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The Weeping Fig, Ficus benjamina- indoor and out

I can hardly consider a resort, mall or nursery the place I’ve NOT seen a Ficus benjamina. A minimum of in the US, these are ubiquitous timber indoors, and very frequent outdoor within the hotter climates (9b and above). This species of fig tree is well-liked as a result of it’s straightforward to breed, and subsequently low-cost, it is extremely adaptable when it comes to gentle, soil and climate, it grows with minimal care each indoors and out and could be very decorative (when grown correctly).

Ficus benjamina is only one of a whole lot of species of Figs, dozens that are quite common in cultivation. Nevertheless, that is in all probability the most typical of all of the Ficus species because it has so many makes use of. Figs are family members Moraceae, an enormous household of crops with over 1000 species. A couple of different well-liked genera on this household embrace the Mulberrys and the Breadfruit timber. Most Moraceae are tropical crops, and Ficus benjamina is not any exception, being native to the tropics of south Asia and northern Australia.

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These are additionally Ficus species: Ficus carica ‘Panachee’ (a striped type of the frequent edible fig); Ficus macrophylla (an enormous banyon-forming species); and on left, Ficus microcarpa, the species mostly confused with Ficus benjamina (not less than in southern California the place it’s also used generally as a panorama plant)

Weeping Figs are characterised by having ovoid, shiny inexperienced leaves that taper distally to a uninteresting level. The leaves droop ornamentally and that is the place this tree will get its identify from. There are quite a few different decorative figs grown generally however solely this one has the shiny, drooping skinny leaves with the tapering suggestions. The trunk is considerably pale and easy and may develop to a number of ft in diameter in bigger older timber in non-tropical climates, however as a lot as a dozen yards or so in diameter in tropical climates. As with most different Ficus species, Ficus benjamina has white, latex-like sap.

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Ficus benjamina leaf (underside) on proper; leaves on tree (center); and leaves with fruit on proper

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Ficus benjamina grown outdoor exhibiting typical ‘ball’ of drooping, shiny leaves (left); root construction on older plant (picture Monocromatico); thick gray trunk of California tree with most leaves pruned away in spring (proper)

Open air: In its native nations, and in all different tropical places the place it’s grown, this plant can develop as much as almost 100 ft tall and may kind large banyans with leaf canopies a whole lot of ft in diameter. In Hawaii, the place I’ve seen these as enormous Banyan timber, they develop large pillar-like trunks with enormous, invasive root techniques that journey alongside the floor, or simply beneath it, for nearly as many yards outward as does the large leaf crown. Aerial roots kind quickly on this heat, humid local weather, and these roots, once they lastly develop down lengthy sufficient to the touch one thing, will root and develop into one or a number of extra large trunks permitting the tree to develop outward seemingly indefinitely. These aerial roots will even kind a trunk in the event that they merely droop right down to a department beneath, as they develop or ‘soften’ into the department’s tissue and finally develop into seamlessly related to it. These melded roots, branches and trunks create superb and superior pure sculptures. One notably outdated tree that exists in Waikiki seashore, takes up almost a complete metropolis block and a big buying space has been created beneath it with buildings and walkways threaded between and amongst all of the aerial roots/trunks.

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Ficus benjamina taking on almost a complete metropolis block in Hawaii (left); typical Hawaiian banyan kind (center); exhibiting mass of aerial and shaped roots in Hawaii (proper)

In tropical climates, the place there isn’t any chilly, loads of water, and the soils are pretty properly draining, this tree is really easy that it takes no care in any respect, aside from containment (which might truly be fairly a little bit of care). Nevertheless, in a extra arid local weather, resembling the place I stay in southern California, this tree doesn’t often develop right into a goliath Banyan. Outdated timber can develop into fairly massive in a Mediterranean local weather, and if close to the coast the place the humidity is increased, they’ll become pretty massive timber. Nevertheless, one hardly ever sees them efficiently develop aerial roots or develop banyan-like trunks. In my southern California local weather Weeping Figs seems to be considerably ‘strange’ with a single thick pale trunk and a comparatively spherical crown of leaves. I nonetheless assume these make very decorative timber, nevertheless, as their leaves droop attractively, and are at all times shiny and vivid inexperienced (usually with a pleasant number of gentle and darkish greens because the newer leaves are lighter in shade than the older ones) yr spherical (not a deciduous species).

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Typical timber in non-tropical local weather (ie. southern California)

As a panorama plant, this species could be very malleable, not simply serving as a big pure specimen tree, but in addition as formed construction, from an angular hedge, to a tall, flat wall or visible barrier, to a sculpted, pruned form of any measurement, whilst a topiary. This species, together with the same wanting Ficus microcarpa, is used extensively all through southern California within the city landscapes as a hedge or topiary plant because it tolerates pruning fairly properly and has a pleasant dense crop of leaves that may be created into a wonderful sculpted form. Even minimize to the bottom it grows again reliably and quickly. Most crops within the floor will rebound from devastating freezes that utterly defoliate these timber and even kill a lot of the above floor wooden so long as they preserve a wholesome, undamaged root inventory. For visible barrier development, most landscapers appear to plant these simply a number of ft aside (a lot nearer than is de facto mandatory) as root crowding doesn’t appear to hassle this species a lot.

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Wall of Ficus benjamina in southern California summer season, and after extreme freeze in winter (center); typical ‘columnar hedges’ in southern California landscaping (proper)

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Partitions of Ficus benjamina seen in a single metropolis block in Los Angeles

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‘wall’ of Ficus benjamina created with a number of potted crops (left); Wall of Ficus benjamina subsequent to Ficus microcarpa tree (center); my Weeping Fig fried by freeze (was defoliated quickly after)

Open air this species tolerates all kinds of circumstances, being reasonably drought tolerant, but in addition fortunately absorbing very heavy rainfalls or overwatering (one thing it doesn’t tolerate indoors properly). It’s chilly tolerant right down to about 28F and appears to take care of excessive warmth over 120F so long as it doesn’t dessicate or compelled to exist in extraordinarily low humidity. These timber develop properly in full solar to full shade, wanting finest with not less than some vivid gentle. For a dense leaf look resembling desired if pruned right into a hedge or topiary, half day solar to full solar is really useful. Ficus reply fairly properly to frequent fertilization, but in addition are likely to look wholesome for years with none fertilization. As soon as established, they’re typically fairly drought tolerant in all however probably the most scorching and arid climates. Outside issues embrace freezing, extreme drought, excessive winds (leaf loss), and bugs (primarly thrips).

Ficus benjamina has quite a few cultivars accessible in cultivation differing both in waviness or shade (together with variegation) of leaves, leaf-drop tendency and total measurement. Be sure you look in regards to the internet earlier than simply getting one at a neighborhood nursery in case a few of these newer cultivars fill your wants higher than the usual kind does. This hyperlink is an effective website that goes over lots of the cultivar descriptions.

ImageImageFicus benjamina ‘Indigo’ (darkish inexperienced leaves wtih gentle splashes)

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Just some cultivars in cultivation: ; Ficus benjamina ‘Monique’ in let- a low rising kind with wavy leaves; ‘Pandora’ in center with recurved leaves (picture cactus_lover); Ficus benjamina ‘Natasja’, a miniature species on the precise (picture Henryr10)

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‘Golden Monique’ seedlings- these can have wavy leaves as they mature, but in addition increasingly golden coloration within the leaves (left); Ficus benjamina ‘Margarita’ on center and right- yellow leaves with splashes of regular inexperienced within the facilities

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‘Midnight’ is a cultivar with darker leaves that has been bred particularly for indoor use- it has an elevated resistance for leaf drop and tolerates low gentle even higher than the traditional type of Ficus benjamina

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Unknown Ficus benjamina cultivar in Los Angeles with leaves about 1/Three the scale of regular, however plant itself not dwarfed.

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Ficus benjamina variegated (left and center) and ‘Starlight’ on right- this manner has much more white on every leaf

Ficus benjamina is a fig, however the fruits are fairly inedible (although not poisonous) and pretty small. I hardly ever even discover them within the southern California timber and it could be that fig manufacturing wants extra humid warmth than we get right here, although now and again I discover fruit in some timber. Fruit varieties twice a yr within the hotter, tropical climates and fruit drop could be a messy downside in these climates.

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Photographs of Ficus benjamina fruits (first two ginger749 and final one cactus_lover)

The leaves are additionally non-toxic and are even thought-about nutritious additions to the diets of some herbivores. I’ve learn that deer keep away from Ficus benjamina leaves, however I do not know why if that’s the case. Definitely rabbits appear to love them. Ficus benjaminas are glorious selections as crops to develop in reptile terrariums as a result of they’re secure and have edible foliage.

Indoors: That is utterly completely different plant indoors, tending to remain comparatively small (although pruning is finally wanted to maintain it from getting too massive), delicate and fewer densely foliated. Indoor crops are likely to have darker leaves and lighter coloured stems.

ImageTypical indoor plant on proper

The next suggestions are made to maintain Ficus benjamina indoors:

Plant in properly draining soil- drying out is way much less of an issue indoors as is overwatering, and if soils aren’t properly draining, overwatering is simple. For that reason, it is strongly recommended to repot these timber each few years as soils finally develop into compacted as they settle and the plant’s rootballs develop into extra dense as properly.

Water timber solely as wanted (when the soil feels dry a number of inches deep). Potted crops outdoor may be watered rather more usually as the upper humidity and lightweight ranges outdoor stimulate extra energetic development. It’s a lot more durable to overwater out of doors crops. In reality, underwatering is extra of a priority for out of doors potted Ficus benjaminas. Since most crops are delicate to faucet water chemical compounds, and Ficus benjamina is not any exception, it is strongly recommended that, if attainable, these be watered with distilled water, or water handled by reverse osmosis. Do NOT use water that has been softened as that water has a really excessive salt content material. These timber, like many indoor crops, profit from a great ‘flushing’ of the salts out of the soil one to 2 occasions a yr. To do that, take the tree outdoors (when it is heat) in a shady spot and flood the soil with water a number of occasions to leach out the accrued salts.

Maintain crops in as excessive a light-weight state of affairs as attainable with out being in an excessive amount of direct daylight. Although this species tolerates very low gentle conditions properly, finally the shortage of sunshine will trigger the tree to lose loads of leaves and look very anemic. Direct solar indoors means the plant will likely be uncovered to loads of gentle extremes and these crops don’t love loads of modifications as indoor crops. Even gentle, even temperature, even air circulate, even watering and many others… variation is that this plant’s enemy as an indoor creature. Additionally quick time period direct solar will burn new leaves that in a low humidity state of affairs, as is often the case indoors.

ImageBringing a plant outdoors in summers may be good for plant, however could upset it when bringing again indoors (picture Jode)

Ideally suited temperatures have been checklist between 75F- 85F throughout the day (24C-26C) and 10F-15F cooler at night time (60F-70F, or 18C-21C). Although these crops can tolerate freezing outdoor, indoor crops are a lot much less tolerant of such extremes and would definitely defoliate.

Fertilize month-to-month in hotter, sunnier seasons with a dilute, water-based fertilizer, and cease as day lengths get quick (mid fall by way of mid spring).

Misting the leaves just isn’t important, however extremely really useful. Excessive humidity is nice for the general well being of this plant. Cleansing the leaves incessantly by gently wiping off the mud can also be really useful. This not solely makes the plant look higher (glossier) but in addition retains the leaves ‘respiration’ properly.

Most advocate maintain out of drafts as these symbolize variations in ‘indoor climate’. Once more, Ficus benjamina likes issues to at all times be perfect AND the identical.

ImageCrops on the market at nursery- offered for indoor use

Issues indoors: 1) as already mentioned, overwatering might be the primary downside with these as indoor timber. The upper the sunshine and humidity, and higher draining the soil is, the much less overwatering is more likely to happen. If overwatered, leaf loss will happen, notably on the decrease leaves. Overwatering can result in root rot finally, after which one may lose all of the leaves, and your complete plant as properly.

2) Change- variations in gentle, warmth and watering schemes will usually lead to leaf loss. As soon as a plant appears to have tailored to a sure space in the home, it’s best to go away it there.

3) Bugs- indoors these crops are liable to the often array of indoor bugs. Low humidity will enable spider mites to wreck the leaves. Frequent misting will lower the possibilities of this downside. Mealy bug may be related to extreme misting and too low gentle ranges for too lengthy, although mealy bugs appear to assault nearly any tree if given the chance. Safer soaps and neem oil works properly for these. Thrips are uncommon indoors, however will trigger a attribute leaf curl (see picture above). I feel most systemic pesticides will care for these.

ImageThrips are extra frequent in outdoor plants- these trigger a attribute leaf curl

4) Underwatering- this occurs much less usually than the other state of affairs, however happens when indoor crops develop into a lot of a component or the background that one forgets they’re there. They’ll remind the proprietor, nevertheless, by shedding leaves (a Ficus’s response to absolutely anything that goes improper). Inadequate watering can also be frequent for tree homeowners who’ve killed one by overwatering.

5. Seasonal leaf loss: this species appears to lose leaves each winter, indoor or out (although it appears to be extra noticeable indoors because the crops are smaller and leaves on the ground are extra evident. This leaf loss can also be a great reminder to possibly begin watering the plant much less usually.

6. Rootbinding: although these appear to tolerate root binding greater than most timber do (one cause they do properly in pots for thus lengthy), they nonetheless can develop into excessively root sure. I’ve learn that root pruning needs to be performed about as soon as each 5 years, although I admit to have by no means performed that myself.

Right here is a superb hyperlink and dialogue of caring for considered one of these as a potted plant: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/boards/load/houseplt/msg102259544341.html?37

Ficus benjaminas as Bonsai Timber: That is in all probability one of many easiest and best bonsai timber for newbies (like myself) regardless of it is obvious ‘touchiness’ indoors. The newbie could undergo loads of studying curves and subsequent leaf loss, however the Ficus species are among the most tolerant bonsai crops in terms of forgetful homeowners (once more, myself). If I neglect to water mine, it’s considerably forgiving in comparison with nearly some other bonsai species I’ve tried up to now, all which instantly die if not watered on time. And most crops in a great bonsai pot with the right soil (wealthy however draining) are fairly laborious to overwater. Rising these outdoor in a bonsai pot is extraordinarily straightforward… indoors they one should observe the above suggestions with the next additions: water extra usually (day by day in summers for instance); repot each 2 years; root prune every time repotted as soon as roots get too massive. As for shaping and inventive touches, that’s far past my experience and one ought to seek the advice of a bonsai specialist or web site on bonsai.

ImageImageBonsaid Ficus benjaminas (images by chuckhk and irmaly)

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