Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

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Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

Post  natemoen on Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:03 am

I have a Ficus Benjamina that is at least 15 years old, possibly older. It is a pretty nice looking tree but it is just too tall. It had about 4' worth of bare trunk before it gets to the area where the leaves are. There is a nice looking area lower down where the various 3 main branches split and I would like to move the foliage down to that area.

I am wondering if I scrape back the cambium layer and air layer the upper branches off but leave the branches there for long enough if that would force the lower parts of the tree to begin budding?

Thanks in advance.

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Re: Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

Post  drgonzo on Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:45 am

I have never air layered any ficus, even thick cuttings will root with ease in summer. Ie.. wait till summer time.

Benjamina has a poor reputation as bonsai, they may or may not back bud for you even after all top growth is removed. Again your best chance for success is waiting until summer to do your work as that is when the tree is growing most vigorously.
-Jay

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Re: Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:23 am

First let me qualify my remarks by saying this is central to south Florida. We have found that Ficus ben. will back but more readily if ALL the foliage is removed from the tree.

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Re: Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

Post  bucknbonsai on Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:32 am

that's super useful billy, I have several monster benjamani varieties that Ive been fusing for years. The problem is to get them to fuse, you gotta let em grow, and all the foliage is way out on the tips. in about 1 year I will be removing all the tape and ties as they should be fused and will be faced with the situation of how to get the foliage in close to the trunk. My options would be to just chop all branches back hard(easy option) or do i bend all the branches around to form approach grafts further in on the branch (harder and may not look good either). What option would you do? And also, would you recommend the chopping be done mid summer when growing strong, or do they act like non tropicals that actually go dormant in mid summer? thanks

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Re: Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

Post  Ryan on Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:20 am

I had one that was originally about 7 feet tall, and through several air layers I managed to get the tree to backbud and stand around 2 feet tall.

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Re: Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

Post  drgonzo on Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:47 am

Of the Benjaminas that I'm growing out ONE has some interest and good potential and the others are awful. Mostly 'cause the foliage got away from me. But I was watching Erik Wigert thread grafting strangler fig the other night and thought I might do something like this with my Benjaminas, they certainly don't want for long leggy branches with which to graft! He used rooted cuttings in pots which would also be pretty easy to do. I thought this was a cool idea.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjJMHdaxMco

-Jay

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Re: Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

Post  bucknbonsai on Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:56 am

I know when trunk chopping they backbud enough to stay alive. But im now at the point where im not worried "if it will backbud", but rather "how well" it will. Im wanting a more consistant/reliable budding off of individual branches. If halfhazard back budding occurs and I lose portions or whole limbs, the design of the tree would be ruined. If grafting has to be used to get a predictable compact pad over the long run then I may not invest anymore time into it, and focus on my retusas. But if there is a "best way" to be able to get inner buds to pop whenever the tree overgrows, then I will continue to keep it as a bonsai rather than house plant.

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Re: Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Tue Feb 21, 2012 7:30 am

Even here in Florida we don't do much with F.ben. because of their lack of predictability.

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Re: Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

Post  drgonzo on Tue Feb 21, 2012 3:56 pm

Billy M. Rhodes wrote:Even here in Florida we don't do much with F.ben. because of their lack of predictability.

My game plan was to build a thick enough trunk with some sort of taper, try to keep foliage near the trunk and get the thing tall enough to do some kind of weeping thing with it. Might go over a rock this year to help cheat to get more height. I'm trying not to fight the natural habit too much. But If I didn't have these clones out to 5 gallon pots already and one in a 15 Gal, I wouldn't be messing with it at all.

-Jay

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Re: Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

Post  JimLewis on Tue Feb 21, 2012 4:24 pm

have these clones out to 5 gallon pots already and one in a 15 Gal, I wouldn't be messing with it at all.

Solution: Take those pots to your next club meeting and give them away. Fb is virtually useless as bonsai -- especially in the Nawth.

_________________
Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

Post  drgonzo on Tue Feb 21, 2012 4:50 pm

JimLewis wrote:
have these clones out to 5 gallon pots already and one in a 15 Gal, I wouldn't be messing with it at all.

Solution: Take those pots to your next club meeting and give them away. Fb is virtually useless as bonsai -- especially in the Nawth.

Indeed! Maybe we should change the thread title to; 'Forcing a Ficus Benjamina onto somebody else.'

cheers
-Jay


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Re: Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

Post  Ryan on Tue Feb 21, 2012 7:08 pm

Here's a benjamina I've been working back for about a year now. It began around 7 feet tall. I air layered it several times to get it down to this size.

First purchased:



One year later (today):




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Re: Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

Post  bucknbonsai on Tue Feb 21, 2012 7:28 pm

yep, i may just turn them into big 10foot tall sunroom trees that happen to have great nebari.

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Re: Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

Post  JimLewis on Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:57 pm

You do 16 chops and what do you get?
Another inch shorter and covered with sweat


There's a song in there somewhere folks, and the theme is just as hopeless as Tennessee Ernie Ford's original

You do 16 chops and what do you got?
Messed up roots squeezed in the pot.
Squeezed in the pot and tied into knots . . . . . . .

_________________
Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

Post  Gandalph on Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:00 am

JimLewis wrote:
have these clones out to 5 gallon pots already and one in a 15 Gal, I wouldn't be messing with it at all.

Solution: Take those pots to your next club meeting and give them away. Fb is virtually useless as bonsai -- especially in the Nawth.

Here is a 20 year old Ficus B. that was cut back to it's current 34" tall around 9 years ago.

I kinda like it---------looks sort of like a bonsai don;t you think?





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Re: Forcing a Ficus Benjamina to Backbud

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