The birch fig is apparently very familiar to us, but in reality many of its owners do not even know its real name. Most room gardeners consider birch figs to be sensitive, few know their origin, some itch in their presence – get to know an unknown plant better.
The Ficus Benjamini is not called Benjamini, is not sensitive and has surprising talents – after reading the article you will cultivate a completely new plant (with success).
Once and for all: benjamini or benjamina, mimosa or predator?
In the IPNI (International Plant Names Index, www.ipni.org) the birch fig with a botanical name is called Ficus benjamina. This is how the fig species was named by Carl von Linné, in the “Mantissa Plantarum” of 1767.
The names “Ficus benjaminoides” and “Ficus benjaminea” are listed as synonyms with 9 other names extended by appendages, but a Ficus benjamini is only available in the search engine, which does 52,100 times.
It won’t be any more correct, but the birch fig certainly has nothing against being cared for by you as a “benjamini”.
Apropos “devotional care”, perhaps another characteristic that is probably wrongly attributed to the Ficus benjamina should be cleared up here:
The Ficus benjamina is sooo sensitive…
Is he really? A plant from the tropics that for decades has bravely and uncomplainingly and quite greenly populated myriads of German living rooms, although for them this is so similar as if a native plant was to grow in a coal cellar? After all, the fig has always been regarded as a sign of fertility and wealth.
The alleged sensitivity should be questioned at least mentally, so that you do not block yourself during the care of the oh so difficult plant.
You can also “read around” a little. There are always authors who consider the occasional leaf loss of a tropical plant, which is used to a climate without seasons and completely different light intensities, completely normal. The bad image of the Ficus benjamina is based only on the fact that a large part of its owners consider the Asian-oceanic wood to be a native plant.
Species and varieties
There are about 1,000 species of Ficus, and one of them is the Ficus benjamina. Which is quite common in some varieties: The “Royal Horticultural Society” UK, which is mostly well informed in this respect, currently lists (as of 02.2016) 74 cultivars, 26 of which are licensed, eight with coloured variegated leaves.
The varieties differ more in terms of profit for the breeder than in terms of any traits important to you; but if you are looking for a ficus with a girlfriend’s name, Alexis, Anastasia, Danielle, Exotic Monique, Flandriana, Gabrielle, Naomi Beauty, Nicoline, Rianne, Vivian and Wendy are quite good cards.
For fans of leaf colours here the Ficus benjamina with variegated leaves:
Ficus benjamina ‘Golden Monique’
Ficus benjamina ‘Golden Princess’
Ficus benjamina ‘Green Kinky’
Ficus benjamina ‘Mini Gold’
Ficus benjamina ‘Profit’
Ficus benjamina ‘Reginald’
Ficus benjamina ‘Starlight’
Ficus benjamina ‘Variegata’
The white-coloured Starlight, which grows only 2 m tall, and the normal Ficus benjamina with a maximum height of 4 m have won the “Award of Garden Merit” of the Royal Horticultural Society. Also known is the small-leaved ‘Nastasja’:
Mostly you don’t get any breeding names at all, sometimes you should buy “The Dude”, “Werner”, “Judy Samantha Davina La Croix” and “Brunhilde”; if botanical names are given, you might get synonyms that belong to completely different Fici. Once there is a certain probability that it is a Ficus benjamina, it doesn’t matter. As far as the care is concerned, only the varieties with the variegated leaves have special characteristics, and you can recognise these varieties even without botanical names. With regard to “The Dude” and “Brunhilde” it would at most be interesting (if “The Dude” grows without any drive) where and how these plants were cultivated and cared for. You can also ask for this personally if the offer comes from dedicated experts.
It doesn’t even matter if you’ve caught “some fig” as long as it’s an ornamental plant and not a strangler fig that might have strange ideas about your living room furniture:
The right location
Now that you know what “your ficus” is called and may even have chosen a particular variety, it’s about its location claims. They are the location claims of a tropical plant:
A little more specific, that means:
Choose the warmest available location
Normal room temperatures between 18 and 25 °C are quite good.
The 1.000 fig species populate the whole world, but everywhere the tropical and subtropical regions.
This is almost always accompanied by a rather high humidity, especially in the Asian homeland of the Ficus benjamina.
Therefore, the benjamina should feel quite comfortable in a (used) kitchen and bathroom
On the other hand, the ficus needs the high humidity especially for the abundant formation of aerial roots.
If he “only” has to form leaves, he can probably cope with normal air humidity.
From an average temperature of 15 °C at night, the birch fig can be placed on the balcony.
But please be pampered, the tropical child doesn’t want to freeze and doesn’t want heavy rain or storms.
Bright, but not necessarily full sunny
The indoor plant tolerates full midday sun even after a period of habituation.
Which is not a sign of particular sensitivity, but completely normal.
A plant also has a metabolism that it has to adapt to new conditions.
Even if the locations seem to resemble each other: Outside, the plant has to process more light even when the sky is cloudy
At the right location, the fig is then actually easy to satisfy:
- Normal garden soil or bucket soil, you’re not choosy.
- Water regularly when the soil is drying up.
- Gladly also from above, with the spray bottle
- Caution with hard water, this can cause lime stains on the leaves.
- Fertilise regularly, in the potting soil there are hardly any microorganisms that “produce nutrients”.
- With commercially available green plant fertilizer in medium dilution, every one or two weeks.
- Turn a little now and then so that all leaves get light and develop their full metabolic rate.
- This also ensures straight growth at the same time
- Cultivate normally indoors in winter with slightly reduced supply
- If the birch fig stood outside in summer, it is put away when the temperatures inside and outside are almost the same.
- Repotting every one to two years is recommended, with new soil
- For the cut see “special cultural aspects”.
- What who doesn’t like!
Sensitive or not, there are conditions that no plant, and certainly no tropical plant, can match:
- Full shade, plants feed on photosynthesis and that needs light.
- Full sun, through water on the leaves it burns, surprisingly it causes the plant metabolism to trouble and sunburn.
- Accumulating heat = used air, also air is used for photosynthesis.
- Strong temperature fluctuations affect plants that (like tropical plants) are not accustomed to clearly different seasons.
- Tropical plants can even become too cold in German homes if an overzealous air conditioner/sparingly used heater produces average temperatures below 18 °C
Here: you can get a small impression of the complexity of a plant metabolism in connection with stress.
- Against this background, it is already understandable that a living being that is actually firmly located gets stress when it has to wander
- The fact that a change of location is generally not tolerated is, with thousands of benjamina, which are rented out in Germany for fairs and interior greening, perhaps just a fairy tale.
- Variegated leaves have reduced chlorophyll areas, so such Fici have to be slightly lighter for photosynthesis to “work”.
- Brighter does not necessarily mean sunnier, it depends on the length of the daily incidence of light
- And the colorful-leaved forms often lose some resistance during breeding, and they have to be cared for carefully overall.
- Normal leaf fall has already been mentioned above, even the leaves of an evergreen plant do not live forever.
- Abnormal leaf fall may be caused by too little/too much light, water, heat, nutrients
- Or by pests/illnesses, against which the Ficus benjamini is susceptible like every plant in a deficiency situation (a tropical plant in the German living room is always)
The Cut and Special Cultural Aspects
Birch figs have several peculiarities which you should be familiar with as a keeper of a Ficus benjamina and which can even be used for special cultivars. First of all, figs are very compatible with pruning and also grow out of the old wood, which means for you as a housegrower:
If your ficus gets too big, you can brake it uncritically:
You can cut your Ficus benjamina whenever you want.
The best time is spring, then the pruning is followed by new shoots.
You can simply shorten the ficus evenly all around or cut it off only in the upper area.
You can also shape it during the cut if it has gained weight on one side.
Dry and withered, sick, discoloured, crooked shoots are always cut away.
Cut for forming
Unless your instincts are crooked because you wanted them to be:
You can also try out one or the other shape cut with a Ficus benjamina.
Or create a ficus forest
Since the shoots of the Ficus benjamina grow together when they meet, you can “do” much more:
You can also draw it as bonsai
Gladly in atypical shapes
For a bonsai you need one of the small-leaved varieties, or you can pull yourself out of a head cuttings source material, which you can influence from the beginning.
Cut for propagation
With each pruning you gain a lot of head cuttings (shoot tips), which you can cut to a certain length according to instructions, root in growing pots and pricking soil and for higher humidity covered with foil.
But as I said, figs have always stood for fertility and wealth, they like to float abundantly from seeds and cuttings. You can also put the pruning in a cup of water and forget it until your cuttings form roots.
The healing Ficus Benjamina
The trimming of the Ficus Benjamina could even be used for healing. The white latex contains flavonoids, furanocoumarins and rubber. With antibacterial effect, and the extract of the leaves should help in rheumatic joint pain and swelling, in Asia Ficus Benjamina is used as a medicinal plant.
The leaves also do us good on the plant: the birch fig is one of the plants that NASA investigated in its “NASA Clean Air Study” in 1989 as to whether they could clean the air in space stations. Ficus Benjamina can, it filters formaldehyde (often steams out of the facility), xylene and toluene (road traffic emissions) from the air (the rubber tree Ficus elastica only creates formaldehyde).
However, before you clap Ficus Benjamina leaves on your rheumatism shoulder, you should talk to a doctor; and the indoor air with the birch fig could also cause trouble, because there is another side to Ficus Benjamina:
The secret allergy trigger
Finally, a few words on “caring for the people” who live with a Ficus Benjamini:
All fig plants have considerable allergic potential; a Ficus carica (real fig) contains around 30 potentially allergenic substances. Our indoor plants can keep up, gum tree Ficus elastica, violin fig Ficus lyrata; and the birch fig Ficus benjamina are among the most important allergy triggers according to the neurodermatitis portal jucknix.de.
30 potentially allergenic substances sounds worse than it is – with a single fragrance plug you bring a similar collection of allergenic substances into your home, but industrially produced and therefore probably even more incalculable.
But if you are prone to allergic reactions anyway, you first have to be careful and thoroughly check the reactions. No matter whether your immune deficiency comes from excessive pollution or from too hygienic a life, in the long run after an immunotherapy therefore rather more plants will move into your home.
Caution is also called for with pets, neither dogs, cats nor small animals or birds should be able to nibble on the leaves; and not only latex allergy sufferers, but also carpet and clothing should get better nothing from the white latex (when cutting: can drip a few days after).