Ficus microcarpa, which is also known by its common name Indian laurel, is a massive tree native to Hawaii and parts of Asia. It can grow up to 80 feet tall and 100 feet wide. This evergreen tree is a fast grower, with a dense “weeping” canopy of glossy, oval shaped 5-inch long leaves that have a leathery texture to the touch. When it reaches maturity, ficus microcarpa produces small figs. It also produces exposed aerial roots that upon reaching the soil will take root. Though this tree can grow to such massive sizes, it is also a favorite as a houseplant, and is even more popular among bonsai enthusiasts.
Bonsai is a Japanese tradition of growing trees from seed or from young trees and cultivating them in such a way that upon maturity they become exact miniatures of other trees of their species. They are often grown in small containers, restricting growth and trying to achieve the desired shape by the application of wire coils. Ficus microcarpa is much beloved in the world of bonsai. It is considered to be an excellent choice for beginners interested in learning the art of bonsai, as it is a resilient species and is not easily killed. Ficus microcarpa can do well in many different soil compositions and can make do under various lighting conditions. It is also quite forgiving to beginners who are still learning the proper watering methods for bonsai trees.
There are four different size categories for bonsai trees depending on their height: miniature, small, medium and average. Miniature bonsai grow to no more than around 2 inches tall. Small bonsai range from around 2 to 6 inches. Bonsai are considered medium size if they are from 6 to 12 inches. And finally, an average-sized bonsai tree will come in around 2 feet tall.
In terms of the need specifications for ficus microcarpa, it has tropical origins and thus is fairly tolerant of heat and humidity, tending to prefer temperatures around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but capable of surviving down to around 57 degrees Fahrenheit. As for soil requirements, ficus microcarpa needs a well aerated sandy clay rich enriched with humus and peat with a pH rating around 5.5 to 7.5. The ideal lighting conditions for ficus microcarpa are somewhere it will have mid-shade, but tending to the sunny side: i.e. more sun than shade, but not necessarily full sunlight all day long. This plant requires quite a bit of water, but like any plant, you do not want to drown it. The soil surrounding the plant should be moist at all times, and it does well with misting as well. It is recommended that you repot the plant every year or so in order to ensure proper growth and adequate room for root expansion. Ficus microcarpa is susceptible to black root rot, which is yet another reason watering is such a delicate affair. Pests known to attack it are: the shield louse and the privet mite.