Image by milan.boers
By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)
Banyan (Ficus benghalensis)
A banyan tree makes a great statement, provided that you have enough space in your yard and the appropriate climate. Otherwise, this interesting tree should be grown indoors. The Banyan (Ficus benghalensis) is a fig tree that begins life as an epiphyte, germinating in the crevices of a host tree or other structure.
As it grows, the banyan tree produces aerial roots that hang down and take root wherever they touch the ground. These thick roots actually make the tree appear to have several trunks.
Growing a Banyan Tree Outdoors
On average, these trees have high moisture needs; however, established trees are drought tolerant. They enjoy sun to partial shade as well. Banyan trees are easily damaged by frost and are therefore best grown in warmer climates such as those found in zones 10-12.
Growing a banyan tree requires a lot of space, as mature trees become quite large. This tree should not be planted near foundations, driveways, streets or even your home, as its canopy alone can spread quite far. In fact, a banyan tree can get up to about 100 feet tall and spread over several acres. The leaves of banyan trees can reach anywhere from 5-10 inches in size.
One of the largest banyan trees on record is in Calcutta, India. Its canopy covers 420 meters and stands over 80 feet tall, with more than 2000 roots.
Banyan Tree Houseplant
Banyan trees are commonly grown as houseplants and are well adapted to indoor environments. Although the banyan tree is better somewhat pot bound, it’s a good idea to repot this plant at least every 2-3 years. The shoot tips can be pinched back to promote branching and help control size.
As a houseplant, banyan trees prefer well-drained but moderately moist soil. The soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings, at which time it needs to be thoroughly saturated. However, caution should be taken to ensure that it doesn’t sit in water, otherwise, leaves may yellow and drop. Provide the banyan tree with moderately bright light and maintain indoor temperatures around 70 degrees during summer and at least 55-65 degrees throughout winter.
Propagating Banyan Trees
Banyan trees can be propagated from softwood cuttings or seeds. Cuttings can be taken from the tips and rooted or by eye cuttings, which require a piece of stem about a half inch below and above a leaf. Insert cuttings into a suitable rooting medium, and within a couple of weeks, roots (or shoots) should begin to develop. As parts of the banyan tree plant are poisonous (if ingested), caution should be used while handling it as sensitive individuals may be susceptible to skin irritations or allergic reactions.
If choosing to grow banyan from seed, allow seedheads to dry on the plant before collecting. Keep in mind, however, that a growing banyan tree from seed can take some time.