Ficus Care Guide
By Ophi Hodgman
The Ficus is a genus of about 850 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, epiphytes and semi-epiphytes in the Moraceae family.
Collectively known as fig trees, figs and Rubber trees, these plants are native to the tropical climates of Southwest Asia, making their way to the Mediterranean regions of Afghanistan and Portugal in prehistoric times. Ficus Carica and Sycomurus were among the first plant species (possibly ever) to be deliberately bred for agricultural use in the Middle East about eleven-thousand years ago.
Today, these plants are among the most common houseplants - the Fiddle Leaf Fig is one of the most popular in homes ranging from middle class to celebrity status. In recent years, these large leafy trees have been a staple in modern home design and greenhouses of houseplant collectors alike.
Read on for Estabrook's Ultimate Ficus Care Guide!
Often marketed as low-light tolerating plants, this just simply isn't the case. Most Ficus species thrive in high light environments. While bright indirect will do the trick, these plants enjoy a few hours of bright and even direct sunlight! If your Ficus is not receiving enough light, you may begin to notice yellowing and dropping of the leaves. A good example is the Fiddle Leaf Fig - known to be on the finicky side, these plants are well-known to drop leaves when their care needs are not consistently met.
With most species, you can follow the "water when dry" rule, but that isn't always the case. Thinner-leaved and stemmed Ficus, like the Creeping Fig and the Umbellata tend to be on the thirstier side and will need more moisture than, for example, the Ficus Elastica. The Ficus Elastica is one of the easiest plants within the genus due to their thick foliage and ability to store water for longer periods of time.
Allow your Ficus to dry halfway in the pot between waterings. These plants will benefit from short periods of dryness, because it mimics their natural environment. Their roots will adapt and become stronger when forced to grow, looking for moisture. Be careful to not let your plant sit in standing water for too long or you may begin to see signs of root rot.
Ficus enjoy a chunky soil mix with water and nutrient-retaining amendments, such as coco coir, and substrates that will allow good drainage.
Do not allow these plants to be in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. These plants will thrive in temperatures of 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Ficus contains a poisonous sap that can cause dermal and gastrointestinal irritation in cats and dogs. It is often recommended to wear gloves when handling these plants to avoid contact.
Pruning and Propagation
Ficus are very easy plants to prune and propagate! When chopping from the main stem or branch, the plant will activate new growth points, sometimes over the entire trunk! The Ficus Benghalensis 'Audrey', similar to the Elastica, is often a good contender in making large topiaries, showcasing their distinct satin foliage. 'Audrey' is also known to send out multiple aerial roots from the main trunk in order to broaden their intake of nutrients.
Ficus are heavy feeders and enjoy being fertilized often! During the growing season, you can get away with fertilizing with every watering. In the off-season, try fertilizing every other time or using a slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote.
Ficus are known to be victim to multiple types of pests. As with any houseplant, it is important to clean the leaves to physically remove infestations or prevent potential ones. You can do this by sticking your plant in the shower to give them a rinse and then use heavily diluted dish soap water to thoroughly clean each leaf and/or use Neem oil to give them a beautiful, natural, long-lasting shine!