Everyone knows the Ficus benjamina, they’ve been sitting in your Grandma’s living room and dentists waiting rooms for years. They have dainty little leaves and a slender trunk that just scream 90’s décor. But it’s time for this standard standard to move aside for it’s funny, funky, awkward but in a somehow graceful way cousin: the Lyrata!
The Ficus lyrata has been gaining in popularity recently, showing up in design magazines, tv shows (Wilson has one on House) and even in a few waiting rooms. And it’s really no surprise; these strangely balanced beasts are pretty cool! The broad, fiddle-shaped leaves grow upright off widely reaching branches to create an asymmetric proportion that makes you wonder “how is that not toppling over?”
The lyrata can seem tricky to maintain, but they really just need a few things to be happy:
Light: Bright, but indirect light is best. They can tolerate a little weak direct sunlight from an east-facing window. If you get any more than that place the plant beside the window to shelter it from direct beams, or hang a sheer curtain to diffuse the light.
Water: Lyratas like to dry out a little bit between watering. The best course with any large pot is to wait until the top inch or two has dried out and give them a really thorough water, this usually takes about a week and a half to two weeks for big pots. If possible, move it to a tub or bucket where you can “gurgle” to pot to ensure even saturation, letting it sit to drain any excess before returning it to it’s place. If you can’t easily move it, take the amount you want to water it and break it up into 3-4 doses over about an hour. This helps more evenly distribute the water throughout. As for the amount, many soils require about ¼ their volume in water. So for a 8” pot, which holds about 6L of soil, water about 1.5L. (*This is only a general guide, always check the soil regularly to figure out the right amount*) Make sure there isn’t excess water sitting at the bottom.
Fertilizer: An all-purpose fertilizer can be given during the growing seasons, but not during winter. If using a mild, organic fertilizer like Better World, use as directed. If you’re using a commercial chemical like Miracle Grow or similar, cut the dilution in half and apply it twice as often. So if they recommend 2tbps in water once a month, apply 1tbsp every two weeks. Often these varieties are harsher on the root system and can cause burning. Lyratas can also be sensitive to salt in the soil, it’s best to periodically flush the soil with clear water to wash out any fertilizer buildup.
Repotting: They are steady growers, try to repot yearly up one size at a time until the plant is the desired size, or the pot is as big as you are comfortable. Once the pot is the largest it’s getting, once a year scoop out the top layer of soil and redress with fresh potting mix. Because of the nature of the leaf shape and growth, they aren’t a great candidate for pruning, but you can temper the growth by trimming the root ball down when you repot. Just don’t reduce by any more than 20%.
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