Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

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Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Ted Clausen on Fri Jul 10, 2009 6:12 am

I am a relative newcomer to bonsai, and recently acquired this old, large, and sadly, very neglected ficus. The tree is badly pot-bound, to the point where I don't see how I can remove the tree without smashing the pot.

I defoliated the tree--perhaps this was a mistake given its unhealthy state--but the majority of its leaves were blistered by the gall wasp.

The branches are all wire-scarred, and some show evidence of wire that was never removed, and is now embedded deep within the branches. It even be the case that all the branches have wire embedded, though some branches exhibit considerably less damage than others.

Obviously the first order of business is restoring the tree to health. But I would be very appreciative of any suggestions as to how to proceed with this tree once this has been achieved.

Specifically, would you remove all the branches, or just those in which the scarring is particularly egregious? If some of the larger branches are kept, would you remove the aerials?

Ultimately I will take the tree to more experienced hands to see what can be done, but I am nonetheless very curious to hear any opinons about the potential of this tree.









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Ted Clausen
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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Jaco Kriek on Fri Jul 10, 2009 8:04 am

It would be a pity to smash that pot. Try to cut vertically down through the roots on the edge of the pot with a sharp knife and lift the tree out of the pot.

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Garykk on Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:14 pm

Dos and don'ts. First this is a beautiful ficus. Like a Star @ heaven Cut tree roots and save pot. Like a Star @ heaven I would remove 4-6 aerial roots to bring trunk into scale. Like a Star @ heaven I would snip a few branches. Probably root-bound so new soil and fertilizer will be like new again. Good luck!

__gary



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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  DaveP on Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:19 pm

Since it appears the heavy roots extend right to (and continuing under) the rim of the pot, I'm not sure it would be possible to sever these with a knife. Perhaps a branch saw might work. As sad as it would make *me* to lose such a container, I'm not sure there's much choice but to break it. Without knowing where the bulk of the roots are actually attached, or what things look like as the heavy roots transition from above the surface to under that rim (where you might be able to create a smooth transition using some careful root shaping on the top), were it mine, I'd break the container to see what I've actually got to work with. The container is decidedly nice, but is ultimately replaceable, whereas the tree is a unique entity and not a commodity production piece.

Good luck with it!
-d

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Garykk on Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:25 pm

I only see three roots that would be left alone at pot rim, the rest I would sever off. Save the pot! This is a ficus....they love surgery. Twisted Evil

__gary

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  JimLewis on Fri Jul 10, 2009 2:56 pm

I too would break the pot.

I know that ficus can take a lot of root abuse, but I'd hate to damage any of the existing aerial roots. It obviously too a LONG time to create them, and it is a wonderful tree. A pot is (just) a pot.

Do you know what kind of Ficus this is?

I assume, from the palms and the outdoor settinig, that you are from a warm climate somewhere. You might consider revising your profile to let us know where you're from.

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  gm.it.seacom on Fri Jul 10, 2009 3:20 pm

please soak the plant in a container of water i.e in a bucket for 15 to 20 min..ficus are strong plants and would not get damaged by it.then invert the pot and give the container a push upside down.please use two people to do this.i hope it would work.do not cut any roots and do more damage to the plant.this method would save the pot and the plant.after taking out the plant put it in sand to compensate for the damage to the branches.....

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Garykk on Fri Jul 10, 2009 3:32 pm

gm.it.seacom wrote:please soak the plant in a container of water i.e in a bucket for 15 to 20 min..ficus are strong plants and would not get damaged by it.then invert the pot and give the container a push upside down.please use two people to do this.i hope it would work.do not cut any roots and do more damage to the plant.this method would save the pot and the plant.after taking out the plant put it in sand to compensate for the damage to the branches.....

May I ask what the water soak is going to do?

__gary

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  DaveP on Fri Jul 10, 2009 3:45 pm

I'm with Gary on questioning the water soak. If anything, this will cause the roots to become turgid and therefore harder to remove. Perhaps the idea is to soften the soil? If so, there's far more roots than soil with anything this potbound.

Kindest~
-d

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Garykk on Fri Jul 10, 2009 3:54 pm

Here is a ficus root I severed oh....6 weeks ago just to give you an idea of the plant's response to such things. Conditions are perfect for such activity at this time.


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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  DaveP on Fri Jul 10, 2009 4:53 pm

I'm fairly sure the ability of ficus to generate roots isn't much in question here. Smile I think what it's come down to is without knowing what's under the rim of the container, there's a risk of cutting off or damaging something that should probably be saved. Even if that container were $100, we're talking about trading easily 3+ *years* worth of time for such a comparatively small amount of money.

It's not even a guarantee after cutting the roots. If there are heavy roots heading down from within the inner diameter of the rim, but wrapping around the outside of the pot's belly, there's going to be no great way of cutting them when they're against the bottom of the container, leading to ripping and tearing of roots. Granted this is a "what if" scenario, but being so potbound, it's not an unreasonable possibility. What would be ultimately bad is if the pot were to crack (let's face it, it has some major pressure on it right now from the massively rootbound condition!) after all the work had been done and now there's no container and the nebari is damaged.

While ficus put out roots like nobody's business, building a good nebari takes a significant time. Risking damage to it in exchange for a production container just doesn't seem like a long-term gain to me. I'm assuming a production Chinese container here of course. The container *is* nice, but it's not the valuable portion of the show. If it's an antique, hand-built container worth thousands of $$$, then we might be having a different discussion. Wink

Kindest~
-d

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Garykk on Fri Jul 10, 2009 5:37 pm

Maybe we can tie a rope around the trunk and hang it from a tree and let the force of gravity drop the pot off, you know like they do conch shells when they are pulling the animal out. ooh Razz

__gary

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Harleyrider on Fri Jul 10, 2009 7:46 pm

Would there be any benefit to washing the soil from around the roots so you can see just what is going on in there?

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  DaveP on Fri Jul 10, 2009 8:08 pm

being so potbound, I can't imagine there's much soil to be washed off. Since the container is a fixed volume X and roots (Y) grow into soil (Z) then Y + Z + a little air = X .. soil breaks down and washes out (or is pushed out) and roots fill the space occupied by air and soil, becoming potbound. The longer they're bound, the worse it becomes until the demise of the tree (some trees can deal with this better than others). By looking at the heavy roots and seeing how they behave around the container's rim, it's clear this is highly potbound .. lots of Y, very little Z and just a little air. .. ergo, not much soil to wash off. Smile

Kindest~
-d

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Garykk on Fri Jul 10, 2009 9:01 pm

status quo
X= 100%
Y= 94%
Z=.06%

Add H2O
Y= 96% swelling from H2O +(.02%)
Z=.04% small amount of soil washed away -(.02%)
which brings us back to X= 100%

__gary

Arrow

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Ted Clausen on Fri Jul 10, 2009 10:19 pm

Thankyou all for your suggestions/opinions regarding the pot. The pot however, is really the least of my concerns. Production or not, I think its a neat pot and would love to keep it, but in the end it looks to me like its going to come down to a choice--pot or tree, and that at least, will be an easy decision to make.

But what about the branches? As I said above, some are beyond scarred, and actually have grown around wire that is now embedded within the branch. These branches will obviously have to go.

But what about those that seem less scarred. What are your opinions on scarred branches? Do you have no tolerance whatsoever for any scarring (I am asking specifically in reference to ficus trees, where scars, once established, never really fade), and would thus lop off all the major branches, starting from scratch? Or would you be willing to live a certain amount of wire scars on those branches that seem, well, less affected?

Finally, it also occurs to me that even on those branches that seem less scarred, there may in fact be wire embedded within them that it just less visible to the eye. Doesn't this actually doom these branches sooner or later? Can they actually survive in the long term with embedded wire?














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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Garykk on Fri Jul 10, 2009 10:27 pm

This is why I don't wire ficus. Only special plants that get attention as needed. This tree didn't so the owner will have to live with it. Ficus tend to swell and candy-cane around wire when too tight or embedded. Nature of the beast I guess. Put some foliage on it and sit back and enjoy. Looks like F. macrophylla.
If push comes to shove, you could always cut the pot with a diamond and glue back together. I willn't tell. Surprised

]_gary


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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  DaveP on Fri Jul 10, 2009 10:53 pm

Since your ficus appears to be one of the "strangler" varieties (microcarpa, etc) as evidenced by the arial roots and willingness to fuse to itself, there are little to no concerns about embedded wire. The tree probably didn't even notice it. There are some ways of handling the scarring, but I wouldn't be too overly concerned. Once it's back to vigorous growth, they'll finish closing and then fuse. There will *still* be bumps where the scars were, but they won't be terribly ugly. The biggest thing to healing them is letting the tree grow free (letting the branches grow to at least 18" or *much* more before cutting them back hard). The more you leave it alone and let it grow, the faster the healing will be.

Fine ramification and twigging happens fast. Three or four years. If you devote the next two or three to letting this grow, healing the scars and developing the foundation to build the fine twigging upon, you'll serve yourself - and the tree - very well. :-)

Kindest~
-d

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Barry M on Sat Jul 11, 2009 3:00 am

Even in its present state this tree has a lot of charisma. I am curious how it reached this state of affairs. Do you know anything about its past that you can tell us?

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Jaco Kriek on Wed Jul 15, 2009 8:39 am

Hi Ted

I am curious to know what you have decided to do with your Ficus, getting it out of the pot etc? I think it is a very good candidate for an African Baobab style (me being from Africa). Good luck with its future progress.


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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Rob Kempinski on Wed Jul 15, 2009 3:27 pm

First of all Ted where do you live? Looks tropical so I would not worry about cutting the roots. Ficus trees are tough. There is no need to fear cutting the roots so saving the pot is doable. Start by cutting the roots in the back of the tree and trying to wedge it out of the pot. Then work around to the front. Cutting the roots will actually give the tree better root taper like the one shown later. You could eve run a saw along the top of the pot and cut the whole ficus off. Breaking the pot is drastic and bad advice from people that don't understand Ficus.

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Rob Kempinski on Wed Jul 15, 2009 4:21 pm

Ted Clausen wrote:regarding the pot. The pot however, is really the least of my concerns. Production or not, I think its a neat pot and would love to keep it, but in the end it looks to me like its going to come down to a choice--pot or tree, and that at least, will be an easy decision to make.

If that pot is old Japanese or Chinese it might be worth way more than the tree.

As for the branches again depending on where you live, what else is in your collection and your event horizon, you might be better off cutting most of the branches back pretty hard. The embedded wire will never go away but eventually the scars will be less noticeable - they will always be there.

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Ted Clausen on Sat Jul 18, 2009 8:41 am

[quote="Rob Kempinski"] Ficus trees are tough. There is no need to fear cutting the roots so saving the pot is doable. Start by cutting the roots in the back of the tree and trying to wedge it out of the pot.


I am from Hawaii.

When you say "cut the roots," I am wondering what you would use to cut them out with? Would you use some sort of power tool? I can't imagine cutting them out with a hand saw?

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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  JimLewis on Sat Jul 18, 2009 3:02 pm

Roots aside, I suspect that a light application of sandpaper on the wire scars (probably repeated over the next year or two) will get rid of the scars.

_________________
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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

Post  Garykk on Sat Jul 18, 2009 4:00 pm

Might take 20 - 30 minutes with this saw. Watch your fingers. You will have a better tree and a nice pot.


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Re: Suggestions for old, large ficus (with pics)

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