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henrikn

Triggers for Ficus Benjamina fruit-bearing

henrikn
8 years ago

A couple of years ago I took two small cuttings with three leaves each from my old Ficus Benjamina plant. They have both been growing very well since then.

Both of them have had the same cultural situation. Same soil, kept in the same window, repotted at the same time, watered at the same time with the same fertilizer, etc.

In most ways, they have grown as twins. However, about a year ago (very approximately) one of the "cuttings" started bearing fruit. I found this delightful and interesting, as the parent plant had never grown any fruit in all the years I've owned it (since my childhood). Now a year on, the "cutting" is still producing fruit like crazy, while the twin hasn't produced a single one.

They are both still approximately the same size when it comes to foliage and height, except the fruit-bearing one has a much thinner trunk. Maybe half the diameter of the one without fruit.

With all that background information, here are a couple of questions:

1. What could have triggered one of them to suddenly bear fruit?
2. Is there any way to make it stop? It's been going on for a year now, and while initially very welcome, it's clear that the growing of fruit is using a lot of energy which could be used to develop the trunk instead.

Thanks in advance

/Henrik

Comments (25)

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    8 years ago

    Different areas of the same tree might initially start bearing fruit several years apart as different areas of the same tree don't always become sexually mature in the same year. It's not the tree's chronological age that determines sexual maturity; rather, it's the tree's ontogenetic age that determines the onset of sexual maturity, and that has more to do with how many times cells have divided, rather than how many years have past.

    There are chemicals that mimic growth regulators that can cause blooms to abort, and probably chemicals that can inhibit bloom induction in Ficus . A fig's "fruit" is actually it's seeds, with what we normally consider the fruit (a drupe") being an inside out (inverted) bloom.

    I regularly remove flower buds & any fruiting bodies from bonsai I have in developmental stages. Parts related to reproduction are powerful energy sinks, so you are right in thinking they should be removed if you wish to speed up development, especially if you're after more trunk caliper.

    Al

  • marguerite_gw Zone 9a
    8 years ago

    I didn't realise Ficus benjamina would bloom in the home. Any chance of a picture, henrikn?

  • henrikn
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    Thank you for the reply, Al!

    I wasn't sure if it's a good idea to remove them mechanically or if there was some other way to persuade the plant to stop fruiting. I'll most likely start pinching them off from now on.

    When a part of the tree has come to the right ontogenetic age, will it keep growing these not-really-fruits constantly, or will it come and go in periods?

    Here is a pic I made for you, marguerite:

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    8 years ago

    Thanks for the picture. I can't see all the leaf, so I can't be sure what it is, but it doesn't look convincingly enough like benjamina to make me sure about the ID. I just snapped a quick picture of a F microcarpa with figs that look like yours. See below - wondering if this is your plant? Sorry for the poor pic - too tired to set up a proper photo - worked outside all day today & I'm beat. ;-)

    When a part of the tree has come to the right ontogenetic age, will it keep growing these not-really-fruits constantly, or will it come and go in periods? If it's what I think it is and not benjamina, a fig crop will be a regular thing.

    Al

  • henrikn
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    Hello again, Al.

    Well, it would of course be somewhat embarrassing if my ID has been wrong all this time, but I'm quite sure it's a benjamina. It's for sure not a microcarpa. Unfortunately I didn't make the picture with the intention of providing easy identification.

    It's not the best time for me to make another picture for easier identification right now. I might make something tomorrow.

    In any case, I doubt there would be much difference in your advice as long as it's some kind of ficus.

    /Henrik

  • henrikn
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    It's 2 AM, but I decided to make a picture anyway. You made me worry that I've misidentified my plant for all this time. Admittedly, I just made some lazy Google image searches for identification.

    The largest leaves on the plant are about 10 cm (4 inches) long including the tip. The ones in the picture are smaller than that. Unfortunately I can't provide much more light, and have never done anything for leaf size reduction.

    Hopefully this shows the leaves better:

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    8 years ago

    Great pic - definitely a benjamina. Looks nice & healthy, too.

    Al

  • marguerite_gw Zone 9a
    8 years ago

    henrikn, thank you so much for the picture. Oh, how I hope mine will fruit too. Of course I know most plants flower in some environments, but I never heard of Ficus benjamina fruiting in captivity before.

  • gstrohl
    6 years ago

    So, not so much any comment about your situation, just a similar (?) question about mine. We've owned a benjamina for years. It has always been only an indoor house plant. We moved from Ohio to North Carolina and brought it with us and it continues to prosper. Recently, it has begun to bear fruit, but only small, pea-sized fruit. Is there anything we can to with the fruit to produce a fruit bearing tree that we could plant outside or is there anything we can do to have the plant cease bearing these little fruits (that simply get in the way on the floor.) Thoughts?

  • Dave
    6 years ago

    Ficus Benjamina wouldn't be able to survive in North Carolina during the winter months.

  • gstrohl
    6 years ago

    Sorry. It is a house plant and has been here in North Carolina for eleven years. Doing well; same question about the fruit, however.

  • Dave
    6 years ago

    I'm I'm confused.

    You asked if there was "anything you could do with the fruit to produce a fruit bearing tree that you could plant outside."

    i said your winters are too cold for ficus Benjamina to live outside year round.

    Beyond that, I'm not sure what you're asking.

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    6 years ago

    The fruits are an indication of good health, so altering the plant's cultural influences probably isn't a good thing. The seeds in your plant's fruits (the fruit is actually amass of flowers growing inside of a covering) will be sterile unless pollinated by a very small wasp that isn't native to the US and is highly specific to each species.

    The plant comes easily from cuttings, if you want more. You'll need to pluck the fruit or snip through the pedicel (stem) with a pair of scissors or defoliating tool:


    Al

  • Need2SeeGreen 10 (SoCal)
    6 years ago

    I have a shockingly simpletonian question. Is the reason that only one kind of wasp can pollinate a ficus because only that kind of wasp *likes* that kind of ficus... or is it something genetic that the wasp does to the fruit/seed/pod/thingy?

    I thought for example that when bees pollinate, sometimes they are mixing pollen from other plants, thus making crosses, and/or solving the whole male/female plant issue ... but sometimes, they are just physically putting the pollen onto the ovary ?

    Or put another way, if a human could get into the fruit with some kind of tool, could it be pollinated that way?

  • litterbuggy (z7b, Utah)
    6 years ago

    TMI, tropicbreezent! I'll never look at my (as yet unfruiting) ficuses the same way again!

  • Dave
    last month

    This is a cutting thats about 4 feet. Came

    off a large ficus i had.


    Almost died this past fall when it was outside. cool temps and days of rain. 5.1.1 mix or not. still too much water and not enough sun.


    Emergency repotting and lost all but a couple leaves.


    in less tha two months its rebouded well and also producing more fruit than ive ever seen.










  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    last month

    Looks happy. Strong work!

    Al

  • Tiffany, purpleinopp Z8b Opp, AL
    last month

    That's very cool!

  • tropicbreezent
    last month

    Stress can produce a mass flowering/fruiting response in trees. It's relied upon by some orchardists to increase production. Not that you're likely to find many F. benjamina 'orchardists' trying to increase fruit production ;-)

  • Dave
    last month

    Thanks!


    And tropic, yes ive heard of that. the tree has equally put as much if not more energy into leaf production as well. it likely was stressed, but im sure is easing up.


    when i took the cutting, it was maybe 6” and and from the original tree that never fruited once. this one has been doing this for a few years now.


    i used to pick them off, but there are too many. im just going to let it do what it wants.


    also glad to see they still havent fixed this mobile app. i havrnt been around in a couple years.

  • Need2SeeGreen 10 (SoCal)
    last month
    last modified: last month

    If anyone gets a chance, and happens to have a photo of one of these inverted flowers (?), I'd be interested to see one. (I googled but maybe I spelled it wrong - "drune?")

    Does it look like an umbrella? (I must have seen one some time, and forgotten it. There so many ficus around.)


    Also, if anyone's bored, here is an old post of mine on a baby FLF I found once: https://www.houzz.com/discussions/4229987/rambling-post-which-may-have-no-point-flf 



  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    last month

    Use search words fig syconium and you'll find plenty of info and images.

    Al

  • tropicbreezent
    last month

    It just looks like a small fruit. The pollinating action goes on inside it. You can't see anything unless you cut it open. And when it develops into a fruit it still looks the same, apart from colour changes.

  • Need2SeeGreen 10 (SoCal)
    last month

    Wow, that was so interesting - thanks, Al!! And thanks, tropicbreezent! I hadn't grasped that all this drama happens inside the fruit. That is pretty trippy.