Ficus Audrey / Benghalensis
Top Tips & Info
- Care Difficulty - Easy
- Provide a bright, indirect setting away from the intense sun. A splash of winter morning sunlight is highly beneficial for its health over the dormancy period.
- Allow the soil's top third to dry out in between waters, reducing this slightly in the autumn and winter. It's recommended not to use the bottom-up method of submersion due to the risk of root rot.
- Mist the foliage at weekly intervals or introduce a humidity tray while the heaters are operating.
- Fertilise using a 'Houseplant' labelled feed every four waters in the spring and summer, reducing this to every six in the colder months.
- Repot every two years, using a well-draining potting mix, such as 'Houseplant' compost. Be sure to respect the roots as transplant shock is a big issue that may result in death.
- Keep an eye out for Spider Mites that'll locate themselves along the ridges of the under-leaves.
Location & Light
Perfecting the amount of light a Ficus benghalensis receives is crucial for a long-lasting specimen. During the spring and summer, be sure to provide a brightly lit spot away from any direct light. Excessive exposure during this time will negatively affect the plant in the likes of sun scorch and dehydration. Once the autumn kicks in, be sure to include an hour or two of direct light per day to get it through the dormancy period, lasting until the following spring.
Allow a third of the soil to dry out between irrigations during the spring and summer, reducing this further through the colder months. Always use lukewarm water, and if you choose to use tap water, allow it to stand for at least 24hrs before application. Ficus benghalensis tend to be quite sensitive to temperature change, so pouring cold tap water immediately into the pot will cause nothing but grief in the likes of damaged roots. Under-watering symptoms include grey or yellowing leaves, yellow spots and stunted or deformed growth. Never allow the soil to thoroughly dry out for extended periods, especially in hot spells, as failure to do so could result in distorted growth. Over-watering symptoms include yellowing lower leaves, rotten plant sections and a softened stem. These issues are usually due to too little light or heat, too much water in between waterings, over-potting your specimen, or standing water beneath the pot.
This species thrives in a reliable, humid environment, meaning that a pebble tray (or frequent misting) is mandatory for success. Signs of an under-humid room are primarily similar to inconsistent fluctuations, with slowed growth, browning leaf-tips and leaf loss being the common symptoms.
Fertilise every four waters during the growing period before reducing this to every six in the autumn & winter. Although a 'General-Purpose' fertiliser will still do the job, we'd recommend using a specific 'Houseplant' labelled fertiliser as it'll support the vital thirteen nutrients that this species will need to grow.
Common Issues with Ficus
The biggest issue with Ficus is under-watering. As they require a loose potting-mix, weak irrigations will not penetrate the soil enough to retain the moisture. Typical under-watering symptoms include stunted growth, yellowed lower leaves and crispy patches developing on the foliage. These symptoms are typically caused by an array of different issues, with forgetfulness, too much sunlight or heat, or a much-needed transplant being the usual culprits.
Root rot is another common issue with specimens sat in too moist or waterlogged soil for long periods. Symptoms include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth and a rotten brown base. Take the plant out of the pot and inspect health below the soil line. If the roots sport a yellow tinge, you're good to go, but if they're brown and mushy, action must be taken immediately.
Yellowing lower leaves (closest to soil) are a clear sign of over-watering, usually caused by too little light. Although Ficus can just about do well in a shaded environment, the frequency of irrigations must be reduced to counteract the chance of root rot. People don't realise that a plant's root system needs access to oxygen too; when soil is watered, the air will travel upwards and out of the potting mix. A lack of available oxygen for the roots will cause them to subsequently breakdown over the oncoming days.
Always use lukewarm water, and if you choose to use tap water, allow it to stand for at least 24hrs before application. This species tends to be quite sensitive to temperature change, so pouring cold tap water immediately into the pot will not only add fluoride into the soil, but it could even cause yellowed leaf-edges over time.
Curled leaves and brown leaf-edges are the result of too little water and over-exposure to the sun. Most Ficus are best located in bright, indirect settings, and those that haven't acclimatised to the harsh rays will show signs of sun-scorch and environmental shock. A splash of winter sunlight is acceptable as long as the soil moisture is regularly observed, with complete avoidance once summer comes along.
Spider Mites are small, near-transparent critters, that'll slowly suck out the chlorophyll out of the leaves. Have a check under the leaves, most notably along the midrib, for small webs and gritty yellow bumps. Click here to read our article about the eradicating Spider Mites, along with some extra tips that you may not find elsewhere!
Too low humidity can cause browning tips with yellow halos on juvenile leaves. Although this won't kill your specimen, you may want to increase the local moisture to prevent the new growth from adopting these symptoms. Mist or rinse the foliage from time to time and create a humidity tray while the heaters are active to create a stable environment. The browning of leaf-tips on older leaves is wholly natural and is the product of extensive photosynthesis during its life.
Never allow temperatures to dip below 15ºC (59ºF) as irreversible damage will occur in the likes of yellow foliage and weakened health. When this happens, remove the severely affected areas and immediately improve growing conditions - never cut through softened yellow growth, and only around brown, crispy squares. As rehabilitation can take several months because of its slow-growing nature, be sure to provide a stable location with better growing conditions to speed this process.
The yellow spots that form along the outer edges of the leaves are called cystoliths; they are entirely harmless to your Ficus and will form once the leaf hardens & matures.
Ficus is a pantropical genus consisting of over 800 species, first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753. Many species uniquely rely on a specific wasp, dubbed the Fig Wasp, to pollinate its flowers by laying eggs into the ostioles - a process that still baffles botanists today. Although the genus was formally recognised in the 18th century, many believe that it was the first deliberately-bred for agriculture in the Middle East, more than 11,000 years ago. F. benghalensis is considered to be one of the largest species in the world, by its two-dimensional area of the canopy. The biggest specimen to be recorded was in south-eastern India, with its canopy covering over 19,100 square metres and 846m in perimeter!
15° - 26°C (59° - 80°F)
H1a (Hardiness Zone 13) - Must be grown indoors or under glass all year round. Never allow temperatures to dip below 15℃, or situate it near to a cold draught as permanent damage will occur in the likes of leaf loss and stunted growth.
Up to 2m in height and 1m in width. The ultimate height will take between 5 - 10 years to achieve, with 10cm of growth per season.
Pruning & Maintenance
Remove yellow or dying leaves, and plant debris to encourage better-growing conditions. While pruning, always use clean scissors or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases. Never cut through yellowed tissue as this may cause further damage in the likes of diseases or bacterial infections. Remember to make clean incisions as too-damaged wounds may shock the plant, causing weakened growth and a decline in health.
Via Seed or Stem Cuttings (Difficult).
Stem & Eye Cuttings (Moderate) - This method of propagation is troublesome without the aid of bottom-heat and a controlled environment. Choose the healthiest, most established stems that are wooded, yet still juvenile enough to bend slightly, being just thicker than a pencil. Each cutting should only have ONE leaf, and a small portion of the stem to either side of the node. Cut directly below a node using a clean knife to reduce bacteria count. Situate the cutting into moist 'Houseplant' compost, with the only the leaf sticking out of the soil. 'Blackleg' can occur when the bottom wound becomes infected, resulting in propagation failure - typically caused by water-logging or a too-damaged wound. Maintain bright light and evenly moist soil with the avoidance of direct sunlight or cold draughts. Wrap the pot (& foliage) in a transparent bag or within a miniature greenhouse, and provide bottom hear of temperatures above 18°C (54°F). Remove the bag and place into individual 7cm (3 inches) pots once the second new leaf emerges. Follow the same care routines, as mentioned in the article's top half. This method will take up to five months, so patience and the correct environment are paramount for success!
Ficus Audrey inflorescences consist of white flowers developing in early springtime that can vary in size. This period will last up to several weeks and will from berries if pollination is successful. Unfortunately, all Ficus are highly unlikely to flower if grown domestically, due to the incorrect environmental conditions found in a typical home.
Repot every two years in the spring, using a 'Houseplant' labelled compost and the next sized pot with adequate drainage. Hydrate the plant 24hrs before tinkering with the roots to prevent the risk of transplant shock. For those that are situated in a darker location, add a thin layer of small grit in the pot's base to improve drainage and downplay over-watering.
Pests & Diseases
Keep an eye out for mealybugs, aphids, spider mites, scale, thrips, whitefly, blackfly & root mealybugs that'll locate themselves in the cubbyholes and undersides of the leaves, with the exception of the latter in the soil. Common diseases associated with Ficus Audrey are root rot, leaf-spot disease, botrytis, rust, powdery mildew & southern blight.
If the specimen has dry white crusty patches on its foliage or stem, this is its sap, commonly caused by damage via touch.
This plant is classified as poisonous; if parts of the plants are eaten, vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite could occur. Consumption of large quantities must be dealt with quickly; acquire medical assistance for further information. The sap can also cause dermatitis and skin allergy to sensitive individuals, so be sure to wear gloves when handling.