Most commonly known as the weeping fig, Ficus benjamina originates from the tropical regions of Asia. The tree has many other common names including Java fig, Malayan banyan and Benjamin tree. These large trees can reach heights of 60 feet and spread up to 100 feet in diameter. Outside tropical areas, Ficus benjamina is very popular as a houseplant.
Like many other trees in the moraceae family, weeping figs grow profusely. The trunk is covered with thin gray bark and the branches develop a characteristic droop as the tree ages. Foliage is typically thick and lush, with glossy oval leaves that are 2 to 4 inches long. Weeping figs produce small red fruit that is extremely bitter to the taste and not considered edible.
In their native regions, weeping figs prefer full to partial sun and well-drained soil that is mildly acidic. As houseplants, they thrive in similar conditions, preferring brightly lit rooms with plenty of natural light. Like most plants native to the tropics, weeping fig is very sensitive to cold and should be kept well away from drafty doors or windows.
Weeping figs should be watered thoroughly when the soil is dry to the touch, but do not leave excess water in the drainage tray. Being naturally drought resistant, Ficus benjamina tolerates dry conditions, and wet soil can lead to root rot. Perlite or gravel added to the potting mix of indoor plants promotes good drainage. Wipe leaves with a damp rag to keep the plant free of dust.
Ficus benjamina grows vigorously and should be trimmed regularly to maintain size and shape. They respond well to regular pruning and are well known as exceptional bonsai plants. More aggressive reductions should be done in spring or summer when the plant is in a high growth state. Pruning branches with four or more leaves just above the lowest leaf node will make the plant fill out.
Pests and Problems
Weeping figs have few problems with disease but can occasionally become infested with scales. These tiny brown bugs can make the plant feel sticky and can be treated with an application of neem oil. Ficus benjamina is also prone to leaf drop, which is caused when the plant is under stress. Potential causes may include too much or too little water, exposure to cold or moving the plant to a new location.