Ficus 7-18°C/45-64°F; Tropical Asia

The many species in this large genus are very varied and have different cultural requirements. Most frequently seen is the conventional Rubber Plant with its upright habit and glossy green leaves, the care of which may present some problems. The first of the conventional Rubber Plants was F. elastica, which gave way to the improved F. elastica ‘Decora’, which in turn has been superseded by the much stronger growing and greatly improved F. elastica ‘Robusta’. Yet another variety, ‘Black Prince’, has much darker, almost black leaves and is gradually gaining in favour. Care of all these necessitates that they should have a light position and a winter night temperature around 16°C/61°F. But, above all, it is most important that water should be given in moderation – the mixture should be well watered and allowed to dry out a little before the next application, as excessive watering will surely damage the root system which will in turn result in loss of leaves. Moderation really is the key word in most respects and also applies to feeding and potting the plant on into larger containers – the new pot should only be slightly larger than the old one and the need for potting on should only arise every second year unless plants are growing very vigorously. To improve the appearance of Rubber Plants they should have their leaves cleaned with a soft, damp cloth occasionally.

Most of the other ficus that one is likely to come across – F. pumila, F. benjamina, F. lyrata, F. diversijolia and F. radicans ‘Variegata’-will all require to be kept a little moister, more shaded and some degrees cooler in winter in order to get best results from them. F. pumila is commonly named Creeping Fig on account of its prostrate habit and has small green oval-shaped leaves on thin, wiry, trailing stems. F. radicans ‘Variegata’ is similar in habit with slightly more pointed leaves that are attractively white and green variegated. If a graceful indoor tree is required than F. benjamina, the Weeping Fig, with its glossy green leaves would be an admirable choice. Also developing to tree size in time, F. lyrata, the Fiddle-back Fig, has glossy leaves that are roughly similar to the body of a violin. It is, however, one of the more difficult of the ficus tribe to care for. F. diversijolia is slower growing and takes many years to grow into a smallish bush-the most interesting feature of this plant is the way in which it seems to be constantly producing small berries that appear on even the smallest of plants. Some of the ficus may be raised from seed, but most of them are propagated from cuttings.

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