Ficus benjamina (weeping fig), part of the large Moraceae, or
Mulberry, family, are native to Southeast Asia, India and Australia. F.
benjamina has glossy green elliptical shaped leaves and a light tan
colored trunk. Mature plants may produce small, inedible figs. Ficus
benjaminas are available in a wide variety of forms including multiple
standards, columns, braided, single trunks, bonsai, bush and corkscrew. 

Ficus Benjamina Column

Adjusting to the indoor environment

Ficus benjaminas grown in high light use vast amounts of water, grow
rapidly and produce thick foliage canopies. Leaves are light colored,
cup-shaped, thicker and smaller in size than leaves grown under low
light. These adaptations protect leaf surfaces from high light
intensity, reduce transpiration rates and help conserve moisture.

Ficus varieties used in interiorscapes need to adjust to lower
humidity levels and light intensities. To begin the acclimatization
process, Ficus grown in direct sun are moved to shade houses for 8 to 10
weeks before they are shipped to interiorscapers. As the Ficus adjusts
to the lower light levels, it drops leaves it can no longer support.
Growers reduce water and fertilizer levels to help slow the plant’s
rapid metabolism and conserve food reserves. The plant acclimates
further when placed in the interiorscape. The entire adjustment period
may take up to three months. A fully acclimated Ficus produces leaves
that are deep green, thinner, more supple and larger than sun-grown
leaves. The foliage canopy is more open and spreading. Growth is slower
and the Ficus requires less water. To help new Ficus adjust to the
indoor environment, remove excess fertilizers from the top of grow pots.
Closely monitor the moisture in the media. A new Ficus uses more water
initially and less water as it acclimates. To allow more light to reach
individual leaves, thin dense clumps of foliage; remove yellow leaves;
prune twigs and branches growing towards the center.

Keeping roots healthy

roots need a growing media with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, and good pore
space for gas exchanges and root expansion. Keep roots healthy by
watering the entire root ball thoroughly, then allowing the plant to dry
out sufficiently. In medium light (100 – 200fc) allow growing media to
dry down 1/3 of the container; in higher light conditions allow media to
dry down 2″ to 1/4 of the pot.

Roots can be damaged by improper moisture levels. Underwatered plants
develop symptoms such as mottled yellow leaves, leaf drop and withered
stems. Overwatered plants drop green leaves, show signs of stunted and
pale new growth, and may develop root and stem rots.

Fertilize healthy plants with a complete water-soluble fertilizer
during times of active growth. Do not fertilize unacclimated, stressed
or infested plants. Test the growing media periodically for excess
soluble salts which can damage delicate roots and interfere with water
absorption. Ficus benjamina has dense, fibrous root systems that grow
rapidly. Ficus grown in medium light conditions prefer to be slightly
root boxed, but plants in high light may need to be root pruned and
repotted every 2-3 years.

Keeping foliage healthy

Ficus benjamina prefer a minimum light range of 200 Foot Candles, but can be
acclimated to light levels around 100FC. Plants in higher light grow
faster and use more water than similar plants in lower light. Ficus
benjamina are very phototropic and need to be rotated regularly.

Clean Ficus leaves regularly to promote healthy growth. Commercial
solutions such as Leaf-Tek by Leaf-Tek Products or Clean & Feed by
Botanical Science work well at cleaning built up grime and dust on
foliage. If you prefer, you can mix up a mild solution of 1-2 tsp dish
soap and 2 tbsp alcohol mixed in 1-quart water. Spray until runoff and
hand wipe foliage with sponges or rags. Gently wipe branches and trunk
with a soap solution and a sponge to remove dust, insect pests and sap.

Ficus are pruned for varying reasons — to help acclimate the plant,
to remove pests or to thin and shape the tree as it ages. Follow these
guidelines when pruning Ficus benjaminas:

  • Use sharp pruners and scissors to prevent damaging bark tissue.
  • Cut close to, but not into, the bark branch collar (the slight
    swelling located where one branch connects to another branch or trunk)
  • Do not remove more than 30% of the foliage at one time.

Ficus are susceptible to scale, mealy bug, spider mites, excess
soluble salts, Phomopsis die back, and air pollution. Control pests by
pruning out small infestations, wiping individual pests with alcohol on a
cotton swab or washing off pests with dish soap and water. Control
disease development by providing the correct environmental conditions
and moisture levels for optimum growth. Monitor soluble salt levels and
leach media regularly to prevent salt build up.

Are you considering beautiful living plants for your workspace? Let our experienced
Everything Grows Interior Landscaping design team lend a hand. We
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