How to Grow Ficus Plant – Figs

How to Grow Ficus Plant – Figs

The Ficus family, figs, are one of the most rewarding of all the genera. They are easy to keep, tolerant of low temperatures and in a surprisingly short time make handsome plants which, if looked after well, continue to be handsome practically indefinitely. It is advisable to let new growth emerge under shady conditions so the leaves will expand more fully. They do not like to be in continuous draught and the plants have a decided rest period when they should be kept on the dry side, but not allowed to dry out completely. Growth restarts in late spring, when water should be given more regularly, though never overdone.

Over-watering causes fig plant leaves to turn yellow or go brown at the edges and, since the leaves are usually thick and leathery, this means that damage has been done before any symptoms were noticed. Once damage has started it will continue for some time even if watering is stopped immediately. Watering, but not over-watering, should be recommenced after about a week. Excessive drought, on the other hand, will cause the lower leaves to drop off so great care must be taken with its application, especially in winter. If a thorough watering is given ficus benjamina when necessary and then no more until the pot has dried out, no difficulties should be experienced.

Ficus are quite tolerant of varying temperatures but grow best in a steady temperature of about 12°C. If additional feeding is necessary, one of the compound manures is suitable. Ficus do not like over-potting and are quite happy in a pot that looks far too small for the plant. A 5 inch pot will hold a 3 feet high Ficus quite happily.

Ficus benjamina an Indian fig does not look like a Ficus at all. It has long thin leaves, which are ovate, and leathery, up to 4 inches long and 1 ½ inches across, forming a graceful weeping plant. Because of the nature of its growth it is often known as the Weeping Fig; from the central stem, which usually needs some support, drooping branches fall, carrying the leaves. The culture of this species is similar to that of the upright growing species, although for the climbers a minimum of 13°C is preferable.

Ficus elastica decora, the India-rubber plant has dark green leathery leaves with a prominent midrib, which is red on the underneath on the youngest leaves (see 9). The leaves are oblong and lanced-shaped 9 to 12 inches long and 5 to 7 inches wide. They grow spirally up the stem, attached by slender stalks about an inch long. At the top of the stem is a bright red sheath looking rather like a spike, covering the next leaf to emerge. When the leaf does emerge the coloured sheath falls back and falls off. The central stem will need support for the first few years but as the plant strengthens and ages it will grow straight up naturally without any further trouble. Large leaves often get dusty and should be wiped regularly with a soft cloth and water only. Propagation is by leaf cuttings or air layering.

ficus_elastica_decora Ficus elastica doescheri has longer and narrower leaves than decora. They emerge as a light green tinged with pink and with a wide cream margin. The petioles and midrils of the younger leaves are pale pink on both sides but this is only temporary, after a year they will both have turned green. As further new leaves emerge, the plant gains in interest. Like many variegated plants it appreciates a warmer position than F. e. decora.

Ficus lyrata, known also as F. pandurata, is slightly more difficult to grow. The leaves are waisted so that they appear fiddle shaped and the plant is commonly known as the Fiddle-leaf Fig. They are likely to fall if the temperature fluctuates too much and require good warmth during the winter. The leaves may also fall if the plant is watered with too cold water, or chlorinated water, and tepid rainwater is the ideal medium.

Ficus pumila is a climber, native to China and Japan, totally dissimilar from the tree species. Its thin stems are heavily dressed in a foliage of small, heart-shaped leaves about an inch long, and fine branches that creep, and being equipped with aerial roots like ivy, can cling or climb. Relatively hardy, and welcoming shade, it is an excellent climbing plant for the house.

Ficus radicans is another creeper, from the East Indies, with 2 inch broad lance shaped and pointed leaves. It is particularly attractive in the cream and green variety variegata. It can be grown as a trailing plant or climber with support, but needs to be given warm and moist conditions.

Ficus Pumila – Creeping Fig

This is an easily grown climbing or hanging plant much smaller than others of the genus and less demanding of space. Also known as F. repens. The plant may be placed in a hanging basket so that it can hang down. It will also look extremely attractive if allowed to climb up through a net hung on a wall. The plant is almost hardy and survives out of doors, in sheltered spots.


Growing season 12-15 °C (53-60 °F)

Minimum winter 7 C (45 °F)

Soil: A moist soil-less compost.

Ficus Pumila

Where to position: A light position protected from the hottest summer sun. It is reasonably tolerant of draughts or temperature variations.

Watering requirements: Always keep soil moist and springy to thumb pressure. Water on the soil with tepid water. It likes high humidity. In warm weather, mist-spray daily with tepid water.

General care: Give a weak liquid fertilizer fortnightly. Pinching out is unnecessary except for shaping.

Rest: There is no marked resting period.

When it looks sick:

Leaves are dry and tend to shrivel : May result from under-watering – restore moisture soil condition. If the soil is moist, check humidity. This plant abhors a dry atmosphere.

Leaves dry and brown : Probably due to too much sunlight. Place plant in another position.

Parasites : Always check.


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