Ficus microcarpa

Ficus Microcarpa is a tree species which may grow into 20+ meters tall trees. Alternative names are Ficus Retusa, Ginsen ficus, Chinese Banyan, Malayan Banyan, Tigerbark Fig, Indian Laurel, Curtain fig and many more. A wide range of foliar varieties exist (Such as the Green Island fig), all of which are varieties of the same species: Ficus Microcarpa.

Ficus Microcarpa Bonsai
Ficus Microcarpa as often found

Position is as with most tropical species: Warm, light and moist. The species in nature grows out to be part of the upper canopy of forests and as such deals well with high-intensity light, and prefers as much light as possible. This tree can stand in full sun, once acclematized

Water and soil. All figs appreciate a balanced moisture regime at the roots. Allow the soil surface to dry slightly before watering again, but never let the soil dry out completely. This species is not demanding on the soil; Any soil mixture will do, as long as it does not stay wet for long. Fertilize using regular house-plant fertilizer at 50% of recommended strength, once a week during the growing season. Never fertilize when the plant is sick.

Recognizing. One recognizes this tree by the leaves, which are ovate to round, glossy on one side, and slightly leathery. Trunks are smooth. the tigerbark variety has small black spots on the bark. Many garden centre varieties of the f. microcarpa bonsai have thick swollen roots that stand above the ground. Because of the wide range of diffrerent varieties, species may have very small (3cm) of larger leaves (9cm). In many cases a larger leaved variety is used to grow a trunk. On the trunk smaller leaved varieties are then grafted.

Not to mix up with the ficus elastica, or rubber fig. This plant has leaves that grow up to 20cm long. The size of the leaves is therefor much longer. Also, the bark is not so smooth. Furthermore, ficus benjamina has simular leaves. Here the leaves are clearly pointier than for the microcarpa.

Noteworthy. All figs have the tendency to drop leaves when moved from one location to another. The difference in watering, air moisture and light intensity indicates to the tree a change of season, and they will drop their foliage in response. This is nothing to worry about. Within 2 weeks the plant should start growing new foliage.

Ficus microcarpa leaves
Ficus microcarpa leaves

32 Comments on “Ficus microcarpa”

  1. I recently bought this plant and after 3-4 days it begin to loose many leaves.

    Your note about droping leaves when changing location is very useful. It’s a logical explanation, the amazing logic of nature. Thank you.

  2. I have just bought my first bonsai, ficus microcarpa. I know that you have to keep the soil moist at all times, but does that means I need to water it everyday?
    Thank you very much in advance for your kind advice.

    1. Hi Queeny,
      Best to let the soil dry a little. It should not go ‘bone dry’, but the soil should not still be moist on top when watering again.

  3. I just bought this plant from local supermarket. (Ficus Microcarpa Retusa) It states that it is an indoor bonsai ? is this true ?

    I have kept bonsai before, however all my previous plants were grown outdoors.

    I hope is is very hardy plant, that will give me yrs of joy.


    1. Hi David,
      Indoors is somethin which sounds nice for marketeers. However, every plant is by nature evolved to live outdoors. Some species however, are grown indoors part of the year to avoid adverse conditions outside. Ficus is a plant family which predominates in the tropics. So in winter you need to keep them in a frostfree area (Above 16 degrees celcius for slow growth, above 22c for healthy growth).

  4. I just got a plant, it is in a bonsai pot with twin trunks. It has small but little branches at the moment.

  5. Hello,
    I recently got a ficus microcarpa as a gift from my father. I read your notes and summary of this species and it has proven very helpful! However, I am still a little confused on the soil. You stated, “Any soil mixture will do, as long as it does not stay way for long.” I’m fairly new to plant growing and am not sure what this means. If you could clarify, that would be great!

    1. Hi,

      It means that you have to try to get a soil mixture that dries out relatively quickly. Pure potting soild does work, but I would not use, for instance, pond soil or any other substrate with a high clay content. Mine are in a coarse medium of backed clay pellets, mixed with lava granules & ground up bark.

  6. Hi, I have just purchased some 5 x ficus microcarpa bonsai. I was wanting to grow a hedge up to 1.5meters and the gardner told me to get this variety as others would be too big. I now am reading that they won’t get that big, is this true? Thanks

    1. Hi Sophie,

      Ficus Microcarpa can grow to be some tens of metres tall. Bonsai stay small due to the pots & styling. Not because of the species. So yeah, if your consitions allow for it; go for it. It will grow tall. Just be carefull: The plants may get sun damaged if they were growin indoors, and may need a few weeks of adjusting to the intense outdoor sunshine. Placing them in dappled sunlight (early morning only at first) will help. They are thirsty plants and have strong roots; Be carefull with drainage lines etc.

  7. Hello, I have recently purchased this plant from a local gardener who says that its a Chinese Banayan tree. I checked that the features are the same. But, it looks pretty much like a normal plant, not a bonsai. May be its too young. I am excited to grow it to give it a bonsai look in the days to come. Please suggest me possible ways out and please let me know approximately how long will it take to look like a bonsai tree. Thanks.

    1. Dear Arpita,
      Nice to hear from you. Indeed, often plants are sold as a bonsai, but do not actually have any of the characteristics of a bonsai. But not to fear. You can turn almost any woody plant into a bonsai. You would need to start by thinking about the style most suited to your tree. This is typically decided by the roots (Is a nice nebari present?) and the the trunklike (Thick, heavy tapered trunk, or slender long tall trunk) and work from there. The initial fases seem dificult. Often it is best to join a local club, and you will learn in one session more than a lot of people pick up in months online.

  8. I just got this ficus microcarpa ginseng from the store couplw months ago. I just want to know what brand of fertilizer i need to get. Will a miracle grow all purpose plant food work? And as i also noticed there are some crawling small insects with the soil. How can i get rid of them? Will those kill my plant? It just starting to have some leaves after falling off which from what i understand is normal at first. I appreaciate all the help. Thank you.

    1. Hi Lusious,
      Good to hear from you. A generic fertilizer will do. Ficus Ginseng are often referred to as mallsai, as they do not really represent bonsai. THey are more a fancy houseplant. So treat the plant as you would treat any houseplant and you should be fine! Dropping leaves is fairly normal. If you are sure it has not dried out, and is not standing in a puddle of water, you should not worry about it.

  9. I recently purchased one of these, and I was surprised how small a pot it was growing in. How would I know when it is best to upgrade it to a larger pot?

    I currently have placed it inside my living room near a window but not in direct sunlight. It was suggested to water by submerging the roots completely. Is this the best practice?

    Also how old/big do they need to be before they start growing fruit?

    1. Hi Joe,

      These typically are no different from a normal houseplant, if bought from normal stores. I would water as you would with all your plants.. These do not normally bear fruits in european climate.

  10. Hi, I was bought a bonsi fiscus microcarba bonsai for Christmas. It stands 2 foot 6 inches high above the pot. The pot is 30 inch diameter. The top of the pot is covered in lava chippings. At the moment it is dropping leaves. I have only given it 1 pint of water 2x in the last 3 weeks since Christmas. Im not sure if that’s enough but didn’t want to over water either. It stands in my kitchen, no sunlight at all unfortunately, it is too big to put anywhere else, I’m very concerned as I don’t want it to die or not thrive.It would be lovely outside (being so big) but as I have read on other threads it may not suitable long term. Please can you advise. Many thanks, 🙂

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      Getting sunlight is important. Plants need light, and ficus is no exception. As for watering. You need to water the plant as the soil starts to dry out. Does the pot have a drainage hole? If not, change into a different pot. Ficus do tend to drop some leaves when moved around. Do check whether you see very fine spider webs around the tips of the branches, as this is an indication for spidermites in the plant, a typical winter problem with ficus grown indoors.

  11. Hi! My husband gave me one ficus microcarpa bonsai as Valentine’s Day gift. I have Seasol / seaweed concentrate for plants fertilisation. Can I use it? How often?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Juliana,
      Yes you can use it. Have a look at the label on the package. It will probably recommend how to dilute. Use once a week when the plant is growing. Less frequently in winter.

  12. Hi! I have had my ficus microcarpa since Christmas, and I’ve loved it ever since. I really appreciate the information you gave about the leaves dropping every season as mine seems to be doing now,but is it also normal for the newly growing branches to droop a little while this happens? If not do you know what’s possibly happening to my tree? How do I help it?

    1. Hm.. Not really.
      That sound more like not enough water getting to the roots, or the roots having a problem, causing reduced water uptake. I would check whether the roots are healthy.

  13. HI, i gifted one bonsai- ficus microcapra to my wife. it came in small pot with thick roots outside and stem and leaves. I have no idea how to plant this tree.
    Shall i leave it as it came and water it, expose to sunlight or shall i shift it to a bigger pot and in bigger pot, shall i insert all its thick roots under soil.
    thick root should be outside or inside soil ?

    Please help.

    1. Hi,
      It sounds like you have falllen for the what I like to refer to as “Ikea bonsai trap”. Ikea and other large chains, sell so-called ginseng ficus as bonsai. Bloated roots and a ball of leaves on top. To be honest, these are very hard to turn into something worthy of the label Bonsai. I would keep it as is, as a nice plant to have in the window, but do not try to get it into bonsai. If you do want to go and train it.. Yes. Start by putting it into the ground, and perhaps layer it to create roots higher up.

  14. I was given a ficus microcarpa as seen at the top of this page. I has been growing reasonably in my house and I will probably keep it there. The “branches” are reaching out in all directions. Is there a particuliar way to trim the branches to encourage a bush like look? Thank you for your help.

    1. Hi Kari,
      Unfortunately these plants are not really ideal for bonsai. If you want to get a more bushy look, you will need to let it grow strong. iddeally outside in summer too. Then when it is nice weather and the plant is growing, cut back strong. This will encourage buds along the branches.

  15. I just got a tree and their are roots starting at the top ang going into the soil one of them is going into the other pot should I cut it or trim it

    1. If you like the roots, why not pull it from the other pot, and plant it in with the tree?

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