Known as the Bhodi tree, or the sacred fig, Ficus religiosa trees are often grown as ornamentals. Ficus religiosa is a type of banyan tree native to India, China and Southeast Asia. Ficus religiosa trees are sacred to Buddhists, as Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment while sitting under one. 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-climate areas such as Florida. The trees may be bought as seedlings or saplings, or grown from seed. Ficus seeds require close attention during the germination period.
Take great care in selecting fertile Ficus religiosa seeds. Buy only fresh seeds, as Ficus religiosa fig nuts have a short viability shelf life. Order seeds in advance to get them within a few months of harvest. After six months, germination rates start to decline. Collect ripe figs if you have access to mature, fertile Ficus religiosa trees.
Squash the figs and squeeze the seeds out of the mass of pulp. Rub the seeds in a towel to remove pulp remnants. Soak the seeds for 24 hours in a bucket of water to remove germination-inhibiting chemicals from the fruit. Discard the seeds that float to the top as they are not viable. Spread the seeds out on a screen to air-dry. Speed up germination by scarifying the seed coat. Use a metal file or coarse sandpaper to create a thin spot in the hard seed shell for the emerging root tip.
Prepare a germination soil and medium mixture. Start by combining equal amounts of sand and potting soil. Use black dirt potting soil and any type of fine-grained silica sand. Play sand works fine. Heat the soil mix to 200 degrees F if it hasn't been sterilized. Mix two parts fine-grained vermiculite with one part perlite. Add two parts of the vermiculite-perlite mix to one part soil. Blend the growing medium thoroughly.
Fill 3- or 4-inch tall, 2-inch-wide plastic pots with the growing medium. Use the bottom of one of the pots to tamp the soil down so it's about 1 inch below the top of the pot. Place the pots in a tray with no drainage holes. Fill the tray with water to bottom-water the pots. Pour the water out of the tray once the dirt mix is soaked but not waterlogged.
Place four Ficus religiosa seeds on top of the soil. Lightly sprinkle sand over them, but don't cover the seeds. Put a translucent plastic lid over the tray. Place the tray in strong light, but keep it out of direct sunlight. Keep the temperature at 77 degrees F. Take the lids off daily to allow oxygen to reach the seeds. Use a spray bottle to mist the pots if they start to dry out. Keep the dirt damp for 15 to 90 days until you see the seedlings appear.