Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My brother's Ficus benjamina bonsai

While visiting my brother in Baltimore, MD,  I spied this Ficus benjamina bonsai sitting in a dark corner. He let me move it immediately into his sunny east-facing window. (Fortunately, he is someone who appreciates his sister's intervention!) He had purchased it recently so it was still in good shape as you can see, although if you look closely there are are a few leaves starting to turn yellow.  

Unfortunately, with this particular bonsai setup makes it very difficult to tell if the plant needs water.  The decorative gravel is somehow "glued" on to the top of the soil, so you cannot see or touch the soil surface. That makes it very difficult to tell whether or not the plant really needs water.  The recommendation that came with the plant was to water it weekly. That may or may not work. I always recommend checking the soil before watering. 

It can be problematic to use an amount of time such as watering once a week, to determine when a plant needs watering. Changes in room temperatures and how sunny or cloudy the days have been recently, can make a big difference. Many have found that hot days and warmer inside temperatures will lead to more frequent plant waterings. Testing the soil first, by touch or using a moisture meter, is best.

In this case, I recommended that he use a water meter to penetrate the gravel covering and let him know the moisture level of the soil. That should work well.

I do expect to see this pretty Ficus benjamina bonsai thriving the next time I visit.

Care Instructions-- 
  •  At least some direct sun is best for the Ficus benjamina.
  •  Water thoroughly as soon as the top of the soil is dry.  If you can't tell or have trouble determining that way,  there are very useful plant watering meters available on the market.
  • Bonsai plants are best watered by setting their container in a deep enough pan or sink filled with water. The water level should be close to the top of the plants pot. Let it soak up water for about 20 minutes.  If using the sink,  it's a great time to spray the dust off the leaves.  They will appreciate it! 
  • Some find that soil moisture meters made for houseplants to be very helpful.  They are sold at hardware stores, garden centers and online.
  • Ficus plants do like some humidity so a daily mist can be useful.
  • Fertilize occasionally. 


 *To watch short video clips on plant care from my 90's TV series, click below:
  The Indoor Garden TV


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