The Ficus benjamina is one of the most popular houseplants in the world. Known as the weeping fig, the F. benjamina is native to India and Southeast Asia, where its an important fruit and landscape plant. It is an incredibly rewarding plant to grow indoors. It makes a beautiful corner plant and large indoor "tree" for an entryway or foyer. Learn how to grow this plant and how to deal with problems, such as its tendency to drop leaves.
Varieties of Weeping Fig
F. benjamina and F. microcarpa are often grouped together and confused with one another, as they are very similar plants. F. benjamina has a more weeping growth habit, while F. microcarpa grows more upright. F. benjamina cultivars have been bred for novel and useful growth habits, such as the Spire, which is a columnar plant. Look for darker-leaved varietals for better indoor growth as they are more likely to be tolerant of low-light conditions.
Consider these guidelines when trying to grow weeping fig indoors:
- Light: The weeping fig needs a bright room, even with a little direct sun in the morning. In its native habitat, it is often grown in semi-shady conditions, but indoors it needs good light to thrive.
- Water: Keep the plant steadily moist, but don't allow it to sit in water or it will drop leaves and suffer from root rot.
- Soil: Any good, fast-draining potting soil will likely do.
- Fertilizer: These are heavy feeders and need plenty of fertilizer throughout the growing season.
F. benjamina can be relatively easy rooted from cuttings, even without rooting hormone. It's best to take a cutting in the spring when you can more easily supply warmth and moisture. Ficus is rarely grown from seed and most indoor plants will never fruit or yield seed.
A healthy ficus is a fast-growing plant and will need careful attention paid to its potting. First off, if you notice your plant is growing more slowly, it's probably because of low water or low temperatures. The repotting requirements also depend on how you're growing the plant—ficus are incredibly flexible. They can be grown as standards, topiary, braided standards, regular houseplants, and even bonsai. Take your cues from the plant and repot annually in many circumstances.
Leaf Dropping in Weeping Fig
One of the common complaints about F. benjamina is its tendency to shed leaves easily: you move it, it drops leaves; the watering schedule changes, it drops leaves. It might help to know that part of this is because of the way these plants have evolved. F. benjamina is native to the subtropics and tropics where there is a distinct wet and dry season. In this native environment, plants typically drop leaves at the beginning of the dry season, making them exquisitely sensitive to changes in moisture. In terms of indoor culture, they are not especially demanding but dislike being moved and, as mentioned before, they are highly sensitive to changes in watering.
Although it is a little more challenging, it is possible to overwinter F. benjamina in temperate areas without massive leaf-dropping, but it will require careful attention to watering and temperature. In general, make sure to aggressively fertilizer your ficus plant, especially during the growing season. They have a fairly high need for fertilizer. Also, make sure to prune away dead branches and pick dead leaves to prevent the spread of diseases or fungal infections that can severely affect your plant.
If your plant is dropping leaves despite all these steps, and you're giving it nice bright light, try supplementing with a little magnesium and manganese. Ficus benjamina are vulnerable to pests including aphids, mealy bugs, scale, and white fly. If possible, identify the infestation as early as possible and treat with the least toxic option.