Ficus Care Instructions
Ficus Care Instructions
This article will explain the basic procedures for Ficus care – including all types of Ficus, Fiddle Leaf Figs and Rubber Plants. By following these instructions, you should have no problem keeping your Ficus not only surviving, but thriving for years to come. The Ficus are a large group of plants that include some of the most popular varieties found in homes, offices and interior landscapes. Ficus come on a variety of sizes, shapes and leaf types from the small almond shaped Benjamina to the large dinner plate sized leaves of Ficus Lyrata. Many varieties of Ficus are grown outdoors as long as there is no danger of a frost. Most Ficus are fast growers and respond well to pruning. Ficus are native to South East Asia and Australia but can be commonly found all over the world.
There are dozens of varieties of Ficus that are cultivated for indoor landscapes. Varieties such as Midnight, Benjamina, Wintergreen and Monique are the typical trunk and canopy plants with smaller, almond shaped leaves. Not far off from them are Amstel King and Ali with a slightly more elongated leaf. Ficus Robusta, Decora, Elastica, Burgundy and Black Prince are varieties that are more commonly called Rubber Plants. Then there are a group of Ficus such as Fiddle Leaf, Little Fiddle and Lyrata that are know as Figs. All types of Ficus are sold in every size pot including 4,6,8,10,12,14,17 and even 21″ pots. They generally can be found groomed to bush shapes, trees, stumps, open weave topiary and even grown on a pyramid frame. When they are young, Ficus stems are fairly flexible and pliable and lend themselves to being twisted and braided into unique shapes. Ficus can reach well over 15′ in height, however – it may take years to reach maximum size when grown indoors. Ficus of all types are also commonly cultivated as Indoor Bonsai. Their tendency to grow aerial roots and their tolerance with heavy pruning make them great specimen Bonsai. Ficus naturally take on the look of an ancient tree, even when young.
Ficus do best in well-lit locations such as a window sill that has an Eastern exposure. Bright but indirect sunlight is optimal regardless of the variety. Be careful not to put your Ficus in full sun unless it has had time to acclimate – because in many cases the plant will burn and the leaves will be damaged in a similar way that people get sunburn. If you have less than optimal lighting available, some Ficus varieties tend to adapt better than others in low light situations. Green Island Ficus, Ali, Amstel King and Robusta tend to do better in low light. Ficus Benjamina is likely the most common variety seen indoors but tend to get thin and wispy when lighting is inadequate. When relocated to a new area it is common for any Ficus to drop a few leaves during their acclimation period. This is normal and will stabilize once the plant is adjusted to it’s new surroundings. Ficus are also fast growers and respond to pruning well. If you feel that your plant is growing too “leggy” a good cutback will help the plant fill in with new growth creating a bushier form.
Ficus Dropping Leaves
Although Ficus are one of the most popular indoor plants, they can also be one of the most finicky. When bringing your Ficus home from the store, or inside after spending a summer outdoors – odds are that the Ficus will drop many of it’s leaves. This is normal and should be expected. It is the way that the plant gets acclimated to it’s new surroundings. Leaf drop should continue for a couple of weeks before tapering off. If you have had you Ficus for some time and leaf drop has started unexpectedly – then there are several questions that you should ask yourself in order to figure out what the issue may be. Is the plant under stress for any reason? Has it been over-watered recently? Under watered? Has there been a change in lighting? Is the plant near a heating or air conditioning vent? Are there any pests or insects? Narrowing down these questions will help you figure out the culprit to why your Ficus is experiencing leaf drop and hopefully you can solve it from there.
Ficus prefer the same temperatures that many homes are kept at on a daily basis. Night time temperatures in the lower 60’s and day time temperatures in the 70’s are ideal. Keep in mind that although your home or office are kept at these average temperatures, other factors may play a part in your plant being too hot or cold. Make sure that your Ficus is not directly affected by a heating or air conditioner vent. The direct cold or hot air will surely damage your plant. You also want to keep an eye on the window if you place your plant in or near one. On very cold days, the glass will transfer the cold – and if the leaves from your Ficus are pressed against the glass, they will become damaged. It is never a good idea to have your plant up against any window or wall. You will also want to avoid any drafts in colder climates. A cold gust of wind from being placed near a door or window that opens could also damage your plant.
Watering Ficus Plants
The most important thing to keep in mind when watering Ficus are that you want to avoid creating a situation that promotes root rot. In our homes and offices, we keep Ficus in a light, well-draining soil. They prefer to be kept on the moist side, but not so wet that it damages the plant. Ficus are fairly drought tolerant, so if you are not sure of the watering it may be better to under-water than over do it. There is not specific amount or frequency of water that we can suggest because the lighting, temperature and evaporation rates differ in every location. You will need to develop a feel for the proper amount of water. Try to water at an even amount of moisture, not letting your plant get soaking wet and then allowing it to completely dry out. Do not let water accumulate in the crown or cups that the leaves. Over watering your Ficus could result in the plant dropping a significant amount of leaves. Moderation is key. Any planter that allows for evaporation, air flow and water drainage works well. Once you develop the “feel” for watering, you will be able to judge when to water by picking up the plant. The heavier the plant feels, the more moisture there is in the growing medium. If the plant is too large to lift, a water meter is well worth the investment.
Are Your Plant’s Leaf Tips Turning Brown?
A common problem with Ficus and almost all indoor houseplants is what we call “tipping” or simply the tips of the leaves drying out and turning brown. This can be caused by a number of factors including over-watering, chemical burn from too much fertilizer, Root rot and dry stagnant air. Probably the most common reason your plant is tipping could be in the tap water. Tap water contains salts, chlorine, minerals and fluoride – all of which can build up in the soil of your plant causing the tips of the leaves to burn and turn brown. One way you can reduce this is to use a water filtration system. If you do not have a filtration system available, leaving he water in an open container overnight before using can help relieve some of the chlorine.
Fertilizing Ficus Plants
Do house plant fertilizers work? Definitely. Ficus, like every other living thing need a source of energy. The plants take in their nutrients from the water and potting medium they are planted in. That medium only holds so much, and when the nutrients are depleted, fertilizer is the only source left. People who grow house plants without repotting and fertilizing regularly are essentially starving the plants and holding them back from their full potential. Ficus in particular respond very well to fertilization. There are many different fertilizers on the market and they come in many forms. There are water soluble fertilizers, ready to use liquid, liquid concentrate, fertilizer spikes, time release granules and many others. Which fertilizer works best? That is up for you to decide. We prefer a ready to use liquid simply for the convenience of use. We also dilute the fertilizer and use a small amount every time we water so there is a constant stream of nutrients being fed to the plants.
Ficus Plant Disease and Insects
Ficus are susceptible to insect infestation when grown indoors. The most common problems that can occur are scale, mealy bugs and spider mites. Sap dripping from the plant, a white cotton like substance and leaf drop are all indicators that your Ficus is not well. All of these issues can be resolved quite easily if spotted early and treated properly. In most cases, a simple treatment of insecticidal soap or a solution of rubbing alcohol and water will do the trick. If you are having problems with your Ficus and not sure of the right solution, contact us and we will be happy to provide the best product for your issue.
Do you have a question about Ficus Trees or any other plant that was not answered here? Please feel free to contact us at 201-794-4747 and speak with one of our knowledgeable staff members. We would be happy to help.
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