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Ficus benghalensis Ficus benghalensis

Ficus benghalensis

Botanical Name — Ficus benghalensis

Common Name — Ficus ‘Audrey’, banyan, banyan fig, Indian banyan

Plant Family — Moraceae


Background


Ficus benghalensis is a canopy tree native to India and Pakistan. It is the national tree of India, where it is commonly referred to as the banyan tree. These plants grow aerial roots that, when anchored into the ground grow into woody trunks that provide additional support for the plant and allow it to spread out and form a large canopy. Specimens in India are some of the largest trees in the world based on canopy size. In India, this plant is considered sacred with temples often being built beneath them. 


Growth Requirements


Sun

  • Ficus benghalensis prefers plenty of bright, indirect light or dappled sun. This plant will not tolerate direct sun or low-light conditions for an extended period of time. 
  • An ideal spot is right in front of an east-facing window or a few feet back from a south or west-facing window. 

Temperature/ Humidity 

  • These plants prefer high humidity and warm temperatures. They will thrive in temperatures above 65 ºF. Mist them daily or place a humidifier nearby to increase ambient moisture. 

Water

  • Keep your Ficus Audrey’s soil consistently lightly moist. Allow the top quarter of soil to dry out between waterings, then water lightly, enough to maintain even moisture. Maintaining a good balance of moisture is important; too much or too little water can cause leaf loss.

Soil/Roots

  • Ficus benghalensis prefer a fertile soil mix that is well-draining, yet moisture-retentive. A high-quality, soil-based potting mix is ideal. Soil mixtures can be amended up to 25% with coco coir, which improves soil structure by keeping it light and airy, while also offering increased moisture retention. Compost, up to 25%, is another great amendment that improves the nutrient quality of the soil. 

Flowering


  • Ficus benghalensis plants typically bloom during the spring, although indoor plants rarely produce blooms. An interesting note is that Ficus flowers are actually hidden inside of what we know as their “fruit”. The “fruit” is actually an enclosed inflorescence containing hundreds of small, inconspicuous flowers inside. Figs are pollinated by a specialized wasp. The wasp enters via a small opening where it both pollinates the flowers and lays its eggs. Once pollinated female flowers inside the receptacle bear small fruits containing seeds. 

Fertilization

  • Ficus ‘Audrey’ plants benefit from regular fertilization during the growing season. In temperate regions, this typically limited to spring and summer. 

Propagation

  • Ficus ‘Audrey’ plants propagate reliably from stem cuttings. Use a clean sharp knife to remove a healthy branch. Also, remove leaves at the base of the cutting; leaves that are buried in soil or submerged in water can encourage rot. 
  • Stem cuttings can be placed in water to root, or planted directly in a well-draining potting mix. Cuttings grown in soil should be misted daily until they establish roots. Once your cutting has established roots it should be potted in a well-drained potting mix and watered as normal. 

Health


Diseases

  • Ficus benghalensis can fall victim to both bacterial and fungal diseases. Leaf spot diseases are some of the most common among Ficus plants and tend to be caused by either bacterial or fungal infections. These types of diseases tend to be invited by the conditions Ficus plants favor the most: warmth and high levels of humidity. 
  • To control leaf spot, remove affected parts of the plant to prevent the spread of the disease. Open windows or place a fan nearby to improve air circulation. Avoid overhead watering, as water sitting on the leaves can encourage disease.
  • Root rot is another disease that can often plague Ficus benghalensis plants. Overly saturated soils are the primary causes of this issue. Avoid overwatering and aerate your soil regularly. You can do this by gently poking several holes in the soil using a pencil or chopstick. Plants that have been affected by root rot should be repotted into fresh soil, and water should be gradually reintroduced, allowing the plant time to stabilize. 

Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)

  • Ficus benghalensis do not require much maintenance. They can be pruned for shape or to encourage fullness. 
  • These plants will start to drop leaves at the base of stems and become leggy if they are not receiving enough light. 
  • Ficus ‘Audrey’ plants should be repotted once every one to two years. When repotting select a container that is 2”-4” wider in diameter to give the plant plenty of room to grow. 

Toxicity


  • Ficus benghalensis plants are toxic to humans and pets. All parts of the plant contain a highly irritant sap. Ingestion of any part of the plant can cause throat irritation, drooling, and vomiting. Dermal contact with any part of the plant can cause irritation and redness. 
  • Keep this plant out of reach of pets and small children. Wear gloves and take care when handling this plant. 

Photo Credit

Wendy Cutler