Ficus Audrey: How To Develop Banyan Tree As A Houseplant

When you are on the lookout for a new houseplant, the Ficus Audrey may be a great choice for you. It’s related to other ficus species, such as the rubber tree/rubber plant (Ficus elastica), fiddle leaf fig tree (Ficus lyrata), and the weeping fig (Ficus benjamina). The Ficus is the national tree of India. They consider it sacred, playing a big part in their myths and legends. 

It’s also known as a banyan tree and can be grown as an outdoor plant – or an indoor plant if you live in a cooler climate. Botanically its name is Ficus benghalensis, and it’s a fairly easy plant to grow indoors compared to other trees in the ficus family.    

Most of this guide will focus on growing Ficus Audrey as a houseplant, though keep in mind it also makes a lovely outdoor plant if you live in USDA growing zones 10-12. Let’s discuss how to provide the best care for Ficus Audrey, including any growing problems you may encounter. 

Quick Care Guide

Baby banyan trees. Source: miyazakihiroshi

Common Name Ficus Audrey, Banyan tree, Bengal fig, Ficus tree, Indian banyan, Strangling fig, Strangler fig
Scientific Name Ficus benghalensis
Family Moraceae
Height & Spread 5-6 feet tall, 3 feet spread
Light Bright, indirect light
Soil Organic potting mix with perlite
Water Allow top 2-3 inches to dry between watering
Pests & Diseases Spider mites, fungus gnats, root rot, bacterial leaf spot

All About Ficus Audrey

Ficus Audrey leaf with fruit for size comparisonFicus Audrey leaf with fruit for size comparison. Source: Starr

Ficus benghalensis is the botanical name for Ficus Audrey. Ficus benghalensis common names are Banyan tree, Strangler fig, Ficus tree, Indian banyan, and Bengal fig. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and is the national tree of India. Its natural habitat is the tropical rainforest.

In the wild, the Ficus Audrey tree can grow to 100 feet tall with a huge canopy coverage. It’s a beautiful tree and one that ‌grows well as a houseplant. Even inside, it can grow up to 6 feet tall and has a 3-foot spread, so you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of space for it to thrive.

Ficus Audrey is similar in appearance to the Fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) and the rubber tree. Like other ficus trees, it has oval-shaped glossy deep green leaves with a smooth edge. Deep branching veins in the leaves contain a sap that’s irritating to the skin and toxic if ingested. The fruit is very technically edible, but barely so; it’s unpalatable, and we don’t recommend consuming it.

The light-colored trunk and stems are smooth. Ficus Audreys in the wild have long aerial roots that provide support for the tree. As a houseplant, you won’t see this feature since it remains small. 

The Audrey ficus can live 20+ years as a houseplant, depending on the care it receives. Luckily, it’s easier to care for compared to other ficus plants. You’ll notice the most growth from your Audrey ficus during the spring and summer months, slowing down in the winter.   

Ficus Audrey Care

Ficus Audrey leavesFicus Audrey leaves. Source: Starr

Ficus Audrey is one of the easiest ficus plants to care for. The fiddle leaf fig and rubber plant require more attention, while Ficus Audrey care is more straightforward. This next section will go over the requirements to be successful when growing the Audrey plant. 

Sun and Temperature

Ficus benghalensis prefers indirect light from either an east-facing window or a west-facing window, so it receives at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Direct sunlight can scorch the foliage, and it will suffer in low light. 

Since Ficus Audrey is native to the tropics, thriving in USDA hardiness zone 10-12, it will do well at indoor temperatures greater than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It will acclimate to lower temperatures, but any temperature lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit will kill it. Also, keep your plant away from drafts. 

Water and Humidity

Like most ficus trees, Ficus Audrey doesn’t like to be over-watered. Drainage holes at the bottom of the pot will help remove excess water. Provide water once the top 2-3 inches of the soil is dry. Water consistently in the spring and summer to keep the lower soil moist but also allow for small periods of under-watering to prevent it from becoming soggy. 

During the winter months, you can taper off the amount of water since it is more dormant. Spritzing the leaves with water or sitting the pot on a tray of pebbles filled with water will help this tropical indoor tree feel at home.  

Soil

The best soil to use when potting your Ficus Audrey is a well-draining soil with perlite added. The preferred soil pH is 7.0-7.5. Well-drained soil prevents the roots from becoming waterlogged, and the perlite provides breathing space to keep the roots healthy. It’s important to have drainage holes to remove excess water from the soil too. 

Fertilizing Ficus Audrey

In the spring, fertilize your Ficus with a balanced granular slow-release fertilizer. This will provide plenty of nutrients through the growing season and encourage healthy growth. You could also use an organic liquid fertilizer once per month during the growing seasons. During the fall and winter, there is no need to fertilize.

Pruning Ficus Audrey

Pruning will keep your Ficus at a manageable level since it has the potential to grow tall. It will also help stabilize the plant and provide a pleasing fullness. In the early spring, remove any leggy or lopsided stems. Pruning the top of the plant encourages bushier growth. You may want to wear gloves while pruning to protect your hands from the thin latex-like sap that can be irritating to the skin.  

Ficus Audrey Propagation

Stem cuttings are by far the most popular method of propagating Ficus Audrey. Some collect seeds from an outdoor tree to propagate Ficus Audrey, but you need to be where they grow naturally. This is what keeps Ficus Audrey rare in the plant trade. However, we will focus on stem cuttings to get a new plant.  

Take a stem cutting using sharp pruners, choosing a branch that has a few leaves. Dip the end in rooting hormone, place it in a moist potting medium, and lightly cover it with plastic wrap. Proper light during this time is indirect but sunny. Alternatively, place the end in water, wait for roots to develop, and plant in moist soil. Wear protective gloves to prevent getting the irritating sticky sap on your skin. Getting roots to form can take up to 3 to 4 weeks for both methods.

Repotting

Ficus Audrey does not require regular repotting. This plant prefers to be a little root bound. Repot every 2 to 3 years or when you see roots coming from the bottom of the container. Spring is the best time to repot your plant. 

Choose a pot size that is 2-3 inches larger than the one your plant is currently in. Place it in the new pot with fresh potting soil and water well. If you don’t want your ficus tree to grow larger, simply cut off some of the larger roots and put it back in the original container with fresh soil. 

Troubleshooting Ficus Audrey

Ficus benghalensis leaves and fruitFicus benghalensis leaves and fruit. Source: Starr

As mentioned earlier in the article, Ficus Audrey care is fairly straightforward. However, there are a few growing problems, and pests and diseases to watch out for. We’ll discuss troubleshooting methods in the next section.

Growing Problems

Common growing problems of the Audrey plant are yellowing or browning of the leaves, which fall from the plant. Yellowing leaves are the result of overwatering, and browning leaves are caused by not enough water or humidity. Water your Ficus Audrey when the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry, and spritz the leaves with water to emulate a humid environment. Planting in well-drained potting soil is a good practice for preventing problems. 

Pests

Common pests when growing this tropical plant are spider mites and soil gnats. Spider mites (Tetranychus urticae) feed on the sap of the plant, causing the leaves to wilt and die. A large infestation can kill your plant if left untreated. These tiny arachnids look like tiny white to almost transparent dots, and they hang out on the underside of the leaf. You may also notice fine silk threads on your ficus.

Neem oil is effective at killing these pests, and you can prevent them by not allowing the potting medium to become too dry and dusty as this attracts the mites. 

Soil gnats (also known as fungus gnats) will show up when there is plenty of moisture, so over-watering your ficus is the primary culprit. The adult gnat lays the eggs in the dirt, and once the larvae hatch, they feed on the roots of the plant. In two weeks, they emerge as an adult. 

You’ll want to stop this life cycle as soon as possible to get rid of them for good. Yellow note cards covered in sticky glue will trap the gnats. Keep these in place for a few weeks to allow the current larvae time to mature into adults so you can also catch them.

Finally, fruit flies may go after the unpalatable fruit of this fig relative. Remove fallen fruit from the soil around your tree.

Ficus Audrey Diseases

There are two diseases to be mindful of when growing Ficus Audrey plants. The first one is root rot. This disease is caused by overwatering or placing your plant in too large of a pot where the roots can’t absorb all the water. The roots break down due to lack of oxygen, and the plant slowly dies. Symptoms are stunted growth, yellowing of the leaves, and leaf loss. 

The best way to treat this problem is to remove the plant from the pot and snip off any mushy roots. Consider your type and size of pot. Choose one that isn’t overly large and has good drainage holes. Re-pot using fresh, well-draining soil. Consider changing your watering habits if over-watering was the culprit. 

The second disease is a bacterial infection called bacterial leaf spot. Excess moisture, poor air circulation, and too high humidity or moisture on the leaves is the culprit. Signs are small brown or yellow spots on the leaves that slowly spread. It can also affect the overall plant’s growth as well as new growth. 

To treat this, remove affected leaves and treat the rest of the plant with a sulfur dust fungicide. Note that if you’ve recently sprayed your plant with neem oil, you should not use a sulfur fungicide as it can cause leaf scorching! Certain kinds of biofungicides made from beneficial bacteria like Bacillus subtilis can be a good alternative to sulfur or copper fungicide. Monitor your watering schedule and take care not to over-water. Ensure your plant receives plenty of air flow. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Full-sized banyan treesFull-sized banyan trees. Source: Starr

Q: How do you care for Audrey ficus?

A: With a little care and attention to light, water, and keeping it pest free, your Ficus Audrey tree will thrive. Ficus plants do not like direct sunlight and prefer to be watered when the top 2-3 inches of dirt are dry. Don’t use a leaf shine to clean the leaves of dust. Instead, use a soft cloth and water. 

Q: Is Ficus Audrey an indoor plant?

A: The Ficus Audrey is an outdoor tree native to India. However, it will thrive as an indoor plant with indirect sunlight, humidity, and warm temperatures. It will still take up space since the indoor plant can reach heights of 6 feet. 

Q: Is a ficus Audrey easier than a fiddle leaf fig?

A: Ficus Audrey care is easier compared to the fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata). It doesn’t require as much sunlight, watering needs, and overall attention. It doesn’t like drafts but is more tolerant to temperature change than the fiddle leaf fig. 

Q: Are Ficus Audrey toxic?

A: Yes, Ficus Audrey plants are toxic to pets and humans if ingested. It can cause an upset stomach and vomiting. The sap can also irritate the skin. While the fruit is technically edible, it doesn’t taste very good and is not recommended.

Q: Why are the leaves falling off my ficus?

A: The most common reason for dropping leaves on your Ficus plant is the amount of watering. Too much or too little water can cause the leaves to fall off. Water your ficus once the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry. 

Q: How often should I water my Ficus Audrey?

A: Water your Ficus Audrey once the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry to the touch. This is usually once per week, depending on the temperature and humidity of your house. 

Q: Does Ficus Audrey purify air?

A: Yes, the Ficus Audry purifies toxins and contaminants in the air. It is one of the best air-purifying plants to grow indoors.

Q: Why do ficus Audrey leaves curl?

A: The leaves of the Ficus Audrey curl for a few reasons. The most common is not enough water and harsh lighting conditions. The Audrey plant doesn’t thrive in direct sun. It prefers indirect bright light and consistently moist soil.

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