Ficus Retusa ("Ginseng Ficus")

Posted by Jordan | Thursday, January 17, 2008 | , , | 30 comments »

(My work Ficus retusa.)

The Ficus retusa or "Ginseng Ficus" (or even Ficus microcarpa var. nitida) is a type of ficus which has very bulbous roots that form a shape similar to ginger roots which give them their common name. It is native to Malaysia and Taiwan. They are easy plants to grow since they require low amounts of light, can be watered once weekly, and have so far seemed to be resistant to bugs, other than the one I have at home.

My work Ficus retusa is a very nice plant. I purchased it from Wal-Mart for a relatively cheap price. It has so far survived for more than three months. The one thing that bothers me with the arrangement of this plant are the giant rocks that have been glued together in the pot that I purchased it in. One day when I need to repot this plant I will need to take a hammer to those rocks and hopefully not kill the plant in the process.

(Annah's delightful Ficus retusa.)

Annah's Ficus retusa from Walgreen's sits calmly on the kitchen table and has nice dark green colored leaves and is a delightful plant to be around while eating.

My Ficus retusa had a brief encounter with some nasty spider mites, but thankfully a few sprayings of Safer's Insecticidal Soap seems to have eradicated their attempted colonization. It is also from Walgreen's and is exactly the same as the picture above but it is in a blue pot. (I don't have a picture at the moment, but when I get one it will be posted.)

Photo Credits: Jordan and Annah.


  1. Tracy // January 19, 2008 at 10:30 PM  

    You really should remove the glued on rocks asap. They do more harm than good. I have chipped them away too from certain bonsai's, a heavy pair of pliers does the job quite well.

  2. david // February 3, 2008 at 9:14 AM  

    My fear is that Wal Mart will wise-up to how expensive these Ficus Retusa and Ficus Microcarpa graft-retusa ("Golden Coin")are in other retail markets. I too have purchased several from them, and are doing extremely well in unblocked SW exposure windows. I also had to carefully remove the rocks (a must-do).

  3. Josh // March 2, 2008 at 11:55 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  4. Josh // March 2, 2008 at 12:00 PM  

    I recently bought a Ginsneg Ficus from Home Depot. It came in a cheap plastic pot of about 6" which was in turn was inside a rather nice decorative pot of about 8". It too has rocks glued all over the top of it. Should I repot it into the bigger pot?, Can I use regular potting soil?, Should I remove the rocks and leave them off?

  5. david // March 2, 2008 at 12:39 PM  

    Josh, Thanks for the where-to-find these bargains, besides WalMart. Carefully remove the glued-on rock.
    Repot in similar or same-sized bonsai pot, ceramic or clay. Only use quality soil mixes, e.g., MiracleGro or ProMix, never use Hyponex. Premium, expensive soil mixes are avail' at Brussel's Bonsai Nursery. Put it in the strongest/best light exposure u've got. Mine took the transfer perfectly and are beautiful & flourishing. U'll do fine Josh!

  6. Anonymous // June 8, 2008 at 5:53 PM  

    Hi I just just went to walmart and purchased a ginseng ficus. The nice thing is I only paid 15.00 for mine and it is fairly large but it also looks like some one has tried triming it and it is attempting to grow again. What care and plant food should I give it and should it be in special soil. Thanks Esther

  7. cammu // June 24, 2008 at 8:31 AM  

    What kind of liquid fertilizer do you us?

  8. Hexane // July 29, 2008 at 1:11 AM  

    I would agree with David regarding good, "sterile" potting soil with gravel or sand. There is no one recipe for making a great bonsai soil. You'll find out through time what your tree needs and likes, and what kind of maintenance (high or low) you'd like to expend. Keep in mind that the less peat and "soil-less" mixes require more watering during warm months. Are you prepared for that? It is however very important that soils are free of parasitic nematodes, sand fleas and other parasites.

    Plant food is generally of the synthetic or organic variety. Keep in mind that organic fertilizers encourage fungus gnats if applied wrongly or indoors with little ventilation or fans. A reputable liquid fertilizer, organic brand is RainGrow. It is gentle but watch the salts and harmful buildups in your unglazed clay pots. Read the labels. Slow or stop feeding completely during the colder months even though your tree is indoors. Give it a rest.

  9. Hexane // July 29, 2008 at 1:17 AM  

    Like the others have mentioned, please remove ALL rocks as soon as possible. The glue does nothing for the tree. It also impedes and makes it difficult for you to monitor how wet or dry the soil is because the soil can't be seen or touched with a finger. This is a major major detriment. Most plant deaths are by overwatering and root rot.

    I am not worried if Walmart or other general stores stop selling plants. It should be a criminal offense or they should have licences of some sort. I have seen one too many hundreds of plants withering and dying due to lack of watering and care on the way to the dog food aisle. They do not care for living things!

  10. Hexane // July 29, 2008 at 1:19 AM  

    Regardless, good luck everyone and happy growing.

  11. cammu // July 29, 2008 at 8:39 AM  

    Thank's a lot Hexane.

  12. Jenny // November 1, 2008 at 9:44 AM  

    I just bought a Ficus Ginseng plant from Walmart. Once home I noticed the leaves are turning yellow. What's wrong and what can I do to remidy the problem?

  13. Tera // March 17, 2009 at 10:50 PM  

    Um, hi. I just got a new ginseng ficus bonsai from WalMart too, and it has those stupid rocks on it. Does anyone have any advice on how to best remove them?

  14. Bear6360 // July 15, 2009 at 2:48 PM  

    I recently repotted a Ginseng Ficus for a co-worker. I removed the "glued on" rocks with a pair of needle nose pliers, a flat head screwdriver, and some elbow grease.

    Ginseng Ficus is a nice tree because it is easy to maintain. If you want a bonsai to trim and shape, you should try a different species of Ficus.

  15. Anonymous // September 17, 2009 at 11:47 PM  

    I bought the same Ficus retusa from wal-mart with the glued pebbles. I am a biology major at Cornell College and doing research on the most favorable growing conditions for root regeneration and have already repotted the plant many times. First, all you need is a screwdriver to pry the pebbles off gently from the side of the container. Use a big soft bushy brush to dust away the chunks of dirt from the roots. Right now it looks as though the best mixture is soil conditioners with fired clay or vermiculite, small wood chips, course sand. Water with about a cup of water once a week and needs only moderate amounts of daily sunlight. Right now my plants are in the colleges greenhouse and are doing beautifully.

  16. Scott Gratton // November 9, 2009 at 2:28 PM  

    My Ficus Retusa (had it for 3 months) has regrettably lost all but 3 leaves now. It was doing fine in the fall and looked healthy, but it's been on a sad decline. I have no idea what to do. I have stopped watering it under the fear that I may have been over watering it... I tried using some miracle grow plant fertilizer...tried sun/no sun... I tried encouraging it (didn't seem to work). Any idea's folks? Any chance at all of saving it after it's lost so many leaves? thanks.

  17. Hexane // November 9, 2009 at 8:55 PM  

    Do you have a humidifier tray and do you keep the temperature (in the room/surroundings) at an even 20 to 30 degrees celcius? These are tropical plants. They will naturally shed all their leaves if the temperature drops. They are not tolerant in that sense. They will also shed leaves due to too much water.

    I would not fertilize during the winter months unless you're keeping the trees temperate at their native temperatures. Give the tree a rest during "winter" months (whenever that may be - if you're in the northern or southern hemisphere). When spring starts again, then start fertilizing again small doses and then work up to the average dose in the thick of the summer.

    I would not fertilize a weakened tree or a tree during winter. Unnecessary fertilizer can burn the roots and do more damage. especially if it is a synthetic (as opposed to organic) fertilizer.

  18. John // November 10, 2009 at 7:18 AM  

    We bought a Ficus Ginseng here in South Africa. After about two weeks the healthy green leaves have started to drop.

    What's causing this?

    It's been watered once so far.
    It's in a shaded area of the room.
    Average indoor temperature approx 20 degree C.
    There's no hole in the bottom of the decorative pot to allow drainage.
    The small stones on the top we've removed.

    Would very much appreciate your advice.


    Knysna..South Africa..Western Cape

  19. Hexane // November 10, 2009 at 9:32 AM  

    Generally all ficus are finnicky when they are first bought and moved into a new house. They usually will drop a few leaves. This should stabilize in a week or two.

    Having said that, ficus also do not like shade. They love sunlight, bright sunlight. Not all can take direct afternoon sunlight but they all love bright sunlight near a big bright window. They need light.

    Please buy a pot with a drainage hole and transplant into it. Or, remove the ficus, punch a hole in the existing plant and replant the ficus into it. Use sterile potting soil and/or mix it with cactus mix (with sand). The sand will make the mix more porous. However, this will mean that you have to water more often. Normal potting mix works fine.

    Do not fertilize in the first few weeks after moving a ficus.

    Do not place ficus near an air vent or any other draft of air.


  20. tyreek // February 1, 2010 at 5:33 PM  

    I want the best for my plant, but I dont know much about it. It was given to me about somewhere during the summer, and from there it is doing good. But now the plant is getting worse, and i barely know whats wrong with it
    can someone help me out here?

  21. Hexane // February 2, 2010 at 5:26 PM  


    My best advice to you would be to:

    1) Join a plant forum and post a photograph of your plant there so that others may help you first identify it,


    2) Bring your plant into a nursery or plant store and ask one of the representatives or staff to help you identify your plant.

    From then on, you might ask them for care tips and guidelines. Plant stores like GardenWorks have plant clinics.

    Best wishes and I hope your plant improves and gets better.


  22. Erica // March 8, 2010 at 8:33 PM  

    I have a few pot-bellied fig trees now. Often the plant gets too large so I trim the semi-hardwood cuttings off (6-8 inches), put them in a jar of water on the kitchen window-sill (indoors)and within a week or two roots will appear. When the roots are abundant, plant the cutting in seed-raising mix (light and sandy) and keep watered. They soon begin to grow quite rapidly, making small branches within 2-3 weeks.

  23. Charles M // February 15, 2011 at 11:42 PM  

    I've been working on a Ginseng Ficus bonsai for about two years now. You can see some videos on my website Ginseng Ficus Bonsai

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  25. Anonymous // April 7, 2011 at 2:59 AM  

    Also a walmart ficus retusa buyer.

    Break the pot and rocks off!!
    I've had mine for six years now and repotted her three times(every two years).
    This is a great indoor plant because they are very low maintenance.
    I use regular potting soil, and have a single compact fluorescent bulb half a foot away lighting the tree 24/7.
    The only thing they really hate, is too much water, so if you forget about the tree for a while it will forgive you.
    I water it once a month in winter, twice a month in spring and fall, and 4 to 6 times a month in summer, depending on the leaf area.
    My ginseng ficus has 60 some leaves at the moment and 15 new buds.
    The closer I leave the light to her the happier she is. Some nights I mist her but I've heard it's an invitation for fungus.
    Not sure if that's correct.
    I've also successfully propagated some cuttings recently that are 8 weeks in and growing new leaves(a sure sign of success).

  26. Anonymous // July 9, 2011 at 6:33 PM  

    i just pulled them off easily

  27. pete // July 20, 2011 at 11:23 AM  

    I have just bought one for 4.99 euros, about 12 inches and looking really healthy, is this a good price ?

  28. Bonsai Ginseng // May 1, 2012 at 8:30 PM  

    Great blog post ficus ginseng really are a great form of bonsai and they are extremely resilient.

  29. Emma // May 11, 2012 at 6:26 PM  

    I have had my Ficus retusa for about 4yrs now and its been fine and doing well, but recently I have made a big mistake...I fed it with some lemonade and it now looks like its dying.
    All the leaves have now dropped off and it looks bad and grey.
    Can anybody help and tell me how to give it a kiss of life.


  30. Kenn // May 23, 2012 at 10:16 PM  

    I have this lonely little ficus retusa for a few years that was always a "charlie brown christmas tree" as it was kinda ugly, but it had leaves and branches and an interesting looking trunk and I thought was rather unique. Over time it's lost a lot of it's leaves, the branches have died, and it keeps getting worse. I water it when the soil is dry and it was getting better for a while, but I didn't do it much good last year when I thought I should repot it into a bigger pot, which caused it to lose a lot of it's roots, because I'm an idiot and broke up the big clump of dirt and roots when I removed it from the original pot and most of the roots broke off. It didn't seem to be getting any better, maybe a little worse in the new pot. So this spring I put it back in it's original pot and mixed potting soil with some bonsai stuff (sorry don't remember the name) which helped keep the soil loose. Unfortunately about a week ago I had a fan in the window it was sitting next to and the fan jumped out of the window and knocked it over, knocking it out of the pot. The tree has little to no roots now, and is probably destine to finally die if I don't do anything about it. It has a grand total of three leaves and about two live branches left.

    So I'm wondering if I can take it out of the pot, put it in a clear container with some water and try to root it like any other plant, maybe with a tiny amount of fertilizer? I live in an apartment so I can't put it in a window that gets a lot of sun, but I do have a window that gets a good 4-5 hours of direct sunlight throughout the day. I'd be willing to put up some kind of grow lights to help it along.

    I'm really trying to save this poor thing but I'm running out of ideas. I understand they're rather hearty, at least until I get my hands on one!