The Ficus Benjamina, also popularly known as ‘Weeping Fig’ or ‘Benjamin’s fig’ or even simply ‘Ficus tree’ (though there are many different types of Ficus trees), is a dense tree, with a round umbrella like canopy. Its drooping branches which cascade down till the ground give it the name, weeping fig. The thick, shiny, long leaves clothe the long branches, and the tree can grow up to a height of 60 feet with a 60 to 70 feet spread. Its leaves seem to be made of rubber and thus it is also referred to as a rubber plant.
This tree is native to Australia and Asia; in fact it is the official tree of Bangkok. In Sri Lanka, they call it ‘Walu nuga’. Ficus Benjamina belongs to the Moraceae tree family, which also includes trees like mulberry (Morus), Osage-orange (Maclura), and breadfruit (Artocarpus). Ficus Benjamina is quite popular as a landscaping tree and is commonly used as a hedge in California.
The tree is usually grown as a house plant and one can easily locate one in a corner of an office room or an apartment. The Ficus however is quite resistant to change and doesn’t like to be moved around the place. This usually evergreen tree is known to drop its leaves even with a slight movement from its usual place. The tree though is known for its rapid growth and with good care it can grow new leaves in spring and summer.
A Ficus Benjamina Bonsai is usually considered as tough to maintain due to its resistance for change and heavy leave shredding. However, it is still quite popular in its miniature form too. The care needs of the Weeping Fig Bonsai are similar in most respects to those of the larger tree.
The seeds of a Ficus can only be pollinated by an insect called Ficus Wasp. Thus, it becomes really difficult to grow a Ficus from the seeds due to the unique problem of arranging for Ficus Wasps or else the seed won’t pollinate. The tree however could be grown easily from cuttings or a small tree.
One can easily buy a small Ficus Bonsai online, or collect specimen with large trunks from landscapes. Once the cutting or small tree has been acquired, the tree should be soiled and potted. A small, shallow container, just large enough for the root system, is ideal for potting a Ficus Bonsai.
Like every tree, it is really important to identify the correct soil mixture to ensure sufficient supply of nutrients required for effective growth. For a Ficus, a free draining soil with a decent amount of organic matter such as composted tree bark, is ideal.
As previously discussed, a fig tree hates moving around and that is the reason why initial positioning matters the most. A Weeping Fig Bonsai needs a lot of sunlight and should be kept in a spot that receives some sun and shade during the day. The temperature should be kept relatively constant, with a moderate to high level of humidity. Once placed, it should not be moved, not even turned around or it will start shedding leaves.
The Ficus needs a thorough supply of water whenever the top 2-3 cm of the soil gets completely dry. Post that, it should be allowed to dry out accordingly. The tree is not highly sensitive to over-watering and under-watering, though it must be avoided as much as possible.
Every tree requires adequate supply of nutrients, all of which the soil cannot provide, and thus proper fertilization is very important. For a Ficus, organic fertilizer can be used. During summer, the tree should be fertilized weekly or bi-weekly, followed by once a month in winter.
The tree does not to be repotted frequently. Repotting the Bonsai in the spring every two to three years to refresh the soil and nutrients, should be fine.
Most varieties of the fig tree can handle a good amount of root pruning, however severe root pruning can prove fatal for the tree. Leaves should be pruned regularly to ensure a proper shape. The Ficus cannot take major leave pruning like the others and a couple of leaves must be left on the end of a branch every time. Regular pruning is necessary to retain the tree’s shape.
Wiring the thin and medium-strong branches is easy as they are flexible, and can be wired at any time of the year. The wires should be frequently checked though as they cut into the bark quite fast. Since the tree grows very fast, one may need to rewire it around 4-5 times during a single growing season.
Though a Ficus Benjamina Bonsai is known as being difficult to grow, by keeping a few basic points in mind, one can overcome the initial hurdles and grow a healthy one successfully.