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How to Grow and Care for a Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)

 

A weeping fig is a long living houseplant that provides that touch of wildness to any room.  While this plant is easy to grow there are some specific things one needs to do to keep the plant looking its best.

Light

When you first get your weeping fig home, you may notice that it begins to drop leaves.  Do not worry.  This plant does not like to be moved and in response to this change of environment, it drops it leaves.  In doing so, when you get your plant home you will need to place it in a location that receives bright, indirect sunlight.  Once you have placed it in this location, leave it alone.  This does not mean that you cannot rotate it for even growth.  What it does mean is you should not place it in a new room because you want a new look.

Temperature

The temperature requirement for this plant is 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  While temperature is very important, another factor that needs to be considered is drafts.  This plant will drop its leaves quicker than a spring storm if it is exposed to either cold or warm drafts.  So, when placing your weeping fig in its location, make sure to keep it away from drafty windows and doorways.

Along with temperature, one will need to provide the proper level of humidity, which in this case is nothing lower than 40 percent.  If the humidity drops below this level, the tree will begin to drop its leaves.  To prevent this, one has two choices.  The first choice is to mist the plant daily.  The other choice is to place the potted weeping fig on a saucer that has been filled with pebbles and topped off with water.  As the water evaporates, the humidity will increase and in doing so creating the need level of air moisture. 

Watering

Watering is very important when it comes to this houseplant.  It will not tolerate soggy soil and as you can guess it will drop its leaves in response to this condition.  When it comes to watering, water until moisture can be seen coming out of the bottom of the pot.  Once that has occurred, stop and allow the soil to dry out before watering again.  In the winter, water even less.  This is due to the reduced amount of sunlight.

Transplanting

Sometime during the weeping fig’s life, it will need to be transplanted.  To meet the soil condition requirement, one should use a good potting soil that drains very well or a soilless mix.  To transplant your weeping fig, starts with the new pot.  While it may be more convenient to go really large, do not.  Upsizing too large will cause a mass root growth and little vegetative growth.  It is true that a strong root system is important, what you really want a showy plant.  In doing so, only go up one pot size and make sure that the pot has a drainage hole.

Next, wash and sterilized the container by cleaning it in a basin of soapy water.  Once cleaned, rinse in water treated with a little bleach.  After that is done, allow the pot to dry in the sun.

After that has been completed, bring in your dried container and place a layer of pot shards or coffee filter in the bottom of the pot.  Fill the pot ¼ to ½ full of soilless or well draining potting soil mix.  Next, gently remove the weeping fig from its present pot.  Do not pull the plant out.  A better approach is to gently squeeze the sides of the pot, turn the pot upside down, and tap on the bottom.  Following these steps should release the plant from the pot.

Once that is done, tease the roots by loosening them up and place the plant into its new home.   Add additional potting mix around the plant until you reach the original soil level of the plant.  Do not be tempted to plant it deeper.  Doing this will suffocate the roots.

Finally, give your plant a good drink and place it back on its humidity saucer. 

While transplanting this plant is easy what do you do if you really like the container it is in?  Well, you can and the process involved is called root pruning.

Root pruning is easy to do and begins with removing the plant from its container.  Once that is done, trim one inch of root mass all the way around and on the bottom.  Remove any dead or damaged roots.  Next, repot as described above.  Water in after root pruning and transplanting.  Doing this simple step will reduce plant stress.

Fertilization

Yes, the weeping fig likes a splash of diluted fertilizer in the spring and fall.  Do not just use any type of fertilizer.  The weeping fig requires a balanced formulation that has been diluted by one half.

Pests

  For whatever reason, indoor trees seem to attract many different types of pests.  In the case of the weeping fig, this means the spider mite, mealy bugs, and thrips.  Unfortunately, the moist environment that this plant requires is a haven to these pests.  When faced with pest issue, always go for an organic insecticidal soap as a first approach.  If it requires something stronger, consider throwing  away the plant.  Do not compost it.  Doing this will just continue the pest problem.   

Propagation

The weeping fig is easily started from a tip cutting that is taken in the spring.  To do this, take a cutting in the early spring when new growth is appearing.  You want a stem that is full of leaves all the way down 4 to 5 inches.  Once that is found, take a sharp knife and cut off the 4- to 5-inches of that stem with a knife that has been wiped down with rubbing alcohol.  The alcohol will sterilize the knife and in doing so reducing the chances of a fungal infection. 

Once you have the cutting remove all the leaves from the bottom up except leaving three to four leaves on the top.  Once that is done, place the cutting in a glass of water and then surround it in a clear, plastic bag that has been tied off.  This will create the humidity that this plant needs.   Place in a sunny location but away from direct sunlight.  Open the bag at least once a day to remove excess moisture.  While the bag is open, replace the water with fresh.  In about two to three weeks, you will begin to see roots.  After the roots are about ½ an inch, it is time to plant the cutting in a container.  To do this, clean and sterilize a 4-inch pot.  Once that is done, fill the pot with a well draining, all-purpose potting soil mix or soilless potting medium.  Next, take a pencil and poke a hole in that potting medium.  Place your cutting in this hole and gently push the soil around the cutting.  Once that is done, water in your plant, place it on a humidity tray and put it in a sunny location that is away from direct sunlight.  In about two to three weeks, you should begin to see new leaves.  Continue with the care described above.

 

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Gardening-tip:



Keep Your Trees Weed Free

When a tree, or any plant for that matter, has to compete for water, food and nutrients, it can place extra stress on it.

Try and keep the area under trees and plants weed free. They will grow faster, and healthier.


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