Ficus Retusa Bonsai – the Banyan Fig

Ficus Retusa Bonsai is also known in the bonsai world as the Banyan Fig or the Taiwan Ficus. These are usually round headed ficus trees with branches spreading beautifully and can reach up to 15 meters high. Being tolerant to most growing and upset conditions, Ficus Retusa is considered to be the specie that requires the least attention. It can live with less sunlight, under watering, pruning and wiring errors up to a certain extent.


The tree species can easily be identified with its small, glossy and leathery dark green leaves. Its bark is usually gray to reddish with small dots emulating that of a tiger’s skin. Its trunk can grow as wide as 1 meter in diameter to support its spreading canopy. Just like the typical Banyans, the roots of Ficus Retusa can surface and hang down from its branches. This ability of the plant makes it suitable for root over the rock designs. Compared to other bonsai species, it requires the lowest amount of light making it perfect to be placed indoors.


Ficus Retusa is a native of Southern Asia and India. For some undocumented events, it is one the two specie, together with Ficus Benjamina, that was introduced to the American tropics where it started to spread out and earned its fame as the most tolerant and hassle-free bonsai plant.

Related Variety

Ficus Microcarpa or Indian laurel is a variety of Ficus Retusa that originated in Malesia Floristic region and Indochina. Also known as Ginseng Fig, it has small, dark alternate leaves that are usually oval in shape. Just like the Retusa Variety, Ficus Microcarpa has horizontal spots on its reddish black trunk.

Growing and Watering

Due to its high tolerance to inadequate sunlight, this variety can be grown indoors. However, it must be placed near the window since it still needs a minimal amount of sunlight for photosynthesis. Yellowish foliage is an indication that you have overly deprived the plant with sunlight. Watering this variety of bonsai does not need your full attention. The tree will be able to grow healthy unless the soil is kept completely dried out. The key is to keep the water moist but it must not be maintained wet since it can rot the roots. Falling leave is an indication that you have been overwatering it.

Tolerance to Temperature

Though its tolerance to poor sunlight and water supply is commendable, the Banyan fig is sensitive in the terms of the surrounding climate. They are tropical in nature so they tend to grow in full swing when the temperature is sunny and does not go lower than 50 degrees. During winter, when the temperature is not so good for the plant, it must be brought indoors.

Fertilizing the Soil

You do not need a lot of soil in the pot where you will be planting your Ficus Retusa bonsai tree. However, you need to periodically replenish the nutrients in the soil by fertilizing. General purpose liquid fertilizers will do in dosages half of its recommended strength. The ideal frequency of applying fertilizer is every month except winter. If you want to see the effect of fertilization quickly, try using foliar fertilizers applied every other month.

Trimming and Pruning

In order to keep the plant miniature, trimming and pruning is necessary. Trimming must be done new growth but not to all. Portions of new buds must be allowed to grow in order to sustain the health of the plant. It is best to do the pruning during spring.

Repotting and Root Pruning

Repotting must be done on bonsai plants in order provide fresh soil after all the nutrients have been depleted. Root pruning is necessary in order to control its fast growing roots that can grow above the ground. During the process of root pruning, it is important to study the root system of the plant as you may destroy the primary roots. Repotting is best done during summer. After repotting, placing some moss on top of the ground to prevent soil erosion is recommended.


A Ficus Retusa bonsai can be wired any time of the year. Its branch are soft and flexible making it easy to form into contours that you desire. However, since these branches are so forgiving, they can be easily damaged by wires and extreme caution must be maintained.