types, watering frequencies, when to fertilize, and ideal environmental conditions for healthy plant growth.

Ultimate Ficus ginseng (Ficus microcarpa) Care Guide

Ficus Ginseng Care  – Key Takeaways:

Botanical Name:Ficus microcarpa
Also Known As:Chinese banyan, Malayan banyan, curtain fig, ficus ginseng
Growing Difficulty:Easy to grow as far as bonsai go
Light Requirements:At least six hours of bright, indirect light
Temp & Humidity:Prefers temperatures above 60ºF, but can handle temperatures as low as 40ºF; thrives in high humidity 
Watering Needs:Aim to keep the soil relatively moist; water about once a week
Soil Preferences:Well-draining and well-aerated; pH between 6.0 and 7.00
Fertilizing:Fertilize once every two weeks in spring through fall; fertilize once a month during the winter
Growth Expectations:Can grow over 50 feet tall as a wild tree; when maintained as a bonsai indoors it can be managed to be a foot or two tall
Toxicity:Toxic to dogs and cats

Growth Expectations

If people are keeping ficus ginseng indoors as houseplants, they are typically growing it as a bonsai tree. In my experience, these trees can be maintained so they are only one or two feet tall.

Properly pruning your bonsai tree will allow it to remain under two feet tall.

What to Do Before Planting

Before you plant your ficus ginseng, you’ll want to obtain a proper container. I use a pot with excellent drainage and one that’s no larger than 12 inches in diameter and six inches deep. I find that shallow, wide pots are often the best choice for ficus ginseng bonsai.

If you’re growing your plant as a bonsai, it won’t need much space in your home. It can sit atop a table or on a plant stand. However, you should ensure you have a location receiving at least six hours of bright yet indirect light daily.

Best Soil Types

In my experience, these plants prefer a soil mix that offers excellent drainage and aeration. If you’re growing your plant as a bonsai, I find that it’s best to use a soil mix designated for deciduous bonsai.

The pH level of the mix should be slightly acidic to neutral, between 6.0 and 7.0.

If you’d like to make a potting mix, you can combine the following components:

  • 2 parts akadama: a porous clay-like substance that provides aeration and drainage while also retaining nutrients and water
  • 1 part compost: retains nutrients and water, provides a home for microbes
  • 1 part decomposed granite or coarse sand: provides aeration and drainage 

You can also purchase a pre-mixed potting soil designed for bonsai trees. Some good options I’ve used include this bonsai soil from Bonsai Supply and this organic bonsai soil from Tinyroots (via Amazon).

How to Plant 

If you purchase your ficus ginseng as a bonsai, it will likely arrive in a suitable container. However, if you need to replant your bonsai, here are the steps that I take:

  1. Obtain a shallow pot that can hold the plant’s root ball.
  2. Run a wire through the plant’s drainage holes.
  3. Add an inch or so of potting soil to the bottom of the planter.
  4. Place the plant’s root ball into the pot.
  5. Wrap the wire around the plant’s roots and/or trunk to help stabilize it.
  6. Carefully cover the roots with potting soil until the planter is full. Gently work the soil into air pockets using a pencil or chopstick.
  7. Water thoroughly.

Light Preferences 

My Ficus ginseng plants grow best in bright, indirect light. I aim to provide the plants with at least six hours of bright sunlight each day.

Some suitable locations include a few feet away from a south-facing or west-facing window. You can also place your bonsai in the interior of a bright room.

Temperature & Humidity

These plants like warm and humid conditions that mimic their native habitats.

I aim to keep my plants in a location where the air temperature remains between 65-85ºF. You should also place your plant away from both hot and cold drafts found near heating vents, exterior doors, and radiators.

Try to keep the humidity high. While these plants can tolerate moderate humidity, they will suffer in dry conditions. If your home is extremely dry, boost the air moisture with a humidifier.


A Ficus Ginseng plant in a white plant pot on a wooden table next to a brass watering can

Since ficus bonsai should be planted in well-draining soil, I make an effort to check the soil moisture regularly. When the soil begins to appear dry, I water my plants thoroughly.

The frequency you’ll need to water will depend on numerous environmental factors. Higher temperatures, high light, and low humidity will all require you to water more often.

When it’s time to water, you should avoid using hard tap water. Soft tap water is typically okay to use, but using distilled water or rainwater is always a safe option.


To keep my plants happy, I feed them regularly with a balanced fertilizer.

Typically, I apply fertilizer once every two weeks during the spring, summer, and fall. When winter arrives, and growth slows, I decrease to fertilizing once every month.

One good option I like is this organic liquid fertilizer (via Amazon) which is explicitly designed for bonsai trees.


Like all bonsai, ficus ginseng bonsai requires regular pruning. If you purchased an already formed bonsai, you will need to perform maintenance pruning. In my experience, this should be done two to four times a year.

Fortunately, maintenance pruning is easy. The goal is to remove any foliage that has grown outside the plant’s ideal canopy shape. You should also remove any shoots that have grown out from the plant’s trunk or roots.

While you can use regular pruning shears, I find that specialized twig shears can make the job easier.


A person repotting a ficus ginseng plant on a wooden table indoors

You should aim to repot your ficus ginseng in the early spring every two to four years. This will prevent your plant from becoming rootbound, which is crucial to keeping the plant healthy.

When it’s time to repot, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the root ball from the pot. If the plant is supported with wire, untie it. And if the plant is rootbound, you may need to use a root rake or knife to loosen the edges of the soil from the pot.
  2. Carefully remove excess soil from the roots. You can do this with chopsticks, your fingers, or a pencil.
  3. Use a sharp and sanitized pair of shears to prune any roots that have encircled the pot or grown too long. The roots can handle significant pruning, but you should not remove more than 30% of the roots at once.
  4. If the plant needs a wire to help support it, replace the wire back through the pot’s drainage holes.
  5. Add an inch or so of potting soil to the bottom of the planter.
  6. Place the plant’s root ball back into the pot.
  7. Wrap the wire around the plant’s roots and/or trunk to help stabilize it.
  8. Carefully cover roots with more potting soil. You can use chopsticks to gently work the soil into the pockets in the roots.
  9. Water thoroughly.

Common Ficus Ginseng Problems and Solutions

Rotten Roots

If you notice your plant’s roots are dark, mushy, or smelly, they have likely developed root rot. This fungal disease can occur anytime, but it is more likely to appear in moist conditions. Therefore, it is often a sign of overwatering.

If you see your plant has root rot, you may need to repot it. After you remove the plant from its container, prune off any infected sections.

Repot in fresh potting mix and decrease the amount you water.

Crispy Roots

Underwatering, on the other hand, can lead to dry and brittle roots. If you notice this, water more often.

Dropping Leaves

While it can be expected for ficus ginseng to drop a leaf or two during the growing season, many fallen leaves (or yellowing ficus ginseng leaves) can indicate a problem.

Some common causes are sudden decreases in temperature or too low temperatures. Remember to keep the air temperature between 65-85ºF and avoid any sudden temperature changes.

About Ficus Ginseng (Ficus microcarpa)

As a ficus species, Ficus microcarpa is a member of the fig genus. It belongs to the Moraceae family, also known as the fig or mulberry family.

The common name ficus ginseng is used for both Ficus microcarpa and the related Ficus retusa. Therefore, you should use the scientific name to determine which plant you are dealing with.

Ficus microcarpa is native to tropical regions in Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Western Pacific. Some countries in its native range include China, Taiwan, and Malaysia.

It has also been planted as a shade tree throughout the world. Therefore, it grows outdoors in South America, the Caribbean, Florida, Italy, and Palestine.

It starts as a shrub in these regions and grows into a medium to large tree. It has smooth gray bark and leathery evergreen leaves that are lanceolate in shape.

Depending on the environment, the plant may develop aerial roots. These roots come down from the branches and can root into the ground.

Besides being a famous ornamental and shade tree, ficus ginseng is also used for medicinal purposes. Its bark, roots, and leaves have been used to treat pain, fever, flu, and arthritis.

Growing Ficus Ginseng FAQs: 

How Big Do Ficus Bonsai Get?

Ficus bonsai generally remain under two feet tall. However, you will need to prune them regularly to maintain their small size.

How Fast Does Ficus Ginseng Grow?

Ficus ginseng grows at a moderate rate indoors. If you are growing the plant as a bonsai, you will need to prune it two to four times a year to maintain its size and shape.

Are Ficus Ginseng Plants Considered Rare?

No, these plants are not rare. They are common outdoor ornamental plants, and indoor ficus ginseng bonsai are also quite common.

Is Ficus Ginseng Poisonous to Dogs and Other Pets?

Yes, ficus ginseng plants are toxic to both dogs and cats. Therefore, you should keep these plants out of your pets’ reach.

Can a Ficus Ginseng Tolerate Low Light?

Ficus ginseng may tolerate low light but prefers lots of bright, indirect light. To keep them happiest, ensure they receive at least six hours of bright sunlight daily.

Wrapping Up 

If you want to start growing bonsai, ficus ginseng can be a great choice. Provide it with lots of bright yet indirect light, water when dry, and repot every few years.

Contributing Editor | | Full Bio

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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