Ficus Benjamina

About

Ficus benjamina, or Weeping Fig, originally found growing in Asia, India, and Austrlia, is part of the Moraceae family, and, in nature, produces a small fruit enjoyed by doves and pigeons. It is the official tree of Bangkok. Today it is often planted in parks and outside large commercial buildings, quickly growing into impressive an tree. In recent years, a ficus benjamina has become an extremely popular indoor plant, replacing the Rubber tree as the most frequently purchased ficus variety.

Description of Ficus Benjamina

For many years, a Ficus benjamina had the reputation of being a temperamental, high-light plant that easily dropped leaves if you just looked at it.  Today, however, there are new, hardy varieties that grow in almost any location. You can find ficus trees small enough to sit on a table or as large as 12ft. tall. The slender, pale brown, woody trunks can be straight, braided or twisted into a spiral. The thin, arching branches are covered in hundreds of 1”-3.5” glossy, leathery, pointed., oval to elliptical shaped leaves. All parts of the plant contain a milky, slightly toxic, white sap that can be quite irritating if eaten or if it gets into an open cut.

Ficus Benjamina Varieties

The original Ficus benjamina has green leaves and any fluctuation in light, temperature, or water caused  hundreds of the leaves to fall off. Today we have several hybrids of the original plant that have different leaf colors, can adapt well to medium and even low light, can be moved around to different areas of your home, and are even tolerant of temperature fluctuations.

Ficus Midnight looks very much like a ficus benjy but has deep- green to blackish – green glossy leaves

Golden King has shiny oval leaves that start out yellow/green. As the plant matures, the leaves become green in the center with a wide band of yellow/gold around the edge.

Ficus “Monique has dark green, narrow leaves with wavy edges

Ficus Natasja is a small plant with dark green leaves and only grows about 2ft tall. It is often used to create a ficus bonsaiLearn how to grow bonsai plants, and which plants make the best bonsai plants at Houseplant411.com. It is not as hardy as some of the other hybrids and often drops leaves

Ficus Spearmint has green and white variegated leaves and needs more light than the solid green plant

Ficus Starlight has arching branches full of shiny pointed, oval, variegated leaves with a dark green center and decorative white edges.

 

         

F. Golden King           F. Spearmint           F. Midnight           F. Natasja

Ficus Benjamina Problems and Causes

Green leaves fall off new leaf buds turn black: too much water, change in location or temperature

Bright yellow leaves drop off: usually occurs when the plant is under watered.

Dry shriveled leaves: often occurs in the winter when the air is very dry

Quick Care Tips

bright indirect lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light.

Never allow the soil to totally dry out, but be careful not to over water, especially in winter

Fertilize in spring and summer

Provide warm temperatures and keep plant away from cold drafts

Avoid frequent repotting

Conclusion

A Ficus benjamina is a beautiful addition to your home especially if you are careful to choose one of the new, hardier hybrids. This is not the kind of plant, like a dracaena, that can be ignored or watered on an irregular schedule. Follow the detailed care tips below and you’ll enjoy your Ficus benjamina for many years. These plants are considered poisonous and should be kept away from pets and children. Read more about common houseplants that are poisonous in Don’t Feed Me to Your Cat: A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants.

 

FAQ

Why Are the Green Leaves on My Ficus Turning Yellow?

A ficus tree gets yellow leaves when it is not getting enough water. Water a ficus until excess water drains out the drip holes in the bottom of the pot. Try to be consistent when watering.

What Is the Sticky Residue on the Leaves of My Ficus? There Is Also Something That Looks Like Black Dust on the Leaves, Trunk, and Stems.

The sticky stuff on the leaves of your ficus tree is called “honeydew” and it is left by the houseplant pest called scale. The “honeydew” attracts the black dust which is called black sooty mold. Locate the scale insects and scrape them off using a child’s toothbrush. Spray the entire tree with the “ green solution.” You can find out how to make the ” green solution” in the Glossary of the website.

Why Are Green Leaves Falling Off My Ficus and the New Baby Leaves Turning Black?

The usual reason a ficus tree drops green leaves and new leaves turn black is over-watering. Leaves may also fall off due to changes in your watering schedule, amount of light, or changes in temperature. Cold drafts from doors or windows, and blasts of hot or cold air from heaters and air conditioners can also cause a ficus to lose leaves.

I Bought a Ficus Tree From the Nursery and Put It in a Warm, Bright, Draft-free Location in My House. Why Did Half the Leaves Fall Off Two Weeks Later?

Ficus trees, especially the old benjamina varieties, lose leaves when moved to a new location. It may take up to two months for the plant to acclimate to its new home. I recommend using a product called superthrive when a ficus goes into “shock”. You can read about superthrive in the Glossary of the website. Don’t fertilize your new ficus until you start to see new growth.

How Do I Trim a Ficus Tree?

I’m a big advocate of aggressively pruning a ficus tree. Pruning plants encourages new growth, controls the size and shape of the plant, and allows more light to reach the leaves. Start pruning a ficus tree in the center of the tree. Ficus trees need a great deal of light, so often the small branches at the center are very weak or have totally died and need to be removed. The outer part of the tree is called the canopy. You can remove up to 1/3 of the canopy without harming a ficus tree. By reducing the size of the canopy you’ll be helping the plant produce new healthy growth and become fuller. Always wear gloves when pruning. The sap from a ficus tree can be quite irritating if it gets on your skin. Never rip the branches off, always use a sharp tool and make clean small cuts.