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The Ficus benghalensis, better known to us as ‘Audrey’, and is racing to beat the Fiddle Leaf as the most popular fig. And there’s good reason plant lovers are adoring it – Audrey is much more forgiving with a better tolerance for soil moisture and even has a lower light requirement, although a good dose of filtered light is what’ll keep it growing. While we don’t really know where it got its name, it’s the same species of Ficus that form huge Banyan Tree canopies in its native India – yours can be pruned to fit right where you place it. Audrey Hepburn would be proud.
|Difficulty||Easy Care Level|
|Light||Bright Indirect Light|
|Pet Friendly||This plant may be toxic to pets|
The Ficus Audrey is another great indoor performer from the Ficus family – Moraceae. And it’s less finicky than its Ficus cousins making it it a good choice for plant lovers with less than a green thumb. Here’s what you need to know about the Ficus benghalensis:
This plant is a bit more forgiving for over- and under-zealous plant parents and able to handle longer periods of moist or dry soil than its Ficus relatives. It’s considered a moderate drinker, and can go for 2+ weeks without watering with the proper sub-irrigation system, but we suggest you probe the soil weekly for the first month and during hot summer months. It will perform best if you’re able to thoroughly wet the soil and then let it dry (and we mean really dry) before watering it again. See our watering-for-success guide for more information.
With a little more leeway on the watering, let’s get the light right. While it can be maintained beautifully indoors in artificial light, it’s best to have it close to a window for some filtered sunlight – east-, south-, and west-facing windows are best, so we’re classifying the Audrey as a “medium” light plant. And, if you get it situated near a window, give your Ficus a quarter turn (aka “twist”) once a week – this will help let light penetrate from different angles and minimize the inevitable leaf drop from inside the plant’s canopy.
The Ficus Audrey likely will not need to be fed during the first 6 months after it has shipped. During this time, it will use the residual nutrients from nursery production. After 12 months, it can be fed quarterly with a complete fertilizer formulated for interior plants – check out our nutrition products from Dyna-Gro. If your Ficus is positioned on a porch in the south, it may need supplemental nutrition sooner than 12 months. Keep an eye on the newer leaves – not the emerging ones; if the new leaves are yellow and the veins prevalent, it is possible it needs some nutrients. Please refer to our nutrient guide for details.
The Ficus Audrey leaf size is smaller than a Fiddle Leaf and bigger than an Alii and it usually has a more open canopy meaning you’ll have fewer leaves to clean than the ones on its cousins. It does, however, have an interesting leaf texture and vein pattern so you might need to be a little more gentle with its leaves but simply wiping the leaves with a wet cloth usually does the trick for removing dust. For spots where something else (besides dust) has landed on your plant, use a mild soapy solution to wet the cloth – then wipe, stroking the leaf away from the stem (and pulling on it lightly).
The canopy of the Ficus Audrey is typically more open and we’ve witnessed its attempts to throw down some aerial roots and grow in some funky directions – we’re pretty sure that’s baked in to its DNA since it is, after all, a Banyan tree. Regardless, you can tame yours with some infrequent, light pruning or you can let it do its thing and go “jungle” on you. For the tame side, make pruning cuts to stems/branches that may be heading in the wrong direction and force new growth from the nodes. Although this demonstration is with an (old) Fiddle Leaf Fig, it does get to the point on how best to prune any of the Ficus species from PLANTZ – Ficus pruning.
Nary a worry here – Audrey’s not a big target for pests. Scale, mealy bugs, and mites sometimes jump on, but they’re easily controlled by wiping the infested area with a soapy solution. It can take several intermittent cleanings to rid the plant of the pests. As always though, a regular cleaning/wiping regimen is best to keep any pests from taking up residence on your plant in the first place.
Here are a few warning signs that your Ficus is getting ‘the funk’:
- Leaf drop – If the lower leaves start to droop and then drop, it’s either :
- not getting enough light
- it’s getting too much water or
- (you guessed it), it’s not getting enough water
Or…if you moved it from one light extreme to another, it could shed leaves. The most likely issues (#’s 1, 2, and 3) are easily correctable.
- Brown leaf margins – This is most likely from not enough light and under-watering.
- Brown spots and mushy leaf spots – This might be from too much water or exposure to cold temperatures.
The best part about any of the above is that they’re easily corrected. The key, however, is recognizing the signs early and making the adjustment before too much damage occurs.And…Don’t forget the weekly twist to keep your Ficus evenly bathed in sunlight.
It has been reported that the sap from a Ficus plant is poisonous to dogs, cats, and horses. So, if you have a dog, cat, or horse, don’t let them ingest the sap. It’s also been reported that the sap can cause allergic reactions for people too. If you get sap on your skin, wash it off and wipe the area with rubbing alcohol; if it gets in your eyes, flush your eyes with clean water for 15 minutes. If none of this helps, call a doctor.
As mentioned, the Ficus Audrey can develop aerial roots. They can be tamed, but in its native habitat that’s how it forms ginormous canopies. It can start out as an epiphyte, germinating from seed on the bark or branch crotch of another tree. And that’s where it gets is most unusual name – the Strangler Fig. After germinating, its roots attach to the host and then it puts out aerial roots eventually reach soil below. Once it taps the soil, it can envelop and “strangle” the host plant out of existence using it for support while it develops even more roots. Sometimes we have to ship the Audrey with a stake for support artificially simulating a “host”.