Plant of the Week: Ficus - Benjamina Variegated. (Weeping Fig)
Ficus Benjamina is one of the most popular houseplants that is grown specially for it's decorative shiny, green oval leaves, it can be prune to almost any shape and size, grown as an evergreen tree or large shrub in offices and used for interior landscaping. Cultivars are available with variegated foliage, wavy leaves and pendulous branches. Weeping fig stems are often trained in ornamental shapes, while the stems are young and flexible they may be braided, spiraled or twisted into different shapes.
They can grow as tall as the indoor space will allow, but they can easily be pruned to a suitable height and shape. These indoor trees are generally easy to grow if you give them enough light and proper care. Weeping figs grow best in a bright indirect or curtain-filtered sunlight position, but they will handle some direct sun if the humidity is high. Variegated cultivars grow best in somewhat lower light. Weeping figs prefer warm temperatures, in the night 18-21 Celsius degrees (65-70 F) and over the day 24-26 Celsius degrees (75-85 F) are ideal temperatures.
During periods of active growth, make sure you keep the soil evenly moist, but the soil should be allowed to dry slightly between watering during the winter and other times of low growth. Weeping figs should never be waterlogged or allowed to sit in water in their saucers because the roots will easily rot. They prefer high humidity, so wash your ficus leaves occasionally with plain warm water - this will help the leaves breathe and improved their appearance. Mist leaves frequently, especially in hot weather. Use tepid water for this operation.
Healthy plants should be fed every moth or two during the growing season, usine a liquid fertilizer. Weeping figs can tolerate being slightly root bound, but if the plants will become too crowded, the new leaves that appear will be small and the growth will slow. Re-pot your tree in late winter or early spring, using a general purpose potting soil. They will grow in most soils, but prefer the well-drained ones, and are drought-resistant once established.
Plants can be pruned to shape as needed. They will even tolerate hard pruning to reduce their size if necessary, but if you have to prune them so hard just remember to reduce watering levels to severely pruned plants.
The most common problem of weeping figs is leaf drop. They seem to react to almost any stress by shedding their leaves. Over-watering, under-watering, drafts, lack of nitrogen and low light can all be causes of leaf drop. They often shed leaves when moved to a new location or re-potted, but if growth conditions are adequate it will adapt to its new location and stop dropping leaves, then healthy new growth will appear.
You can propagate weeping figs at any season by air layering, or by cuttings that are best taken in summer and using a rooting hormone and provide bottom head. Sow seeds at 15-21 Celsius degrees (59-70 F) in spring.