Ficus microcarpa, an easy-care bonsai for starters

Ficus microcarpa

Ficus microcarpa is a small, easy bonsai often found in DIY and home furniture stores.

Facts about Ficus microcarpa

NameFicus microcarpa
FamilyMoraceae (mulberry family)
Type – indoor plant

Height – 16 to 40 inches (0.4 to 1m)
Soil – indoor plant mix, well drained

Exposure: indirect but luminous  –   Foliage: evergreen  –   Watering: moderate

It is great for growing indoors and doesn’t require complicated follow-up. This home-friendly bonsai will do great in any room of the house as long as it gets light and proper moisture.

Ficus microcarpa care

Your Ficus microcarpa bonsai will do great indoors.

  • Ficus Microcarpa careYear-round temperatures hovering around 60 to 70 or 75°F (15 to 25°C) are perfect.
  • A lot of light will help, but not direct sunlight during hotter hours. Indirect light is best.
  • Microcarpa bonsai doesn’t like being moved around, so once in a good spot, leave it there.
  • Gusts of wind and drafts will lead to leaves falling off: keep it protected and out of corridors and hallways.


Repotting your Ficus microcarpa is essential, every 1 to 3 years.

  • Repotting ficus microcarpaOnce a year is perfect, and you can pair it with trimming, defoliating and pruning to slowly create a majestic, elegant bonsai.
  • Ensure excellent drainage (drainage layer with clay pebbles or gravel, drainage hole under the pot, clean sand in the soil mix).
  • Full guide on bonsai repotting
  • 2-minute video on repotting ficus bonsai

Fresh soil ensures nutrients are replenished. It’s also a way to monitor root growth and check that the potting mix isn’t rotting wet. Cut roots growing through drainage holes so that water flows freely.

Watering Ficus microcarpa

This is a plant that naturally thrives in moist, humid climates.

Watering Ficus microcarpa in summer

  • Ficus microcarpa wateringSoil must stay moist without being wet or soggy.
  • No set dates here. Instead, a “rule of thumb 👍 ” applies: stick a fingertip in the soil down to the first knuckle.  If it still feels moist, don’t water yet.
  • Depending on the dryness of the air, this could be once every three to four days up to every ten days.
  • Find ways to increase air moisture to help the plant cope with irregular watering.
  • Don’t let water collect around the roots. Let it drip until dry before putting it back on its saucer.

Watering in winter

Growth and vegetation slows, so your Ficus microcarpa needs less water.

  • Water no more than once every two weeks.
  • Don’t use cold water straight from the tap. Pour some in a quart or jug and set it near the pot for a few hours with the cap open. This will help vent out chlorine and raise the temperature to avoid thermal shock to the plant.

Cleaning and misting Ficus microcarpa leaves

Bring your Ficus microcarpa to the sink and gently spray soft water on its leaves from time to time. That’s the perfect treat!

Pruning and trimming Ficus microcarpa

Ficus microcarpa can grow huge in the wild in tropical climates, but in your house you want it to remain a smallish bonsai for best effect.

How to prune Ficus microcarpa

Ficus microcarpa sprouts new sprigs directly from the bark of the trunk. Thanks to this, you can’t make any “long-lasting mistakes” when pruning!

There are two ways of keeping your Ficus microcarpa under control. Choose whichever suits you best!

1. Constant pruning means checking on the plant often and removing twigs and growth that doesn’t please you.

  • Ficus microcarpa pruning

    Every time you count up to ten new leaves, cut sprigs back, removing four to six new leaves in the process.

  • This will force the Ficus microcarpa to produce new twigs and leaves.
  • Try to balance growth to keep the plant covered all around, like an umbrella atop the root trunk.
  • Rotate the plant to even growth out every time you prune.
  • Only prune as leaves grow. If the plant isn’t making new leaves, don’t prune.

2. Seasonal pruning means only checking on the plant once or twice a year. Pruning is heavier.

  • Spring is when you can go heavy on the pruning.
  • Cut branches back by a third or even half.
  • If you dislike shoots that may be sprouting from below the graft joint, cut them off as entirely.
  • Seasonal pruning is more suited to Ficus microcarpa trees that you’re training into a bonsai with wires.
  • Feel free to defoliate (or remove the leaves) upon pruning. New leaves will grow back, don’t be afraid!

There are slight differences in pruning that depend on whether your microcarpa bonsai is grafted or not:

Also, you might see air-roots forming – keep these, they look nice! This is common in moist and warm environments.

Ficus microcarpa varieties

The dozens of Ficus microcarpa varieties differ in leaf size, leaf shape, leaf thickness, bark color… Nature is very inventive and breeders have noted many appealing variations. Note that they’ll all grow gigantic if left unpruned…

Varieties of Ficus microcarpaA few popular bonsai Ficus microcarpa varieties stand out:

  • Ficus microcarpa ‘Green Island’ – small very round leaves about an inch (2.5 to 3cm) across. Very well suited to bonsai growing.
  • Ficus microcarpa ‘Green Emerald’ – small neat pointed-oval leaves about an inch and half (3 to 4 cm) long. Very well suited to bonsai.
  • F. microcarpa ‘Golden Gate’ – branches readily form a miniature canopy, they branch out gracefully.
  • Ficus microcarpa ‘Tiger bark’ – beautiful patterns appear on bark and on roots that are exposed to air. Also well suited to bonsai growing, though the nice bark patterns fade away with age.
  • Ficus microcarpa ‘Moclame’ – leaves are shaped like figs (!) or drops with a rounded tip, and grow at close intervals. This is best grown to a mid-size houseplant from 1 to 2 feet tall (30 to 60cm) with a tree-like stem and bushy leaf ball. Stems can be woven or braided easily.

In ideal moisture conditions, all species send out aerial roots, like a banyan tree. This species also goes by the name “Chinese banyan tree” to prove the point!

Surprising Ficus microcarpa fruits

Fruit on ficus microcarpaFicus” means “fig”. So Ficus microcarpa is basically a fig tree! However, “microcarpa”, translates into “tiny fruit”. It thus bears tiny fig-like fruits.

They only appear when conditions are just right. When they do, they’re very cute! Ficus microcarpa fruits are half an inch across (1 cm), and start out green before maturing to red and black.

They aren’t edible for us but birds love them.

Ficus microcarpa diseases and pests

Ficus microcarpa diseasesPests that attack Ficus microcarpa are common houseplant pests: scale insect, thrips and spider mite essentially.

As for diseases, here is a quick troubleshooting guide to see what might be hurting your bonsai:

  • Brittle leaves, falling off – not enough watering or too much wind in that spot.
  • Leaves turn soft, yellow and drop – too much watering and/or poor drainage. Let soil dry before watering, check drainage, and add sand or cactus soil mix to the potting soil.

Learn more about Ficus microcarpa

Ficus microcarpa is native to Southern China and the islands of Oceania, but its success as an easy houseplant means it now spans the world.

ficus microcarpaA relative of the common fig tree, this Ficus is particularly well suited to bonsai. Beginners appreciate it because it grows fast, is easy to train, and is very forgiving if you forget to water it or care for it at times. It won’t die on you on a whim like other, more fragile bonsai ficus!

There’s a trick to telling it apart from the Ficus tree (F. benjamina). Look at the tips of leaves: sharp, pointed leaves belong to Ficus benjamina, whereas slightly rounded tips are Ficus microcarpa.

At times, a sister species called Ficus retusa is mistaken for microcarpa. Retusa has thinner, curvy trunks. Stores often sell one for the other, under the name Ficus ginseng!

Smart tip about Ficus microcarpa

Like all other ficus, this species can fuse its trunks together. If you want to grow a thick bonsai fast, wrap thinner stems together and within three or four years they will have grown into a single wide trunk!

Images: Olga Miltsova (adobestock & 123RF), adobestock: Kira Yan, CC BY-ND 2.0: Jeremy Norbury; depositphotos: photography33; Flower Council Holland

Written by Gaspard Lorthiois | Loves helping out, especially when it comes to growing things. Worked in herbal medicine, runs a farm, and dabbles in tech. Master's degree and engineer.