The Benjamin ficus (or “Ficus benjamina) is a beautiful tree that is a genuine decoration for any home. Maturing to a manageable height of about 8 feet tall these are a very low maintenance, disease and pest resistant trees that will almost thrive on neglect. The ficus tree is actually a relative of the fig family just with more of a weeping appearance. One of the perks of the tree is that it maintains its own tree-like shape making it an ideal houseplant. The trees can be planted outdoors providing they’re within zones 8-11 but are typically sought after for the beauty they can add to any room in your home from being potted.
Choosing a location: The ficus does not tolerate drafts or low temperatures so try and find a spot where it will never drop below 60 degrees (fahrenheit). They enjoy a bright or filtered sun exposure, but try to avoid direct sun which will result in scalding of the leaves.
Planting directions (in ground): Slowly introduce the tree to its permanent home for a couple hours in a shaded area to start. In the spring as the weather warms is best but be sure to bring the tree inside at night when the temperatures begin to drop. This is called “hardening” and is how you acclimate the houseplant to an outdoor environment.
1) Make your hole three times the width of the root ball and just as deep.
2) You can improve your soil and make it more fertile by amending manure or compost into the native soil.
3) Carefully remove the ficus from the container, try not to grip it by the trunk. Twist the container or cut it away from the root ball to release the clinging dirt on the sides.
4) Gently comb the sides of the ball to loosen up the roots a bit and place it in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil.
5) Put a stake about 18 inches into the ground next to the tree to help stabilize it as the shallow root system develops. Tie the tree to the stake with fabric strips, soft twine or planters tape. Make sure your stake is tall enough to reach the lowest hanging branches on the canopy.
6) Spread a four inch layer of mulch around the base of the tree to help conserve moisture and fight back competing weeds that might try to grow. DO NOT let the mulch touch the trunk of the tree or you may end up with disease or fungus issues. Organic mulch is recommended and will require replenishment once or twice a year.
7) Water the area deeply and thoroughly until the roots and soil are evenly moistened.
Planting directions (potted):
1) Select a pot size roughly 1-2 sizes larger than the pot the tree came in and be sure it has adequate drainage holes on the bottom.
2) A regular potting soil will work just fine but take care not to be too rough handling the trunk of the tree. If applicable, cut the pot the tree came in along the edges and peel it back from the root ball as not to disturb the roots too much.
3) Place the tree in an area that will receive 4-5 hours of sun each day and will not drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Watering: Water your tree once a week and twice during the hot summer months. Let the soil dry in between waterings during the winter while the tree is not actively growing. Potted ficus trees will only need to be watered 1-2 times weekly and they also will need humidity. Check the top of the soil for moisture, if there is any, leave the tree be. These will benefit greatly from a dual weekly misting of their leaves with a warm water bottle.
Pruning: Shape and growth are the primary reasons for pruning your ficus tree. Cutters that are designed for close/fine trimming of narrow stems are best. Sterilize your tool(s) with rubbing alcohol to ensure nice, clean cuts.Find a node where the leaf (or twig) joins the branch and cut at a downward angle just before a node. Make your cut close to the node but without actually cutting into it. Leave one node for newer growth to come out on the branch. When removing an entire branch, cut it back to the trunk and be sure not to leave any nodes.
Fertilizing: Ficus trees are rapid growers and need lots of nutrients. Be sure to feed your potted tree once a month in the spring and summer. Drop down to feeding them once every two months in the fall and winter seasons. A water soluble 10-10-10 formula works well and can be used for either potted or outside trees.
*TIP* Benjamin ficus trees are prone to a couple pests but can typically be cured by applying Neem oil. The most common pests are: Scale, mealybugs and spider mites. If your tree is secreting a sticky, sap-like substance then there is definitely a problem and try to treat the tree soon.