THE WEEPING FIG i.e FICUS BENJAMINA

Close-up of branches from the weeping fig, on sitsitso.com

THE WEEPING FIG

i.e Ficus Benjamina

 

With the cheerless winter lingering on, we’ve been enjoying the company of our leafy friends at home and so the choice for this weeks houseplant post was as much inspired by it’s personality as by it’s name.

The Weeping Fig is a handsome character; it’s downward drooping branches and glossy pointed leaves giving it a moody charm. And with the whole of Berlin still gloomy and grey, the weeping fig is both a splash of happy greenery as well as a reminder of the melancholy of winter.

Dried leaves of the ficus benjamina or weeping fig
Dried ficus leaf of the weeping fig

 

The Benjamina (as it’s scientifically called) is part of the ficus genus and a popular choice for a houseplant, due to it’s relative ease in care. The reason I call it moody is because this beautiful tree can be quite temperamental. The weeping fig is rather intolerable of disturbances, and will quickly shed all of it’s leaves if you dare to move it. A protesting tree can look rather bare and dull, as if winter has find it’s way indoors.

 

Weeping fig or ficus benjamina on sitsitso

Close-up of leaves from the weeping fig tree
Beautiful leaves of the weeping fig on sitsitso.com

 

Weeping figs enjoy bright areas with a bit of sun and shade, so a spot near a west or east facing window should provide a good setting. Once in it’s place, let the ficus settle, and only move it if you have to. Benjamina’s are sensitive to colds and drafts so best not place it in areas with fluctuating temperatures. Make sure your pot drains quickly and well. The ficus dislikes soggy soil so be sure to water it less often during the colder months.

 

Close-up of leaves from a weeping fig on sitsitso.com
Ficus leaf ensemble on sitsitso.com

 

Much like introverts, Benjamina’s are great company as long as you don’t expect them to go anywhere. They will silently grow without any bother, and will look great doing so throughout the year.

 

Names: Weeping Fig, Benjamin Fig or Ficus tree
Family: Moraceae, native to Asia and Australia
Water: Moderate watering in Summer, less during Winter

Leaves dropping from over-watering: Fallen leaves fold easy
Leaves dropping from under watering: Fallen leaves are crispy

Soil: Fast draining soil mix
Prune: After Summer and before Spring
Toxicity: Mildly toxic to cats & dogs
Propagation: During Summer months by placing branch-cuttings into soil 

 

Post-inspired Etsy finds

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Desert still life

Desert still life at the Berlin Botanical Gardens

 

DESERT STILL LIFE

 

Ooooh wee, this post is decidedly overdue! But as the old adage goes; better late than never right? This is my first Urban Jungle Bloggers entry and I’m so thrilled to be part of it, even if it is a little late. For their October still life series, the chosen theme was desert. A perfect juxtaposition to the currently wet and wintery weather…

It’s hard not to fall in love with flora from arid regions. I instantly recall the magnificent colours of the desert rose (Echevaria), the fiery limbs of the Euphorbia tirucalli, often called fire sticks, or the spiky spheres of the barrel cactus. This one gives me a giggle cause as a little girl I pretended to sit on one. In expected protest it pricked me on my bum and I can still remember, firstly my surprise at the itchy burn of the sting, and secondly, my sister cracking up at my silly manoeuvre.

 

Ecvevaria's and other succulents at the Botanical Gardens in Berlin

 

There are so many awesome succulents that it’s almost impossible to choose a favourite. But one of the forerunners in my opinion, would most certainly be the Myrtillocactus. I call it the Lucky Luke cactus. They look just like cartoon characters throwing their arms up in protest. Almost like they’re ready for a fist fight. It’s a tough life in the desert. Which of course is why their entire bodies are covered in spikes.

 

Perfectly still still life of arid region cacti

 

But not all of them look like meanies. With their hairy hides, the Cleistocacti seem almost cuddly; like they’re wearing sweaters as they wave you over with their long spiny arms. The african Aloes are equally welcoming; like the vera with its spotted tentacles or the thick and fleshy candelabra-like head of the ferox

 

Hairy Cleistocacti at the botanical gardens in Berlin. For UJB Still life

 

If you’re in Berlin and want to meet some of these prickly and spiny characters, you can find an entire greenhouse filled with them at the Berlin Botanical Gardens. I’ve decided to use a photo from one of my visits there as inspiration for my October UJB entry. In a way, the thoughtfully assembled desert garden serves as the perfect still life in itself.

 

Still life in the desert photoshoot for UJB

My own desert still life for Urban Jungle Bloggers

 

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Check out more awesome posts like these on Urban Jungle Bloggers, or visit the blogs of UJB creators;  Igor & Judith.

Thanks for reading!

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A rainy day escape to the Berlin Botanical Gardens

A rainy day trip to the Berlin Botanical gardens.

 

THE BERLIN BOTANICAL GARDENS

A rainy day escape

 

On her recent trip to Berlin, my lovely sister Almarie suggested we venture down to Steglitz for a visit to the Berlin botanical gardens. Almarie’s quite the phytophile and so we hopped on our bicycles and headed down south.

 
Tropical Greenhouse at Berlin Botanical Gardens
 

From the entrance on Unter den Eichen the gardens didn’t look like much, but we payed the 6 euro entrance anyway and proceeded into the park. Soon after we set down the first pathway I started feeling a little apprehensive about the outing. Thus far the Berlin botanical garden grounds were rather, er, underwhelming and it had just started to drizzle. With dismay I thought we’d chosen probably the worst day to explore a mildly exciting garden and suggested we headed to the glass houses to escape the rain.

 

Weird and wonderful plants at the Berlin Botanical GardenBotanical-Gardens-Berlin-Tropical-Greenhouse

 

As soon as we entered the huge mechanical structure my disdain swiftly disappeared. The conservatories or Gewächshäuser, as they’re called in german, are huge glass and steel structures that cleverly controls the weather and with its 23m high dome the main tropical greenhouse is one of the largest in the world. Thanks to its size, the Berlin botanical conservatory houses a breathtaking tropical paradise with giant palm trees and towering vines and epiphytes.

 

Berlin Botanical Garden Conservatory Detail

Beutiful-and-strange-specimens-at-Berlin-Botanical-Garden

 

Next we found ourselves in the desserts of the south with a marvellous welwitschia enchanting us with its beautiful inelegance. More succulents and cacti awaited in the adjacent chambers with long furry characters and their spiky friends. To our amazement the botanical greenhouses held an incredibly rich collection of specimens; from China, New Zealand and Japan, to Africa, North America and the Canaries. In fact they have 15 different chambers, each designated to a specific biosphere. 

 

Cacti and succulents from the Berlin Botanical Gardens
 
We spent so much time in every hall that we had to break for coffee – and off course on account of the weather – for some cake. I can highly recommend the chocolate one. It was delicious. The cappuccino wasn’t bad either.

With full bellies we went on to explore the carnivorous plants and gawked at the almost florescent flowers in the rainforest. Later we felt proud and a little nostalgic to discover the beautiful South African biosphere with it’s massive species of Aloes, crassulas and euphorbias.

 

Greenhouse at the Botanical Gardens in Berlin

 

Finally, our trip around the world ended in the Mediterranean, but not before we got a short introduction to the different uses of plants; things like cocoa and bulbs and poisons I do not remember the name of.

What I thought was going to be a drab and dreary day turned out to be a spectacular journey around the world – an absolutely sensory rich experience. So if you love plants as much as I do and you feel like taking a trip abroad but can’t afford the plane ticket, just pop into the greenhouses at the Berlin botanical gardens. It’ll be a mind-blowing treat.

 

 

When to go: Open all year but perfect for rainy days

Where is it: Entrances are on Unter den Eichen 5-10, 12203 Berlin (Metrobus M48) or Königin-Luise-Platz, 14195 Berlin (ExpressBus X83, Bus 101)

Price per person: €6.00 (Cash only – they do not take credit, debit cards or EC Karte)

 

Philodendron xanadu

The philodendron xanadu
 

Philodendron xanadu

 

Add some latino flare to your home with the Philodendron xanadu. Native to Brazil this Araceae practically bounces with tropical delight. With it’s sleek long stems and heavy flared leaves it’s not hard to imagine this guy sambaing through your living room.

 

Close-up of philodendron xanadu on sitsitso.com
Philodendron Xanadu

 

The Philodendron xanadu belongs to one of three subgenera within the Philodendron genus named Meconostigma. As part of the Araceae family you might already know its brother; Monstera Deliciosa. Other than the Monstera, the xanadu is not a vine, but grows upright to form wide dense clumps of green foliage. They are very easy to care for and grow prettier with age.

 

Close-up of philodendron xanadu on sitsitso.com

 

The Philodendron Xandu are said to tolerate low light conditions but the plant will be much less dens with long stems and smaller and sadder leaves. So if you want it to really dance, place it an area with lots of bright natural light (preferably diffused or it may develop leaf burn or Chlorosis ). Enough sun will also keep the stem from rotting, given that you water it at moderate intervals. 

 

Top view of Philodendron Xanadu on sitsitso.com
A leaf from the Philodendron Xanadu on sitsitso.com

 

Location: Bright area with lots of indirect or diffused sunlight

WaterGive it a good soak when watering and wait until the soil is completely dry to the touch before watering again. The number of days will depend on the temperature and location of the plant in your home but usually it’s no more than once a week.

Propagation: A happy Philodendron xandu will grow fairly quickly, forming many new stems and eventually becoming too big or top heavy for it’s pot. This allows you to propagate by division. To do this, remove the entire plant from its pot and gently divide the root cluster into sections using your hands or a small shovel. Then you can repot each section in its own container in well draining potting soil.

 

Sitting between the leaves on sitsitso.com
Sitting between the leaves on sitsitso.com

Plant corner with Philodendron xanadu on Sitsitos.com

 

Pothos, Golden Pothos or Epipremnum Aureaus

01_Pothos_Epipremnum Aureus on sitsitso.com

• Houseplant Hour: Golden Pothos or Epipremnum Aureus •

Pothos sounds rather more like a character by Dumas than a long leafy vine. And perhaps in direct opposition to its actual mythological greek counterpart, this easy growing houseplant doesn’t symbolise yearning or longing but can and often does, grow really really long.

This ever growing characteristic of Pothos explains one of it’s more dubious names. Also known as the Devils Ivy, Golden Pothos belongs to the Araceae family and have been naturalised in many parts of the world due to it’s resilience. Their enthusiasm for growing means Epipremnum Aureus make truly fantastic houseplants. They just have a knack for staying alive. I have one in a bathroom with zero windows. It happily lives on. Perhaps it doesn’t grow as quickly as it’s window-sill-bound buddies, but it lives, and it looks pretty happy too.

Golden Pothos or Epipremnum-Aureus on sitsitso.com

Common names: golden pothos, hunter’s robe, ivy arum, money plant, silver vine, Solomon Islands ivy, taro vine and devil’s vine.

IdentificationAn evergreen vine with smooth and shiny heart shaped leaves that are bottle greens and spectacled in mustardy yellows and white hues. The sturdy stems can climb by attaching their aerial roots to surfaces. This trailing quality mean they work very well as hanging plants too.

Golden Pothos: Epipremnum-Aureus on sitsitso.com

Care: Pothos grow well in any good draining potting soil. They can survive in varied lighting conditions, from low light to bright light, but preferably not in direct sun. Plant’s that live in low light conditions won’t grow as quickly and abundantly as others but they’ll stay green and pretty.

Water: Golden Pothos can thrive with sporadic watering. Once a week to two weeks in moderate temperature and during winter months even less. As you get to know your plants you’ll learn how frequent or infrequent to water them. Always test the soil with your finger, and only water once the soil is dry. I usually give mine a good shower of water in the bath every 10 days or so, but I recently came across this neat drip-free trick for watering hanging plants. Drop a couple of ice cubes into your pot and let the water slowly melt away into the soil.

Propagation: Pothos are extremely easy to propagate. Simply cut a stem just above a leaf node (where a leaf attaches to the stem). Remove a couple of leaves closest to your cutting, and place the stem in water. You should see roots shooting out in a couple of days. You can also just remove the leaves and stick them directly into wet soil. eHow has a great video explaining exactly how to do this here.

Propagating Golden Pothos on sitsitso.com

A great way to display your Pothos is to hang it up, allowing it’s branches to drape down and soften your walls like a type of tapestry. Or for an even more dramatic effect place a pot at the top of the stairs (or if you have a mezzanine or entresol) let it drape down to the lower level for a curtain of greenery.

Hanging golden pothos on sitsitso.com

Very tetchy Echeveria

echeveria close-up

Houseplant Hour: Echevaria

Counter to what the name might suggest our next succulent is not as prickly as its thorny peers, but just as chubby and charming.

The Echeveria, a rosette forming succulent, belongs to the Crassulaceae family and is native to the arid areas of Central America. Echeverias are closely related to Graptopetalum, and have been hybridized to form the Graptoveria. They’re so similar in fact that you’ll have a hard time telling the difference. In any event, these fat fingered succulents make very popular houseplants, due to their hardiness and beautiful colours.

Bunch of echeverias

Care: Echeverias like dry air and plenty of sun, so position them in spots where they get loads of sunlight for most of the day. They require well draining potting soil in containers that drain thoroughly.

Water: Allow the soil to dry out completely between watering. This will depend on the location of your plant and the conditions of your home so stick your finger in the soil to make sure it’s bone dry before you give it a good watering. During the winter months they require even less water. As with most succulents overwatering will cause your plants to rot.

Propagation: Echeveria’s produce offsets or baby plants that you’ll see popping up around the parent. Carefully pull these out and replant them. You can also propagate them by laying leaf cuttings on top of the soil. Sometimes plants can grow heavy and break off when you handle the pot. Simply stick them back in some soil and they should take again.

Wonderful green hues from BHG
Wonderful green hues from BHG

This large genus of succulents produce a myriad of colour varieties that can range from turquoise to a light lime or mint. These cool hues are perfect for creating a calm and tranquil atmosphere in your home. Some species have magical gradients like light green to pink or purple. Use these tones together for a surprising colour scheme that’s a perfect balance of serenity and zeal.triptych of echeveria

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Fiery pink works surprisingly well alongside cool tranquil greens on beppebrancato.com

pink echeverias

Add a sense of luxury with green velvets alongside light orangey pinks.
Add a sense of luxury with green velvets alongside light orangey pinks.
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