Ficus benghalensis, also called the banyan tree, can grow to around 100 feet tall outdoors, but it also thrives as a houseplant and makes an excellent bonsai specimen. Because this species of ficus cannot survive freezing temperatures, it only grows outdoors in warm, humid areas such as south Florida. Although propagating the tree from cuttings is easier, growing a banyan tree from seed merely takes good cultural conditions and plenty of patience, since the seeds can take months to germinate.
Things You'll Need
- Fresh seeds
- Individual seed container or seed flat
- Growing medium
- Spray mister
Pour growing medium into the individual seed pots or seed flat. Use a growing medium that has good aeration and holds moisture well. Any good quality medium with good drainage will do, but choose a mix formulated for germinating seeds, if possible. Fill the container to within 1 inch of the rim.
Place one seed in each individual pot or set the seeds in rows in the seed tray. Use fresh seeds, if you can get them, to ensure success. Cover the seeds with 1/4 inch of growing medium and use the mister to moisten the growing medium without disturbing the seeds.
Place the seeds in a warm spot and keep the growing medium moist until the seeds germinate. Make sure the temperature around the seeds goes no lower than 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Be patient, because germination may take up to several months.
Keep the seedlings out of direct sunlight until they are more than 4 inches tall and ready to transplant into their own containers or into the garden. Give the seedlings a feeding every month or two, depending on how healthy they seem. Use a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer or houseplant food. Liquid fertilizer at one-quarter to half strength added to the plant's regular water is convenient and easy to remember.
Tips & Warnings
- If you plan to train the ficus to bonsai form, transplant the seedlings to an appropriate container filled with specialized bonsai growing mixture.
- Ficus do not grow as large indoors as they do outdoors, but they may still need judicious pruning to manage their size and growth. You can also trim the roots to help keep the plant from growing too large.
- Although banyan trees produce fruit in their native lands, the specialized wasp required for pollination does not live in the U.S.
- Do not overwater Ficus benghalensis, as this invites fungal infections and can cause the roots and stem to rot. Regular, deep watering helps the plant develop a strong root system better than infrequent, shallow watering.
- Watch for mealybugs, scale insects and thrips, especially if the plants spend part of the year outdoors. A strong spray from the bathroom shower or garden hose can knock most of these leaf-sucking insects off the plant.
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