Known as the Bodhi tree, or the sacred fig, Ficus religiosa trees are often grown as ornamentals. Ficus religiosa is a type of banyan tree native to Southeast Asia, southwest China, India and the Himalayan foothills. The Bodhi Tree is sacred to followers of Buddhism and Hinduism because Guatama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, reportedly sat under such a tree (known as the Bodhi tree) when he received enlightenment (bodhi). The trees feature oversized, intertwined root systems that are partially visible above ground. These distinctive trees are grown as potted bonsai miniatures or raised to full outdoor size in warm regions. It is also known as the peepal tree and the bo tree.
Ficus religiosa is a large broadleaf evergreen tree with wide-spreading branching that grows to 60-100’ tall. Over time, the trunk may grow to as much as 9' in diameter. In native monsoon climates, this tree is semi-deciduous to deciduous. It is epiphytic. Tree seed (often deposited by birds) may germinate in upper tree crevices, producing dangling, non-parasitic, aerial roots that grow to the ground, root in the soil and produce trunks. Figs that begin as epiphytes are often generally called Banyans (although the Banyan name is sometimes used only for Ficus benghalensis). Bo tree develops an attractive pale gray bark. Ovate-rounded, glossy, dark green leaves (to 7" long) are cordate with distinctive, extremely narrow, elongated tips. In its native habitat, the fruits of this tree (globular figs to 1/2” diameter) appear solitary or in pairs, emerging green but ripening to purple. The oldest plant in the world of known planting date is the Ficus religiosa tree called Sri Maha Bodhi which was planted at the temple at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, in 288 B. C. Today the Bhodi Tree is revered as a symbol for prosperity, happiness, good fortune and long life. Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-12 where it grows well in average, moist, well-drained soils in full sun. As a container plant, it is best grown in a soil-based potting mix. Site indoors in bright indirect light or in part shade with protection from afternoon sun. Water regularly during the growing season.
- The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet.
- Sow the seeds on the surface of the mix. Do not cover; the seeds need light to germinate.
- Water the seeds.
- Set the container outdoors in full sunlight or partial shade if temperatures are above 77 degrees Fahrenheit. If temperatures are too low, keep the container indoors under artificial lights.
- Keep the soil moist; do not allow it to dry out. Germination takes between 15 and 90 days.
- Transplant seedlings into individual containers when the second set of leaves, or true leaves, appear.