Ficus & Figs



Ficus, figs have been a favorite houseplant for decades.  Figs are a large, diversa family of more than 800 tropical shrubs, trees and vines.  The selections discussed here cover a range of sizes, from types that usually grow less than 1 foot tall to others that can touch the ceiling unless pruned back.  Do not be too quick to repot Ficus species, for they do very well in relatively small containers even though their roots are crowded.  Signs of needing repotting could be by a general lack of flowering and new leaves that seem stunted, best if repotted early spring.  Most Ficus do best in 3 to 4 hours of filtered sunlight and let the plant approach dryness before watering, then water thoroughly, and discard the drainage.  Fertilize monthly with a 20-20-20 fertilizer.


Types of Ficus


Weeping Figs


Bush, standard, braided, variegated forms, column, corkscrew, etc.  Leaves are shiny green, some dark green or curly, most with graceful arching branches loaded with leaves, these plants may lose many of its leaves when moved to a new location, especially if from bright light to a low lit location and also if in hot or cold drafts.  It will need a period of adjustment, but with care, it will flourish again.


Ficus Lyrata


Fiddle leaf fig.  Makes a striking container plant.  The 12” to 18” leaves are shaped like the body of a violin and have such a gleaming leathery texture that it seems they were freshly waxed.  Plants can grow 5’ to 10’ tall, and are not quite as sensitive to leaf drop as the weeping figs.


Ficus Alii


A recent introduction with long, narrow, pointed leaves, which gives it a bamboo appearance. It makes a striking specimen plant and is more tolerant of being moved than most of the weeping figs.


Ficus Rubber Plant


Robusta, Burgundy and Sylvia are all bold, tropical and tree-like with their medium to large oval shape leaves.  Rubber plants will tolerate just a bright light, to some filtered sun.  Since the plants can grow to ceiling heights, though slowly, they should be pruned, as they will grow lanky.  Can be propagated by air layering or by a cutting off the top or the nice side shoots.




Creeping or climbing.  These have tiny heart shaped leaves.  A fairly fast growing trailer that looks especially attractive in a hanging container or hanging from a shelf, or as a ground cover in terrariums.  Variegated versions are available.  They’ll do best in bright light, or in a bit of sun, but do not let the soil dry out.  Always water thoroughly when the soil is dry to the touch and discard drainage. Many of the smaller leaf varieties make excellent bonsai plants.