The Ficus Audrey, scientifically known as Ficus benghalensis, is a beautiful, captivating and popular houseplant which has gained significant attention from plant enthusiasts. Native to Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, this stunning plant belongs to the Moraceae family. It has large and glossy leaves with impressive size, adding a touch of natural elegance and beauty to indoor spaces. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the various aspects of the Ficus Audrey, including characteristics, care requirements, common issues, propagation methods and more.
Characteristics of Ficus Audrey
Known for its unique features and striking appearance, the Ficus Audrey is truly a captivating plant. Let’s explore its key characteristics in more detail.
- Size. Known for its fast growth, in its natural habitat the Ficus Audrey can reach amazing heights of up to seventy feet. Don’t worry though – it won’t grow taller than your house when kept as a houseplant! It will generally grow to a more manageable height of around three to six feet. Compared to the size of other houseplants, the Ficus Audrey makes a statement with its size and commands attention, creating a sense of luxury and grandeur in any room of your house.
- Aerial Roots. Not many species of houseplants have the ability to throw out aerial roots, but the Ficus Audrey can. Similar to other members of the Ficus family, the Ficus Audrey develops aerial roots. These roots have the ability to grow from the branches, extending towards the ground and soaking up humidity and nutrients. This provides additional support to the plant, allowing it to take nutrients from various sources. The presence of aerial roots adds to the unique and distinctive aesthetics of the Ficus Audrey.
- Leaves. Perhaps the most defining feature of the Ficus Audrey is its large and leathery leaves. Typically elliptical or oval-shaped, the leaves boast a glossy, dark-green color with prominent veins that add visual interest and texture to the plant. Impressively, the leaves can grow to lengths of around eight to twelve inches, making them a main centerpiece of the plant’s charm.
Care Requirements for Ficus Audrey
To make sure that your Ficus Audrey grows well and lasts for a long period of time, it’s essential to make sure you provide it with the appropriate care. Let’s now delve deeper into its particular essential care requirements.
- Lighting. Ficus Audrey will thrive in bright and indirect light, therefore they should be placed near a window where they can receive plenty of filtered sunlight throughout the day. Though, it’s best to make sure they are kept sheltered from direct sunlight, as prolonged exposure will scorch the leaves of the Ficus. While on the topic, if you notice that the plant is becoming leggy or showing signs of stunted growth, then it is likely that it’s not getting enough light and you should consider moving it to a better position.
- Temperature. Ficus Audrey prefers warmer temperatures, ranging from 60-75F (15-24C). They can be sensitive to cold drafts, so it’s best to keep them away from air conditioning units or windows or doors that may let in cold air regularly. I would recommend protecting the plant when temperatures drop below 50F (10C) to prevent cold damage from occurring. Keeping a consistent temperature is vital in ensuring the overall health and well-being of your Ficus Audrey.
- Watering. Proper watering is essential for any plant, especially the Ficus Audrey. It’s important to strike a balance to make sure that you neither underwater nor overwater the plant. A general guideline is to allow the top inch or two of soil to dry out before you water it, helping to prevent overwatering. I like to stick my finger into the soil to check the moisture level, but you can use a fancy device to do this for you. When watering, make sure that the water is reaching the root ball and any excess water is draining out of the pot. You shouldn’t let the plant sit in standing water, as this will lead to root rot and cause serious damage to the plant. Standing water can promote the growth of nasty bacteria, leading to diseases.
- Soil. Ficus Audrey will do best in well-draining soil, which is typically a mixture of compost, peat moss and perlite. This creates a loose and well-aerated soil structure, letting water drain through freely while retaining enough moisture. With a potting medium, you should aim for it to retain enough moisture for the plant’s roots without becoming waterlogged. Make sure that the pot has sufficient drainage holes to allow any excess water to escape.
- Humidity. Like many houseplants, the Ficus Audrey appreciates higher levels of humidity. Many houseplants come from tropical and humid climates, so it makes sense when you think about it! Indoors, where humidity levels are typically lower, you can use various different methods to increase humidity around the plant. Using something such as a humidifier nearby can help to maintain optimal humidity levels. You can also use a humidity tray by filling a shallow tray with water, and placing pebbles in it. Then, rest the plant pot on top of the pebbles and ensure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the pot. When the water evaporates, it will create a humid microclimate around the plant. I like to regularly mist the leaves to aid in increasing humidity. Though, excessive moisture on the leaves for long periods of time can lead to fungal issues.
- Pruning. Pruning is essential for maintaining the shape and appearance of the Ficus Audrey, and it can help to remove any dead or yellowing leaves, encouraging bushier growth all around. It’s best to use clean and sharp pruning tools to make precise cuts, avoiding damage to the plant. This is best done in the growing season which is from spring to summer. It’s important to note that when pruning the Ficus Audrey, the sap can be quite irritating to the skin so make sure you take precautions such as gloves or access to a water source nearby. Make sure that you don’t touch your eyes or any other sensitive parts if exposed to the sap.
- Fertilization. Like many other houseplants, the Ficus Audrey will benefit from regular applications of fertilizer during the growing season which is between spring and summer. A balanced, water-soluble fertilizer formulated for houseplants is typically the best option for it. Make sure to follow the instructions on the package for the proper dosage, applying it around every two to four weeks. This will provide the plant with the essential nutrients such as the macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and many other micronutrients. This will promote healthy growth, and beautiful vibrant, glossy foliage.
Air layering is an effective method for propagating Ficus Audrey, and you are able to root much thicker and larger sections of the plant through air layering. This allows you to root a section of the plant while it is still attached to the parent plant. This technique may seem intimidating to beginners, and it’s not the easiest to get it right. It may take some practice.
- Select a healthy and mature branch on the parent plant, suitable for air layering.
- Make a small incision, then remove a ring of bark from the selected branch. You should remove any green you see from the ring, as this will restrict the movement of water and nutrients to the rest of the branch. If water and nutrients are still allowed to move, this can cause the branch to heal and the air layering will fail. The ring should be around one inch wide, penetrating through the bark and into the cambium layer.
- Apply a rooting hormone to the exposed area. This is once again an optional step, but it can help to stimulate root development. I like to use a powder, applying it with a paintbrush to make sure the entire ring is covered.
- Pack the wounded area tight with moist sphagnum moss or a sterile rooting medium. I like to use sphagnum moss as it is the most commonly used, and it’s excellent for air layering. Make sure that whatever medium you use is firmly packed, as this will provide plenty of room for the roots to grow.
- Wrap the rooting medium with plastic wrap, securing it above and below the ring with twist ties, gardening tape or some wire. This will create a sealed and humid environment, which is best for root formation. Using black plastic wrap will help to increase the temperature as it will absorb more light, but using clear plastic wrap will help you to see when new roots form.
- Monitor the moisture level of the rooting medium regularly, making sure that it stays moist throughout the entire air layering process. Mist the medium when needed, or water it if it’s particularly dry.
- Within a few weeks or months, roots should start to develop into the rooting medium. You can check for root development every few weeks by carefully peeling back a small portion of the plastic wrap, making sure to secure it again when you are finished looking.
- Once a sufficient amount of roots to sustain the new plant has formed, you can cut the rooted section below the air layering site, using clean and sharp pruners or a knife.
- Pot the rooted branch into a suitable growing medium such as a well-draining potting mix of perlite and peat moss, providing it with proper care like a mature plant. If you do fertilize it though, I recommend diluting it a bit more.
Propagation is a vital skill in horticulture, and it’s important to preserve your current plants and even rare ones. It’s a rewarding way to expand your collection, specifically of Ficus Audrey plants while being able to share them with others. Creating new plants from existing ones is an amazing feeling, and it gives you the opportunity to observe and nurture the growth process from young.
Common Issues and Troubleshooting
While the Ficus Audrey seems to be a generally resilient plant, it can still encounter certain issues due to common problems. Here are some common issues you may encounter, with some potential solutions to help address them.
- Yellowing Leaves: Yellow leaves on a Ficus Audrey can indicate a few different things, such as inadequate light, underwatering or overwatering. You should adjust your watering routine accordingly, making sure that you’re neither underwatering nor overwatering the plant. I would recommend feeling the top inch of soil before you water each time, making sure that it’s an appropriate time to. Find a suitable spot with appropriate light conditions for your Ficus Audrey, making sure to avoid any direct sunlight for long periods of time or areas with low light intensity.
- Pests: Unfortunately, Ficus Audrey can be susceptible to a few different pests such as scale insects, spider mites and mealybugs. I like to monitor my plants regularly for signs of infestation, such as sticky residue (honeydew from aphids), webbing and visible pests. If you see any pests, make sure you take appropriate action as soon as possible to control the infestation. Use an insecticidal soap, neem oil (which is organic and particularly effective) or wipe the leaves with a damp cloth to remove pests. Move away and quarantine any affected plants to help prevent the infestation from spreading. And if you find any ladybirds or spiders, consider putting them on the plant to help control the infestation – how useful!
- Leaf Drop: The dropping of leaves can occur due to drastic and sudden changes in factors such as light, temperature, drafts, stress or overwatering. Identify and address the cause of the problem to help prevent further leaf drop. Make sure that the conditions you are keeping the Ficus Audrey in are stable and avoid any drafts, following correct watering practices. Providing a consistent, suitable environment for your houseplants will help to reduce leaf dropping and likely prevent other issues from occurring.
- Root Rot: Unfortunately, root rot is one of the leading causes of many houseplant deaths for most people. Overwatering plants or potting them in poorly draining soil can lead to root rot, especially in Ficus Audrey plants. Make sure that the potting mix has good drainage, allowing the top layer of soil to dry out between waterings. A good, aerated soil mix will help oxygen to get to the roots and promote healthy growth. If you suspect root rot, carefully remove the plant from its pot, and inspect the roots. Trim away any roots that are soft, mushy, brown or discolored. Then, repot the plant in fresh and well-draining soil, adjusting your watering practices accordingly to prevent any future root rot issues from occurring.
The Ficus Audrey, with its captivating, impressive size and appearance is a great choice for an indoor houseplant. With the proper care and attention, including proper lighting, humidity, watering and temperature, you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty and growth of the stunning plant for many years to come. Propagation techniques of stem cuttings and air layering offer many chances and opportunities to expand your collection and share your plants with other people. By making sure that you address any issues that pop up immediately, your plant will thrive and become a centerpiece of elegance and natural beauty in your home.
Overall, the Ficus Audrey is a remarkable plant which deserves your attention and care. The large, glossy leaves, impressive growth and unique characteristics have caused it to gain attention in the houseplant world, making it a favorite among indoor gardeners. By following the troubleshooting tips, care guidelines and propagation techniques we’ve discussed in this article, you will be able to successfully cultivate and propagate Ficus Audrey, helping to bring the beauty of the plant into your living space.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can I grow Ficus Audrey outdoors in colder climates?
Since the Ficus Audrey is native to warm and tropical regions, thriving in temperatures between 60-75F (15C-24C), it is not cold-hardy and it’s ideally best suited for indoor cultivation in colder climates. Though, during the summer months, it would be ideal to place your Ficus Audrey outdoors in a sheltered location which receives filtered sunlight to try and maximize growth and health. Bring it back indoors before temperatures drop below 50F (10C).
Does Ficus Audrey produce any flowers or fruits?
While the Ficus Audrey can produce small, fig-like fruits in its natural habitat, it’s uncommon for the plant to flower and fruit indoors as the conditions are quite different. Fruiting in plants typically requires specific conditions which are challenging to replicate indoors – therefore, as a houseplant, the Ficus Audrey is mainly appreciated for its gorgeous foliage rather than its fruits.
Is the Ficus Audrey toxic to pets?
Unfortunately, the Ficus Audrey is toxic to pets, like many other plants in the Ficus genus. They contain a milky sap that can be toxic to pets if ingested, and it contains enzymes which can cause irritation and discomfort in both pets and humans. It’s best to make sure you use preventative measures such as gloves when doing things such as pruning. It’s advisable to keep your Ficus Audrey plants out of reach of any pets, especially cats! Seek veterinary attention immediately if you suspect that your pet has consumed any part of the plant.
Can I prune my Ficus Audrey to control its size?
Yes, pruning is an effective way to shape your Ficus Audrey and effectively control its size. Regular pruning will help to promote new growth and maintain a bushier and more compact form, making it more aesthetically pleasing for your indoor spaces. Long branches can be trimmed back, with any dead or yellowing leaves removed to promote new growth. It’s important that you use clean and sharp pruning tools to make cuts as precise as possible, making sure to take extra care when handling the sap due to its toxic properties.