6" Ficus Benjamina Green


With its glossy leaves and light gray trunk, the ficus tree, or weeping fig, is a pretty, graceful plant that’s been popular for decades. It’s usually sold as a small tree or bush, up to about 6 feet tall, though in the wild, it can grow up to 60 feet tall with branches draping toward the ground. As houseplants, ficuses are slow growers, but with the proper care, they can live for decades!

Ficus benjamina is its scientific name, but there are many different varieties. ‘Midnight’ has dark, curly leaves. ‘Judith’ has small leaves with a yellow border. ‘Starlight’ has green leaves variegated with white. The stems of young plants are flexible and are sometimes braided or twisted, and it’s also trained as a bonsai.

Indoors, ficus trees like bright, indirect light. They’re tropical so they like it warm—think 65 at night to 85 during the day. But keep them away from drafty windows or heating vents; they’re not big fans of fluctuating temperatures and will show their displeasure by dropping leaves.

It’s fine to place them outdoors in summer where they can get morning sun and afternoon shade. But never put them in full sun because they’ll get a nasty sunburn! The leaves will turn white and drop, and although the plant may recover, it’s just not wise to stress them like that! Bring it back indoors in fall when nighttime temperatures begin to head into the low 60s. Once inside again, keep it away from other houseplants for a month or so to make sure there are no hitchhiking insects that could infest your other plants. In USDA hardiness zones 10 to 11, it can stay outside year-round.

During spring and summer when your ficus tree is growing, keep the soil moist. In winter, let it dry out slightly between waterings; stick your index finger up to your first knuckle to test for moisture before watering. Wash the leaves occasionally with a lukewarm shower or dust with a damp rag.

If you find a sticky substance on your floors, it could be two things: An infestation of scale, a type of insect that feeds on the foliage and then releases a substance called honeydew, or a process called guttation. So, what is guttation? It’s like sweating! It occurs when there’s been a change in humidity levels. Your plant is losing extra water from the tips of its leaves, and the moisture contains sugars. You may need to cut back on watering.

The most common pests on ficus are scale, which look like waxy, fish-scale-type masses stuck to the stems or leaves, and aphids, which are tiny, soft-bodied pear-shaped insects. Scrape off scale with a fingernail, or if that’s too icky, try insecticidal soap or neem oil. Insecticidal soap also treats an aphid infestation, but you’ll probably need multiple treatments.

They shed regularly so they’re a little on the messy side. But it sometimes dumps tons of leaves if there’s a change in its environment: if you move it, if it’s been repotted, if there’s not enough light, if you’re over or under-watering. By process of elimination, you can usually sleuth out what’s upsetting it and correct the problem. When it drops leaves after a move, it typically produces new ones as long as its preferred growing conditions are met.

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