Ficus Retusa Bonsai Care Guide [Ginseng Ficus Bonsai] Updated

The Ginseng Ficus (Ficus retusa), also known as the Cuban Laurel, is an evergreen species that forms a large, round head of leaves and grows quickly.  The trunk of these trees has smooth, grey bark. The bark is also dotted with horizontal flecks known as lenticels that promote gas exchange within the bark. 

Beautiful Ginseng ficus in a small clay pot.
Ginseng ficus in a small clay pot.

The Ginseng Ficus is a popular houseplant and a very popular bonsai.

Ficus Retusa Care Guide

A wide range of trees and shrubs in the family Moraceae are named “ficus”. There are approximately 850 species of plants that bear the name ficus. However, the the Ginseng Ficus (Ficus retusa) is the most well-known ficus species.

Temperature65°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C)
LightingWell-lit but not in direct sun.
HumidityDaily misting is recommended during summer.
WateringLet the top 2 inches to become dry between watering.
SoilFast-draining. Recommended mix of 30-40% organic matter, 60-70% aggregate
FertilizationOnce monthly between April-September.
RepottingEvery two years.

They live in tropical regions that are not cold enough to cause them to lose their foliage. Deciduous ficus plants that grow in warmer zones or at higher elevations are more likely to become deciduous. Deciduous ficus plants can be found in certain areas outside the tropical zone.

Ficus Retusa Bonsai Tree

Temperature Requirements

When planting ficus outdoors, the most important factor is the temperature.  Ficus retusa can withstand temperatures around 30°F (-1°C) or just below freezing. 

This means that ficus trees can be planted outdoors in USDA zones 10-12 in the United States. 

 If you decide to keep your ficus trees outside, bring them inside before the first frost.

The perfect temperature for Ginseng ficus is between 65 to 75 degrees. While it might be able to tolerate temperatures as low 60F, prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can be detrimental.

 You should place your ficus in a heated room if you live in an area where it gets very cold in winter. 

To prevent extreme temperature fluctuations, you may want to keep your ficus away from doors and windows during winter. 

A ficus tree can survive in an average humidity level. However, there are many things you could do to raise the humidity. 

Ficus Retusa Bonsai

You can mist your tree with water at least once a day. Or, you could place warm water in a small area near your ficus tree. 

Humidity is very important for young ficus trees, or those that have just moved to a new location and are going through adjustment periods. Another option is to place a humidifier inside the room where your ficus trees are kept.

Proper Soil

The Ginseng Ficus needs well-draining soil. A proper bonsai soil provides adequate nutrition for your ficus. Your ficus will die if the soil isn’t well-drained.

Plant the ficus in a large pot with holes at the bottom to ensure drainage. This tree prefers loamy soil. You can make it yourself by adding 3 parts loam to 1 part peat and 1 portion of sand. 

Fertilizer

The Ginseng ficus grows quickly and needs additional nutrients to keep it growing. 

You should fertilize your ficus at least once per month during its growing season. 

Fertilizers should be added only during the spring and summer growing seasons. The ficus tree will soon be producing new leaves and branches so fertilizer will be needed to help fuel this growth. 

Use a general-purpose fertilizer that has been diluted by 50% once every three to four weeks during the growing season. 

Ficus trees are sensitive to fertilizers. By using half the strength of the fertilizer, you can reduce the chance of the fertilizer burning the tree. 

You should not fertilize your Ficus trees during winter.

Ficus trees can grow strong roots and may eventually become root bound if they outgrow their pot (especially dangerous if grown outside). Choose a pot approximately 2 inches larger than the original pot to allow your ficus tree to spread. You may need to replace the pot if you buy a new ficus tree.

How Much light does a ginseng ficus need?

If ficus trees are kept indoors, they need bright, indirect sunlight.

However they can thrive in partial shade as long they have some sunlight during the day. 

For optimal growth, ficus trees can be planted outside in direct sunlight, which should not exceed 6 hours per day. If you intend to keep your ficus outside during the summer, and then move it indoors in the winter, you will need to slowly acclimatize it to full sunlight before you bring it inside again after the winter.

Bright light is essential for ficus trees to thrive. Your ficus tree is recommended to be placed near a large window that receives sun for at least a few hours each day. 

If ficus trees are not accustomed to direct sunlight, they can become irritable. Your ficus tree can also be placed outdoors, on a patio or covered porch during the summer months.

However, it should not get too hot or cold. 

Other indoor conditions can also affect your plant. Because of the potential for plant damage from temperature extremes, ficus should be kept away from cooling or heating vents. 

Watering

The soil and air need to remain moist. You need to consider whether your environment will support the needs of your ficus tree. 

If you choose to plant your ficus outside, you will need to water it once per week until it settles in.

Once it is settled, the root system of the ficus will be able to store water during dry periods. However, you should be careful with the ficus. Water it if the leaves turn yellow or fall from the tree (this indicates that it is deprived of water).

Water your ficus only after the top inch of soil has dried. In the summer, you will only need to water your ficus once a week. 

Pests

There is a greater chance that your ficus will be infected by insects and diseases if kept outdoors. But you can still have these things happen indoors. However, they are much less likely if you provide the right growing conditions for your ficus. Some pests are more common in certain regions.

Red mites, for instance, prefer dry, hot areas. To determine if it is worth taking the chance to plant your ficus outside, do a little research about the pests that are common in your area.

Repotting

Your Ginseng ficus should be repotted every one to two years. 

When the root system fills the pot, it will be time to repot your bonsai. 

Remember that although a small amount of the root system will be visible above ground in some cases, most root growth occurs below ground. If you don’t repot your bonsai ficus bonsai often enough, it may become root bound and might not thrive.

Pruning

To keep your ficus in bonsai form, you must trim or pinch back any new growth. This will ensure that the tree is healthy. The Ginseng ficus has a fast growth-rate so it is important to watch your bonsai all year.

Expert Care Tips

  • Ginseng ficus requires higher humidity than other species. So plan to mist the plant at least once a day and ensure that the soil drains well. 
  • The ginseng ficus tends to grow quickly in the first few years of being in a new container. Once it slows down, it is time for a larger pot.

Resources

There is a lot of great information on Ginseng ficus bonsai on the internet and in printed text. Here’s a list of some of the great materials we drew upon for this article:

The World of Bonsai Youtube Channel

The Complete Guide to Growing, Pruning and Caring for Ficus by Bernard Brook

Notion Bonsai Youtube Channel

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