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Plant info sheets

Banyan Fig

Ficus microcarpa forma Retusa

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The ‘Pot Belly Fig’ is a very hardy go anywhere plant that will suit a wide range of conditions from cold southern climates to the extreme tropics, from outdoors in full exposure to any well lit indoor position, Ficus are noted as one of the hardiest of all indoor plants. Pot Belly Figs are found throughout South East Asia and are also called ‘The Banyan Fig’, movies like Tomb Raider show the plant growing over ancient ruins.

Banyan Figs can be grown in a number of ways, when grown as a seedling the plant forms a huge swollen base like the middle picture above.  These can then be grown to nurture the base and enlarge it to create amazing shapes.  These swollen (Pot Belly) figs can then be grown with normal leaves or grafted with a tight growing round leafed fig which is less able to be shaped but remains far more compact.  The other traditional method of growing Banyan Figs is to grow them in the ground for up to 10 years until the stem swells and the plant can be trained into a traditional bonsai like the two pictures above. 

Where can I keep my Pot Belly Fig.

Figs are very hardy and will tolerate full sun to almost total shade, indoors they will do well in any well lit position and can be kept without natural sunlight for up to a month. In sever frost areas the plant should be placed under cover when sever frosts are predicted.

Why does the plant have a pot belly.

This fig species quickly forms a strong and thick tap root which can swell rapidly, this allows young plants if trapped in rocky areas to break the rocks and allow more room to grow, the root also allows the plant to dry out for short periods without suffering.

Growing you Pot Belly Fig

Figs need regular moisture and can only dry out for a very short time, once leaves droop water immediately. Soil should be tested and if it appears dry the plant must be watered. Outdoors in hot sunny positions this may be daily whereas indoors in cool positions once a week may be enough. Water well so that the soil becomes thoroughly moist, do not allow the plant to sit in water for excessive periods.

Feeding is essential for growth, if you prefer the plant to stay small and the leaves reduce in size then feed very little or none at all, for good growth use a general plant food at the recommended rate for outdoor plants and at quarter strength for indoor plants.

Figs make great pot plants, they can also grow into trees that may not fit into a pot, it is essential to at times trim you plant, as a bonsai the trimming will be to create a shape, as a pot plant all that is required is a trim like a hair cut to shorten the branches, this can be done indefinitely and the plant can be trained as a miniature for hundreds of years.

Repotting is only required for cosmetic reasons or to speed up growth, after a few years the pot will become a mass of roots and have no room for new root growth, this will slow down growth, in some cases this is beneficial. Repotting can be into any good potting mix that suits the environment that the plant will be grown in, not the plant itself. Roots can be cut savagely or not at all, plant can also be raised higher to expose more roots.

Pot Belly’s can be grown on rocks and will wrap around the rock eventually, there are many interesting ways to grow pot bellies. A popular way is to raise the plant a few inched every year, this way the roots can create weird and wonderful shapes.


Pot Belly Figs can be kept for life, in china there are collectors who only collect Pot Belly Figs and have amazing collections. The most valuable are the ones that take on human shapes, the figs are also call Ginseng Figs as the roots closely resemble the human like roots of the Mandrake , famous the Ginseng plant of Korea

Pictures of commercial nurseries in china, the home of the Banyan Fig

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