Weeping Fig Tree Care: Tips On Growing Weeping Fig Trees Outside
Weeping figs (Ficus benjamina) are elegant trees with slender gray trunks and a profusion of green leaves. Weeping fig tree care depends on whether you are growing them indoors or outdoors. Let’s learn more about outdoor care for weeping figs.
Weeping Fig Plant Information
Growing weeping fig trees indoors and growing weeping fig trees outdoors are two completely different endeavors. It is almost as if indoor and outdoor weeping figs are different species.
Indoors, weeping figs are attractive container plants that rarely grow above 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 m.). Outdoors, however, the trees grow into huge specimens (up to 100 feet (30 m.) tall and 50 feet (15 m.) wide) and are often used for hedges.
That being said, weeping figs only thrive outdoors in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 to 11. Therefore, most weeping figs are grown as indoor plants. If you are fortunate enough to live in one of these warm, tropical-like areas though, caring for weeping figs outdoors is something you need to know.
Weeping Fig Tree Care Outdoors
As indoor container plants, weeping figs grow quite slowly, but outside, it’s a different story. This plant can quickly become a monster of a tree if not kept pruned, which it tolerates well. In fact, with regard to weeping fig tree pruning, it readily accepts severe pruning, so don’t hesitate to remove any dead foliage when you see it. If you want to do weeping fig tree pruning to shape or reduce the size of the tree, you can take off up to one-third of the outer growth of the canopy at a time.
Caring for weeping figs indoors is a matter of selecting an appropriate location. As its roots spread just as fast as it grows tall, the tree can potentially damage foundations. So, if choosing to grow outdoors, plant it well away from the home, at least 30 feet (9 m.).
If you read up on weeping fig plant information, you find that the plant prefers well-drained, moist, loamy soil and thrives in a location with bright, indirect sunlight indoors. Outdoors is pretty much the same with a few exceptions. The tree can grow well in full sun to shade.
Once established, weeping figs are fairly drought and heat tolerant. They are said to be hardy to 30 F. (-1 C.) but just one hard frost can cause severe damage to the tree. However, when grown in areas with less harsh winters, most will rebound provided the roots are protected. Adding a 3- to 4-inch (7.6 to 10 cm.) layer of mulch can help.
Outdoor problems with weeping figs include freezing temperatures, severe drought, high winds and insect pests, especially thrips. Weeping fig tree care can be tricky since issues are often hard to diagnose. No matter what the problem, the tree reacts the same way: it drops leaves. Most experts agree that the number one cause of leaf drop in weeping fig is overwatering (especially indoors). A good rule of thumb is to keep your tree’s soil moist but never wet, backing off the watering in the winter.
You can provide the tree with liquid fertilizer about once a month during the growing season, but outdoors this isn’t usually necessary or advisable due to its faster growth.
How to Care for Outdoor Ficus Trees
The ficus tree is sometimes referred to as a weeping fig, but its given scientific name is Ficus benjamina. Ficus trees can be grown indoors or outdoors. Growing a ficus tree outdoors can make for an interesting landscape as severe pruning is not an issue. You can shape the tree anyway you like. If left unpruned, however, the ficus tree can grow to 60 feet tall and 100 feet wide. If you're considering using a ficus tree outdoors, you will need to know how to care for it.
Plant your ficus tree in an area of your yard that gets at least six hours of sunlight each day. Ficus trees love the sun.
- The ficus tree is sometimes referred to as a weeping fig, but its given scientific name is Ficus benjamina.
- If left unpruned, however, the ficus tree can grow to 60 feet tall and 100 feet wide.
Fertilize your soil. The ficus tree can survive in many different types of soil, but you want to make sure you feed the ficus tree by giving it a slow-release 10-10-10 fertilizer. Do this once a month during the spring and summer.
Water your ficus tree once a week in the spring and summer, and once every other week in the fall and winter months. When you water, allow the water to sink deep into the soil to reach all of the roots.
Protect your ficus tree from frost in the fall and winter by spreading a thick layer of mulch around the base of your ficus tree. Ficus trees are very susceptible to frost damage.
- The ficus tree can survive in many different types of soil, but you want to make sure you feed the ficus tree by giving it a slow-release 10-10-10 fertilizer.
- Protect your ficus tree from frost in the fall and winter by spreading a thick layer of mulch around the base of your ficus tree.
Prune your ficus tree as desired. You may need to prune your tree to a certain size so it fits on your property. You could also prune it to maintain a certain shape. Pruning regularly won't hurt your ficus tree.
The roots of a ficus tree can grow rather quickly. If the ficus tree is planted near a sidewalk or driveway, the roots can actually lift up the concrete.
Weeping figs are grown for their attractive form and foliage. They have smooth, gray bark and shiny, green oval leaves. Cultivars are available with variegated foliage, with wavy leaves and with pendulous branches.
Weeping fig stems are often trained in ornamental shapes. While the stems are young and flexible they may be braided, spiraled or twisted into shapes such as hearts.
Several young weeping fig trees (Ficus benjamina) may be braided together when the stems are young and flexible to provide an interesting shape.
Barbara H. Smith, HGIC, Clemson Extension
How the weeping fig became the ‘It’ plant of the gardening world (again)
For Mackenzie Roth, a 25-year-old film marketer based in Sherman Oaks, it began with a trip six months ago to the Home Depot in Glendale.
An avid home gardener, Roth has filled her apartment with a variety of house plants big and small. That day, though, she wasn’t particularly looking to add yet another plant to her collection she was just dropping by the gardening department on a bit of whim. But the Ficus benjamina beckoned.
“I didn’t know a ton about it when I bought it,” said Roth of the plant, also known as the weeping fig, that she brought home that day. “It was about 4 feet tall, and it had this braided trunk that added a tree-like element I really wanted. I also love the shape of the leaves and the wispiness. It has a delicate look that none of my other plants have.”
Roth’s weeping fig is a classic example: braided trunk, delicately drooping branchlets, and a dense shock of glossy leaves about 2 inches long. The plant’s height is proportional to the volume of its container. Left unchecked in the wilds of its native Southeast Asia and Northern Australia, the weeping fig can easily reach 90 feet in height. But here in a small pot in an apartment in Sherman Oaks, Roth’s weeping fig will remain a manageable size in her bedroom, where she has placed it by a south-facing window away from any air-conditioning drafts.
While Roth may not have been familiar with the weeping fig, anyone who grew up in the ’70s or ’80s would immediately recognize this plant. During those decades, the weeping fig, often called a ficus plant, experienced an initial wave of popularity that landed it in rumpus rooms and dentist offices around the country. For a time, it seemed that everyone — or at least everyone’s parents — had a weeping fig in their home, and for that reason, it is a plant that continues to elicit nostalgia.
“Whenever I think of the benjamina, it reminds me of growing up in San Francisco, when I would go over to my friend’s house and we would watch “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” while sitting under this giant weeping fig hanging over us,” said Annette Gutierrez, co-owner of Potted, a home and garden store in Atwater Village. “It was enormous, and it would just sort of weep right over the couch.”
“I grew up with one in my home, and as many people have with plants, there’s this nostalgic connection to it,” said Eliza Blank, founder of the highly Instagrammed gardening store, the Sill, which opened in West Hollywood in February. “My mother still has it. It’s older than I am, actually. Literally I just associate it with my mom and the old guard of house plants.”
Greg Salmeri, co-owner of Rolling Greens, a nursery with three locations across L.A., said, “Honestly it’s the ’70s again. Weeping fig was huge in the ’70s but it’s back. We are selling a lot of them. It’s probably our third most popular plant right now.”
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According to Salmeri, the No. 1 seller at Rolling Greens is still very much the fiddle-leaf fig — the waxy, tropical-feeling plant that came to define 2010’s home decor. With its jumbo-sized leaves and spindly trunk, the fiddle-leaf fig, or Ficus lyrata, popped up in Céline boutiques everywhere, and was used in the offices of companies like Marimekko and mattress start-up Casper.
“It’s everywhere,” said interior designer Nicole Fuller of the fiddle-leaf fig’s ubiquity. “We’ve seen it all over. Love it, but it’s kind of just been killed to death.”
Fuller, who has offices in New York and L.A., recently installed a 7-foot-tall weeping fig in the office of Karyn Lovegrove, an art advisor in Hancock Park.
In a phone interview, Lovegrove said that because she is “in the business of tastemaking,” being ahead of the curve is crucial. “Nicole and I were having dinner just talking about the fact that the fiddle-leaf fig has been used a great deal and how we were yearning for our childhood. We thought it would be kind of amusing to use something very much out of fashion and bring it into fashion.”
The interesting thing about weeping figs is not just that they are popping up in the well-heeled offices of art advisors as a tongue-in-cheek mise-en-scène — it’s how an incredibly ordinary ficus available at Home Depot for decades is suddenly fresh-feeling, even trend worthy.
Weeping figs are making their way through the gardening blogs circuit. An article in Elle Decor, titled “The Best Plant To Buy For Every Room in Your Home,” recommended the weeping fig as perfect for the bedroom. The Instagram hashtag “#ficusbenjamina” has nearly 12,000 hits. And in our interviews with them, Guttierez, Blank and Salmeri all referenced the seminal 1989 NASA study “Interior Landscape Plans for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement,” which lauded the Ficus benjamina for its ability to remove toxins like benzene and trichloroethylene from the air — a connection to wellness that feels particularly apropos to home decor right now. (One drawback: the leaves of the weeping fig can be toxic to dogs and cats if ingested.)
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Mickey Hargitay, who owns an eponymous Hollywood plant shop (where Lovegrove got her weeping fig), remembers the first time weeping figs came around. “The interesting thing is that there’s new varieties they’ve come up with since the ’70s, when there was really just the one benjamina,” he said. “Now there are darker-leaf ones, ones with ripples in the leaves, braided trunks, all sorts of offshoots and variations.”
While all ficus species are famously temperamental — shedding leaves with the slightest hint of a breeze or overwatering or too little sunlight — the weeping fig does hold an advantage over its fiddle-leaf cousin: It has more leaves. Said Gutierrez: “Fiddle-leaf figs, one leaf falls off and you freak out — they’re the size of your hand, they’re huge. If a benjamina defoliates somewhat, you aren’t left with this big bald spot on your tree. It isn’t as frightening as when a lyrata loses a leaf.”
The weeping fig’s versatility makes it a more adaptable design element than the fiddle-leaf fig. It isn’t as overtly contemporary or tropical. “The weeping fig can slip into the background,” said Salmeri. “The fiddle-leaf you notice right away.”
If the fiddle-leaf fig was about buying into a trend and conforming to a certain look, the weeping fig is about seamlessly integrating plants into the spaces of your life.
That’s why a benjamina can work in so many different spaces, like an art advisor’s home in Hancock Park. Or a millennial apartment in Sherman Oaks. Or an elegant estate in Sonoma, where designer duo Austin Carrier and Alex Mutter-Rottmayer of the popular instagram “@hommeboys” account just installed one. Or in the home of Danni Fathman, a yoga instructor in Escondido who recently purchased a weeping fig for her pet chameleon Pasquale to climb on.
“Weeping fig has always been sentimental for me,” said Fathman. “Growing up in San Diego, my parents used one as a Christmas tree for multiple years. It’s huge now, and they’ve planted it in their backyard.”
Roth pointed out that the un-trendiness of the weeping fig has more practical considerations as well. “I bought my tall, braided trunk weeping fig for about $25. They’re a lot less expensive than the fiddle-leaf fig, which are really overpriced in L.A. You can get a tiny fiddle-leaf fig for $40, which doesn’t really seem worth it to me.”
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Does it feel like fall in your home as your weeping fig tree drops lots of its leaves on your living room floor? Don’t worry. It’s most likely a response to the change of seasons.
Weeping figs, a type of Ficus, are sensitive to any change in their environment. So as the days shorten and light intensity decreases outdoors the amount of light reaching your weeping fig indoors also decreases. Fortunately, this plant can lose up to 95% of its leaves and still recover.
Adjust your watering and fertilization to match the indoor growing conditions and your plant’s needs. Always water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. And be sure to pour off or capture the excess water in a gravel tray. Stop fertilizing during the winter unless your plants are actively growing and in need of a nutrient boost.
A bit more information: As the plants adjust to the environmental changes, new leaves should appear. Minimize future risk of leaf drop by providing bright light and moist well-drained soil. And try to maintain plants in as consistent growing conditions as possible.
Ficus benjamina Exotica 'Weeping Fig'
The exotic Ornamental Fig, Ficus benjamina is a houseplant that's currently bang on trend and on everyone's wish list. and adds a distinctive, tropical feel to your home.
The glossy, rich green leaves are held on top of the stems, and over time, the slender branches will begin to weep, softening the plant and making a definite talking point.
Not just a pretty face, Ficus is well known for helping keep the air in your home clean as it filters out pollutants keeping it fresh and clean - according to NASA, weeping figs fight formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene, found in furniture, fireplace smoke, and common household products.
Very easy to care for, once you have found the perfect place for your ficus, you can more or less leave it alone and let it do its 'thing' as long as it's kept out of draughts.
Supplied as an established plant 90cm tall in a 21cm pot.
Please note that the decorative pot is not included, see ‘as supplied’ photo.
What Is Supplied
Supplied as a mature plant 90cm tall in a 21cm pot.