Ficus benjamina care: watering, pruning & repotting weeping figs


I study landscape ecology and through my studies have discovered a love for plants. Plants are not only beautiful, but also have countless fascinating survival strategies. To bring a bit of nature into my home as well, I nurture my houseplants and herbs on every possible windowsill.

Favourite fruit: rhubarb and all kinds of berries
Favourite vegetables: onions and garlic

Weeping figs are some of the most beloved houseplants. Discover our top Ficus benjamina care tips and find out what to do if your weeping fig is losing leaves.

Healthy Ficus benjamina leaves
For the weeping fig to develop well, proper care is crucial [Photo: almaje/]

Ficus benjamina, also known as Benjamin figs or weeping figs, are quite low maintenance once you find them the right spot. Nevertheless, there are a few important things to keep in mind when it comes to watering and fertilising your weeping fig to prevent it from losing its leaves and to keep it happy and healthy.

Ficus benjamina care: watering

Benjamin figs are relatively easy to care for, making them some of the most popular office plants and houseplants.

Ficus benjamina needs a moderate amount of water, so only water your weeping fig once the soil feels quite dry. Simply use your finger to check whether the top layer of soil is still moist. If the soil feels dry in the top 2 to 3 cm, water the plant. If the growing conditions are good, you will usually need to water your Benjamin fig about once a week. You may need to water more or less often depending on the size of the pot, plant, and temperature of the room. Lukewarm rain water is ideal for watering Ficus benjamina. Alternatively, you can also use tap water that has been left out for while. Since Benjamin figs do not tolerate waterlogging, check the saucer or planter about 15 minutes after watering and pour off any excess water. Water less in winter, but do not allow the root ball to dry out completely.

Ficus bonsai being watered
Ficus benjamina are watered when needed [New Africa/]

Ficus benjamina care: fertilising

To ensure that your Ficus benjamina grows well, give it a bit of complete fertiliser at the beginning of March. We can recommend our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food, for instance, as its ingredients promote lush foliage and healthy roots. Simply work some of the fertiliser granules into the top layer of soil and cover everything with a layer of mulch. Weeping figs do not need any additional nutrients during the winter months.

All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
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  • Perfect for a variety of plants in the garden & on the balcony
  • Promotes healthy plant growth & an active soil life
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly

Tip: You can also use coffee grounds to fertilise your weeping fig. Let the grounds dry out beforehand to avoid mould growing on the soil. Then simply work two teaspoons of coffee grounds into the soil while repotting. However, it is best not to fertilise your plants with coffee grounds too often as coffee is slightly acidic and can thus lower the soil’s pH.

Ficus benjamina care: pruning

Prune your weeping fig as and when necessary. Pruning plants that tolerate pruning well, like Ficus benjamina, encourages them to put out new growth. Aside from removing unsightly dried or dead branches, pruning can also help keep Benjamin figs small and compact or rejuvenate them. Here is how to prune weeping figs:

  • Cut shoots to the desired length, but always just above a leaf node.
  • Prune for better branching: it is best to prune your weeping fig in spring. Prune all shoots at the tips rather than toward the inner part of the ficus tree. Pruning in spring leads to stronger branching, but also costs the plant a lot of energy.
  • Rejuvenation pruning: if your Ficus benjamina is bare or mature, shorten all branches to one third of their original length. This is best done in late winter. Rejuvenation pruning is ideal for renewing the sparse crown of the plant, but it may take a while for your Benjamin fig to branch out.
  • After a hard pruning, repot your weeping fig into fresh soil.
  • Pruning the bonsai weeping fig: weeping figs can also be kept as bonsais. In this case, both the crown and the roots need pruning.
Pruning a weeping fig
Benjamin fig can be cut back, for example if it has grown too tall [Photo: Tatiana Foxy/]

Tip: Ficus bejamina has a poisonous milky sap, so wear gloves when pruning. Also protect clothing and the ground to prevent stubborn stains.

Repotting Ficus benjamina

After buying a Benjamin fig, repot it immediately into some suitable, high-quality soil, as the soil they come in usually does not meet up to this plant’s requirements. Use our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost, for instance, and mix in about a third of sand for better drainage. Our soil retains water well and contains all the essential nutrients that weeping figs need to stay happy and healthy.

Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
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  • Perfect for all your house, garden & balcony plants
  • For strong & healthy plants as well as an active soil life
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

As this plant does not like changes to its environment, avoid repotting too often. Giving your Ficus benjamina a larger pot and fresh soil every three to four years in spring is fine. While you are doing this, always inspect the root ball and remove any unhealthy roots. It is also important to create a drainage layer at the bottom of the new pot to prevent waterlogging.

Repotting a weeping fig
It’s best to wear gloves when repotting and pruning weeping figs [Photo: ddisq/]

What to do if your Ficus benjamina is dropping leaves

Leaf drop is not always caused by disease. It is also natural for Ficus benjamina to lose a few leaves now and then, for example when the leaves become too old. However, if your weeping fig is losing an excessive number of leaves, you will need to assess the situation. Here are some of the possible causes of severe leaf drop and how to remedy them:

  • Waterlogging: As already mentioned, ficus trees do not tolerate waterlogging. Waterlogging leads to root rot and can result in severe leaf loss, as it prevents the roots from transporting enough water and nutrients to the leaves. To remedy this, repot your Ficus benjamina in fresh, well-draining soil and create a drainage layer at the bottom of the new pot. Always pour off any excess water after watering.
  • Drought: Drought causes a similar problem to waterlogging. Whilst the roots do not rot, they dry out and prevent the plant from being able to transport enough water to the leaves. If the soil feels very dry, water more generously and repot into high-quality soil if necessary. Old or low-quality soil cannot absorb or store water well.
Weeping fig in partial shade
If leaf drop occurs, check the site conditions first [Photo: Baronb/]

Tip: You can also submerge your ficus tree in water instead of watering it. To do this, place it together with the pot, but without the planter, in a bucket of water and leave it there until no more bubbles rise to the surface. Then, let it drain well and put it back in the planter. Soil that contains a lot of peat does not wet well once it has dried out, so watering alone is often not enough.

  • Draught: Ficus trees do not feel comfortable in a draught. If there is no other cause for leaf drop, check the location and find a new spot for the Benjamin fig if necessary.
  • Change of location: Since a change of location stresses ficus trees, they may drop their leaves after being moved. Hence you should only move yours if the conditions in its current place are less than ideal.
  • Dry air: Ficus benjamina needs slightly higher humidity. Dry and hot air can cause it to drop its leaves and also make your plant more susceptible to pest infestations. Increase the humidity by misting the plant occasionally or by placing a humidifier nearby.
Yellowing weeping fig
Ficus leaves often turn yellow before they fall off [Photo: MarcOliver_Artworks/]

Weeping fig problems: common pests and diseases

Pest infestations can also result in leaf drop, but this is usually preceded by leaf discolouration. So, if your Ficus benjamina develops yellow leaves or spots on them, you are most likely dealing with an aphid or mite infestation. Here are the tell-tale signs of different Ficus benjamina pests and diseases and what to do:

  • Spider mites: These pests tend to appear when the air is too dry. Spider mites leave behind fine, cobweb-like webs on the underside of the leaves. If you notice signs of spider mites on your weeping fig, rinse it under lukewarm water and increase the humidity or place the plant in a cooler place.
  • Scale insects: An infestation of scale insects is recognisable by the small animals themselves, which are hidden under their brownish shell in the leaf axils. To remedy this, wipe scale insects off and prune the tree back.
  • Aphids: Just like spider mites, aphids are easily treatable. A tell-tale sign of an aphid infestation is the light-coloured spots they leave on the leaves when feeding. You can control aphids and scale insects with biological agents which are made from neem seeds and administered via watering.
  • Verticillium wilt: Verticillium is a fungus-based disease that attacks the plant from the ground and clogs the conduits so that water can no longer be transported throughout the plant. As a result, the leaves wither. When you cut open a shoot of a plant infected with this fungus, you can usually see dark discolouration. Cut back the tree severely and repot the plant into fresh, permeable soil.
Pest-infested weeping fig leaf
Pests usually leave discolouration on weeping fig leaves [Photo: Myra Madriaga/]

Fiddle-leaf figs are also popular Ficus plants. Find out how to plant and care for fiddle-leaf figs here.