Ultimate Ficus ginseng (Ficus microcarpa) Care Guide

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, 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 and an array of uses and benefits. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about Ficus ginseng care at home.  

Ultimate Ficus ginseng (Ficus microcarpa) Care Guide

How to Grow Ficus ginseng (Ficus microcarpa)  – The Essentials: 

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

About Ficus Ginseng (Ficus microcarpa)

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 much of the world. Therefore, it can now be found growing outdoors in South America, the Caribbean, Florida, Italy, and Palestine.

In these regions, it starts as a shrub 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.

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

It is also grown as a bonsai tree indoors, and they’re rich in meaning and symbolism.


How to Grow a Ficus Ginseng  

How to Grow a Ficus Ginseng  

Growth Expectations

If people are keeping ficus ginseng indoors, they are typically growing it as a bonsai tree. 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. The pot should have drainage holes and be no larger than 12 inches in diameter and six inches deep. 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 that receives at least six hours of bright yet indirect light each day.

These plants are considered toxic to humans and pets, so it’s prudent to wear gloves when undertaking any form of ficus ginseng plant care.

What’s the Best Soil Mix?

What's the Best Soil Mix?

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

The pH 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 include this bonsai soil from Bonsai Supply and this organic bonsai soil from Tinyroots.

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, follow these steps.

  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 

Ficus ginseng plants prefer lights of bright, indirect light. You should 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 Preferences

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

Keep the air temperature 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.


How to Care for Ficus Ginseng

How to Care for Ficus Ginseng

Watering

Since ficus bonsai should be planted in well-draining soil, you’ll need to check the soil moisture regularly. When the soil begins to appear dry, water 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.

How, When, and, Why to Fertilize

To keep your plant happy, you should use a balanced fertilizer regularly.

Apply fertilizer once every two weeks during the spring, summer, and fall. When winter arrives, and growth slows, you can decrease to fertilizing once every month.

One good option is this organic liquid fertilizer explicitly designed for bonsai.

Pruning 

Like all bonsai, ficus ginseng bonsai requires regular pruning. If you purchased an already formed bonsai, you will need to perform maintenance pruning. 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, specialized twig shears can make the job easier.

When and How to Repot Ficus ginseng

When and How to Repot

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

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.

Essential Tools

A specialized potting mix will help your ficus ginseng bonsai thrive. The only other specialized tools you may need are pruning shears.


Growing Ficus Ginseng FAQs: 

Is Ficus Ginseng a Good Indoor Bonsai?

Yes, ficus ginseng makes an excellent indoor bonsai if you have an area with bright, indirect light. These plants are one of the most accessible bonsai types to care for.

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 prefer lots of bright, indirect light. To keep them happiest, ensure they receive at least six hours of bright sunlight each day.


Ficus ginseng Care – 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.

For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position ficus ginseng plants for optimal care and feng shui benefits in the home or office.


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