Ficus Benjamina, also known as the Weeping Fig, is probably the most commonly grown indoor tree. Despite it’s reputation as being difficult to grow,it’s beauty and versatility makes ficus benjamina an excellent choice.
Ficus benjamina is a native to south and southeast Asia and Australia. It is tolerant of a wide range of light conditions. In it’s natural habitat it can be found growing from full sun right down to the shaded areas of dense tropical forests. The key is consistency. It will adapt to many lighting conditions, but doesn’t like change. When you locate your ficus, leave it there and allow it to adjust to conditions. A newly purchased ficus benjamin will have some leaf drop when brought home as it adjusts to it’s new conditions unless your room matches the conditions at the nursery.
Having said that the benjamin fig will adapt to many light conditions, it prefers a bright area. Near an east ot west window is good where it can get some direct sunlight early or late in the day. At this time the sun is not at full strength an will not burn the leaves. This will provide the ficus benjamin the light it needs to grow a thick healthy canopy of leaves.
Ficus benjamina requires more humidity than many houseplants. This can be accomplished by placing the weeping fig on a tray of gravel or pebbleswith water nearly to the top of the pebbles. The ficus benjamin should not be allowed to stand in water as this will cause root rot. Misting will help some, but misting is not very effective at raising humidity.
After the soil has dried to approximately 1 inch below the top of the soil, the ficus benjamina should be watered thoroughly, until the water begins to run out of the bottom of the pot. Overwatering will cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop. If this happens reduce the amount of water and increase the humidity.
Ficus benjamina should be fertilized once a month with a balanced fertilizer at 1/2 strength during it’s growing season from early March to late September. If leaves start to drop, stop fertilizing until the leaf drop has ended.
Ficus benjamina is a plant native to the tropics and is not able to tolerate temperatures below about 50oF. It prefers warmer temperatures, but will do well at normal household temperatures. Keep the benjamin fig away from drafts, both hot and cold. Keep it away from heat sources like registers that not only create hot drafts but also reduce humidity.
The weeping fig will grow well in a regular well drained potting mix. They do not need to be repotted until the roots start to show in the pot above the soil.
Ficus benjamina can be propagated by seeds or stem cuttings. The seeds should be placed on the top of the soil or rooting mixture. The stem cuttings should have 2 or 3 nodes in the soil for rooting. Keep both in bright light but not direct sunlight. Tenting, covering the seeds and cuttings with clear plastic or glass, will help keep the humidity high and will increase your success rate.
Leaf drop is the survival mechanism of the ficus benjamina. In their native habitat, they drop many leaves at the beginning of the dry season in response to the reduced amount of moisture available. When the rains return, the weeping fig grows more leaves to feed the plant when all the resources it needs are available.
Ficus benjamina can be pruned to maintain the size and shape you desire. Pruning back the outer growth will encourage a smaller, more compact, denser houseplant. Pruning back some stems further will open up the bush allowing light to penetrate the canopy. This will produce a taller, less dense ficus benjamina tree.