Saturday, January 26, 2008

Unfinished business re: Ficus benjamina

Among other things, when I did the Ficus benjamina post, I noted that we were supposed to be getting yet another cultivar, 'Exotica,' at the end of last month, but that I didn't know what it was going to look like or whether it would be worth mentioning.

Well, 'Exotica' probably really isn't worth mentioning, but we got it and others in, and I feel like I would be a little remiss if I didn't post pictures of them, too.

Also, I've decided that as a service to PATSP readers (and as a way to get even more plants in a way I can justify to myself), I'm going to try a leaf-to-leaf competition between the various F. benjamina cultivars. I've taken four cuttings of five different plants, and am rooting them in perlite, and the idea is that we'll just see whether any of the hype about them being easier, improved varieties is justified. (There might be a sixth, because I might do cuttings of 'Midnight' too, though I have 'Midnight' already and we all know what it looks like and space is kind of an issue.)

So. First, the full-length photo of 'Exotica:'

This cultivar turns out to be okay: the leaves are longer and narrower than on a standard F. benjamina, and they also feel a little stiffer, but beyond that it's kind of hard to tell. The plants we got arrived looking like crap: they had basically a ball of foliage like you see in the picture, with three or four branches that were another two or three feet beyond that. The branches in question were pretty droopy. (I guess the more positive word for that is "weeping.") Also, the plants we got had the same problem that a lot of our plants from Florida have, which is that they arrive with gray stuff covering the lower leaves. I've speculated before that the gray stuff is probably a combination of pesticide residue, hard-water spotting, and dust. It doesn't clean off well, and is a pain to deal with, and there are enough leaves that I don't really relish the idea of trying to clean them by hand, though that's probably what I'll wind up doing.

Then there's 'Black Diamond:'

This one I've gone back and forth on. When we first opened the boxes of plants and I saw the variegated leaves, I was really excited, because that shore is some fine variegatin', there. But then when I pulled them out of the box and realized that only the new leaves have the variegation: the older leaves turn into 'Midnight,' which is nice, but I already have one. So I calmed down. 'Black Diamond' is still pretty, though, so I eventually compromised by taking some cuttings, which is part of the impetus for this whole Ficuspalooza project.


(L-R) 'Black Diamond,' 'Spearmint,' 'Monique,' 'Exotica,' 'Starlight'

'Black Diamond'





For the record, 'Spearmint' and 'Starlight' really are different cultivars, though I'm not sure how easy that is to tell from these photos. (They were all taken at the same time, in the same light, though, so any differences you see are those of the real plants, and not from the photography so much.)

'Starlight' came to us in hanging baskets, for some reason, which strikes me as crazy -- who ever heard of a Ficus benjamina in a hanging basket? Because of that, I didn't take a picture of any of them as whole plants, but you'll just have to trust me: the background color for 'Spearmint' is kind of cream-colored, but 'Starlight' is actually white, and 'Starlight' has more white than 'Spearmint' does cream. Also the green parts are different as well, with 'Spearmint' being more of a gray-green and 'Starlight' being more green-green. 'Starlight' is definitely the prettier plant, though they both, I'm sure, have their uses.

'Black Diamond' had a bit of a head start, in that I'd taken a cutting of it earlier, before realizing that a single cutting of it was going to take forever to develop into a presentable plant. So one of the four plants there already has some roots, though they're not huge, and anyway I probably set them back by pulling the cutting out and sticking it back in perlite again.

Updates as they become relevant.


Anonymous said...

What DO you guys use to get off that horrible, sticky, ugly gray mud? It drives me crazy! Thus far I've been using white vinegar (spray on, rinse off with warm water, then wipe leaves with soft rag). It's a pain in the a$$, especially on larger plants. Have you found something that works better?

mr_subjunctive said...

The best I've been able to get is just water and dishwashing detergent; vinegar probably works better but the smell makes me cranky. I can't imagine having to smell vinegar for as long as it would take me to do some of the big plants. If I have to clean one up in a hurry, a very light mist of leaf shiner (considerably less than it would take to make the leaves shiny) can be helpful, though leaf shiner doesn't actually remove the buildup and can be a problem in its own right.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting me know---I suspected there was no magic bullet for getting rid of that crap, but a girl can always hope. Love your blog! :)

Han said...

It's strange that the Ficus benjomina - Star Light (Express?) in the west (Germany and in your photo too) looks very ordinary. The same cultivor that I saw and bought in Turkey looks very different and much more beautfiul. Here is my photo: