Scientific: Ficus benjamina
Common: Weeping fig, weeping Chinese banyan, Java laurel
Origin: India, Malaysia
Pronounciation: FII-cus ben-ja-MY-na
Sunset 13, 23-24 (indoors elsewhere)
USDA 9 (can experience winter freeze damage in exposed locations) - 11
Landscape Use: Eloquent medium-sized evergreen shade tree, great high entry ways, east and north building accents, atriums, courtyards and interior malls, large containers, topiary. Often planted (mistakenly because of its eventual size) as a residential entryway tree. Here's weeping fig being used as a small formal hedge in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.
Form & Character: Dense upright and rounded to spreading with age, refined looking, formal, clean, adverse to stress, well behaved.
Growth Habit: Evergreen, soft-wooded perennial tree, moderate and spreading growth to 30- to 50-feet tall with a near equal spread.
Foliage/Texture: Lustrous, bright green, glabrous oval leaves to 2-inches long tapering to a blunt acuminate tip, boat shaped and smaller if sun acclimated, trunk smooth and brownish grey, lenticels on small branches, white milky latex producer, stems often with aerial roots; medium texture.
Flowers & Fruits: Both flowers and fruit are small, axillary, inconspicuous, fruit is a rounded nut, small, yellowish to orange when fully ripe.
Seasonal Color: None
Temperature: Hardy to 30oF (Phoenix weeping fig trees experienced major freeze damage in January 2007). Foliage and young branches can be freeze injured during cool winters in Phoenix. Recovers quickly. Hard frosts of coldest winters might kill. Best to plant near buildings on south and east exposures so that the tree can intercept night-time long wave radiation as a heat source during the winter to guard against freeze injury.
Light: Full sun to full shade
Pruning: Uplift and elevate canopy base only as necessary. Weeping fig needs to be rigorously trained when young if the desire is to train it to become a standard. Useful as large topiary.
Propagation: Semi hardwood cutting, May and June best, air layering is easy.
Disease and Pests: Thrips and scale.
Additional comments: Weeping fig is generally adapted to outside culture and landscape use in Phoenix with some protection, ie., no western exposures. Overall in Phoenix, its acute sensitivity to winter cold is its biggest problem (not summer heat) - ergo, position weeping fig trees near buildings (east and north exposures best) so they can benefit from radiant heat energy during cold winter nights. Mostly they recover quickly after a freeze. They may be maintained as a slow growing interior container plant for some time and of course are popular indoor shopping mall atrium trees. There are many named cultivars; here's a variegated one that's found in a large Scottsdale, Arizona shopping mall atrium.