Nine times out of ten, if you’ve ever looked around your home and thought “Something is missing,” you can improve any room with a few houseplants. They allow a place for the eye to ‘rest’, making you feel more relaxed, while improving the quality of the air in your home.
Some houseplants are grown exclusively for their beautiful foliage, and while a fig tree may not be the first thing on your list, you’d be surprised at just how much these plants can soften any room.
It also helps that they are fairly easy to care for. Here’s what you need to know.
At a Glance: What You Should Know About Ficus Houseplants
The Ficus genus is made up of more than 800 plant species, belonging to the Mulberry plant family. You’re probably most familiar with the Ficus carica in this genus, the Mediterranean plant which produces edible figs.
Within this genus, you’ll notice that most varieties feature oval or lance-shaped foliage, which stays evergreen, as long as the growing conditions are right.
If you manage to injure the plant, you’ll notice a white latex oozing from the plant to protect it, so these plants may not be suitable for homes with pets or children.
Most ficus plants hail from the tropical regions of Asia and Africa, and they don’t mind the drier, warm atmosphere commonly found in most homes, which makes them good houseplants.
There are many types to choose from when it comes to growing fig trees indoors, and most are very robust plants which are hard to kill.
You can even cultivate some types, such as the Ficus ginseng, as bonsai trees (see also Ficus Ginseng Care Guide), valued for their glossy leaves and thick, trunk-like stems which rarely need wiring.
One thing that you should keep in mind, if you want to grow ficus houseplants, is that they don’t like a change of position. Once you’ve got the right place for your ficus, keep it there, otherwise its health can suffer.
Ficus Trees Varieties You Should Try Growing Indoors At Least Once
Ficus aspera ‘Clown Fig’
The clown fig is usually cultivated as a variegated hedge for outdoor use, where it produces showy, decorative fruit, but it is also suitable as a houseplant, as long as it gets bright light and some humidity.
When grown outside, it can reach a maximum of 6 feet tall, spreading to 12 feet wide, but indoors, this is more likely to be around 3 to 4 feet high.
The huge leaves are a bright, lime green, speckled with white, providing a show in any indoor space.
Ficus benjamina ‘Weeping Fig’
The weeping fig is also known for variegated leaves, with much smaller, egg-shaped leaves than the clown fig.
The foliage is mainly a glossy green, turning white or even yellow at the edges of each leaf. These leaves drape down from the plant, making for a lovely display.
It’s worth knowing that this is a fast-growing ficus, so you may need to repot it once a year.
It’s also one of the most popular ficus plants to grow indoors. On average, it may reach between 3 and 6 feet tall, depending on how often you prune it. You can also get ones which have been braided at the trunk, too.
Ficus deltoidea ‘Mistletoe Fig’
One of the most attention-stealing figs you can grow indoors is the mistletoe fig, or Ficus deltoidea.
It produces thick, oval or spoon-shaped leaves in a rich green, the undersides of which take on a reddish hue.
It also produces decorative figs which are pea-sized, even if you grow it indoors. They start off as a pale cream, maturing into red or orange inedible fruits, contrasting well against the leaves.
Ficus elastica ‘Rubber Plant’
Another popular houseplant is the rubber plant, or Ficus elastica. It’s one of the easiest ficus houseplants to care for, as well as one of the least demanding.
The foliage can be deep green or variegated, in either a deep burgundy with red edges, or a lime green with pink and white variegation. Each leaf is capable of reaching 30cm long, making for a lovely focal point in any home.
Indoors, it will reach anywhere from a foot to 8 feet high, depending on the growing conditions and how generous you are with space.
It’s also worth mentioning that the rubber plant is cultivated commercially to produce rubber from the latex sap.
Ficus lyrata ‘Fiddle Leaf Fig’
While some houseplants come and go in popularity, one which is always a firm favorite with houseplant enthusiasts everywhere is the fiddle leaf fig.
It can range from a foot to 10 feet tall inside, which isn’t that bad when you consider it can reach a lofty 50 feet tall outside.
The fiddle leaf fig is not a houseplant for beginners, however. It’s not a forgiving plant, and it’s much more particular about its care, requiring a very delicate balance between too much and not enough of each condition it requires.
It also needs more humidity than the average fiddle leaf fig, so keep this in mind.
Ficus microcarpa ‘Ficus Ginseng’
The Ficus Ginseng plant is instantly recognizable for its large aerial roots curling above the soil line, twisted trunk, and glossy leaves.
It’s an ideal ficus if you don’t know where to start, or you fancy growing a bonsai tree that’s much more forgiving to beginners. It’s also the perfect fig for an unusual look.
Most ficus ginseng plants will reach an average height of about 50cm, but it may be more or less depending on the shape of the trunk and the age of the plant.
Ficus religiosa ‘Sacred Fig’
The sacred fig is a very eye-catching houseplant, sure to make a great statement in any indoor space.
It produces glossy, heart-shaped leaves with narrow, pointed tips, usually in a bright green, but they may also turn a rich, deep red.
This particular ficus has great spiritual significance to those who practice Buddhism, as it’s believed that the tree that Buddha meditated under for 6 years was this particular type of fig, hence the common and scientific names.
How to Grow a Ficus Houseplant
Ficus plants can range slightly in their care requirements, but there are some general, overarching care tips that apply to most species cultivated as a houseplant.
For best results, always look up the specific plant you want to buy before you get it, and that way you’ll know if your home is suitable for it or not.
Sunlight and Position
Most ficus plants have adapted to grow in tropical rainforests, so a bright, indirect position is best. Avoid placing a ficus houseplant in direct sunlight, as this can burn the leaves.
Avoid placing a ficus houseplant near fireplaces, drafts, or radiators, and this will help keep the temperature stable.
These plants take time to adapt to their surroundings, and moving them can cause more harm than good, so make sure you get their position right to begin with.
In terms of temperature, it shouldn’t drop below 65°F (18°C) at night, and in the daytime, the temperature can be between 75°F and 85°F (23°C and 29°C).
You can bring them outside during the summer months if you like in dappled shade, but make sure you bring them indoors again once the temperature drops.
Ficus plants need well-draining soil in order to thrive. It doesn’t have to be packed full of nutrients, but some goodness will help the ficus grow well.
Depending on the type of fig you go for, the humidity needs will range. Some, like the rubber plant, require at least a little humidity during the day in order to help them thrive. Others require much more, such as the weeping fig.
When to Water a Ficus Tree
While they will tolerate some drought, if they go for a prolonged period of time without water, you’ll see the leaves start to drop, so getting the watering right is important for maintaining a healthy ficus houseplant.
Ficus trees like to be in damp soil at all times, but avoid getting it completely wet, otherwise the plant may rot from the roots upward.
The key to watering a ficus tree is to be consistent in your schedule.
In their natural habitat, most ficus plants will drop their leaves in a dry season in order to survive, so this translates as being a little temperamental when it comes to how much water you give them, and when.
Should You Feed an Indoor Ficus?
As houseplants go, ficus plants are hungry. The best way of keeping them well-fed is to use organic, slow-release granular fertilizer at the start of the growing season, and this will meet their demands.
How to Repot a Ficus Houseplant
Depending on what type of ficus you go for, you will probably need to repot it every couple of years, depending on the growth rate of the particular species you choose.
You can check this by removing the plant from its outer, decorative pot, and carefully looking at the drainage hole. If you see roots growing from it, it’s time to give it a new home.
Just make sure that you repot it in spring, when the plant is out of its dormancy. Always pick a pot that is one size larger than its current one, and this will help to prevent shock, as well as overwatering.
Getting the Best Out of Your Ficus Tree
As with most houseplants, ficus trees will benefit if you wipe the leaves with a damp microfiber cloth every month or so.
Gently wipe down both sides of the leaves, and this will help the light get to the plant more efficiently, as well as making sure your plants don’t suffer from pests.
More mature ficus plants will also thrive if you take the top few inches of soil off, and replace it with fresh compost every year or so.
How to Propagate Indoor Ficus Trees
The most common method of propagating indoor ficus trees is to do so using cuttings. It’s not recommended trying to grow them from seed, as you’ll have a hard time finding viable seeds, and it can take up to five years!
Always wear gloves when propagating ficus plants.
For both vining and standard ficus houseplants, taking stem cuttings is the best way to propagate them. You’ll want to get cuttings which have woody stems, and green tips.
You can then either put them in water to root, or pop them into damp, well-draining soil in a container, using a clear plastic bag to trap the humidity inside.
Once you see new growth, it’s time to pot them up individually. This will take several weeks.
You can also propagate ficus houseplants by air layering, which is a method used for ficus varieties with thick stems.
Use a sharp, clean knife to cut a wound into a thick branch, away from the main stem. Pack damp, sphagnum moss around this wound, and cover it tightly with cling wrap.
It’ll look ugly, but in about three months or a little longer, you’ll see roots growing in the moss, by which time it’s ready to be cut from the main plant, and potted up as a new ficus.
Growing a Ficus Tree: Problems to Watch Out For
The latex within a ficus tree is toxic, and coming into contact with it can cause all kinds of problems, all of which are preventable by wearing gloves when handling your ficus plant.
If your ficus plant is dropping lots of leaves, this is a sign of stress. There are many reasons why a ficus will suddenly drop its leaves, but the biggest one is a change in its growing conditions.
The best way of preventing this is keeping the growing conditions as stable and as unchanging as possible. Make sure your ficus tree is well away from drafts and heaters, and don’t move the plant.
Watering issues and too little light will also result in leaves falling before they should.
You may be under or overwatering your ficus, and you can confirm this by looking at the remaining leaves. If they are curling or yellowing, you need to change how often you water the plant.
If the leaves look pale, the plant may not be getting enough sunlight, and it’s time to move it to a brighter location.
Leaf drop can also be a sign that pests or disease are attacking your ficus plant. Inspect the leaves for any signs of stickiness or bugs which will tell you if there are pests, or any yellowing or browning spots on the leaves, which signals fungal infection.
You can treat both with a weak solution of neem oil and water.
One of the biggest killers of ficus plants is overwatering them. Always check the bottom of the soil through the drainage hole to see if the plant is ready for water. If it is dry at this level, it’s safe to water the plant.