Ficus Benjamina – Weeping Fig Tree Care
Ficus benjamina, also known as the weeping fig tree, is a beautiful and beneficial tree that comes from Southeast Asia and Northern Australia. It’s the official tree of Bangkok, and we here at Epic Gardening can definitely see why!
The tree can be grown in the ground in certain regions and makes a lovely houseplant in containers. It’s not hard to care for, which means you can grow one at home, in smaller spaces or larger ones.
In this guide you’ll learn exactly how to grow a weeping fig plant in your home, as well as the beneficial properties it has for your health.
Weeping Fig Tree Overview
|Weeping fig tree, benjamin fig, weeping fig plant
|Up to 10 ft indoors, and up to 30 meters in the ground
|Only 1x monthly
All About the Weeping Fig Tree
The weeping fig tree is one of the best plants to have in your home when it comes to remove formaldehyde from the air. It also purifies air of toluene and xylene. In fact, it was studied by NASA as a plant to include in space flight due to its toxin-cleansing properties.
It can grow up to 10′ (3m) in doors, but can also be grown outdoors where it gets considerably taller. They’re staples of landscaping for hospitals, parks, and playgrounds around the country. Some of the tallest ones can reach over 100′ tall!
As the plant ages, the leaves will turn a darker green. The leaves have a glossy look to them, almost as if they have been polished. These trees are monoecious, and the inflorescence is small, pinkish-white, and egg-shaped. They are one of three types: male, fertile, or sterile female flowers.
Each of these flower types have distinct morphology. Male flowers have free sepals and a pronounced stamen. Fertile flowers have 3 to 4 sepals and an egg-shaped ovary. When pollinated, the flowers produce berries (which are actually ripe figs) that contain seeds.
The plant is also known to have roots that can cause significant damage to soil structure outside its native range of Asia and Australia. They can lift sidewalks, and foundations when allowed to grow too tall. In areas that are prone to hurricanes, they can fall over in the face of gale winds.
In this regard, unless you live in a tropical region, keep one as a houseplant, or outdoors as a very short shrub.
Ficus Benjamina Care
Overall, weeping fig plants are easy to care for. They love high humidity areas, so placing them in a bathroom so they can take advantage of the shower mist is a good idea. As for which container to grow your weeping fig in, try an Air Pot, which we stock in our online store.
Light and Temperature
Weeping figs like at least 5-7 hours of bright, indirect sun per day. Even with this much light, they’re still slow growers but they’re worth the wait. Make sure that wherever you place your weeping fig tree is free of strong drafts of air — both cold and hot.
It doesn’t like too much drafty air, and prefers around 65-75°F (18-24°C) temperatures. In areas where winters are cold and summers are hot, bring your ficus indoors during extremes outside the optimal range.
Water and Humidity
Benjamin figs are very sensitive to chemicals that appear in most tap water. Fluoride, chlorine, and the salts that are in tap water can harm the plant. For best results, water only with filtered or distilled water. If you don’t have a filter, you can leave a jug of tap water out overnight so chemicals like chlorine dissipate.
Weeping figs don’t like soggy soil at all, and will quickly drop leaves and die if they are watered too often. The soil should try to at least 1-2″ deep before you water them again. In the winter months, you can water even less often as the plant is dormant for most of this time and needs less water.
In the active growing seasons, sure your plant gets a daily misting with distilled water to promote the 60-80% ambient humidity it appreciates. You can also use a plant humidifier to maintain humidity.
A well-draining soil is best for weeping figs. If you are planting into new soil, be sure to bury the stalk at least 3″ deep in the soil. Containers and in-ground plantings should have humus-rich soil that drains well. Amend rich soils with cactus soil and bark chips. Additions of perlite can assist with drainage as well.
These houseplants don’t need a lot of fertilization. Fertilize about once a month in spring and summer with a standard liquid fertilizer, with an 8-8-8 NPK. Dilute the mixture by at least 50% to avoid burning the leaves. In fall and winter, when the tree becomes dormant, do not fertilize. This can lead to conditions where rot is more prevalent.
Due to how slowly they grow, they don’t need to re-potted often. Once every 3-4 years is about as often you should consider repotting them. When you do re-pot, be careful with the root systems. Unlike many plants, they need their root systems to be unharmed during re-potting or they may suffer for some time.
Pick a pot that is three times larger than the size of the plant so the roots have time to spread and grow without worrying about root rot.
Weeping fig trees are tolerant to heavy pruning. If you inherited an unruly weeping fig, you can even prune it all the way down to the main stem. It will take some time to recover, but eventually you’ll see new shoots coming out of it.
Overall, you can prune to maintain the shape and size of your tree. Prune in-ground plantings outside its native range to keep them at shrub size.
Weeping figs are best propagated by cloning from cuttings. You will create a plant with the exact same genetics as the mother plant by propagating in this way. In the beginning of spring, take cuttings from your tree and place them in water for about a week or so.
After a week, place cuttings directly in a soil made up of peat moss, perlite, and coarse sand. After 2-4 weeks, roots should be well-established. You can double-check this by gently tugging on them and seeing if they hold on to the soil. You shouldn’t need to up-pot until a few years later.
One of the best things about benjamin figs is that bugs or diseases hardly ever attack, but in some rare cases you may have some problems.
Ficus benjamina trees are very sensitive to temperature and light changes and may take on yellowing leaves when they are adjusting to new conditions. If the plant continues to produce yellow leaves, adjust your conditions. Remember to mist the plant, and only water when the top 1-2 inches is dry.
Singed leaves can occur on plants in too much direct sunlight. If needed, place a sheer curtain over your window, or provide some shade in the form of another taller plant. If you notice leaves starting to drop in the fall, don’t worry. This is completely normal and there’s no way to prevent it.
Scale insects are super-annoying bugs that suck out the juice of your weeping fig tree. If they’re not spotted and removed early they can decimate your plant. You can wipe smaller populations off the tree with a damp cloth, or pop them off with an alcohol-soaked q-tip. Neem oil mists will keep future populations away.
The best way to get rid of them is to take your fig tree outside and give it a good hosing down. You will need to repeat this process 2-3 times to make sure you get rid of all of them. If you have a heavy infestation, you will need to go with a horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.
Mealybugs are annoying pests that show up on the underside of your leaves and can be hard to spot at first. Go with an insecticidal soap for multiple applications to rid your plant of these.
Thrips are difficult to get rid of, and even harder to see as they’re less than 1/20″ long. You can spot them by looking for the small dark dots of waste they leave on your leaves. To get rid of them, wash your ficus off with water and go with a neem oil or predatory thrip to fight them off if you have a more serious infestation.
Whiteflies attack your benjamin figs in a similar manner to the pests above. You can tell if you have a whitefly problem by shaking your fig tree and looking for a cloud of flies to pop up. To prevent them, you should use neem oil sprays multiple times to be sure you’ve killed them all off. Standard yellow sticky traps are also a good way to get rid of them.
For the most part, weeping figs don’t suffer from too many diseases.
Tip blight is a more rare disease to run into, but it will cause the tips of new ficus benjamina shoots to die off. The culprit is high humidity, so to prevent this you should make sure that you aren’t bathing your figs in too much mist. To treat it, just remove the blighted tips by cutting below them. Then reduce humidity.
Root rot is caused in two ways: having poorly-draining soil, and / or watering too often. Either one of these situations will cause the roots to be in too much water and begin to soften and rot away. Preventing this is easy: water less often and add more sand to your soil so it drains better.
Phomopsis Canker is caused by pruning with non-sterile equipment. It’s a fungal disease that enters the plant via pruning cuts. You can tell your tree has it by looking for cankers near the pruned sections. If you notice it, you should prune that branch off completely, as there is no chemical treatment of phomopsis canker on the market.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: My weeping fig is losing leaves and the leaves are yellow. What is happening?
A: The most likely problem is over-watering. Weeping fig trees like to dry out before getting more water, and not letting them do this will cause root rot and the problems that you are describing.
Q: How do I properly prune my weeping fig tree? Mine is in need of some serious cutting back.
A: The good thing about ficus benjamina is how tolerant they are of being neglected. If you need to aggressively prune, they will even survive being pruned back to only their main stem. However, a good rule of thumb is to prune back any branch with over 5 leaves back to only 2 leaves.
Q: I heard I can braid or train my weeping fig tree. How do I do that?
A: Because weeping fig trees have hanging branches like a weeping willow, you can actually train them to grow how you want them. By carefully braiding the branches as they grow, you can create just about any shape you want.