Ficus benjamina is an easy to grow and popular indoor tropical tree. It is somewhat tolerant of neglect and is not any harder to grow than other houseplants. The delicate foliage and attractive trunk combined with the elegant weeping habit of a mature tree makes this tree a favorite among indoor gardeners.
Ficus benjamina, commonly known as weeping fig, is a large, tropical evergreen tree. When grown outdoors it can reach up to 60 feet tall and more than 70 feet wide. Aerial roots form on the branches that eventually grow to reach the ground, take root and form secondary support trunks that allow this tree to cover a wide area. The branches, trunk and roots are smooth and a light gray color. The leaves are oval-shaped, about 2 to 5 inches long, and a glossy green color. It produces small, half-inch bright red figs under optimal growing conditions.
Ficus benjamina do well outdoors in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 10B and warmer and are damaged by frost. Most are grown indoors as potted plants in the United States. Ficus benjamina prefers a fertile well-draining soil that is allowed to dry slightly between watering. It likes full sun to part shade outdoors and a bright location near a west or south window indoors. It can handle full sun through a window in the winter, but needs some slight shading during the summer to protect it from burning. The whole tree, including pot, should be rotated periodically to keep it growing evenly.
Pruning and Shaping
Ficus benjamina can become a very large plant and needs to be trimmed to live indoors. Outdoors, it can be trimmed as a hedge. It is a very forgiving plant and can tolerate a lot of pruning.
Young and flexible trunks can be trained into different shapes. Many Ficus benjamina have braided, twisted or corkscrew trunks. Eventually, multiple trunks unite wherever they touch to form a single trunk with interesting features. A corkscrew is created by wrapping a young trunk around a support, where it eventually thickens and holds the shape.
Ficus benjamina reacts negatively to any sudden environmental changes such as cold drafts, change in light levels or improper moisture levels. It is not uncommon for all of the foliage to drop overnight if the plant is suddenly stressed. It will usually come back within a few weeks on a healthy tree if the condition is corrected.
Ficus benjamina is relatively pest free, but may become infected with scale insects. These are best treated with an insecticidal soap rated for houseplants available at garden stores.
Outdoors in warm areas, Ficus benjamina is too big for most landscapes other than large parks and open areas. The roots can cause damage to sidewalks and the fruit drop can stain cars. It can be trimmed in to a manageable-sized hedge.
Indoors, Ficus benjamina is perfect for open public areas like malls and lobbies as long as there is bright light. Weeping figs are good floor plants near furniture and doorways. It is also used as a tree for indoor bonsai.