The Ficus elastica is a favourite houseplant around the world. The Indian Rubber trees are loved for its large waxy leaves, with many cultivated varieties offering light green to dark green to even black leaves. Many cultivars can be found with attractive variegated leaves, ranging from with and green to cream and yellow and green. They are native to a vast tract of Java and Tropical Far East and up to Sri Lanka and Southern India, where they can grow to 30 meters tall and have massive aerial roots and a dense crown.
Styles: Its large leaves means that this species is best suited to larger sized bonsai. They are best suited to informal upright style bonsai.
Position: In tropical regions, it is grown outdoors and requires a full sun aspect. In temperate parts of the world, it is grown indoors as it does not like temperatures below 6°C. In colder climates, it needs a heated conservatory or greenhouse where day temperatures are maintained at over 15°C temperature and night temperatures above 6°C.
Watering: Ficus like moist soil but hate a waterlogged soil. Water in the morning when it is needed the most and the bonsai will use the surplus water before the night.
Feeding: Use a low potency balanced organic feed. Using inorganic high potent fertilisers may increase growth rates, but it will also lead to larger leaves and coarser branching.
Repotting: These fast-growing trees love to be repotted every year. It is best to ensure that nighttime temperatures are well above 10°C to ensure a stress-free repotting. The Ficus can deal with a variety of methods of root pruning but to be on the safe side, do not bare root and do not reduce the root ball by more than a fifth especially if growing them as indoor bonsai in colder parts of the world. Use a rich well-draining soil, one part well-mulched bark, one part pumice, and 1 part Akadama will provide a right mix of air, water and nutrients.
Pruning: This is a continuously growing species so need to be frequently pruned. Let the growth extend to about 6 or 7 nodes and then pruning back to leave 3 active notes. The Benjamina respond well to pruning and ramifies thoroughly which in turn leads to reduced leaf sizes.
Wiring: While the Ficus branches can be wired at any time of the year, remember they are continuously growing species so will need constant vigilance to ensure that the bonsai wire does not scar the branches.