About the Ficus Benghalensis Tree
The ficus benghalensis, which is better known in the gardening world as ‘strangler fig,’ the ‘Bengal fig,’ and the ‘banyan tree,’ is a very popular choice for a decorative and functional indoor plant. This type of fig has a reputation for being particularly versatile in the art of bonsai. Although the treat itself has plenty of lovely physical features, it is also considered to be a sacred tree by Buddhist and Hindu peoples, and can usually be found thriving outside of religious temples. If you’re looking for a houseplant that has a lot of character then this is definitely a plant worth your consideration!
The ficus benghalensis is a native of India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. In its native habitat, this variety of fig tree is most likely to be found growing in the rain forest regions in these areas where it can enjoy the occasional monsoon. These trees are very highly regarded in India; so much so, that you could frequently see this type of ficus growing around temples, public parks, and public gardens. Like most other fig tree species, the ficus benghalensis is a very large tree out in the wild and needs a lot of space to grow. It is so commonly found in rain forests because the humid and spacious environment is the ideal location for the ficus to thrive.
Have you ever been out for a stroll or a drive and saw a tree that looked so gnarled and twisted that it almost had an ancient and almost intelligent charm to it? This is the same sort of façade that the ficus benghalensis carries. This type of fig tree grows very tall when it is in an unhindered outdoor environment. In fact, it can reach heights of about 100 feet! One of the most interesting physical features about the strangler fig is that as it grows upwards, its branches reach out in a horizontal fashion and then they start to produce roots known as “prop roots.” These roots grow downward from the horizontal branches and eventually will tunnel into the ground. The overall effect looks almost cage-like in essence. This is a very fast growing tree and the overall size is easily expanded as the prop roots form which increases the overall diameter of the tree.
Unless you live in Southern Florida or a USDA zone 10a – 12 regions, the ficus benghalensis cannot live in your area without the aid of a greenhouse. You can, however, keep this as an indoor plant. You might be saying to yourself, “If this tree grows to be 100 feet tall, how can I possibly grow it in my house?” Remember earlier when we mentioned that this species makes an excellent bonsai project? That’s because this tree responds very well to pruning, which means that you can use a nice pair of pruning shears to keep your ficus from growing too large for is immediate area. Another benefit is that this type of fig tree can handle being root bound very well. In fact, failing to “upgrade” the fig to a larger pot will simply stunt the tree’s growth; however being the hardy guy that it is, it will still produce leaves and appear healthy in all other aspects.
This species produces large, bright green, oval-shaped leaves that may grow in a twisted or cupped shape, although not all of the leaves will grow in this fashion. The clean-cut leaves add a very classy but clean and bright air to a room, plus they also throw off a lot of oxygen which can improve the quality of the air in your home.
Sunlight, Moisture, and Temperature
Being from the rainforest, the ficus benghalensis loves moisture in the form of rain and humidity. If you keep this as an indoor plant, as most people choose to do, you will need to be sure to add moisture to the plant not only by watering it but also by misting the leaves and branches with a spray-mist bottle. This is a great way to simulate a steamy, humid jungle, especially if the air in your home tends to be on the dry side. As for watering the soil inside the container, it’s best to allow the soil to dry out a bit between watering. There’s no denying that this tree loves water, but its roots shouldn’t be kept saturated in muddy soil all of the time. Also, it’s a good idea to make sure that the container in which the ficus is grown has drainage holes at the bottom to prevent the tree from suffering the effects of being overwatered.
The ideal temperature for a ficus houseplant is between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which is considered a fairly average range for most homes in the United States. If need be, this tree can withstand temperatures down to about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but it should not be exposed to temperatures this low on a regular basis or its leaves will begin to turn yellow and quickly drop off.
When choosing the ideal spot for this type of ficus, try to avoid placing it near a window where it might be exposed to direct sunlight. Remember, this tree is fond of the rainforest where it would be partially shaded by other tree. Therefore, the ideal indoor location would be one that receives either partial shade or bright, filtered light.