Prepared by Karen Russ, HGIC Horticulture Specialist, and Al Pertuit, Extension Floriculture Specialist, Clemson University. (New 03/99.)
Weeping figs (Ficus benjamina) are popular as houseplants, in offices and interior landscaping. They have an elegant form and dense, glossy dark foliage. Slender branches arch gracefully from a light gray trunk. These small indoor trees are generally easy to grow if given enough light and proper care.
Weeping figs are usually sold as 3-to 6-feet potted trees or bushes. They can grow as tall as allowed indoors, but they are easily pruned to a suitable height.
Weeping figs are grown for their attractive form and foliage. They have smooth, gray bark and shiny, green oval leaves. Cultivars are available with variegated foliage, with wavy leaves and with pendulous branches.
Weeping fig stems are often trained in ornamental shapes. While the stems are young and flexible they may be braided, spiraled or twisted into shapes such as hearts.
In the home, plant diseases are very rarely a problem. Too much or too little water plus insects and mites are the main problems. Root rot usually results from a soil mix that does not drain quickly or overly frequent watering.
The most common problem of weeping figs is leaf drop. Weeping figs seem to react to almost any stress by shedding leaves. Overwatering, underwatering, drafts, lack of nitrogen and low light are all causes of leaf drop. Weeping figs often shed leaves when moved to a new location or repotted. If growth conditions are adequate, the weeping fig will adjust to its new location, stop dropping leaves, and healthy new growth will appear.
Spider mites and scales are frequent pests of ficus. Weeping figs may also be infested by mealybugs, aphids and thrips.
Weeping figs grow best in bright indirect or curtain-filtered sunlight. They will handle some direct sun if the humidity is high. Variegated cultivars grow best in somewhat lower light. Weeping figs prefer warm temperatures. Night temperatures of 65 to 70 °F and day temperatures of 75 to 85 °F are ideal.
During periods of active growth, keep the soil evenly moist. The soil should be allowed to dry slightly between waterings during the winter and other times of low growth. Plants should never be waterlogged or allowed to sit with water in their saucers. Weeping figs prefer high humidity levels.
Healthy plants should be fed every month or two during the growing season with a liquid fertilizer.
Wash ficus leaves occasionally with plain warm water. This can help the leaves "breathe" and improves their appearance.
Weeping figs can tolerate being slightly root bound. If the plants become too crowded, new leaves will be small and growth will slow. Repot in late winter or early spring, using a general-purpose potting soil.
Plants can be pruned to shape as needed. They will even tolerate hard pruning to reduce their size if necessary. Reduce watering levels to severely pruned plants. Propagate at any season by air layering. Cuttings are best taken in summer.
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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.