Shohin Ficus Bonsai

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:



Sumo-style shohin:


I am developing a new leader for this 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.



Some of the branches would have to go to get better spacings between them.

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.


The colander plastic does not survive the outdoor sun and heat. I found the opaque colanders are more resistant to breakdown than the clear ones, probably the fillers used to cheapen the plastics acts as a sort of UV stabilizer (?).


This is Devil’s Backbone, a Belgian style tripel from a Texas brewery, good stuff. It is named after a stretch of winding road in Texas Hill Country.




4 thoughts on “Shohin Ficus Bonsai

  1. Your in Texas, I would like to try a ficus shohin, what would I need for winter rotection. gets about 40ish here at night. Would a covered patio suffice or garage? Which species is best, some say willow leaf but the one in your article looks good. Is that tiger bark? How about burtt-davyi?

    • Yes, they are tiger bark. Both tiger bark and willow leaf are good for shohin. I keep them in a greenhouse since we do get a few nights of freezing weathers in our area. I only heat the greenhouse to 40ish when night temperature gets down to mid 30’s. I found the tiger bark is more cold tolerant than willow leaf by perhaps 5-10 degrees. You are probably OK with 40ish night temperature. I don’t have Burtt-Davyi.

  2. Pingback: Shohin Ficus Bonsai | Bonsai Penjing & More – Wolf's Birding and Bonsai Blog

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