Ficus benjamina: Podcast Ep#66

In my opinion, Ficus benjamina is the most classic, original houseplant on the market. They are fairly common to find, in several sizes and varieties, making this a go-to houseplant.




Botanical Name: Ficus benjamina

Common Name: Weeping Fig, Fig Tree, Weeping Chinese Banyan, Benjamin Tree, Small-leaved Rubber Tree


There are many varieties of Ficus benjamina but most of the time, you may not see the official cultivar names on packaging or plant tags. There are three main differences between varieties to note based on appearance. You will see plain green, white variegated, and yellow/green variegated forms. The different cultivars out there are different in how extreme the variegation may be.


Sun Requirements:

Bright, indirect light is definitely best for this plant to thrive. Putting it a bit away from a South window, or in a west window, will produce the best light. That being said, Ficus benjamina is tolerant of many lighting situations. I would avoid any low light situation to help with foliage density but they can do well in an medium light situation as well.


Water Requirement

You may allow this plant to dry out in-between watering, but I would not wait too long because you may see leaves drop when too dry. They can recover from being underwatered, but not overwatered, so you may need to test out the watering pattern until you see a good pattern for you. A Moisture Meter Reader may be a good solution if you are unsure about watering needs. Remember in summer, watering will need to increase and the frequency depends on your environment (I.E. humidity, sunlight, home temperature). If you are loosing leaves and feel you have watered enough, this could be part of the normal process for the Ficus to drop its leaves. See the "Other Facts" section to read more about this normal process.


Humidity could also help your plant thrive. If you have the opportunity to increase humidity, I would do so! In my experience, it isn't necessary though and it can survive as a healthy plant without it.


Fertilizer

As I always say, there are LOTS of ways to fertilize plants. Unless you are extremely over-fertilizing your plant, there isn't necessarily a wrong way to do this. I currently use Fox Farm's Grow Big Liquid Fertilizer and I normally fertilize every 2 weeks when I water my plants, starting around the end of February through October. I honestly probably only fertilize once or twice in winter because the plant isn't as active! I use about 1/2 to 3/4 the recommended amount of fertilizer because I would rather under-fertilize than over-fertilize my plants.


Complete Houseplant Survival Manual: "In spring, sprinkle time-release fertilizer granules over the surface of the soil. Or, from spring through fall, feed monthly with a balanced houseplant food. In winter, do not feed."


Plantopedia: "To promote growth, fertilize once a month in spring and summer."


Practical Houseplant Book: "Apply a half strength balanced liquid fertilizer once a month from spring to fall."


There are MANY ways to fertilize and it is completely up to you! There are tons of products out there you can try but an overall rule of thumb for houseplants is that it is best to under-fertilize, rather than over-fertilize. Always use the recommended amount, or less, when applying your fertilizer to houseplants.


Other Facts

  • Part of the Moraceae family AKA Fig family.

  • Native to parts of Asia, Australia and southwestern United States.

  • In nature, these plants can grow upwards of 40-50ft and typically about 30ft wide. As a houseplant, these can grow as large as you have the space for them. I've seen them upwards of 15ft tall indoors.

  • You will most commonly find these as beautiful trees in 10-12inch pots, sometimes with a braided stem. I was able to find a couple small ones in 4-6inch pots as well. If you are looking for a statement plant, some garden centers and plant shops may be able to special order a certain size plant. When I worked at the garden center, I was able to order 8ft trees which were very impressive!

  • Keep in mind, leaves dropping on your Ficus are very normal. This could be caused by a few things like adjustment to environment, underwatering and overwatering. If you just brought the plant home from the plant shop, you need to expect some leaves turning yellow, or brown, and dropping. If you've had the plant for awhile and it starts to drop leaves, this could be a sign of something needing to change in the care or environment.

  • Ficus benjamina do have berries and flowers but as a houseplant this probably will not happen. North Carolina State Extension said the following about the fruit and flower: "Flowers and fruits are enclosed in a fleshy sac that turns from green to orange-red to red and then purplish black."

  • Ficus benjamina is toxic to pets and humans. If you are interested in learning about more pet friendly plants, check out Podcast Ep#31 for more info or the corresponding blog post!


Instagram Q&A

I asked followers if they had any specific plant questions I could address in this podcast and blog. Here are the questions and answers for the Ficus benjamina...


"What makes it different from other Ficus plants?"

  • There are many differences between Ficus varieties, but the main ones are the thickness of the leaves, size of the leaves, color, and leaf patterns. This all depends on the cultivar you have. The most popular are Ficus elastica, Ficus lyrata, Ficus triangularis, Ficus benghalensis, Ficus maclellandii ‘Alii’, Ficus pumila and Ficus altissima.


"Why is it called Ficus benjamina?"

  • I saw some conflicting things about the name's origin. Some say the name "benjamina" derived from a form of the word "banyan" which described the original origin of the plant in India. Here is the specific wording I found from CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International): "The species name of F. benjamina, sometimes spelled benzamina, likely refers to the supposed relation of this plant to the source of a resin or benzoin procured from the Orient in antiquity, or the specific epithet from banyan, the Sanskrit ‘banij’"

 

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Always written with extreme plant passion!

Love, Holly (Owner & Creator of Houseplant Homebody LLC)

 

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