How to Grow and Care for Weeping Fig (Ficus)

ficus benjamina

The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

Weeping fig (also known as the ficus tree) grows as a large broadleaf evergreen tree in tropical and subtropical climates, but it is more often grown as a houseplant in homes, offices, and featured in interior commercial landscaping.

This elegant plant has slender branches that arch gracefully from a light gray trunk, with dense, glossy dark leaves. When grown indoors, the plants are normally pruned to keep them about 3 feet to 6 feet tall, and their trunks are sometimes braided for decorative appeal. It is a fast grower and may need to be repotted up to once per year, but do so in the early spring for best results. Weeping fig is toxic to humans and pets.

Common Name Weeping fig, ficus tree, Benjamin fig
Botanical Name Ficus benjamina
Family Moraceae
Plant Type Evergreen tree usually grown as a houseplant
Mature Size 3-6 ft. tall indoors; up to 60 ft. tall outdoors
Sun Exposure Filtered, bright sun
Soil Type Rich, fast-draining potting soil
Soil pH Acidic, neutral to acidic 
Bloom Time Rarely blooms indoors
Flower Color N/A
Hardiness Zones Grows outdoors in zones 10-11 (USDA)
Native Area Asia, Australia
Toxicity Toxic to humans and animals
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Watch Now: How to Grow and Take Care of a Weeping Fig (Ficus)

Weeping Fig Care

In tropical climates, weeping fig can be grown as specimen trees that reach up to 60 feet in height, and they are sometimes planted and pruned as hedges. Weeping fig grows easily indoors in containers filled with soil-based potting mix and positioned in bright indirect light or in sunny areas that get some afternoon shade. It should be regularly watered during the growing season but allowed to become drier from fall to late winter.

Ficus benjamina leaves
The Spruce / Cara Cormack
young ficus
The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Light

The weeping fig needs a bright room with plenty of indirect sunlight, and perhaps even 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. You must find a good, bright spot for it and keep it there.

Soil

Any good, fast-draining potting soil will likely do. Weeping figs do not require soil that is especially high in nutrients or organic matter. If repotting, use a soil-based potting soil that contains perlite, sand, and vermiculite for improved drainage. 

Water

Keep the plant steadily moist, but do not allow it to sit in water or it will drop leaves and may develop root rot. In their native environment, plants typically drop leaves at the beginning of the dry season, which makes them acutely sensitive to changes in moisture. Make sure your watering schedule is consistent.

Temperature and Humidity

Ficus trees do best with nighttime temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and daytime temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider setting your thermostat to regulate temperature fluctuations in your home. In the summertime, do not use heavy air conditioning, since weeping figs will suffer if the indoor temperature drops below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

As tropical natives, weeping figs prefer high humidity. Low relative humidity can result in leaves that are dry and shriveled up. Consider using a humidifier to regulate humidity levels in your home. Keep the soil moist around the base of your tree and mist the tree’s leaves occasionally to prevent them from drying out.

Fertilizer

These plants are heavy feeders and need plenty of fertilizer throughout the growing season. Feed your ficus with slow-release pellets at the beginning of the growing season. They are rapid growers and will benefit from monthly fertilization in the spring and summer and once every two months in the fall and winter.

If your plant is dropping leaves despite having ideal lighting, temperature, humidity, and fertilizer levels, try supplementing with a little magnesium and manganese.

Types of Weeping Figs

  • F. benjamina: The F. benjamina has narrow glossy green leaves and grows into a small shrub or tree. This plant is less tolerant of cold and shade than the rubber tree. Variegated varieties include F. benjamina variegata and F. benjamina 'Starlight'.
  • F. elastica: The rubber tree has large, thick glossy leaves. Varieties include the F. elastica robusta with wide, large leaves and the F. elastica decora.
  • F. lyrata: The fiddle leaf fig has large, violin-shaped leaves up to 18 inches long.

Pruning

Trimming ficus trees is necessary if the plant is touching the ceiling or you want to make it smaller or shape it. Timing is important: Prune when the plant is no longer actively growing. Most ficus plants are active in spring and summer, with growth diminishing in fall, and by winter the plant has gone into dormancy and is less susceptible to injury from pruning. 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; this pruning can be done any time during the year. Whenever pruning, use a sterilized, sharp pair of pruners.

Propagating Weeping Fig

Weeping fig can be relatively easy to root from cuttings, even without rooting hormone. It is 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.

  1. Take a 3 to 5-inch cutting that contains at least two sets of leaves from the tip of a healthy branch. Make the cut about 1/4 inch below a set of leaves. Strip off the leaves from the lower half of the cutting. You can coat the cut end with rooting hormone if desired.
  2. Embed the end of the cutting in a container filled with moistened peat moss. Cover the container with a large plastic bag, making sure the plastic does not touch the cutting (sticks or skewers can prop up the bag). Tie the bag closed around the bottom.
  3. Set the container in a spot with bright, indirect light but out of direct sunlight. Try to keep the pot above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Mist the cutting daily to keep humidity levels high. Moisten the soil if it feels dry at the top.
  4. In two to four weeks, the cutting should develop sufficient roots to allow you to cut slits in the bag to allow it to acclimate to room conditions.
  5. After about six weeks, transplant the cutting into a 6-inch pot and continue to grow it into a small tree.

Potting and Repotting Weeping Fig

A healthy ficus is a fast-growing plant and will need careful attention to its pot. If you notice your plant is growing more slowly, it is probably because of low water or low temperatures.

The repotting requirements also depend on how you are growing the plant—ficus is incredibly flexible. They can be grown as standards, topiary, braided standards, regular houseplants, and even bonsai. Take your cues from the plant and be prepared to repot annually in many circumstances. Move a weeping fig plant to a new pot in early spring, whether you're giving a new plant a more permanent home or repotting an existing plant.

Overwintering

Even if your weeping fig is a houseplant, it can enjoy time outdoors. After the last frost date in spring, weeping figs can be brought outdoors for the summer. But remember to return it indoors when the weather turns cold again. Be sure to place the plant away from any heat vents or drafts, as the continuous shifts in temperature will stress the plant.

Common Pests

Leaf dropping that is not explained by other causes sometimes indicates infestation by common pests, including aphids, mealybugs, scale, and spider mites. Use insecticidal soap or other natural means specific to each pest in order to save your weeping fig from damage.

Common Problems With Weeping Fig

The most common problem with the easy-going weeping fig is leaf drop. The ficus tree can lose leaves due to any type of stress, including:

  • Repotting
  • Lack of nitrogen
  • Overwatering
  • Underwatering
  • Low light
  • Frequent movement of the plant to different locations
  • Sitting indoors where there are frequent temperature changes

When a weeping fig tree adjusts to its surroundings or is satisfied with the amendments made to its soil, it will stop shedding its leaves.

FAQ
  • Are weeping figs easy to care for?

    The weeping fig is a very easy tree to maintain because it has a good tolerance for the limited light conditions of indoor environments.

  • How fast does a weeping fig grow?

    Weeping fig grows fast, about a couple of feet a year, which is why it's important to keep an eye out for repotting and pruning needs.

  • What's the difference between a weeping fig and a curtain fig?

    F. benjamina and F. microcarpa (curtain fig) 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 columnar spire form.

Article Sources
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  2. Ficus benjamina. BBC Gardeners' World Magazine.

  3. Cultural Guidelines for Production of Interiorscape Ficus. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

  4. Ficus Benjamina. Missouri Botanical Garden.

  5. Feb 15 F| H 1514 | U, Print 2016 |. Weeping ficus. Home & Garden Information Center | Clemson University, South Carolina.