Ficus Culture and Care
The Ficus is one of the most commonly grown indoor plants. There are over 800 species and 2,000 varieties most of which are native to the Old World tropics. It belongs to the mulberry family Moraceae and grown in many different forms, from the small vining ‘pumila’, the broadleaf ‘robusta’, the giant ‘strangler fig’, and a host of others in between.
In their native habitats Ficus can be found growing in full sun and dense forest.
Ficus trees were introduced into the foliage trade in the late 1950’s. Today we see them grown all over the world in pot sizes as small as 3″ to large towering trees in 200-300 gallon pots.
The most commonly known Ficus is the variety called ‘benjamina’. It is grown outdoors in bush form for hedges in the south Florida area and acclimated for indoor use throughout the US, Canada and Europe.
New varieties are being developed, carefully selected and introduced which have helped improve the use and durability of this versatile indoor plant.
Ficus as with most tropicals will flourish in almost any well drained soil. Most growers use a mixture containing peat moss, bark and sand. Most plants can grow in relatively small containers. Heights of 4-5 feet are not uncommon in a 10″ pot.
This is probably the area where Ficus causes the most problems. Ficus generally can adapt to a wide range of moisture levels. What they want as much as anything is a CONSISTENT environment. Many people overwater the plant keeping the soil soggy. Soil should be kept moist but not soggy. The soil should not dry out between waterings. Ficus grow very well with sub-irrigation.
Ficus can survive low interior light but would prefer bright filtered light. Position Ficus near or opposite a curtained southern window. Ficus has been used by interior plantscapers for many years, the plants must be acclimated to their location and drop leaves as they go through the process.
When grown indoors Ficus have almost no need to be fertilized. If you must fertilize any well balanced fertilizer such as 20-20-20 will maintain growth. Pelleted fertilizers also work read instructions carefully. Indoors plants grow slower and therefore have lower requirements for food.
Ficus enjoy warm conditions between 68-85 daytime temperature. Cold, and drafty conditions in the 40’s and 50’s will slow growth considerably.
Humidity and Air Circulation
Humidity above 25-30% is best and some new introductions will tolerate long periods down to 10-15%.
Insects and Disease
Mealy bugs, aphids and scale are probably the most common insect indoors. Because of the wide leaves that most Ficus have cleaning the leaves regularly with a damp cloth to remove dust will help not only in appearance but also in removing of some pest which tend to gather under the bottom of leaves.
Most Ficus root easily from cuttings, usually under mist. Rooting hormones are generally not needed. Commercially Ficus are produced from air-layers that are taken from stock plants. Generally, 24-36″ branches are wrapped with moss to help induce rooting. The air-layers are then cut off after a period of 3-4 weeks and planted up. Many of the new varieties are being produced from tissue culture.
There you have it…. Some basic care instructions for your Ficus.