Ficus are a familiar houseplant. You may have seen many different types of them and never even realized they were related. They’re fun, tropical plants capable of greening up your house or office with very little effort on your part. Here are five tips that will help you get more familiar with this fantastic group of plants and learn what they need to grow their best:
1. Ficus describes a lot more than the houseplant you’re familiar with.
Ficus means “fig” and is a genus of plants of over 850 varieties including those that bear the edible figs available fresh and in grocery products around the world. The Ficus you know as an indoor plant is probably a rubber tree, a fiddle leaf fig, a weeping fig, a ginseng Ficus, or a creeping fig.
Rubber trees and fiddle leaf figs can grow as high as six feet (1.8 meters) and have distinctive broad, glossy foliage. The weeping fig also can grow indoors to tree-height or be kept as a shorter potted bush, has a smaller leaf, and is the variety you’ve probably seen in office buildings and stores, though it works equally well in the home setting.
The ginseng Ficus has a distinctive fat, above-ground root structure and is a great bonsai plant for the beginner. The creeping fig is a smaller plant with trailing foliage reminiscent of ivy. It’s perfect for a table or shelf-top display.
2. Ficus are native to the tropics.
That means they like a sunny or filtered sun spot in your house where it stays around 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) and never gets lower than 60 degrees F (15.5 degrees C). They also like a humid environment and thrive when their leaves are regularly misted. Like many jungle plants, they are fast growers and so need to be fertilized once a month throughout the spring and summer.
3. Ficus can do well outside too.
In fact, they enjoy time out in a sunny spot on your deck or porch. Just make sure the temperature is warm enough both day and night before you move them to their summer outdoor spot.
5. Ficus are sensitive.
Occasionally your Ficus will start dropping its leaves. This can happen for any number of reasons, usually related to an unwelcome change in the plant’s routine. Leaf drop can occur when you move a Ficus from indoors to outside or vice versa–and even when you move the plant from one location to another in your house. Other factors that might cause leaf drop are over- or under-watering, a cold draft on the plant, too little sunlight, or too small a pot. Usually, once the Ficus has settled down after a move or the other problems have been corrected, it will grow new leaves and hang onto them.
6. Ficus are occasionally bugged.
There are several small insects that can take up residence on your Ficus plant. In most cases, they can be easily eradicated by wiping them away with a wet sponge or, in tougher cases, spraying insecticidal soap available at your local garden center.
Keep your Ficus warm, well fed, and try to minimize the changes in its environment. In return, it will reward you with rapid growth and the opportunity to bring an outdoors feeling to the indoors, all year round.