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Ficus benjamina

Posted by tifflj 6 Pitts, PA (My Page) on
Sun, Apr 28, 13 at 12:06

Anyone have advice on this plant?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Ficus benjamina

They drop leaves over just about anything,so don't panic if you see a few on the floor after any changes have been made that might have shocked them a little. Radical changes in lighting will do it every time . I intend to put mine in full sun eventually. Gotta start in the outdoor shade and gradually sneak it out into more and more light over time. Once it's adjusted past the threat of sunburn,it will thrive. They love some sun. :)


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RE: Ficus benjamina

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 28, 13 at 14:26

Lots of advice via the link below.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Ficus tips


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RE: Ficus benjamina

Yikes!

I've only just started reading Al's link and already finding out I was wrong.

Sorry about that! :)


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RE: Ficus benjamina

I have several of them in full sun and they love it. They're in it all the time so no slow adjusting as you'd have to do with a plant that's been in shade. As young plants they like to grow as epiphytes or even lithophytes (growing on stone), I have several like that also. They will grow quite large so if you want them indoors you'll have to do some pruning from time to time. I've found that sudden change will cause leaf drop, be it from wet conditions to drying, or the reverse, when growing dry and then becoming very wet. The leaf loss is only partial and the tree soon recovers. As they grow they can make interesting 'living sculptures'.


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RE: Ficus benjamina

Probably says all this in Tapla's link, but plenty of light, plenty of water, best out of indoor draughts, and constant gentle pruning works for me.


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RE: Ficus benjamina

I have a small one with variegated leaves. It is so lovely.


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RE: Ficus benjamina

They are right about the plant drooping leaves. When I repotted the one at my school, It drooped half its leaves then grew back


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RE: Ficus benjamina

We actually gently prune them when planting, which seems to stop them dropping so many leaves.


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RE: Ficus benjamina

The thing that makes them drop the most leaves is changing the light from high to lower, like when you buy one from a store and bring it home inside the house. A couple of things you can do -- there's always a lot of leaves on the interior of the plant, so you can trim many of those out, along with alot of small branchlets and air roots.
Also I saw a tip that when you move benjamina from higher to lower light, you can forestall leaf dropage by spraying liberally with water every day for five days. I haven't had the opportunity to try this, but maybe someone else will do it soon and report their results.


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RE: Ficus benjamina

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, May 1, 13 at 22:32

You should always avoid trimming interior foliage unless the branch it's growing on is a structural problem (growing straight up or straight down, crossing other branches, growing back toward the center of the tree ....). Instead, you want to THIN the outer canopy to let light and air into the center of the plant so it RETAINS that foliage and back-buds (increased light and air movement at the center of the foliage mass = more profuse back-budding, which is a very worthy goal). It's very important to your ability to prune the tree properly - especially in cases where the tree is being grown in more northerly climes. It also makes the tree look full and natural.

You need to prune prune prune the top 1/3 of a F benjamina to restrain its growth and force the tree to devote energy to the lower 2/3 of the tree. If you don't, you'll have a tree with a few strong, fat branches at the top and a bunch of straggly branches on the lower part of the tree. Continual thinning of upper foliage and branches lets air and light in, and keeps inner growth healthy. This is the growth you need to prune back to, to keep branches from dying back when you prune.

Also - misting causes stoma to close and reduces the trees ability to carry on photosynthesis, which slows its metabolism. A slowed metabolism means a reduction in the amount of auxin produced. Auxin continually flowing across the abscission zone is essential to inhibiting an abscission layer from forming and the leaf being subsequently shed. So if anything, misting (because it reduces the polar flow of auxin) would increase the likelihood of leaves being shed. This would be true even if the shedding of foliage was a conditional drought response because that issue would be resultant of a root zone too dry, which misting wouldn't ameliorate.

Al


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RE: Ficus benjamina

I find that they only grow where they are pruned.

So if I hard prune the top only, they only produce growth at the top.

Equally if I only prune the outer growth, eventually they end up 'hollow', if you know what I mean.


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RE: Ficus benjamina

Pruning shurely encourages growth but the plant will also grow from unpruned shoots. And it would most likely not become"hollow"


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RE: Ficus benjamina

Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on Wed, May 1, 13 at 22:32

I identify you must be an expert. I have kept your post. Thank you so much.


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RE: Ficus benjamina

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, May 2, 13 at 16:25

Ficus are genetically predisposed to be apically dominant, and to concentrate the lion's share of growth in the upper part of the tree and at branch tips, so the plant is going to want to grow more vigorously at the top no matter what you do - whether you prune or not. If Ficus only grew where it was pruned, unpruned Ficus wouldn't grow.

The entire shoot system, and it doesn't matter how large/small the plant is, has its beginnings in a small region of the plant called the shoot apical meristem. An apical meristem is a region of high cell division (lots and lots of mitosis) that contributes to the extension of the plant. It's only from apical meristems that plants can extend - lateral meristems are responsible for increases in girth.

When you remove an apical meristem (growing tip of a branch or stem) it alters the flow of a growth regulator (auxin) that nearly ensures inhibition of lateral growth, and in doing that assures the branch will extend. Once the branch tip is removed, another growth regulator becomes dominant and stimulates the growth of latent buds in leaf axils (crotches) behind the tip you removed. In some cases, in many Ficus species, it even stimulates adventitious buds to form on branches and stems in areas other than leaf axils.

The same thing happens no matter what part of the tree is pruned, but you observe a more vigorous reaction in the upper part of the tree because the tree is predisposed to grow more vigorously there, and it gets more light and air movement than the rest of the tree.

If, for instance you pruned the bottom only, the plant would respond weekly because it is predisposed to do so, and the cultural conditions of light and air movement aren't as favorable. In order to COMPENSATE for the fact the deck is stacked against a healthy bottom fraction of the tree, we prune the top to A) restrain its vigor, forcing the tree to spend it's energy on existing parts, and B) allow more light and air into the tree's interior and lower parts to keep those parts strong and keep the tree from shedding them.

Al


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RE: Ficus benjamina

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, May 2, 13 at 16:43

Also, if we're going to be technically correct, pruning doesn't "encourage growth", it DIScourages growth. Growth is measured by the increase in a plant's mass; so in pruning you not only remove mass, but you remove the machinery (leaves) that BUILDS mass, so the tree grows more slowly and loses growth potential. BTW - lost growth potential in plants can never be regained. If we prune, we SACRIFICE growth for reasons we consider more important than growth (fullness, health, size restriction .....).

While pruning almost all dicots increases the number of apical meristems (growing points) and the number of leaves and branches on the plant, the plant would have grown more (increased in mass) if it hadn't been pruned. Bonsai practitioners are acutely aware of how regular pruning reduces not only the size of the plant, but the size of the leaves and twigs as well - features highly desirable in containerized trees.

Al


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RE: Ficus benjamina

Al,
Your discussion of the relationship between moisture/auxin/abscission layer sounds completely reasonable, and pretty much what I was thinking. I am completely at a loss to understand the lady's experience, unless the light level did not change as much as she thought when she moved her plants. Is there any possibility that a lot of moisture would have a short term (she advocated using the drenching for only 5 days) effect on keeping the auxin flowing by diluting it, or something? But then I don't see how the effect would continue after the 5 days. That's why I thought it would be interesting for someone else to experiment with the idea.

My experience with pruning is, when you get a new benjamina from a shop, it usually is fresh from the grower, where it has been in the field in full sun. It is totally thick with foliage. If you don't clear alot of it out, it will all be dropped anyway. You thin out the center growth to A. allow air and light into the tree; B. remove unhealthy or wrong-directioned branches; C, improve the appearance of the tree.

When you're cleaning out the interior, you will be removing many of the leaves that grow directly from the branches, rather than from the little twigs and branchlets. You will also be removing the air roots; the branches growing cross-ways, back into the tree, or otherwise misdirected; and you will want to open the crotches (stop snickering back there.) That means to remove the leaves and small twigs that are growing from the area where 2 larger branches meet.

If you're looking at a tree that has been indoors for some time, the main thing you're going to be interested in is developing or maintaining a pleasing shape. Most benjaminas look best with a bell-shaped contour, at least in my opinion, although some cultivars have a natural columnar shape. I've seen a few done interestingly in an "African" cut, where the lower branch structure is denuded of leaves and all the foliage is left at the top. Whatever you do, please don't "lollipop" the tree. (OK, just my personal opinion. I can't stop you if you think you must)

Ficus benjaminas are very enjoyable to prune and shape, because they grow fairly quickly, and reward your efforts almost immediately. If the shape has gotten out of hand, you may have to cut back some branches fairly hard to establish the regular outline that is most pleasing. After that, the important rule of thumb is to trim back to a branchlet that is growing in the direction you want to encourage. If you're looking for the weeping, bell shape, this would be branchlets that are growing down.

Indoors, since you have to contend with ceilings and such, you pretty much naturally have to keep the top under control, which is all to the good, as Al points out.

I love ficus trees. They are supremely adaptable and enduringly beautiful. Considering that their species figures prominently in two major religions (Buddhism and Christianity), and maybe others besides, I like to tell people that they are the most noble of trees.

And now I'm closing my computer and going off-line for a week of house cleaning and yard work. See 'ya

Marlie


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RE: Ficus benjamina

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, May 3, 13 at 15:47

Most Ficus are conditioned to light levels under shade cloth for several weeks to lessen the effects of a probable reduction in photo-intensity before being sent to market.

Air movement increases evaporative water loss through lenticels in the bark. When you increase air movement on the interior of the trees framework by pruning/thinning branch tips, the tree loses more water through the bark of interior branches. IN that water are nutrients and growth regulators from the roots (cytokinin) which stimulates budding in the tree's interior, budding that makes the tree look fuller and budding that allows you to prune the outer structure to green growth to help ensure the branch doesn't die back. The added light that is let in through pruning the outer canopy SUSTAINS the new interior growth.

In very southerly climes, Ficus B can be chopped back to a stump and it will resprout. Here in MI, I wouldn't even attempt it with my healthiest tree, so geography plays a significant part in what you can get away with. In most cases, I wouldn't cut back a benjamina hard without leaving some green (foliage) on the branches I want to keep. The same goes for trees grown indoors where light levels are at very best only about 70% of what they are outdoors, with 40-60% being the usual range.

You say the interior foliage will all be dropped anyway. This is true only if you don't thin the outer canopy. I sort of have a leg up on most who grow trees in pots, because I average 2-6 hours with my trees in the summer, and maybe an hour per day in the winter, so I'm intimately familiar with the effects of pruning, and can pretty reliably predict how a tree will respond to pruning just by looking at it.

As a bonsai guy, I usually try to avoid pruning any interior branches - even those that seem to have gone astray. It's a pretty simple chore to wire them into a more favorable position. The best looking trees always have lots of foliage that grows on short branches. On developing trees, I often remove or cut the leaves on the top of trees in half (across venation) to slow the development of the top and force the tree to use energy on the lower branches. If I don't, lower branches predictably weaken and upper branches thicken - causing an unnatural looking imbalance.

Trees grown in big pots don't respond differently than their counterparts in small pots, other than the fact they're easier to maintain in good health. If you remove all the interior foliage and let the branches elongate, what do you cut back to when you finally realize the tree has grown out of bounds? Ideally, you would cut back to something green, but to do that, you need to maintain those interior branches in good health - which means light needs to get to the interior ........

For Ficus, let your lower branches extend to about 5 leaves, then cut back to 3-4 leaves. At the top of the tree, let your branches get to 3-4 leaves and cut back to 1-2 leaves - and regularly remove (thin) the most vigorous (fattest) branches (selecting the ones that do the least to compliment the tree's appearance) to keep the top from getting too heavy (heavy = thick branches - you want the top to be twiggy).

Al


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RE: Ficus benjamina

tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on Fri, May 3, 13 at 15:47
I bought a small pot. Now, do they grow faster in full sun or part shade? Should I leave them in a warm place or a cool place? I am looking for fast growing and healthy plant.


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RE: Ficus benjamina

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, May 5, 13 at 17:40

Full sun, but be sure you introduce them gradually - unless you're bold and the plant is going to STAY in full sun from now until fall. Then you CAN plop it straight into full sun. The leaves will all burn (if it's acclimated to low light) and fall off. The upside of that is, the tree will back-bud profusely, making it fuller, and the new leaves that emerge will be perfectly suited to the sites light level. The downside is, you'd have to trust me and ignore your instincts.

They perform best when temps are reliably & consistently above 65*. 75-85* is about ideal for Ficus b.

 photo Brrrr014.jpg

Al

This post was edited by tapla on Sun, May 5, 13 at 17:43


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RE: Ficus benjamina

Al, thank you so much. Glad to learn that this ficus can deal with full sun. I am not sure about the "frog" in snow??? Humorous though.


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RE: Ficus benjamina

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, May 5, 13 at 22:05

..... not sure how I got started on frogs in the garden, but I have a LOT of them. Many were gifts, after folks found out I'm into frogs.

Gardening is soo much work! photo planters043.jpg
Hi There! photo planters044-1.jpg
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Hello, My Friend photo Jul05.jpg
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Al


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RE: Ficus benjamina

LOL, Al, that is hilarious. Do you have picture of Ficus benjamina tree growing in tropical gardens in full sun? Don't worry if you have not taken any.


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