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Gardening

Weeping Fig, a Must Have Plant

The weeping fig is scientifically referred to as Ficus benjamina
The weeping fig is scientifically referred to as Ficus benjamina (F. benjamina) and grows up to 30 metres or 98 feet in natural conditions. PHOTO | COURTESY 

If you are the kind of person who values tranquillity, then the weeping fig is a must-have.

The tree which displays both beauty and scale, is believed to symbolise peace and abundance.

This is due to its dense shock of glossy leaves, intertwined stems, delicately drooping branchlets and aerial roots.

Danson Seet, a director at Ythera — an ecommerce shop in Nairobi, explains that the aesthetic appeal of the tree is the one thing that draws buyers.

“Aside from its beauty, it can be kept both indoors and outdoors at home, office or at the hotel with minimum attention,” he says.

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The weeping fig is scientifically referred to as Ficus benjamina (F. benjamina) and grows up to 30 metres or 98 feet in natural conditions.

The plant can be grown in containers with trunks that can be straight, interwoven or twisted.

Ability to play around with the trunks is probably the reason the weeping fig is a favourite pick for Bonsai or miniature cultivars.

“It gives loads of opportunity to a Bonsai artist as it has loads of branches to play with, style and shape,” says Prachi Shah, a Bonsai artist based in Mombasa.

Both novice and avid gardeners will tell you that an intricately braided plant trunk is a great conversation piece that they take pride in.

The sight of intertwined stems give the look of thorough skill, when all it really takes is a little time.

Mrs Shah says the weeping fig is also preferred for its fast growth rates compared to other picks such as desert rose, jade and flamboyant.

The weeping fig

The weeping fig is scientifically referred to as Ficus benjamina. PHOTO | COURTESY

Depending on the species, the shiny oval leaves can be plain green, or marked with burgundy, creamy yellow, silver-white, green, yellow or pink patterns.

The spices type also plays a key role on maximum height or size the plant can grow to. The variegated ficus of the weeping fig has a much slower growth rate than the regular type.

Damage house

Worth noting is that the plant has invasive roots and might not be very suitable for a residential garden unless it is spacious enough.

“So aggressive are the roots such that they come out from the drainage holes in planters and are potentially destructive to foundation of a building if grown next to it,” she said.

While most plants improve quality of air to some degree, the weeping fig is particularly good at filtering formaldehyde, xylene and toluene.

People exposed to formaldehyde complain of eyes, nose, and throat irritation while breathing in xylene can cause headache, dizziness, drowsiness and nausea.

On the other hand, exposure to high levels of toluene could possibly damage the kidneys and liver.

Growing this majestic plant requires that you expose it to plenty of indirect light, and perhaps even a little direct sun in the morning.

In its native habitat, it is often grown in semi-shady conditions, but indoors it needs good light to thrive. Just like most plants, it dislikes being moved and may drop leaves if this happens because it gets distressed.

“It is vital that you find a good, bright spot for it and keep it there,” says Mr Seet.

Large plants look great standing within corners, seated inside a patio or near a fire place specifically installed for decorative purposes.

This explains why you find them displayed in hotel foyers, in offices or shopping malls.

For the smaller fig and bonsai types, sit them where you find enough room in shelves and table tops— as long as there is enough bright light.

It requires a moderate amount of watering during hot weather and only enough to keep it from drying out in the cold season.

Overwatering encourages rotting which means that adequate water, depending on type of plant and size is enough to keep it going.

The weeping fig is definitely the ‘it’ plant in the gardening world owing to its majestic look.

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