Try A Braided Ficus Tree As Your Next Indoor Plant
The Braided Ficus tree can be quite a novelty as a house plant, and is a very attractive plant at the same time. The Braided Ficus, also known as the Weeping Fig and Braided Ficus Benjamina (Ficus benjamina is the Latin or botanical designation), is a tropical plant, native to Southeast Asia and the greater South Pacific area. In temperate climates it must be grown as an indoor plant. It will not tolerate frost at all, and has a tendency to easily drop its leaves if placed in too cool a location.
Intertwining vs. Braiding – Like some other ficus or fig trees, the Braided Ficus tree is part tree and part vine, and like a vine will often send up several shoots which may or may not eventually fuse into a single trunk, or into several trunks. While these shoots may intertwine to some degree, they do not braid themselves. This must be done by the plant’s owner. When done well, the result can be quite spectacular. What one ends up with is a 6’ to 10′ tree, with a ball of attractive green foliage, supported by a trunk which has the appearance of a rope, and in some cases a chain, or interwoven ropes or chains.
When the tree is growing in very warm conditions, such as might be found along the southern tier of states, if the shoots are braided, they will tend to fuse into a single, though interesting looking trunk. If the plant is grown in a slightly cooler area, indoors in a more temperate zone, the braided shoots will tend to harden before fusing, giving a more rope-like or chain-like effect.
Though grown mostly as an indoor plant, and kept to a desired height by pruning, in its natural setting, the Braided Ficus tree can attain a height of nearly 100′ and a 50′ spread, a rather spectacular tree. Most of us will be have to be satisfied with a house plant that is 6′ or so in height. Braided Ficus tree owners seem to be a very satisfied group however. The tree is easy to maintain, and as no special humidity requirements such as often is the case with tropical plants. It does require bright light, and grows best in such a setting. Try to position the plant so that it gets bright light for at least half of the daylight hours. Rotating the tree once a week will help maintain a symmetrical shape.
Top Heavy If You’re Not Careful – The greatest challenge owners face is attempting to figure out how to braid the trunk if they haven’t attempted to do it before. The shoots, or thin wisps, that are to be trained are most flexible when the plant is a little dry, almost wilted. They can then be gently braided and held together with plant or wire until they become firm. One problem people sometimes encounter is once having braided new shoots, additional shoots or branches continue to form beneath the braid. It’s best to let these grow for a time, as that will keep more sprouts from forming. The lower branches tend to make the base of the trunk thicker that the top, the natural look most trees have. If the lower branches are continuously trimmed off, the base of the trunk will be narrower than the middle and top of the trunk. This doesn’t harm the tree at all, but looks abnormal. We’re just not used to seeing trees that are thinnest at the base.
General Care – Caring for this plant is not too difficult. There are several things not to do however. If you purchase the plant during freezing weather, the trip from the store to your car could kill it. If you purchase it during the summer, don’t stick it in the bed of a pickup truck for the trip home, the wind will dry out the leaves and kill it just as easily as freezing weather will. Over watering will have the same result. One needs to let the soil dry out about an inch between watering. Finally, try not to move the plant from location to location too much. When you do so it’s apt to shed its leaves. You haven’t killed it, it’s just telling you it didn’t like being moved around.
Check out some images of the Braided Ficus tree on the Internet and get some ideas as to where you may want to place one of these unusual but attractive plants in your home.