What you're learning
When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA conducted a clean air study, they found that certain plants are capable of filtering the pollution in the air. We don’t just mean dust, but toxins such as formaldehyde, benzene, and other hard-to-spell words!
One of the plants that ranked high in removal rates is the elegant, humble, and slender weeping fig plant.
The weeping fig ficus benjamina, also known as the Ficus tree, may not be the first indoor plant you think of when you want to adorn your house with plants, green leaves, and jungle vibes. And perhaps the first time you encountered the weeping fig tree isn’t at a jungle home but at an office lobby. Personally, I’ve always found this ever-green tree to be the perfect addition to commercial interiors.
The weeping fig (ficus benjamina) is symbolic of unity. Some cultures believe it can bring understanding and knowledge wherever it is placed. Maybe that’s why offices are fond of this tree grown indoors.
If you grow the weeping figs outdoors, they can grow to majestic heights of up to 60 feet tall! They can also bear fruit, when outside, by producing flowers which are then pollinated by wasps to produce the fig fruit.
As indoor plants, they are great for spaces that get a partial shade or medium, bright indirect light. With braided stems, the ficus benjamina can be a great statement plant and stand-alone or be grouped with other houseplants. It thrives best if you are in an environment with high humidity.
The weeping fig tree may not be your first plant choice in growing at home, but we make our case today. You’ll find out just how easy to grow and easy to care for this plant is.
- Botanical Name: Ficus Benjamina
- Common Name: Weeping Fig, Ficus Tree, Benjamin Fig
- Plant Type: Ever-green tree, houseplant
- Height: 3 to 6 feet grown indoors. 60 feet to 100 feet tall outdoors
- Sun Exposure: Filtered, bright sun
- Soil Requirements: Fast-draining potting soil
- Zones: Can grow outdoors in zones 10 and 11 only (USDA)
- Native To: Australia & Asia
Growing a Weeping Fig Tree Indoors
One of the reasons the weeping fig ficus is a favored plant even for commercial establishments is because it is quite manageable for indoor growth. While some trees need lots of space and direct sunlight to survive indoors, the conditions inside help the weeping fig ficus benjamina thrive. Take note of these basic care tips for the healthiest and best growth of your own indoor tree.
Your ficus tree is best planted in a pot of fast-draining potting soil. Add perlite or vermiculate so you get the ideal drainage. Note that drainage is key to keep your weeping figs healthy and strong. They will never grow sitting in soggy soil because that will lead to root rot. That’s how important drainage is. Keep the soil moist but not soggy.
One way to identify if you are overwatering your ficus tree is if your leaves start to drop. The weeping fig can be a little sensitive to sudden changes in the environment. So remember to be consistent in your watering routine. Water well and let it dry out before you water again.
One of the reasons the weeping fig (ficus benjamina) is perfect for growing indoors is that it’s better suited for conditions in shade. Place the weeping fig in a bright room that gets a lot of bright indirect light.
If you’re in a colder climate, give the weeping fig direct sunlight in the morning. Again, they’re sensitive to sudden changes, ideally, you’d keep them in the same bright indirect spot. Give your fig tree a slight turn every week or so, so that the new growth won’t be lopsided. You’ll have healthy lush leaves.
Winter will be a challenge for many plants, the weeping fig is one of them. Move your fig tree away from cold drafts during the winter. Any temperature that will drop below 70 degrees is dangerous for your weeping fig. Ideal temperatures are between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Weeping figs are native to tropical environments. That’s why you should make sure the room has high humidity. Low humidity often causes the leaves to dry and shrivel up. The best way to control humidity is by getting a humidifier that does great wonders for all your house plants, not just your weeping fig tree.
Growing weeping figs indoors at a lesser height or as a bonsai tree does not mean you can do without fertilizer. The weeping fig ficus tree is a heavy feeder and they need plenty of fertilizer during the growing season.
Feed your weeping fig a slow-release pellet fertilizer at the start of summer. You could also opt for liquid fertilizers that are specially formulated for plants indoors. This can be applied every month during the growing seasons.
Do not feed during the winter when the plants are no longer actively growing. If you notice the dropping of plant leaves, your weeping fig may need a bit of manganese or magnesium.
The best time to prune your weeping fig is when they are no longer actively growing. That means spring and summer are out of your schedule. Avoid cleaning them during the growing season so you don’t injure your weeping fig.
Be on the lookout for any dead, damaged, and diseased parts of the weeping fig plant. That means a stem, a leaf, or a branch that may be harming the rest of the plant. For these types of cleaning or pruning, you can do it any time of the year.
To prune your weeping fig for aesthetic reasons like keeping them smaller or shaping them, again, do not do any pruning during the spring or summer means. Instead, you can start trimming during the winter season when the weeping fig is dormant. Cut the branches at a 45 degrees angle and do not remove more than one-third of your weeping fig plant’s growth.
Always wear gloves when you do any pruning or cleaning activity to prevent any allergies you may have in reaction to the latex sap.
It’s noted that there are about 850 species of plants in the Ficus genus. These consist of a lot of great species that could grow in many different types of environments. The most notable ficus varieties are favorites in many homes indoors. The three favorites are:
The F. Benjamina is of course the plant we’ve been covering in this article. It has narrower glossy leaves and can grow as a shrub or tree. Compared to the other ficus varieties, the F. Benjamina or Ficus Benjamina is not a cold-tolerant plant. There are variegated plants like the F. Benjamina Variegata or F. Benjamina starlight.
Perhaps the most popular ficus tree variety is the F. Elastica or the Rubber Tree. Many of us can recognize it easier than those thick glossy leaves. The F. Elastica robusta has wide and large glossy leaves.
Another crowd favorite is the fiddle leaf fig with its large leaves that can grow up to 18 inches long. The leaves have an interesting shape or style that makes them a great addition to any room.
Repotting The Ficus Benjamina
When you get your first weeping fig tree, you may have an urge to repot your plant immediately. But it’s always recommended for you to wait a few months before you start moving it to another pot. Ideally, give your plant in the pot the came with at least 6 to 12 months. You can also check if the roots are getting too crowded in your container or pot. The roots will be growing through the drainage holes.
To change up your plant and move to a bigger pot, start with a container that is just 2 inches bigger. A pot any bigger could cause the soil to dry slower, this is a situation you want to avoid. The best time to repot your plants is in the spring.
You need to have a drainage hole that is big. To secure the soil so it doesn’t easily fall from your pot, remember to put a type of protective screen to secure all the soil. This way, you still get a pot that drains well with a potting mix that helps with drainage.
Before you move from the old pot to the new pot, first water your plant and let it sit for about an hour. In your new pot, add soil to the bottom. This is done so that your root ball is elevated. Lift the plant from your old pot and release the roots. A garden rag or any towel can help you do this. A clean knife can also help you loosen the soil, but be careful not to hurt the roots.
Use this repotting time to inspect your plant, especially the roots. Check for any rotting roots or dead roots and trim them out of your plants.
It’s common for some plants, even the weeping fig, to have roots that are rootbound. This is when the roots form into a tangled and dense mass that has little to no space for any more growth. If this is how it looks when you inspect your plant, you may cut through the roots.
Your plant must not be sitting too high up that it’s near the edge of the pot. You might end up spilling water and soil if this happens. Plant it at least about 1 inch below the edge, tamp the soil and water thoroughly.
With weeping figs unable to produce fruit, the best way to propagate this plant tree is through cutting or air layering.
The most popular and favored method of plant propagation is via cuttings. To do this, find a young and flexible branch of your plant. These types of branches are actively growing and will root easily. Cut off about 4 inches of the branch including the growing tip.
Remove the leaves that may be growing on the bottom parts of the branch. Dip the end with a rooting hormone. This helps your branch with new growth and roots. Put your branch into the soil up to where there are first leaves.
Now, don’t think this is like propagating your pothos or monstera plant. Propagating trees take more time, so be patient!
You will know that your propagation is successful when one, your plant has not died after a few weeks, and two, when you see new growth at top of the branch cutting.
Via Air Layering
If you aren’t a beginner gardener, and you’re ready to embark on a challenging but rewarding activity, propagating your houseplants via air layering is an exciting path to take.
This is one activity you can do during the months of active growth, in the spring. For layering, use a woody branch that is about 12 inches long with a thickness of 1/4 inch.
Identify a spot in the middle of your plant’s branch where leaf buds are actively growing. The leaf buds are important and essential for this process because new roots will grow from here.
Scrape the leaf buds and peel off the bark around them. With a good rooting hormone, cover and rub all the bare spots. Wrap the spot with moist moss, and cover with plastic all around the branches to hold the moss in place. New roots should appear after the 1st or 2nd month.
Once new roots appear, you can cut off the branch below where the plastic wrap is. Transfer this to a new pot or container and water it well.
Can ficus be bonsai?
Weeping figs possess flexible branches while they are still young, this makes them a perfect plant for bonsai training. The trunk can be braided and trained into intricate shapes. Bonsai is the art of keeping trees small by pruning the branches and roots of a tree. For me, the braided trunks of weeping ficus figs are a great piece of art.
How much light does a weeping fig need?
Weeping figs can manage without access to direct sunlight. This is a tree that can happily grow even in low light. During the winter, carefully move it to a spot that gets a soft light in the morning.
Is Weeping fig poisonous?
Generally speaking, weeping fig is not toxic. However, people who have latex allergies need to be careful. All ficus plants have latex in them which could be harmful especially when you clean, prune, and do other activities.
How big does a weeping fig get?
Outdoors, a weeping fig has been recorded to grow as tall as 100 ft. Although most trees are at 60 feet tall. Indoors, you can grow this ficus plant at 3 to 6 ft.
How do you care for an indoor weeping fig tree?
To care for a weeping fig, always pay attention to the environment you place it in. Place it in a spot where there is bright, indirect light in your room. Make sure the soil is fast-draining. Clean the plant during the dormant seasons. Propagate through cuttings or layering. Above all, enjoy and show the weeping fig your love and plant knowledge.