Ficus thrives in our hot Texas Zone 9 weather. I have several large Ficus microcarpa, whenever I removed a thick branch, I tried to root it. Over the years, I have obtained a number of second generation ficus, some grew into large trees, some were trained as shohin in different styles: banyan, informal, sumo-style shohin and Lingnan penjing.
I recently defoliated some shohin and wired their main structures, they looked naked but some had put out new buds and leaflets.
A banyan style shohin:
In the US, a lot of people like short and fat shohin, the so-called “sumo” style. Some may say that is not how a ficus tree grows in nature, but it is fun to style them differently instead of all in their “natural” shapes.
The Japanese word “moyogi” is translated as an “informal” style in the West. But the Kanji writing, moyogi (模样木) literally means a “pattern” or a “model” tree, sort of like a standard appearance of how a bonsai looks like. Yes, it is based on a pine tree, in my humble opinion, if you treat bonsai tree as an art medium, you can style it anyway you want, and that is OK with me.
Here is a sumo-style ficus but with a banyan style root base. As a whole, it still looks like an informal style. Should I want to restyle it into a banyan-like tree in the future, I could retain the trunk base, rewire and regrow the branches.
This one is in a Lingnan penjing style, called “Zhui Jiu Gao Ge“（醉酒高歌）which means “Singing out loud when drunk”. The late Lingnan master, Liu Zhongming (刘仲明）said to get it right, the tree needs some exaggerated off-balance movements to convey the drunkenness and yet not falling down. The main trunk and the first branch are styled off balance and to look like a drunkard; branches in this unique style are usually upwards like everyone is raising their glasses in cheers, and conveys a joyful feeling.
The following one is a “Green Island” ficus. My good friend, Andy Lu, rooted it from a cutting of his big tree and gave me this one. I styled it as a Lingnan penjing with a long dropping left branch like an extended welcoming arm.
Some of them are more further along in training, some need to develop more ramifications; but their trunk and branch structures are basically there.
Ficus roots and grows fast in our hot weather. How do you thicken those fat trunk base? This is what I did. I grew the rooted cuttings in a colander. When the roots poke through the colander holes, I just dumped the whole thing in a bigger colander. This way the roots were not disturbed and continued to grow. Here is one that was grown in three consecutively larger colanders. It is ready to go into a new training pot.