Ficus is a tropical plant related to fig trees and mulberry plants, but Ficus houseplants are grown for their ornamental value. Members of the Moraceae family, Ficus plants are found throughout southeast Asia and the Mediterranean. Ficus care can be easy, but these are demanding plants. Some houseplants can live in various light or humidity levels, but Ficus are not those plants. They know what they need, and they are not willing to negotiate. Ficus plants are typically considered moderate to difficult in terms of care. These leafy beauties are not a good choice for first-time plant owners, but don’t let their reputation dissuade you from giving them a chance.
Types of Ficus
Ficus plants can vary in size, shape, and even growth habits, but most have ovate, glossy foliage. Some plants have large, impressive eye-catching leaves. Several have variegated leaves with cream borders surrounding green interiors, like the Mistletoe Fig and Variegated Rubber Tree, while the Burgundy Rubber Tree has large, shiny leaves in a deep dark green.
Most Ficus plants are small shrubs with a tree-like appearance that can reach up to six feet tall when grown as a houseplant. There are also vining varieties, like the Creeping Fig, and several cultivars that make lovely bonsai trees. The Fiddle Leaf Fig is perhaps the most popular of all Ficus plants, but there are so many more varieties. Ficus care differs slightly among the different varieties but is generally the same. Some of the most common Ficus houseplants cultivars include:
- African Fig Tree (Ficus cyathistipula)
- Burgundy Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica ‘Burgundy’)
- Chinese Banyan (Ficus microcarpa)
- Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila)
- Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata)
- Mistletoe Fig (Ficus deltoidea)
- Retusa Bonsai (Ficus retusa)
- Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica)
- Variegated Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica ‘Ruby’)
- Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)
Ficus Light Needs
Place Ficus plants in bright, indirect sunlight. These plants need plenty of light to thrive. Take your Ficus care to the next level by rotating the plant each time you water so each side receives even sunlight. Established, acclimated Ficus plants can often handle limited amounts of direct sunlight. Gradually introduce the plant to direct light and be on the lookout for scorched leaves as you make the transition.
How Often to Water Ficus
Water Ficus plants when the top couple inches of soil are dry. These houseplants are sensitive to overwatering, so feel the soil and only water when necessary. Drench the soil when it is time to water until excess water drains through the pot. Let the soil dry out more during the winter when the plant is dormant.
Best Soil for Ficus
Rich, well-drained soil is ideal for Ficus care, and the soil should have a neutral pH. While these plants are finicky regarding most of their care, they are laid-back regarding soil. Most general premixed potting soil is suitable for Ficus plants.
Temperature for Ficus
As tropical plants, Ficus trees like to be warm. Most homes are warm enough for these beauties to be comfortable. Temperatures above 60° F are good, but anything above 70° F is best. Temperature fluctuations are bad news for Ficus care. Keep the plants away from heating and air conditioning vents and exterior doors because temperature swings can cause leaf drop.
Increased humidity is necessary for proper Ficus care. Humidity around 60% is best, but some plants prefer humidity closer to 80%. Low humidity is a dealbreaker, so give this plant a humidifier or pebble tray to make it feel at home.
Fertilizing is an essential part of Ficus care. Feed Ficus plants using balanced fertilizer, so select a product with a ratio of 10-10-10 or something similar. Fertilize Ficus trees monthly during the growing season. Scale back and feed the plants every other month during the fall and winter when Ficus plants are dormant.
Prune Ficus plants in the winter when the plant is not actively growing. Shape the plant to maintain a nice size, and trim the top as needed to help the tree fit inside your home. Make cuts before a growth node to encourage branching. Use sharp, clean shears to trim Ficus plants, and consider wearing rubber gloves or at least be careful because the plant produces sap that can cause skin irritation. Clean the pruner after use to remove any sap residue.
When to Repot Ficus
Repot Ficus when the roots start to poke through the drainage holes in the container. Some Ficus plants are fast-growers, while others are not, but plan on repotting your Ficus every other year. Small plants may need an upgrade sooner, but allowing a large plant to become slightly root-bound will slow growth and keep the plant at a manageable size.
Propagate Ficus plants by taking stem cuttings. All Ficus plants need a high level of care to thrive, but cuttings need excellent Ficus care to make it. Place the cutting in soil and use plastic to tent the container, increasing the humidity. Release moisture buildup to prevent mold and place the cutting in bright, indirect sunlight. Roots should form in several weeks.
Is Ficus Pet Friendly?
Ficus plants are toxic to animals and humans. Be careful bringing a Ficus into your home if you have curious pets or little ones because ingesting any part of the plant is harmful.
Ficus Styling Tips
Ficus plants add a sophisticated style to a space. Give the plant a subdued planter so the foliage stands out, or use an equally vibrant container for a cohesive look. Most indoor plants are adaptable and can make due in most homes, but Ficus plants are picky, so you may need to choose where to place a Ficus based on where the plant can thrive in your home.
Ficus Care Tips
Consistency is possibly the most significant part of successful Ficus care. Getting a handle on how to care for a Ficus plant can take a lot of trial and error, and once you get it down, keep everything the same. Ficus plants sometimes respond negatively to being moved to a new location, and the plant may drop leaves. Avoid moving a plant unless necessary; if you do move a plant, try to minimize stress and be prepared for an adjustment period. The plant will bounce back, but it will take time.