I haven’t had much luck with the irresistible bonsai plants I’ve picked up at street fairs, but when I saw a bonsai ficus at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden shop I decided to give the category another chance. The store manager assured me that ficus bonsai are easier to grow successfully than other types.
I didn’t take a picture of the new plant, but it was bursting with leaves, planted in a deeper pot than one normally expects with bonsai, and looked something like this image I found on the net (no photographer to credit, alas):
When I returned home on August 30th after two months away, the ficus had lost all its leaves. I like to think that it missed me, but more likely it was either over-watered or under-watered by the person taking care of my plants. Wish I’d remembered to take a picture, but both the ficus and I were in shock. I googled around and couldn’t find anything about this type of ficus going into dormancy.
I decided to do something drastic: I pruned it down mercilessly–bare bones. I then placed it in the “plant hospital,” a spot behind my sofa that gets southern light but is out of sight. (I can’t stand looking at a sick plant.) I watered it regularly but sparingly.
One day, I peeked down behind the sofa and saw a few green leaves poking out of the base. I was ecstatic:
A few weeks later, there were so many leaves, I released it from the hospital and set it on the window sill. How interesting that the leaves are growing from the base, where originally there were none. How gratifying that the bonsai and I co-operated in what appears to be a complete recovery.