Ficus retusa

Ficus retusa, bonsai par excellence

A variety of tropical ficus traditionally cultivated with bonsai, the ficus retusa, which is part of the Moraceae family, appears as a very resistant plant, able to adapt easily to the typical environmental conditions of an apartment. It is a species, therefore, easy to maintain, quite malleable and quite rare in nature: its use as a bonsai was already known in ancient Rome: in that period, in fact, its name dates back to, deriving from the fact that its forms showcase variegated figures, human and natural (such as ginseng). Distinguished by a very powerful, wide, twisted and sinuous trunk, the ficus retusa flaunts an expanded, shady, leafy and broad head; direct consequence of the fact that in nature this species is able to reach considerable dimensions. As for the bark, it appears as very clear, smooth, waxy and thick: in the more mature specimens of milk white or whitish color, while in the younger ones it is reddish, gray or brownish. Characterized by the typical horizontal lenticels (the usual small-sized protuberances common to barks), it proposes a whitish wood with veins, which when cut produces an abundant latex, sticky, dense and white, irritating to humans and even toxic in case of ingestion. The trunk must undoubtedly be considered as particular: white, with twisted roots at the base, large and massive (but there are also roots that start from the branches to reach the ground, almost like secondary trunks); the root system, in general, is powerful, able to withstand moisture without problems: just think that in nature the roots are called to bear an enormous weight, due to the foliage, the branches and a particularly powerful trunk.


The leaves of the ficus retusa, leathery and waxy, have a spiral shape and are simple and shiny; perennials and wide, they are sensitive to temperature changes. Erect or appressate, they are distinguished by a light green color on the lower page, which becomes darker on the upper one. The length varies, depending on the age, from two to five centimeters. The leaves of this species, able to persist on the tree for at least six months (but no more than twelve) are arranged on the branches individually, and endowed with a rather evident petiole, derivation of the perula, a sheath that surrounds them at the moment of birth and that falls after having hatched, leaving an obvious scar. The ficus retusa it does not bear the sea, as the leaves do not bear saline winds. While the trunk and branches are rich in marrow and are characterized by pointed terminal gems, wrapped in two small green scales, the flowers of this plant are tiny, unisexual, grouped inside hollow receptacles. In fact, the common fig, that is what is usually considered the fruit, is nothing more than a large fleshy inflorescence, rich in sugars, pear-shaped, first red and then of violet color, inside which there are very small flowers, whose flowering , however rare, occurs during the hot season. It is diclini flowers, with a small opening on the apex, the so-called ostiole, which allows the insects Blastophaga psenes to proceed with the fertilization of the pistils. And so, what are the real fruits of ficus retusa? They are small achenes, which grow inside the inflorescence, which will then color the fig pulp red. The inflorescences (which in any case are not very ornamental) hardly grow in bonsai cultivation (and in general in that in pot), since the European climate is too rigid to favor their appearance.

The ideal climate for the species

Coming from South-East Asia, and particularly widespread in Malaysia, ficus retusa lives, in the wild, in sub-tropical and pluvial forests, in a humid and hot climate. It is, therefore, a tropical species, which naturally multiplies by offshoot, that is to say through the rooting of the branches that touch the ground. In Europe, it can remain without problems at home throughout the year, or even in a heated greenhouse, provided that a bright and moist climate is ensured. Aesthetic damage could be caused by currents of cold air, while temperatures lower than twenty degrees, even if not lethal, are to be avoided.

Ficus retusa: How to water, fertilize, irrigate

It should be noted, moreover, that the level of resistance to cold also depends on the degree of maturation of the wood, which initially appears soft and succulent; the tissues, in fact, receiving adequate exposure to the sun are compacted, and within them the percentage of latex and starches becomes greater, so that the freezing temperature decreases.
The ficus retusa, which needs a soil composed of akadama land, river sand and a strictly braking universal earth, needs abundant and regular irrigations, preferably with rainwater, but in any case with water with a low content of chlorine and limestone . Finally, fertilization takes place every ten or so days with liquid fertilizers, and every month and a half with slow-release solid fertilizers, better if supplemented with ammonium and superphosphate sulfate.