How to care
for your Ficus
Native to the tropics, including Asia, America and Africa, the Ficus belongs to the fig genus with hundreds of Ficus species out there. A mainstay in many offices and homes because they look like a typical tree with a trunk and canopy, the Ficus is also commonly called the Ficus Tree, Weeping Fig and Fig Tree – yes, the latter being the one that produces the fruit. Regardless of their size, they’ll always maintain their ‘tree-like’ appearance with dark and/or variegated foliage. Ficuses add a splash of colour and lushness to any home, but you’ll want to be mindful when you’re shopping for Ficuses since they have a reputation for being finnicky house plants. They shed leaves at the very first sign of stress, which can be very off-putting for someone who doesn’t like to break out their broom and dustpan too often.
Ficus Benjamina 'Starlight', Weeping Fig
Ficus Binnendijkii 'Alii'
Care Level : Beginner, Expert or Somewhere in the middle.
Ficuses land somewhere in the middle due to their specific care requirements. Ficuses are very sensitive to stress: a cold draft, dip in temperatures, getting moved, overwatering, underwatering vulnerabilities to pests; and their light, warmth and humidity needs need to be met. If you already have a bit of houseplant experience and have the right growing conditions, then you’ll be fine.
Keep your Ficus away from direct sunlight and place it in a well-lit spot where it can receive a steady stream of indirect light. If your Ficus has all-green foliage, they’ll grow as lanky as a puberty-laden 14 year-old boy if it doesn’t receive enough light. Similarly, if your Ficus is one of the variegated types, you’ll want to make sure it gets sufficient bright, indirect light, otherwise, it’ll start to lose its variegated markings. Rotate your Ficus periodically to ensure even growth sides and make sure you wipe its leaves with a damp cloth to remove dust preventing it from photosynthesizing efficiently.
Allow your Ficus’ top 2” of its soil to be dry before you give it a thorough watering. You’ll want to water evenly throughout the summer and reduce its watering schedule in the winter. Since we’ve established Ficuses are a bit finnicky – if its leaves drop it can be an indicator of under or overwatering … or the other host of reasons mentioned above.
Ficuses thrive in relatively higher humidity. Regular misting or setting the Ficus tree on a pebble tray filled with water is a great way to increase their humidity.
Ficuses are warm-bloods – they really don’t like lower temperature or cold drafts. You’ll want to keep your Ficus in a room that’s between 16-21°C.
Ficuses emit a toxic sap that can activate allergic and dermatitis reactions: itchy eyes, wheezing, coughing, skin irritation, stinging, redness. So, while they’re just a nuisance to humans (if the skin irritation lasts more than a few minutes – seek medical attention), they are poisonous to pets. Sorry kits and pups.
Other fun facts:
- The famous Bodhi tree under which Buddha achieved enlightenment was a Ficus Religiosa – a bit on the nose, eh?
- The Ficus Audrey (Ficus Benghalensis) is the national tree of India.
- Have you ever wondered why the Ficus Lyrata is called the Fiddle Leaf Fig plant? Yes? Good – we have the answer: the plant gets its name from the violin-like shaped leaves that remind you of a fiddle… or reminded someone of a fiddle.
- Ficus Elastica and paintings of Ficus Elastica recur throughout the Margaret Atwood’s Cat's Eye – someone clearly liked her houseplant.
- Bobby Berk or Netflix’s Queer Eye revealed in a video that the big plant everyone keeps asking him about in his home is a Fiddle Leaf Fig, and subsequently revealed to Apartment Therapy that his favourite plant is NOT a Fiddle Leaf Fig, but a Ficus Audrey.
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