Growing & Caring for Ficus Audrey (Ficus Benghalensis)

Ficus Audrey

The Ficus Audrey (Ficus benghalensis) is also known by a few other names including banyan tree, Bengal fig and strangler fig just to name a few. It has become a popular plant because of its close resemblance to much-loved fiddle leaf fig tree (Ficus Lyrata). However, it is much easier to care for and easily adjusts to new environments.

These features, plus its strikingly beautifully shaped foliage make it a good choice if you want a medium sized houseplant to display in your living room.

The ficus Audrey is native to the forests of Southeast Asia. As such, its is used to tropical conditions. in these conditions, it can grow up to 30 meters high and cover a wide area which is why it often provides a canopy for shade to other plants.

However, indoors, its size is much more manageable. Upon maturity tends to reach between 5 to 10 feet tall depending on how much light, fertilizer and pot size you give it. its leaves also spread outward with a width of about 3 feet.

What makes it very attractive are its uniquely shaped leaves, which are thick and dark green in color adorned with pale colored veins.

Ficus Audrey Plant Care

Ficus Audrey Light

Your ficus Audrey enjoys bright indirect or filtered light, much like other ficus trees do. Thus, inside your home, the best place is often near a window. However, you need to make sure it is protected from the harsh rays of the sun especially during noon, mid-afternoon and hot summers when it is most intense.

The plant can’t tolerate strong, direct sunlight for long periods of time. Otherwise, its leaves will be scorched.

Similarly, low light conditions or dark areas are the least ideal places to put them. If you do keep them there for a time, you’ll notice its growth slow down, smaller than normal foliage and falling leaves.

  • This means that the plants do best in east facing windows. The morning sun gives it a lot of bright sunlight without being harsh.
  • North facing windows can likewise work as long as there’s enough light. If you want to try it here, place the plant near the window so it gets the most light possible. And make sure to monitor it for any low light side effects mentioned above. If you see these signs happen, move it to a brighter spot.
  • Alternatively, you can also try west and south facing windows. However, keep them at least a few feet away from the window, so they don’t get hit directly by the sun’s rays. You can likewise use curtains to filter the light.

Whichever you choose, make sure to rotate your plant every so often by a quarter of a turn each time. This allows all sides of the plant to face the sunlight. Doing so ensures even, balanced growth.

 

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Ficus Audrey Temperature & Humidity

Being native to Southeast Asis, the plant is accustomed to warm, humid environments. Thus, providing it with similar conditions allows it to grow optimally.

Ideally, you want to keep the thermostat between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the Ficus Audrey’s sweet spot. The more consistent the temperature the happier it will be. So, do avoid lots of fluctuation.

If you live in USDA zones 10 to 12, you can grow it outdoors as well. Otherwise, it is best to keep it in a container indoors. You can still take it out during summertime as long as you allow it to receive bright light while under a shade. Come fall or wintertime, it’s essential to bring it indoors when the temperature drops under 60 degrees.

As with most other houseplants, you also want to keep your Ficus Audrey away from wind and drafts. Cool winds from open doors or windows as well as air conditioning are no-nos.

If you do need to increase humidity indoors, a few options include:

  • Misting the plant regularly
  • Place it on a pebble tray
  • Set up a humidifier
  • Group it together with other plants

Any of these will work.

 

Ficus Audrey Watering

As with other houseplants, your Ficus Audrey doesn’t like being too dry or too wet. If you overwater it, you run the risk of causing root rot. And, if left unchecked, you’ll likely end up killing your plant with kindness.

Thus, always make sure to check before watering your plant. To do so, stick your finger into the soil going down 2 inches. This will come out to the first knuckle (the one closest to your palm) in your index finger.

  • If the soil down there feels moist, it is a sign that you should wait one or two more days before testing the soil again.
  • If the soil feels dry at that depth, it is time to water. Don’t allow the soil to dry past 2 or 3 inches max. Otherwise, you’ll start seeing it shed its leaves.

Also, don’t pour over the plant. Instead, water the soil. This prevents the leaves from getting too wet. Moisture that doesn’t dry up quickly can cause fungal disease to foliage.

When watering the soil, do so deeply. This means watering the soil until moisture starts dripping from the holes at the bottom of your pot. That will be your signal to stop.

Finally, allow all the excess water to drain out. While more time consuming that just pouring water over your plant, this ensures your Ficus Audrey doesn’t sit in excess water. In doing so, eliminating the risk of root rot.

 

Soil

Ficus Audrey like growing in moist, well-draining soil. It also like rich soil high in organic matter. As such, some people like using a soil-based mix as opposed to a non-soil-based potting mix.

The difference between the two is the a soil-based mix is similar to your garden soil in that it actually contains soil. The biggest benefit of this is that it comes with the nutrients that garden soil has, whereas regular potting soil isn’t actually soil at all.

However, the downside to soil-based mixes is that you need to make sure you’re using a high quality product that’s been sterilized. This is the only way to ensure that it is free of pests and potential soil-borne diseases that can affect your plant.

That said, most houseplants are grown in potting soil. And, you can likewise fulfill the requirements of your Ficus Audrey by choosing a high quality potting mix that’s well-draining. Then add perlite to make it lighter. The addition makes the potting mixture looser and drain better to prevent too much water retention which is a weakness of Ficus Audrey.

 

Fertilizing

Ficus Audrey are vigorous growers. But, they do most of their growing during spring and summer. This means that you want to feed it during this time.

Applying a high quality organic houseplant fertilizer once a month between March to September produces the best results. Make sure to dilute the dose based on the instructions provided with the product. Otherwise, you run the risk of overfertilizing it which can damage its roots.

Once first fall chill arrives, you can stop feeding, at least until springtime arrives again. During this time it goes into its resting/dormant stage. Feeding it during this time will result in excess unused fertilizer because the plant doesn’t need it. Thus, resulting in fertilizer burning its roots.

 

Pruning Ficus Audrey

Pruning your Ficus Audrey is more about shaping and sizing your plant. Doing this as needed allows you to craft its look and maintain it.

In addition, pruning is likewise healthy for it because it encourages new growth. Doing so gets rid of the spent, old, dying or discolored leaves and allows new ones to take their place. As a result, you have a stronger plant.

As always, make sure to sterilize your cutting instrument before pruning. You can use cotton and rubbing alcohol to wipe down your scissors or knife. This prevents any bacterial infection as you wound your plant.

It is also worth noting that the Ficus Audrey produces sap when wounded. Thus, as you prune, this will start dripping from its branches. While normal and nothing to worry about, the sap is a headache to remove from carpeting, fabric and some types of flooring.

So, it is a good idea to do your trimming outside, or place newspaper or plastic on the floor to cover the plant as it drips as well as where you’ll be placing the pruned stems (which will keep dripping as well).

 

Ficus Audrey Propagation

Ficus Audrey can be propagated by seed or stem cuttings. Between the two, the latter is much easier and takes a lot less time.

Here’s how to propagate Ficus Audrey.

  • Pick a stem that has at least 2-3 leaves. This ensures that it is capable of growing foliage. Otherwise, you might end up a somewhat “bald” plant.
  • Make the cut leaving at least a few inches. Ideally, you want at least 3-4 inches in length. This gives you enough stem to dip in water and likewise allow it to stand upright in soil.
  • Dip the stem end into rooting hormone to speed up root growth.
  • Place the stem in a jar or glass filled with water.
  • Depending on the type of stem you take, it can take faster or slower to root. Woody stems are known to take much longer. This is one reason many gardeners use non-woody stems for stem cutting.
  • Once the cutting starts to root, you can move it into a container with fresh potting mix.

 

Transplanting & Repotting Ficus Audrey

Because the Ficus Audrey is a fast grower, you’ll need to be ready to repot it every 18 to 24 months. This is a little bit more work than most other houseplants. However, it enjoys being root bound so you can keep it a little longer.

The best time to do so is early in the spring. A sure sign that the plant needs to be repotted is it you start seeing roots come out of the holes below the pot or start circling the container.

When it does, it is time to move to a pot that’s 2 to 4 inches bigger. While you might get tempted to jump pot sizes, it’s never a good idea to do so. The larger the container (relative to the plant) means that you also have a bigger soil to plant ratio.

The problem with this situation is that when you water the plant, there becomes an extreme excess of water due to the large surface area of the soil. This means it takes more time for the water to dry, causing your plant to sit in water for longer periods of time. In doing so, it runs the risk of root rot.

When repotting, make sure to replace the spent soil for fresh potting mix. This allows your plant to get grow faster.

 

Growing Problems

If you look closely at your Ficus Audrey’s leaves, you’ll notice that its has a fuzzy layer. This is normal. But, the fuzz does tend to collect dust. As the dust gets thicker, it blocks sunlight making it harder for your plant’s leaves to absorb it for photosynthesis.

As such, you’ll want to wipe off the dust on a regular basis. A damp cloth will do the job. However, don’t use leaf shine as it will damage the foliage. Some people do thing in an attempt to make the leaves look less fuzzier and more vibrant. That’s a no-no.

 

Pests and Diseases

In addition to wiping its leaves, you’ll also want to inspect the plant for pests. Always check both sides of the foliage. Sometimes, these pests hide on the underside of leaves.

Among the common pests that infest the Ficus Audrey are scale, mealybugs, spider mites and nematodes.

Similarly, it can be susceptible to leaf spots caused by fungal or bacterial disease.

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