Also known as Benjamin tree or Benjamin fig, weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) displays attractive, deep green, leathery leaves. In its natural tropical environment, weeping fig reaches heights of up to 60 feet, but the height is usually limited to 30 feet or less in home gardens. Weeping fig is suitable for planting outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10b through 11. In most climates, the plant is grown in a container indoors where the height is usually 10 feet or less. Propagate weeping fig by taking cuttings in summer or by air layering at any time of year.
1 Take 4- to 6-inch cuttings from the current's season's growth, using clean garden shears or a sharp knife. Look for stems that are firm but still tender and pliable at the tip. Cut each stem just below a leaf node.
2 Pinch the leaves from the bottom half of the stems. Pinch the leaves cleanly because ragged edges may allow bacteria to enter the stems. Use your thumbnail to scratch a 1/2-inch strip of bark from the bottom of the stems, which allows the stem to absorb plant hormones.
3 Fill a celled planting tray with a well-draining potting mix such as a combination of half peat moss and half fine bark. Poke a hole in the center of each tray, using your fingertip or the eraser end of a pencil.
4 Dip the stems in powdered or liquid rooting hormone, and then plant each stem in a hole with the leaves just above the surface of the potting mix. Firm the potting mix around the cuttings. Water lightly to settle the potting mix around the stems.
5 Cover the tray with clear plastic. Place the tray in low light where the temperature is consistently between 74 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the tray at least every other day. Water lightly if the potting mix feels dry, and pinch off dead leaves.
6 Plant each stem into a 4-inch container filled with commercial potting soil when the cuttings show healthy new growth -- usually within two to three months.
7 Place the containers in bright, indirect light. Continue to keep the potting mix evenly moist but never soggy.
8 Plant the weeping figs outdoors when all danger of frost has passed the following spring.
9. Air Layering
1 Pinch the leaves and side shoots from a 12-inch length of branch on a healthy, mature plant. Do not remove the branch from the plant.
10. Air Layering
2 Remove a 1-inch sliver of bark near the center of the bare stem, using the tip of a clean, sharp knife. Remove only the bark and don't cut deep enough to damage the pith below the bark. Plants root best if you remove the bark just below a node, which is a spot where a leaf is emerging.
11. Air Layering
3 Saturate a large handful of sphagnum moss and then squeeze the moss to remove the excess moisture. Pack the moss firmly around the wounded stem. Repeat with a second handful of sphagnum moss, packing it firmly over the first handful of moss to create a large ball of damp moss around the wounded spot.
12. Air Layering
4 Cover the ball of damp sphagnum moss securely with a large piece of clear plastic wrap. Secure the plastic to the stem by wrapping a piece of electrician's tape around the plastic wrap on the stem just above the moss. Wrap a second piece of electrician's tape on the plastic just below the ball of moss. The goal is to prevent moisture loss from the edges of the plastic wrap.
13. Air Layering
5 Watch for roots to fill the ball of sphagnum moss, which usually takes two to three months. If the stem is slow to root, wait a few more weeks.
14. Air Layering
6 Remove the rooted stem by cutting the stem at an angle on the parent side of the rooted area. Carefully remove the electrician's tape and plastic wrap.
15. Air Layering
7 Fill a container with regular commercial potting soil. Use a container with a diameter about 2 inches larger than the plant's rootball.
16. Air Layering
8 Remove most of the sphagnum moss by the rootball by teasing the moss from the roots with your fingers. Plant the weeping ficus in the center of the container. Pat potting mixture carefully around the roots.
17. Air Layering
9 Place the new plant in a shady location for about week to allow the roots to settle, and then treat the ficus as an adult plant.
Items you will need
- Clean garden shears or sharp knife
- Celled planting tray
- Peat moss
- Fine bark
- Powdered or liquid rooting hormone
- Clear plastic
- 4-inch container
- Commercial potting soil
- Larger containers
- Sharp knife
- Sphagnum moss
- Clear plastic wrap
- Electrician's tape
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Ficus Benjamina, Weeping Fig
- University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture: Plant of the Week, Weeping Fig
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Weeping Fig
- The American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation; Alan Toogood, Editor
- Virginia Cooperative Extension: Propagation by Cuttings, Layering and Division
- The New Sunset Western Garden Book; Kathleen Norris Brenzel, Editor