Ficus Benjamina, variegated progress

smishgibson(7b)September 9, 2013

Hello everyone!

First off, the purpose of this thread is to catalog my experience with a new plants step by step, and how different things affect it. Hopefully with the information all organized, it will better help me to learn from it, learn form others, and in the likely event of me screwing something up :-), for someone else to learn from my mistakes.

After my first try at house plants 3 or 4 years ago, resulting in the brutal death of a ficus elastica and a bromeliad I have been wanting to give the ficus another try.

This past weekend i came across a very very tiny pot with 2 variegated Ficus Benjamina, and i could not resist. I like the smaller leaf better than the elastica anyway I think.

Using what I have learned on here, they are potted in a home made mix, with a screen and wick in the bottom of the pot. Here is what is in the mix:

(all items around 1/8-1/4 inch)
2 part pine bark
2 part lava rock
2 parts spag. peat moss nuggets
1 part peat moss(ground).
A few stray pieces of perlite or charcoal may have escaped my hand sorting.

I had to work with the items I had, as i can't get my hands on everything for the normal gritty mix. These items were obtained by hand sorting particles from a bag of orchid mix i had already. At the very least, this mix drains massively better than straight potting soil. And besides, its current pot is only temporary. For now, i put both plants in 1 pot, until i can mix a batch of real gritty mix, and select the pots I want to use.

My goal is to grow these to around 2-4 feet tall, and keep them as compact as possible.

I have them in a large WNW window, the sun comes in at an angle, so i can keep them out of direct sun, or put them in the direct sun, by moving them 10 inches or so.

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Picture of the plants.

I thought it was 1 plant with 2 branches. It will serve me to look closer next time. :-)

This post was edited by smishgibson on Mon, Sep 9, 13 at 20:08

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 8:07PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

That's so cute! I love to find a tiny versions of plants like that. Anybody can buy an already-tree or full hanging basket, right? If I ever see a rubber tree small enough, I'll get another one.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 2:06PM
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I think its time for an update on these two. I got them into gritty mix about 2 or 3 weeks ago, also, each in its own pot, with a larger soil volume. They have grown quite a bit considering the less than optimal conditions. With the change of seasons, i lost all direct light in this windows about 1-2 months ago.

Normally, I loath autumn/winter and hate to see bare trees, however this year there is one perk due to our move to a new home. We have a West-southwest window, normally heavily shaded by 4 maples. Now that we are into autumn and the trees have dropped their leaves, the window enjoys direct sun from around 10 am until sunset! Very exciting, and many plants have taken up there winter home here.

I am hoping that will the repot, and increased sun, that this winter there will be more growth than in the summer/autumn!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 1:32PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I don't know what's more exciting, those great little trees doing so well, or your great new window? Cheers to both!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 7:03PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

have never understood why people find the ficus so hard to grow?. In florida the main problem is getting them to stop lol.. have 3 dwarf specimens that i grow in pots . One in water one in regular potting soil and one with nothing is just proped up in a tray lol
have never grown them indoors though gary

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 5:14AM
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jujujojo_gw(6b 7a)

Mine grows much faster. I will post a picture. I do have a heated house and the places they live are heated.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 10:42AM
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Just wanted to post an update on these 2. I have had them a year this September, and I feel like they are growing oh-so slowly. I guess this must be typical of most variegated plants. I have upped the FP on all our plants to 1/2 tsp per gallon(was 1/4 tsp) at every watering. Also I am trying to water more often.

They get very bright indirect light in the morning and mid day, and get direct sun(through the window) from about 3pm until dusk. They were very lopsided, and I just pruned them back to 2 leaves per branch, leaving the apical bud untouched.

-Grow these much taller, at least 2 feet - 3 feet tall
-Eventually prune off the lower branches so the plant looks more tree like, and less bush like.

-Do you think they need potted up, or will they be ok for a while?
-The growth is slow, but this it normal to grow this slow, being variegated?
-How long should i leave the lower branches on? I am thinking leaving them on for now will help them grow faster and put on girth.
-Should ferts be increased beyond 1/2 tsp. FP per gallon for plants in gritty mix during the growing season?
-Anything else i may have missed to increase growth?

I look forward to everyones feed back, and even some pictures too if you have them


    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 9:01AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

When the plants are warm and in good light (when they're in the part of their growth cycle where they should be growing strongly - for you, from Mem Day through mid-Sep - you can push your Ficus at about 2 tsp of 9-3-6 per gallon of water. I usually mix in a 2.5 gallon watering can and I use a tablespoon that overflows to about what would be 3/4 of another tbsp., which is somewhere between 4-5 tsp per 2.5 gallons. If we make the math easy by calling it 5 tsp, that's 2 tsp/gallon/week. Try your next fertigation at 1.5 tsp and if there's no adverse reaction, you can try 2 tsp. applied weekly. That's just for open soils like you're using. That dose would be a problem in soils that aren't being flushed regularly.

Ask yourself if you think the root and soil mass can be lifted from the pot essentially intact. If 'yes', you should repot - or better to say your plant would show its appreciation for the effort of repotting. If 'no', wait until around next Father's Day to repot, or pot up into a slightly larger pot. Potting up doesn't become limiting unless the plant is allowed to get root bound before potting up. You can pot up several times (if you do it before the root/soil mass gets to the point it can be lifted from the pot intact) with no ill effects if you pay attention to doing it before the roots get too tight. You can pot up anytime - especially when using very fast (draining) soils. but it's better to pot up plants in heavy soils when the plants are growing their fastest.

Be patient about growth. If you do your part by keeping the plant in good health, the plant will do its part and reward your efforts with good growth. Give it all the light it will take, fertilize often, and don't let soggy soil conditions mess up the root system. Plants often grow roots first, then top growth, then more root growth followed by top growth. Top growth is always preceded by root growth, good reason to work at keeping roots healthy. When roots die, it takes energy from the plant as they regenerate. This IS the energy that would have been spent to increase the plant's mass - which is the true measure of growth.

Leave the lower leaves on the plant unless you don't like how they look. Think of the branches as streams that join a river (the trunk). The more branches of the river there are contributing to the flow, the larger the river will be. How fast the plant puts on additive growth (thickens) can actually be determined by a mathematical formula that takes into account the number of parent axes multiplied by the branching rate per axis. Obviously the more parent axes there are the greater the potential for additive growth.

Good job!


    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 8:20PM
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Thanks for stopping by, you input is very helpful and always welcome.

I upped the FP to 1.5 tsp per gallon today, and will continue a week or 2, If all is well, i will up to 2 tsp per gallon and see what happens.

I think that 60% or so of the pot is filled with roots, definitely couldn't lift out the soil intact. I know this because i knocked one over recently, :-) I will pot up around Father's day 2015. I will also leave the lower branches for now. Once the trunks thicken up nicely, i will remove them.


    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 9:57PM
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