Sunday, January 24, 2010

How to Care for Ficus Benjamina

Alright, kids, this is going to be a constantly updated post. I'm going to be putting not only what I know in here (or suspect at least, heh), but also any reader tips I get. Eventually I'm going to go through my books and bookmarked websites and put some actual numbers up here, but for now I'm just going to run down the basics. If you have any tips you want to share just leave them in the comment section and I will add them, with attribution of course.

Ficus benjamina is a tropical, but it's very popular as a house plant since it can thrive year round indoors. It's also often used for bonsai. So, here's what I know off the top of my head.

Light: Ficus benjamina likes lots of bright, indirect sunlit although some direct light is ok. No more than a couple hours of direct light a day, though. I've had good luck with grow lights too.

Water: They like it moist, but not sopping wet. You should water them when the first 1/2" or so of soil is dry. I'll be putting better details up on this up eventually, since over watering is one of, if not the top killers of house plants. Now, you've probably heard this before, but don't put them (or any houseplant) on a regular watering schedule, that's wicked bad for them. Water them only when they need it.

Temperature: Ficus benjamina like it warm, being a tropical. I've always heard they need to stay above 55 degrees F, but I once had some cuttings sit in an unheated room in an apartment in Boston in December for a week and they all survived. It definitely dropped below freezing many times. I still try to keep them above 55, usually around 57-65 in the winter and who know what in the summer, maybe 75-90s. I live in New England, we get pretty thorough temperature fluctuations.

Humidity: They love humidity, freshly rooted cuttings in particular really want a humidity tent. If the humidity is high enough they will put off air roots too, which are wicked cool. Although I did once make a humidity tent that was too tightly sealed and almost killed one of them. It got all moldy, it was weird and gross. I washed the ficus off and gave the tent better air circulation and it survived just fine though.

Food: Honestly, I don't feed them that much. I've used liquid fertilizer but didn't like it. I've also used that MiracleGro constant feed potting soil. When I used that I used it cut with regular soil since I've heard that it's a bit much for ficus' on it's own. It's worked well for me so far, the tree's are all growing.

The picture up top is my first one, I call her the Mother Tree. My sister in law gave her to me, all my benjamina cuttings have come from her.

I like ficus benjamina a lot, partly because of the one in my dining room when I was a kid. My mom has always been very fond of them and our dining room had lots of windows. There was a corner that got constant, bright, indirect light, it was perfect and the tree loved it. Heh, I remember my dad complaining once that it was too big when it was hitting the ceiling, which was really pretty high. My mom said that that's the way she liked it. It was almost always touching the ceiling. One of my childhood cats liked it too, but for a litter box. We eventually had to cover it with rocks too big for her to dig at easily. She wasn't very well behaved.

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