Ficus Audrey is also known as Ficus Benghalensis. This charming house plant is the national tree of India and became a darling of the gardening world only a few years ago.
Finding these plants in your local nursery or garden center is often a challenge due to the current popularity. The ficus Audrey has brilliant green foliage with thick, creamy, or white veins. The lush leaves accentuate the attractive pale trunk and roots.
Gardeners who are looking to add a unique plant to their collection will learn how to care for, grow, and propagate this immensely popular plant with this guide. Whether you are searching for a beautiful young tree to add shade to your yard or you are a bonsai enthusiast looking to start a dramatic new plant, the ficus Audrey is a wonderful choice.
You will learn everything you need to know to successfully grow ficus Audrey in your home.
What is Ficus Audrey?
Ficus Audrey originates from India where it is sacred. Legend tells of finding enlightenment within the ideals of Buddhism beneath the massive canopy of the Banyan fig tree. The iconic Audrey ficus tree is truly impressive in the natural environment.
The Guiness Book of World Records acknowledges the ficus Audrey as the largest tree in the world by canopy coverage. The glorious canopy of the Thimmamma Marrimanu tree covers more than 4.7 acres.
Growing this holy tree at home is fun and a great way to practice finding peace and relaxation through tending a young ficus Audrey plant. When you care for this plant well, it provides a beautiful bunch of bright green to your indoor houseplant collection. Many parts of the southern United States can grow this tree outdoors where it will provide wonderful shade from the ever-extending canopy.
One of the common names for this plant- the Strangler Fig- provides you with an idea of the ideal conditions for growing the ficus Audrey. Like many other species of ficus that originate in Southeast Asia, these trees typically do not start growing in soil. Rather, the seeds are distributed by birds where young plants start in the crooks of other trees. Roots grow down the trunk of the host tree until they find soil.
These plants are called Strangler Figs because the roots can encircle and overwhelm the host tree, eventually killing it. Specimens have been found with roots growing inside dead, hollow trees.
The home gardener can improve the health of the ficus Audrey by providing the optimal conditions for natural growth. The ficus Audrey adapts well to urban and suburban gardens where aerial roots readily climb fences and walls.
Ficus Audrey Care Instructions
Many species of plants that originate in jungle environments have surprisingly easy care requirements. You will be happy to know that the ficus Audrey is similarly easy to care for, and it is even harder than the Fiddle-leaf fig, a close cousin that is also hugely popular with US gardeners. The ficus Audrey can be a finicky houseplant when it lacks the proper growing conditions.
– Soil Suggestions
Almost any quality potting soil will work well for growing these plants. The main key is to mix your soil so that it is airy and has good drainage. These little trees don’t grow well when they sit in wet soil. A good way to improve drainage is by adding pumice or perlite to the mixture. These components keep the soil light and allow air to penetrate to the roots.
The ficus Audrey can also grow well in a bark mix that contains little or no soil at all. This accurately reproduces the conditions in nature these plants grow in well. You can improve the dramatic appearance of the plant by periodically removing some of the potting mixes, exposing roots that will continue to grow in search of soil. This is how bonsai artists craft ficus Audrey into beautiful and amazing houseplants.
The ficus Audrey benefits from regular, light fertilizing during warm weather when the plant is vigorously growing. Experts recommend using a gentle fertilizer with a higher proportion of nitrogen to improve root and leaf production. Fertilize once per month, preferably with a liquid fertilizer you add to the water. Avoid fertilizing young plants, new root cuttings, and plants that are dormant, as the nutrients can damage the root structure.
– Ideal Light Requirements
In nature, these plants take advantage of host trees to out-compete other species for light that filters through the leaves of taller trees.
As a houseplant, you want to provide bright, indirect light. A good location to put your young ficus Audrey is near a south-facing window. You can encourage strong root growth by augmenting natural light with artificial grow light bulbs. Avoid putting ficus Audrey in bright, direct sunlight because the leaves can burn.
This is not a good plant choice for growing in dark or dimly lit rooms. It will tolerate less-than-ideal light but will grow slowly and the development of leaves will be stunted, leading to small, less-effective leaves and a greater likelihood of disease problems. You should use artificial lighting to give the ficus Audrey ideal lighting when your home can’t provide the best lighting.
– Temperature Ranges
These plants originate in tropical regions where the temperature tends to stay fairly stable throughout the year. You will have the greatest success growing ficus Audrey in normal room temperature environments.
The plant does best when kept between 60 degrees and 85 degrees. It will tolerate hotter conditions but will not survive frost. Temperatures below 55 degrees will result in leaf dropping.
– Water Requirements
The ficus Audrey prefers slightly moist soil, but you must always be cautious to avoid too much moisture staying in the pot. Smaller plants are easier to gauge, you will usually wait until the top inch or two are dry before watering.
Larger containers are more difficult, particularly since the soil in a large pot can remain wet near the bottom while the top is completely dry. Use a wooden dowel to gauge how wet the soil is. You should replant your ficus Audrey with better draining soil if the top is drying out too fast.
When these plants are small, you can place them in the sink and gently run water over the soil until it runs clear from the bottom. Larger pots should be watered slowly and deeply, ensuring that enough drainage exists to prevent pooling in the pot.
Generally, less is more with these plants. You should avoid using tap water, as the additives are not good for your plant. It is also good practice to use room temperature water rather than cold water to prevent shock.
It can be helpful to pay attention to the leaves of the ficus Audrey for signs the plant needs more or less water. The leaves may curl inward when the plant is thirsty, while they will droop when there is too much moisture in the pot. Learning to gauge how much water your ficus Audrey requires will take a little practice so it is best to start watering slowly and watch for signs of underwatering.
– Humidity Requirements
These plants are less sensitive to humidity differences than many types of houseplant.
They typically thrive in average humidity of between 30 and 60 percent. During the winter and summer, you should pay attention to your ficus Audrey to make sure it is not in front of AC or heater vents. These sources of air are dry and can create improper humidity conditions.
The leaves of the ficus Audrey will tell you when the humidity is wrong- typically by rapidly dropping leaves. If your plant suddenly starts losing leaves, make sure it has the proper humidity levels. You may need to provide an evaporative tray of stones that is filled with water to increase the humidity. Just make sure the pot is above the water line at all times to prevent overwatering.
– How to Know When to Repot
These plants don’t require frequent repotting. In general, you should expect to repot every two years. The best way to tell when the plant is ready is to examine the roots. When they begin to wrap around the bottom of the pot and grow out of the drainage holes you know it is time. The best time to replant your ficus Audrey is in the spring or early summer when the plant is growing vigorously.
These plants prefer being slightly root-bound due to their natural growth habit of developing from the crook of a tree. You may see roots growing out of the top of the pot when the plant is ready for repotting.
Select a pot that is only slightly larger than the previous pot to prevent root shock. You should water your plant 24 hours before repotting. If you do not want a larger pot, you can propagate new ficus Audrey plants through root trimming.
Propagate Ficus Audrey
The first is the stem-tip cutting method, while the second is the root division method. Regardless of the method you choose, propagation is best done in the spring when the plant is showing new growth. As always, make sure you have everything on hand and ready to use before beginning the process.
*A Note of Caution: The ficus Audrey, like most ficus plants, is considered toxic to humans. Do not eat the plant or allow children or pets to eat it. The sap can cause allergic reactions if it comes in contact with your skin. Wear gloves when you are handling cuttings to prevent a reaction.
Sterilize your scissors or pruning knife with an alcohol wipe prior to use to prevent spreading infections.
- Stem-Tip Cutting Method: This is the most popular method of propagating ficus Audrey. It doesn’t require much effort and is frequently successful. To make a stem-tip cutting, you will find a growing branch that is at least eight inches long and has multiple sets of leaves. Make a cut at a 45-degree angle directly below a leaf node. Strip the bottom two-thirds of leaves and immediately place the cutting in water. You can use a commercial rooting hormone or make your own from willow tree cuttings to help encourage root development. You will see roots in three to five weeks. Once the roots are about three inches long, you can plant your cutting in a well-draining potting mix appropriate for growing ficus Audrey. You can also place cutting directly in potting soil and water well, but this is the least effective method. Cover your cuttings loosely with plastic to hold in humidity. You can also cut the remaining leaves in half to reduce the strain on the plant.
- Root Division Method: This method is best done when replanting your ficus Audrey, and should be undertaken with extra caution to prevent harm to the plant. Water the plant deeply immediately before beginning and let it soak for 20 minutes. Gently lay the pot on its side and work the roots out of the pot. Carefully remove as much soil as possible by hand. Fill a large container with clean water and immerse the root ball, soaking for 20 minutes and gently working the roots to loosen the remaining soil. Identify if there are more than one ficus trunks growing in the pot and delicately untangle the roots to separate. If there is just one plant, lay the plant out so that you can clearly see the roots. Select a side-growing root mass and cut it from the plant. The mother plant must be immediately replanted in the proper soil mixture. Do not hesitate at this step, as the roots can quickly dry out and die. Place the cutting in the bucket of water while replanting the mother plant. The roots should be put into a pot with large pieces of bark, pumice, perlite, and a good mix of sphagnum and peat moss. These components provide lots of nutrients and break down quickly. Cover the container with plastic and place it in a dark, warm area. Make sure to keep the mixture moist, as the free-flowing potting medium will not retain lots of water. New growth should begin within a few weeks and the plant will be ready to place in an appropriate pot in about two months.
Problems with Ficus Audrey Plants
Spotting the signs of a problem early is the best way to prevent serious damage to your plant. These little trees are somewhat finicky and can cause many gardeners a good deal of stress. The best way to handle issues is prevention, but once a problem exists, you’ll need to know what to do.
- Dropping leaves: There are lots of reasons your ficus Audrey will suddenly drop leaves. The first thing to ensure is proper watering. Both over- and underwatering can result in dropping leaves. Another possibility is draftiness. If the seasons have recently changed, your ficus may drop leaves because it is uncomfortable in the new conditions. In most scenarios, the plant will acclimate within a few weeks and will regrow the leaves. Excessive root binding can also result in dropping leaves. Look for roots growing out of the drainage holes to indicate it is time for repotting.
- Brown edges of the leaves: Usually, you will find that ficus Audrey will display brown leaf edges when the plant is not getting enough water. If the plant hasn’t been watered in a while, start slowly to prevent shocking the roots, building up to a full watering over a few days. You may also check the temperature where the plant is growing. If it is too near a heat source like a hot window or a heater vent, brown edges can be a sign that you need to move the plant.
- Small leaves: this is usually the result of too little light or too little humidity. Make sure the ficus Audrey is in a place where it gets bright, indirect light. You may need to move the plant closer to the window to allow it to get enough light or select a different location. You can also use artificial light to help a struggling ficus Audrey grow in low-light conditions.
- Dry leaves: The most likely cause of dry leaves is excessive exposure to direct sunlight. While these plants love the light, they usually are found beneath the canopy of larger trees until they are truly massive themselves. If the leaves are showing signs of dry edges, first check the temperature, then make sure the plant is getting enough water. It may be necessary to move the plant to a cooler location or provide shade to prevent overexposure of direct sunlight.
- Patchy leaf color: Dark blotches on leaves are a sign of overwatering and improper technique. You should reduce watering until the top of the soil layer is dry. Lighter splotches on leaves indicates shock. This can happen after transplanting, but is most often caused by watering with cold water. Use room temperature water and ensure other growing conditions are ideal and your plant should be fine.
- Mushy leaves and stems: If you notice any mushyness at all on your ficus Audrey leaves, stems, or roots, you need to act immediately to save the life of the plant. This is a sign of root rot, an infection that is usually the result of poor draining soil and overwatering. The first thing you must do is to remove the moisture from the pot. The best way is to transplant into a new pot using clean soil. You will need to use a sterile knife to cut all rotten root areas from the plant. If the root rot has gone too far and the roots are completely infected, you will need to attempt a stem-tip cutting to propagate the plant. Discard soil and all plant parts infected with root rot because it can spread to other plants.
- Pests: The most common pests are spider mites and soil gnats. Both are more common when humidity is high and the soil is consistently moist. Allowing the top two inches of your soil to dry between watering can reduce or eliminate gnats. Don’t spray water on the leaves because this can present ideal locations for spider mites and may lead to rot on the leaves.
- Ficus Audrey is native to India and Southeast Asia where it grows into a massive tree.
- The canopy is the largest of any tree in the world
- Ficus Audrey is one of the most desirable houseplants on the market right now and is the fashionable choice for adding a statement plant to any room.
- The plant requires well-draining soil in a bright, indirect location.
- Deep watering with a slight drying out period is the best way to water ficus Audrey.
- Propagation can be done using the stem-tip or root division methods.
- The leaves will show you the signs of problems if you learn to recognize symptoms.
The ficus Audrey is sort of a trophy to find these days. Buyers snap them up as fast as they come to market, so if you are fortunate enough to have one, this guide gives you the best information available to promote excellent growth and a healthy plant.
These plants are easy to care for once you have the ideal conditions and will provide you with many years of enjoyment and beauty. You may even find enlightenment beneath the canopy of your beloved ficus Audrey some day.
In the meantime, you’ll know that you have one of the “it” plants of the day.