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Back in 1986, I remember I bought a Ficus Benjamina tree that was actually four in one...

I mean the stem of the "tree" was actually made-up of four individual stems braided together. The four stems were spaced and a stone was placed in the middle, giving the appearance of a bonsai whose "roots" grow over the rock and into the soil. The only difference is that what appears as roots enveloping the rock are individual stems. The true roots start right below soil level.

The tree has lasted in our house for almost 20 years, as far as I remember. I don't know the reason why it died, but it may have been declining for some time when I had no bigger pot to place it in, and the bound roots have become a hard pot of its own, inside the pot. Though out-of-sight, drainage holes may have been clogged by the massive roots and caused the damage.

Long before it died, however, I noticed that individual stem-bases (under the braided segment) died-off on their own. The process was slow and took time for the next one to die-off. The tree was growing on the remaining bases. For quite a while, the tree was living off the single base which has thickened and become the main trunk.

That is what raises my question: Is it the fate of such a braided tree to lose all individual stem bases and live-off the single remaining base? Or, is there a way to keep the braided stems growing and feeding the tree? I would also add that the braided stems had no branches growing UNDER the braiding segment.

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The braiding is a popular technique with growers. I have seen it done with Scheffelera, Ficus and a few other unlikely species. Although there is a strangler fig which braids as a natural habit most of the ones created by growers come to the same end you observed. One stem becomes stronger and outgrows the others to become the dominant stem.

I do not know of any way to reliably sustain the braid over a long term.

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