Store-bought bonsais are already shaped, and pruning helps them stay that way.

How to Trim a Ficus Microcarpa Ginseng

by Nicole Vulcan

If you're just getting into the world of bonsai, the Ginseng ficus (Ficus microcarpa nitida) may be for you. This type of bonsai tree, with thick roots similar to a ginseng plant, is relatively easy to care for and can be kept indoors, or outdoors in mild climates. The ideal shape for this bonsai is a "shallow triangle," with its leaves near the base and one or two taller shoots extending up from the middle, according to the Kuromatsu Bonsai site. Prune the plant during its growing season in the spring. Every two years or so, spend some time pruning its roots so they keep that "ginseng" shape. And if you're really worried about babying this bonsai, keep it in a sunny location far from the prying hands of your children.

Maintenance Trimming

Wipe down your hand pruners with a mild solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water, to prevent your delicate plant from getting diseases spread by other plants.

Take a good look at the plant from all sides and decide what general shape you want for it. Inspect the branches underneath the leaf canopy to determine where the leaves are growing from.

Locate any long shoots you want to remove. Use a hand pruner to snip the shoots back to the height you want, trimming at a 45-degree angle just above the leaf node. On that same shoot, trim away most of the leaves, snipping them back to nearly flush with the shoot. Trim all but two or three leaves on each shoot.

Snip away any new root shoots that appear near the existing root ball, trimming them so they're flush with the root ball.

Transplant Trimming

Remove the entire plant from its pot every two years, or when it appears to be outgrowing the pot. Gently shake away the soil stuck to the roots, allowing the roots to hang from the plant as you hold it by its thick "upper" root.

Trim about one-quarter of the tree's root shoots by snipping them with a clean hand pruner, as high up into the root ball as you can without disturbing roots you plan to leave in place.

Place the newly cut root ball into a bigger pot filled with bonsai growing medium, which is typically a mixture of rock such as granite, pumice, organic matter and sand -- though your mixture may vary depending on the climate and growing conditions in your area.

Items you will need

  • Hand pruners with pointed tip
  • Bleach
  • Clean towel


  • Ficus microcarpa can grow outdoors, but generally only in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11. If you live elsewhere and want to put it on your porch during the summer months, be sure to bring it in when temperatures start to dip overnight. According to Arizona State University, ficus is hardy to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, though that may be too cold for your fussy bonsai variety.

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages, Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images