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Ficus forest spring pruning

Ficus forest spring pruning

This post is actually a progression of my forest projects that I started to present last year here: Ficus forest project – progression

As day light already lasts for at last 15-16 hours I considered it’s time to prune my ficus benjamina forests to promote back budding. For this process, I had a proactive approach as from last fall till now I continuously fertilized these trees to increase their strength – and in the same time preparing them for the heavy prune that I will show in this post. Simultaneos, I needed to clean the soil surface because as ficus trees grow, they drop the covers of the new leaves and these rot on the soil surface. In time, it creates an ugly black layer of dead material that, if kept indoors, it will mold, smell ugly and promote fungal issues.

Comparing to the pictures from the post I indicated in the begining you can see that there is quite some growth at this time.

Here is a closeup of the surface soil that is quite ugly and full of dirt and dead material from one season of growth.

Here is the second forest that I created last year. If you concentrate on the soil surface, you can see that here the black material is more aggressive and obvious. This tree as well had a very serious and vigorous growth for one season.

However, both forests are too large already and their branches overlap creating a barrier for the light reaching the lower branches. For this reason, as seen in the pictures, the development of the top of the canopy is more aggressive than of the bottom’s. This must be corrected by pruning now, on one hand, and by future back pruning of the top branches to encourage lower one’s development. Also, the height that the trees reached is over the one that I have envisioned so they will need to be reduced.

Hard pruning combined with partial defoliation was the approach that I did for these trees. For ficus trees, it is important to prune back in this case to 2 or 3 leaves to encourage ramification. A very important issue to consider is that not all the leaves will back bud, there are some that never back bud. A strategy to make sure you cut back to leaves that bud out is to let them start budding. I achieved this by fertilizing them as I already mentioned and letting the branches grow out. On any species of trees, a rule of thumb to promote back bud is to leave it grow long. If you do so, you can see when and where you have to prune, as back to the trunk as possible but always to an already existing bud that will ramify your tree. I cleaned the soil surface back to the clear clay particles that the trees are planted in. Now it remains to continue fertilizing, watering and keeping the trees in sunny condition.

If until now I left the trees to grow wild just to gather strength, from now on I will be more careful about ensuring its growth on the bottom branches and slower growth on the upper ones. This does not mean that I will prune back as soon as new branches appear on the top of the canopy, but I will decrease their growing power by cutting of leaves on these branches. This method ensures the energy distribution of the branches that have more leaves that those with fewer ones.

Hope this helps you and thanks for the visit!
M.

Ficus forest project – progression

Ficus forest project – progression

In spring 2015 I have started a ficus benjamina forest using few thin cuttings from a tree bought from a local nursery. I treated the cuttings with rooting hormone in powder form. At that moment I have used a soil based more on flower soil mix, bought from the same nursery, so not the best solution. I had many problems with it such as mold, smell and slow development. However the cuttings started rooting even in those vicious conditions. The first picture taken back in 2015 at the very beginnings of the forest details the dimension of the cuttings.

A small traditional Romanian clay house was added just as theme for the project. The ceramic tray housing the forest was placed on a sunny windowsill where in the afternoon the leaves receive direct sunlight. In spring 2016, the forest was replanted and the soil was replaced with a clay based one, using grit mixed with flower potting mix in a ratio on 7-3. The position of the trees was also changed, placing the clay house in the middle, to be surrounded. Regular liquid fertilizer was applied and some pebbles of slow release fertilizer were added. The forest was left on the same windowsill to grow. The new soils mix that allowed better drainage, hence often fertilization, helped the forest to grow much faster. In fact, in early summer 2017 it became mandatory to do radical changes of the forest as it did not fit any more in the oval tray where it started growing.

In the picture above the result of 2 years of growing the forest can be seen, reaching a quite dense ramification with a large amount of leaves. At this moment I have decided that for healthy future development I had to divide the trees from one to two forests in two different ceramic trays. As I had no intention of trimming the roots because these would have more than enough space to spread in the new trays, one day before repotting, I watered well the forest. By this I increased the chances of success when getting the roots out of the soil. As I tend to use the same soil composition as the one from 2016 in both trays, I mixed the fresh soil with some of the old soil. I did this to make sure the new soil will have remains of the bacteria needed by the trees that was already established in the old soil.

I did comb out only the surface soil from the roots, leaving the rest that is fixed by the feeders in place. Working with wet soil also increased the chance of success when replanting the trees. Usually this maneuver is quite stressful for any tree. I had the misfortune with other ficus projects that were not successful due to too much trimming of the roots.

After preparing the new soil and the new ceramic trays with holes and draining screens, I have placed the trees in the desired positions and started filling with soil. Using a chopping stick, I have worked the soil around the trees to ensure no air pockets remain close to the feeder roots. Step by step I have filled the trays up to the top. When finished I gave it a good watering, making sure that everything is properly wet. For one tray I have kept the clay house as theme and for the second one I have used a tin soldier placed on a rock, like a warrior inside the forest.