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Ficus Religiosa (Bodhi Tree)

Bodhi Tree, Peepul Tree, Peepal Tree, Hindu Bo Tree, Poplar-leaved Fig Tree, Sacred Fig Tree

Bodhi Tree, Peepul Tree, Peepal Tree, Hindu Bo Tree, Ficus religiosa, Poplar-leaved Fig Tree, Sacred Fig Tree,

Ficus religiosa, the Bodhi Tree, Sacred Fig, Peepal, or Bo tree, actively embodies rich history and spiritual significance as a species of fig. Many associate it with the Buddha, who reportedly attained enlightenment beneath it. Several religious traditions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism, revere this fig tree.

Ficus religiosa: An In-depth Look

Native: The Bodhi Tree is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent and can also be found in Southeast Asia. This species belongs to the mulberry and fig family Moraceae.

Plant Type and Habit: In its natural habitat, the Bodhi Tree exhibits an impressive, grand stature with a straight, tall trunk and a wide-spreading canopy. One of the most notable features is its aerial roots. In mature trees, these roots descend from the branches and eventually reach the ground, providing additional support and stability to the tree.

In its native tropical environments, it often behaves as an evergreen, retaining its foliage year-round. However, in slightly cooler or more temperate climates, it may act more like a deciduous tree, shedding its leaves during certain seasons, particularly in the cooler months.

Size: In its natural environment, Ficus religiosa can grow up to 60-100 feet (18-30 meters) in height with a wide. Its massive trunk may grow to 9 feet (2.7 meters) in diameter over time.

Flowers and fruits: The tree has inconspicuous flowers hidden within figs that grow directly from the trunk and branches. The fruits are small, emerging green but turning red or purple. They are not generally considered edible.

Foliage: The glossy, heart-shaped leaves are dark green with a distinctive extended tip, known for their rustling sound in the wind.

Bark: The bark is gray and smooth, becoming cracked with age.

Uses: Revered in many religious practices and often planted near temples, the Bodhi Tree is used in traditional medicine and planted for environmental conservation and landscaping.

Hardiness: It’s hardy in USDA zones 10-12, thriving in warm, humid climates.

Toxicity: The Bodhi Tree contains a sap that is toxic to pets and humans when ingested. The sap irritates the mouth and stomach. Contact with its sap can also lead to skin irritation for some individuals.

Drought: Once established, it has a good level of drought tolerance.

Invasiveness: It can be invasive in some non-native tropical areas due to its robust growth and ability to spread through root suckers. It is listed as ‘potentially invasive’ in Cuba and is known to be invasive to some parts of the Pacific.

Benefits: The tree’s ability to produce oxygen even at night makes it unique among many large trees.

Bodhi Tree, Peepul Tree, Peepal Tree, Hindu Bo Tree, Ficus religiosa, Poplar-leaved Fig Tree, Sacred Fig Tree,

Young leaves of Ficus religiosa

Bodhi Tree Care

Caring for the Bodhi Tree or Sacred Fig indoors can be a bit challenging due to its natural preference for outdoor environments, but it’s not impossible. Here’s how to care for it indoors:

Light Requirements: This tree thrives in bright, indirect light. Position it near a window where it can receive plenty of sunlight but not direct harsh rays that could scorch its leaves.

Watering: Water the plant when the top inch of the soil feels dry. Ficus religiosa does not like to sit in water, so ensure good drainage to avoid root rot. Reduce watering in the winter when growth slows down.

Humidity: As a tropical tree, it prefers high humidity. Indoor heating can dry out the air, so consider using a humidifier, or placing a water tray with pebbles under the pot.

Temperature: Keep the tree in a warm environment, ideally between 60-85°F (16-29°C). Avoid placing it near drafts or sudden temperature changes.

Soil: Use a well-draining soil mix. A mix designed for indoor trees or general houseplants typically works well.

Fertilizing: Feed with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every month during the growing season (spring and summer). Do not fertilize in the winter.

Pruning: Regular pruning can help maintain its size and shape, which is especially important for an indoor setting. Prune in the late winter or early spring.

Pot Size and Repotting: Choose a pot that gives the tree enough room to grow. Repot every couple of years to refresh the soil and provide additional space for root growth.

Bodhi Tree: Pests, Diseases, and Common Problems

The Bodhi Tree, while robust, can face several pests, diseases, and common problems:

Pests

Aphids: They are small, sap-sucking insects, often green or black, which cluster on new growth and undersides of leaves. They excrete sticky honeydew, leading to sooty mold. Treatment includes washing them off with water or using insecticidal soap.

Spider mites: These tiny pests can cause yellowing or speckling on leaves. You may also see fine webs. Increase humidity around the plant and wipe the leaves with a damp cloth. If infestation persists, use insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Mealybugs: These small, white, cottony pests suck sap from the leaves, weakening the plant. They can be removed with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol or treated with insecticidal soap.

Scale insects: These look like small, brown, bumpy spots on stems and leaves. They can be scraped off gently or treated with neem oil or insecticidal soap.

Diseases

Root rot: Overwatering can lead to root rot, a serious condition that can kill the plant. Signs include yellowing leaves, wilting, and a musty smell from the soil. Prevent it by ensuring proper drainage and allowing the soil to dry between waterings.

Leaf spot: This can be caused by either fungal or bacterial infections, leading to brown or black spots on the leaves. Improve air circulation, avoid wetting the leaves, and remove affected leaves. Fungicide or bactericide may be needed in severe cases.

Powdery mildew: Appears as a white powdery substance on leaves, usually due to poor air circulation or high humidity.

Common Problems

Yellowing Leaves: Often due to overwatering, poor drainage, or nutrient deficiencies.

Leaf Drop: Caused by environmental stress like sudden temperature changes, underwatering, or overwatering.

Stunted Growth: This can be due to insufficient light, overwatering, or nutrient-poor soil.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Bodhi trees grow in the US?

Bodhi trees (Ficus religiosa), also known as Sacred Fig or Peepal trees, can grow in the US, but only in warmer climates like USDA hardiness zones 10-12. They are not frost-tolerant and require a warm, humid environment to thrive.

How long does a bodhi tree live?

Bodhi trees can live for several hundred years (between 900 and 1,500 years) in ideal conditions, making them a symbol of longevity and endurance. The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree, located in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, is believed to be over 2,250 years old.

Can I grow a Bodhi tree indoors?

It is challenging but possible to grow a Bodhi tree indoors with adequate light and space. However, they naturally grow quite large and may be limited indoors.

Is Banyan Tree same as Bodhi tree?

No, the Banyan Tree (Ficus benghalensis) and the Bodhi Tree (Ficus religiosa) are different species. Both are part of the Ficus genus but have distinct characteristics and cultural significances. The Bodhi Tree is particularly known as the tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment.

Requirements

Hardiness 10 - 12
Plant Type Trees
Plant Family Moraceae
Genus Ficus
Common names Bodhi Tree
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 60' - 100'
(18.3m - 30.5m)
Spread 60' - 100'
(18.3m - 30.5m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Loam
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen, Semi-Evergreen
Tolerance Drought
Garden Uses Patio And Containers
Garden Styles Mediterranean Garden
How Many Plants
Do I Need?
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Ficus benjamina ‘Samantha’ (Weeping Fig)
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Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’ (Rubber Tree)
Ficus elastica ‘Belize’ (Rubber Tree)

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Requirements

Hardiness 10 - 12
Plant Type Trees
Plant Family Moraceae
Genus Ficus
Common names Bodhi Tree
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 60' - 100'
(18.3m - 30.5m)
Spread 60' - 100'
(18.3m - 30.5m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Loam
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen, Semi-Evergreen
Tolerance Drought
Garden Uses Patio And Containers
Garden Styles Mediterranean Garden
How Many Plants
Do I Need?
Guides with
Ficus (Fig)
Not sure which Ficus (Fig) to pick?
Compare Now

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