Ficus Bonsai Trunk Fusing Experiment

This is an experiment that I began on 4/15/06 where my goal is to create a ficus bonsai tree that will appear to be very old, with an impressive tapered trunk, in a few short years. My experiment is inspired by Doug Philips who has been doing this with Maple trees for over a decade. I learned about his process on his website: dugzbonsai.com.

Below is a photo-documentary of my experience with this process thus far.

Phase 1 project data:

  • Source trees: nine 6″ pots @ $5 = $45 + one 15″ pot @ $30 + one 12″ pot @ $10 = $85 (I have about 20 small seedlings left over and would have used just bigger pots w/ bigger seedlings in retrospect)
  • Supplies: 16″ pot $7 + twist ties $4 + frame wire $4 = $15
  • Total materials cost approx = $100
  • Wire frame dimensions: 12″ high x 6.5″ base diameter x 20″ circumference
  • 70 trees were used to cover the frame
  • Finished dimensions: 7.25″ diameter of base x 12″ height above soil to joined apex, 24″ total height w/ leader.

More knowledge to add to the pool:

  • Keeping the seedling clusters together is definately the way to go. Just shake out the dirt from the root ball to keep them compact when you plant it next to the frame.
  • The cuttings did have about a 70% rooting rate, but I found that seedlings grow and fuse much more quickly, so I ended up using them almost exclusively in the end.
  • I have all of the gaps filled in now so that it looks like it did at the end of phase 1, and fusing is progressing nicely. I’ll update w/ new photos soon.

steve

31 thoughts on “Ficus Bonsai Trunk Fusing Experiment

  1. Hello ! I found your site very inspiratonal. I planning on starting a ficus trunk fusion experiment and your step by step pictures were very instructional. Felt really bad seeing the ficus suffering from forst damage. I wanted to know what happened next, did you loose a lot on the trunk?? How does it look now, could you update us?

  2. Hi Amey,
    Thank you for your kind words and interest in my project.

    The ficus is recovering very well – I protected it from the frost this year and it appears to be doing fine so far this winter.

    I do have some more recent pictures that I plan to update the site with soon.

    Best regards,
    Steve

  3. Looking forward to your update. I am glad it survived the frost. This is a neat project and I think the dieback may actually add even more character.

  4. Hi Carl,
    Thanks for you interest! I finally posted an update just now. I’ll try to get some better pictures to capture the state of the trunk. It’s hard because I don’t want to cut the branches yet.. Maybe a couple more years and I’ll be able to get into some styling. Having it outdoors in zone 9 (moved to the suburbs) is definitely an added challenge (frost protection) than when it was indoors when I lived downtown..

      1. Hi Dave,
        I’ve just been updating the post above by adding new thumbnails to the gallery. You can follow the progression by looking at the date at the beginning of the caption under each image.. Thanks for your interest.
        Steve

  5. Thanks a lot for this incredible page!!! Best I ever found. Especially your affectionate step-by-step explanation is matchless. I am endorsing Carl. A bit of ‘nature’ will make your tree even more unique.

    Greetz from Germany.
    Dominik

  6. Wow! What an emotional roller-coaster ride! You have fantastic patience. Thank you for sharing your journey…I’m learning so much. Your hard work and dedication has payed off…well done! I look forward to seeing and learning more. Thanks for sharing, Steve.
    Leslie

  7. I enjoyed watching your progress. I have started several projects (Dawn Redwood, Trident Maple, Ogon, Chinese Quince and Japanese Maple) and encounter many similar problems. It is a real trial and error process. I hope you try this again on a different species. Have fun!

    1. Hi Greg,
      Thanks for sharing – it’s a good reminder that I can do this with cold-tolerant species. I saw your site at fusionbonsai.com – very cool and inspiring!

  8. Hi,

    I plan on doing something similar with a bunch of microcarpa cuttings, could you shoot me an email? I have a few questions.

    1. Hi Ryan – thanks for the suggestion. 😉 I’ve added the ability for you to post images in your comments. I want to keep our discussion public so that other visitors can benefit from it as well.

      Thanks!

  9. Excellent. I’ve built cones out of wire mesh, and they should work pretty well for me to attach cuttings to (once they root).

    Question though, I assume you leave the cone in forever?

    1. Hi Ryan,
      Thanks for posting the picture!

      Your cones look great – smart approach.

      Yes, you would leave them in place forever and the tree(s) will just grow through and around them.

      Steve

      1. Thanks Steve. I see you used benjamina for this project, any particular reason why? Do they fuse faster? Or were they just what you had locally?

        1. That was just what was easily available at the time. I think microcarpa has smaller leaves tho – so that would be better if you have access..

          1. I’m rooting a bunch of cuttings of microcarpa now, but I’m interested in experimenting with benjamina. A nursery local to me does have some in 6 inch pots. They’re clumped like yours, but I could separate them.

            Do you strip all of the lower growth from the trees?

  10. I wouldn’t strip any leaves or branches at all if you can avoid it – that will just slow down the growth and fusing. I would also aim to disturb the roots as little as possible for the same reason.

    1. Thanks Steve. Unfortunately, seeing as they are clumped, I don’t think it’s very possible to disturb the roots as little as possible LOL

      1. Look at my journal entry above that starts with ‘PHASE 2’ – I talk about my experience with that – you can leave the clumps together and just bend the trunks where you want them to go – you’ll have a higher success rate with this approach even tho it’s more challenging to position the trunks..

        1. I’ve tried this way before, just tying them together, but was mostly unsuccessful. The clump also lacked any sort of taper and even had reverse taper, unfortunately.

          1. That’s not what I mean. Look at this picture – you can plant the clump next to the frame, and then bend each trunk over and tie it to the frame – this way you don’t have to mangle the roots and the survival rate is much higher.

  11. Ahhh I see. However, the clump I have has trees that are a bit thicker, so I’m not sure how possible that will be.

  12. I am starting a project like this with bougainvillea vines, but I am doing it with one of my former Bonsai (ficus)rather than wire mesh because I want to carve out the dead wood later. Am I deluded in my plan?

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