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Who said that indoor plants have to be small? A ficus tree is the best option if you ever wanted to get an ornamental indoor plant that will make your living space turn into a jungle.
Although, a ficus tree isn’t the easiest plant to take care of.
But no matter what type of ficus you choose, whether it’s the fiddle leaf fig, the weeping fig, or the rubber plant, I have all the info for you. Everything that you need to know about ficus plant care is here, from watering to propagation.
- Weeping Fig (Ficus Benjamina)
- Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata)
- Rubber Plant (Ficus Elastica)
- Ficus Types
About Ficus Trees
Ficus trees are exotic plants that grow extremely tall in the wild, but their beauty is in the fact that they can easily be manipulated into stunting their growth and adjusting to indoor life.
Even though it’s not the easiest plant to take care of, mainly due to its sensitivity, I got to admit that a ficus plant is a very attractive looking addition to any room.
This plant is also toxic to cats and dogs, so make sure you keep them away if you want to get a ficus.
How to Grow a Ficus Plant
Unfortunately, if you were wondering how to grow ficus from scratch, I have some bad news for you.
While it’s not entirely futile, getting the seeds of this tree is almost impossible if you don’t live in a tropical area or a place where this tree naturally grows.
Even if you already have a ficus tree at home and somehow managed to get it to produce some figs, chances are that the seeds in the fruits won’t be fertile.
The fruits have to be fertilized by the special fig wasp so that they can become fertile enough to grow a new plant.
This is why the best thing that you can do is just buy the plant that already started growing and that you can just take care of it.
It’s best if you go shopping for a ficus tree at your local garden center, because there are plenty of people there who will answer any question that you could have regarding ficus plant care.
Make sure to choose a plant that looks healthy, but full green leaves and newer soil.
Once you take it home you can either keep it in the pot that it came with, if the pot is adequate.
The pot that you should put your ficus in should be big enough for the plant to fit in, but still have some room for growth.
Most importantly, the pot should have a drainage hole at the bottom, and then you can but a container for water collection under it.
Finally, the pot should be filled with a well-draining mix, and maybe even a completely soilless one. You can either buy loamy soil with the addition of perlite or vermiculite, or you can make your own.
One of the blends that I always recommend is a mix of 3 part loam, 1 part coarse sand (or perlite) and 1 part peat. This makes a great draining mix, and you can even improve it by adding a layer of rocks at the bottom of the pot.
Of course, if you already have a ficus indoor tree, you can grow another one by the process of propagation, which I’ll get into later on in the article.
But firstly, we need to learn how to take care of this plant.
How to Take Care of a Ficus Plant
In my opinion, a ficus is one of the best trees that you can grow indoors, especially because it’s growth and shape is so easy to manipulate and turn into practically whatever you wish.
Of course, pruning has to be one of the easiest parts when it comes to taking care of this plant, but that’s one of the last steps in this guide, and we should start with the basics.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned how taking care of a ficus plant can get difficult, but the hardest thing is that you actually have to follow the plant’s behavior at all times.
In other words, caring for ficus plant indoors isn’t hard, but you got to keep a watchful eye.
The ficus tree is notorious for being extremely sensitive to any change in the environment, and any time you end up even moving it to a different place can turn out to be stressful for the plant.
You’ll probably notice this for the first time as soon as you bring it home from the store.
As a consequence of experienced disturbances, the plant will most likely start to drop a couple of leaves.
However, this is nothing that you should worry about because ficus indoor trees are also great at adjusting to a different environment and the leaves will stop dropping soon, you just got to give it some time.
You should know that the plant will only adjust and continue its healthy and undisturbed growth if you pick a good spot for it and if you don’t move it around too much.
And how exactly do you pick that spot? There are a couple of aspects that you have to take care of when choosing a spot for your ficus for indoor, and I’m here to teach you all about them.
Because they come from exotic, rainforest climates, the ficus trees prefer humidity, but first, there are a couple of things that you should know about watering this plant.
Watering a Ficus Plant
As we all know, most plants need constant watering to survive, and a ficus tree is no exception.
The good news is that the plants need for water is the same no matter what type of the ficus tree you decide to get.
How often should you water your plant?
Each of them has to be watered every 7 to 10 days, but only during the warmer period of the year, especially from early spring until early autumn.
This is the active growth period of the plant when it will need all the water and other nutrients that it can get, and also the time when the soil is most likely to dry out due to high temperatures.
Watering your plant in the wintertime isn’t as strict because that’s a stagnant period for the plant’s growth, and you should only do it when you notice that it’s absolutely needed.
You’ll know that your ficus tree needs to get watered as soon as you take a closer look at the soil in the pot.
Check the top layer of the soil. If the first 2 inches of soil are dry, it’s time for your ficus tree to get some much-needed water.
Thankfully, technology has gone far, so you can also get one of these soil meters to help you.
The right amount of water is the key
Remember, the water that you use to water should be room temperature, and it would be better if you used distilled or filtered water.
If you wouldn’t drink the tap water from your area there’s no reason why you should give it to your plants. It can be equally bad for them.
The amount of water that the ficus tree needs depends on the size of the plant itself, but the rule is that you should stop watering it once you notice water coming out from the drainage hole in the pot and filling the container underneath.
This is where you should stop, give it some time to settle for a bit, and then carefully remove the container and the excess water that got into it.
Keeping the water in the container can hurt the plant because it will lead to overwatering and even making the roots rot.
You might notice that this is the part of the ficus tree indoor care where a good well-draining potting mix comes to play. You don’t want too much water in your pot.
It should be noted that the biggest problems that you could get with this plant can come from either underwatering or overwatering it.
Luckily, there are ways to save your plant from both problems, and I’m going to get into more detail on how to fix them later on in the article.
Humidity in the room
It should be noted that the level of light and humidity of the room could also affect the amount of water that your ficus tree needs, and that’s the reason why you should always check the soil first.
In addition to that, the tree prefers humidity, but that doesn’t mean that you should keep it in a sauna. Normal room humidity is completely fine, but if the air in the room is dry you could add a humidifier or water your plant more and mist the leaves from time to time.
Speaking of that, misting the leaves should also be done in the summer if the air in your area is less humid.
The air in the room could be dry, especially during the winter, if you’re using artificial heating, and this could potentially be bad for the ficus tree.
All in all, the most important thing that you need to remember about how to care for ficus is to follow its behavior.
The plant knows what it needs and it will show you, you’re just here to help it get that.
Cleaning the leaves
Another thing that you should practice when it comes to this plant’s need for both light and moisture is cleaning the leaves.
The dust on the leaves can stop the plant from getting all the sunlight that it needs, making it generally bad for the plant.
Use a soft rag dipped in tepid water, grab the leaves, and be gentle when sweeping the dust off of them.
The water in the rag will also help with some direct moisture, so you can skip misting the plant that day.
This way you’ll get some shiny, beautiful and healthy-looking ficus tree leaves in your home.
Proper Lighting for a Ficus
As I mentioned before, one of the key actions that you have to take when bringing a ficus tree into your home is choosing the right spot where it will thrive.
In addition to overwatering, the worst thing that you can do for your ficus tree is picking a wrong spot for it and moving it around too much.
Remember, it’s a delicate plant and it’s going to react to any change of environment.
Anyway, there are a couple of aspects to selecting a suitable place for your ficus for indoors and you need to look into them before getting the plant, so as you don’t disturb it too much.
It should be noted that in this case, unlike with watering, there are a couple of differences depending on which one of the ficus plant types you chose.
So read carefully!
Bright, but indirect light
The most important aspect is the lighting. A ficus tree is the type of plant that enjoys light and needs it to survive, but there are still some rules.
You should never put your ficus plant somewhere where it will constantly get hit with direct lighting.
Instead pick a part of the room, preferably the corner, where it will get a lot of bright light, but make sure that the light is indirect or filtered. This is crucial both in summer and winter.
Too much light can fry the plant and make it lose moisture, which will make the plant start dropping its leaves and it could even make it completely dry up.
However, all the types of this plant will enjoy getting a little bit of direct light during the day, just make sure that it isn’t the too hot midafternoon sun.
There are a couple of differences. For example, if you’re here to find out how to care for ficus lyrata, or the fiddle leaf fig, you should know that dim lighting can make this plant deteriorate rapidly and it’s important to put it in a spot that gets enough sun.
On the other hand, ficus elastica, or the rubber plant, can grow well enough even in low light if it’s needed, but it’s still better to choose a brighter spot for it.
Also, make sure to turn the plant around from time to time if you want even growth on all sides.
But, don’t do it too much because it could stress the plant. On the other hand, just turning it around will benefit it in the long run and the plant is most likely going to get used to the new position quickly.
No cold draft or low temperatures
Next, you need to opt for a spot in your home that doesn’t get hit by cold drafts or has lower temperatures.
Remember, the natural habitat of this plant is the rainforest, and that place isn’t exactly cold.
Room temperature is fine, but you should know that the ficus lyrata and ficus elastica can’t survive in temperatures under 65oF, while the weeping fig can live in temperatures down to 50oF.
Also, cold drafts can hurt the plant, so don’t place your ficus tree near a window or a door that you know is the source of cold drafts in your home.
Picking the right spot is crucial for your plant’s survival and that spot should fit into all of these categories if you want to grow a beautiful and healthy ficus tree!
If you don’t think that your living space has enough light for a ficus tree, try getting one of the plants that don’t need a lot of light instead.
Fertilizing a Ficus Plant
Fertilization is a step that you should never even try to skip, especially when it comes to growing and taking care of indoor plants.
It’s a way for the plants to get any crucial nutrients that they need and to make sure that they grow to be strong and elegant.
The first step is choosing the type of fertilizer that you need for this plant.
The right fertilizer
It’s important to note that the ficus tree is extremely sensitive to chemicals so you should watch out for anything that could be too strong for them to take.
However, a general-purpose fertilizer that you dilute with some water can do just fine. You can also opt for some other weak green plant liquid solution or even a slow-release fertilizer.
Of course, there are some differences in the way that you should apply these different types of fertilizers, but it’s nothing complicated.
But before we get into that, you should know that the timing is everything.
Active growth period
The only time that you should fertilize your ficus tree is during the active growth period.
As I mentioned before in this article, the active growth period is during the warmer part of the year, mainly through spring and summer, but can last anywhere from even the beginning of spring until the beginning of autumn.
You’ll notice that your plant is experiencing growth when you see the new branches and leaves start to pop out, and this would be the sign that you can start fertilizing the plant so that all of those new growing parts can get the right amount of supplements.
However, just like with lighting, there are a couple of differences in fertilization depending on what types of a ficus tree you got, but it’s not that challenging.
Let’s start with the ficus benjamina, or the weeping fig.
This plant doesn’t need too much fertilizer. You can fertilize it once a month with a diluted general-purpose fertilizer, or you can even add a slow-release fertilizer at the beginning of the active growth period and leave it to work.
On the other side, the fiddle leaf fig and the rubber plant have similar needs when it comes to fertilization.
If you opt for a general-purpose fertilizer diluted in some water, you can fertilize your plants once a month, just like with the weeping fig.
Whereas, if you choose to use the weak green plant liquid solution you can even do it up to every two weeks.
So, to summarize, fertilizing your plant depends on the type of fertilizer that you want to use, and the amount differs from plant to plant depending on its type and size.
I always suggest reading the instructions carefully and not giving this plant too much, because it is so sensitive after all.
Ficus Plant Pruning
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned how the ficus tree can grow tall in the wild, but how easily manipulated it can be to reach reasonable heights indoors.
In addition to the constraints given by the amount of space that this plant has to grow, pruning is also an important step in caring for ficus plant indoors.
Actually, we can say that it’s crucial.
Pruning is used to manipulate the ficus tree, or any other plant, into growing the way that you want it to grow, but it’s also used to keep the plant itself healthy.
You need to cut away some parts of the plant so that enough sunlight can reach the center and help the ficus tree grow.
The ficus tree is surprisingly easy to prune no matter the type that you chose. The steps are simple, and I’m here to teach you all about it.
Timing is important
In this case, unlike with fertilizing and watering, you don’t want to prune your plant during the period of the year when it’s actively growing.
The best time to get some small shears into your hands and get to gardening is immediately before and after that active growth period.
If you want to do it before that would be in the late winter or early spring, and if you want to do it after do it when the summer ends.
There’s no universal rule and you don’t have to do it both of those times. Every plant is different and you’re the one who knows your plant the best. You’ll notice when it needs pruning.
This is especially important during the year. If you notice that some part of the plant has to get cut, cut it.
Dry or unhealthy leaves should be get rid of before they affect the rest of the perfectly healthy plant.
The same thing goes for the top of the ficus tree.
If you notice that your indoor ficus plant is getting too tall get those shears and cut the top off, no matter what time of the year it is.
Now that we learned all about the right timing, let’s get into more detail on how exactly to cut the branches and leaves of the ficus tree that need to grow.
The right tools
The process is simple, but you’ll need the right tools.
Firstly, you’ll need some small pruning shears. Make sure that your tools are sharp and sterile so that you don’t hurt the plant with some foreign matter brought on the dull shears.
Another important tool that you need to use, for your good, is some thick rubber gloves.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned how the ficus plant is toxic or even poisonous to cats, dogs, and even horses.
This is because the ficus tree produces the sap underneath its bark, and getting in touch with this product of nature probably isn’t going to make you feel very good.
The sap will irritate your skin, so you have to wear gloves.
However, if you’re in a hurry or something like that, and you just need to cut off a leaf or two, you can do it without the gloves, just make sure to wash your hands immediately afterward and not to touch your face or your eyes in the meantime. Or your animals!
Time for cutting
Take your shears and start by removing any branches that have leaves that started turning yellow or brown.
Also, you can cut off branches just for the sake of the aesthetic.
Make sure to cut these parts off at an angle and also to leave some of the branches intact to encourage the new one’s production.
Never remove more than 1/3 of the plant’s leaves and branches!
Remember that the ficus tree is extremely sensitive, and even the pruning can get it to start losing leaves.
Also, cutting away more than that is considered bad for any plant in general because it’s a great shock for the system.
The last step to pruning is washing your shears and getting rid of the sap and to make sure that they’re clean for the next time that you want to use them.
Of course, pruning is the best part where I can again bring up the fact that the ficus tree is often used for making bonsai trees, specifically because it’s so easy to manipulate.
One of the most used ficus plant types in this art is the ficus benjamina, or the weeping fig.
Making a bonsai tree is done by pruning the plant since its first days but also pruning the roots. That way the artist gets a plant that seems like a miniature version of a full-sized tree.
However, even though pruning is the easiest part, the art of bonsai isn’t something that you can easily try unless you have a lot of patience and around 15 years to wait for the results of your work.
On the other hand, you can use pruning if you want to manipulate your tree into appearing more bushy and full, and you can do that by cutting it back from time to time.
Ficus Plant Propagation
I already mentioned that if you’re wondering about how to grow a ficus tree by using its seeds you’re up for more trouble than it’s worth.
Firstly, getting the seeds for any types of the ficus tree is almost impossible, unless you live in an area where it grows naturally.
Secondly, even if you already have the plant and you keep it indoors and still somehow manage to get it to produce fruit, chances are that those seeds won’t be fertile enough to grow into the plant at all.
That is why reproduction by the use of propagation is the best method that you can use.
All three of the types listed in this article (the weeping fig, the fiddle leaf fig, and the rubber plant) can be multiplied by using either one of the two: propagation by cutting and by air layering.
However, the fiddle leaf fig and the rubber plant are more difficult to master, but it’s not impossible.
Once again, the summer and the period of active growth are the best time for propagation because the chances of the plant’s growth are better.
Let’s start with propagation by cuttings.
1. Propagation by Cuttings
This is the most popular method, probably because it’s the easiest one and you’ll only need some basic tools for it.
You’ll need those small gardening shears, some rooting hormone, a pot with well-draining soil in it, and a lot of patience.
And if you don’t have patience, maybe choose some of the fastest-growing herbs instead.
The first step is finding the right branch for this venture.
The one that you want to pick should be fresh and flexible. This means that the branch is new and that it will continue growing when you put it in the soil.
Don’t opt for a branch that’s already stiff and woody, because there will probably be no new growth from it.
Now, cut off 4 to 5 inches of the branch with the growing tip and remove the leaves from the bottom 2 inches.
Next, dip the bottom part in some rooting hormone and then put it in the pot that has soil in it up to the first leaf.
The next step is to wait and be patient. The usual rule is that a cutting made from trees takes a longer time to grow than a cutting made from plants such as herbs, so this could take a bit longer.
Do all the things to your cuttings that you would do to a regular-sized plant.
Put the pot somewhere where it can get a lot of bright but indirect sunlight, water it weekly and check if the soil is dry, and keep it away from any cold drafts.
Consider this venture a success if you notice new growth starting to appear at the top of the cutting.
2. Propagation by Air Layering
Another type of propagation that you can do if you’re wondering how to grow ficus tree is propagation by air layering.
This type of propagation is more difficult, but you’ll still need all the same items that you needed for propagation by cuttings, along with some sphagnum moss and a plastic bag.
In this case, you’re supposed to choose a stiff and woody branch. It should be about 12 inches long, and it should have a thickness of about ¼ of an inch.
However, this branch should still have a part where there are some growing leaf buds, as that is where the new roots will come from.
The first step that you need to take is to scrape the leaf buds that are approximately in the middle of the middle part of the branch off along with the bark surrounding them.
Next, take that rooting hormone and rub it all over the part that you scraped of and cover it with some wet sphagnum moss.
Now get that plastic bag or a foil and wrap the moss and the branch up together so that everything stays in place.
Again, we wait.
This is a process that will take around 1 to 2 months so that you can see the product of your work, and then you can cut off the branch below the plastic, and carefully remove the plastic and the moss and finally plant your new ficus tree.
Again, take care of it the same way that you would take care of the grown tree, and you’ll have a new ficus tree to either keep or gift to your friends in no time.
Repotting a Ficus
Repotting is one of the important parts of an indoor tress life, and it’s what helps it grow.
In other words, giving your plant a bigger room to expand will lead to expansion.
The first thing that you should know is that repotting should always be done during the active growth period.
Well, it’s preferred to repot it as less as possible due to its sensitivity, but the rule is usually to repot the younger plants every year, while the mature plants can get repotted every couple of years or so.
The truth is that, just like with pruning, the potting and repotting can help you maintain and manipulate your ficus tree into growing.
If you want your plant to grow bigger, get a bigger pot.
Of course, you would still have to change the soil from time to time, even if you decide to keep your ficus small, so you can get away from repotting.
If you want your plant to expand you should check the roots first.
If it seems like they’re taking up around ¾ of the soil, your plant needs repotting.
The new pot shouldn’t be too big for the plant, and it would be best if it isn’t more than two inches wider.
Now just take your time and carefully repot the plant from one pot to the other, remove any rotten roots with some shears, and start taking care of it as you always did.
Most importantly always be gentle when repotting your ficus tree and try to disturb it as less as possible.
Your ficus tree might still start dropping some leaves no matter how hard you tried to be gentle, but that will pass soon.
Your plant is repotted and you’re good to go!
Ficus Plant Problems and Solutions
There a couple of problems that your ficus tree can have, but most of them are easily fixable if you notice them early enough.
1. Ficus Tree Leaves Turn Yellow and Start Dropping
Now, as I mentioned before, a ficus tree could start dropping leaves whenever it experienced some sort of stress, so before you grab the watering can you should check for some other signs before coming to the wrong conclusion.
If the leaves seem dry and crisp to the touch your ficus indoor tree probably needs watering.
Next, check the roots. If the roots and the soil around them are dry it’s a sign of underwatering.
No worries, this is an easy fix. You just got to take better care of the plant and give it water whenever you notice that it’s needed.
b) Low humidity in the room
If the air in your area is dry during the summer, or if you use artificial heating to heat the place during the winter, it’s likely going to get affect your ficus tree.
The best solution for this is to get a humidifier for the room.
c) Low lighting
If you’re ficus plant is reacting this way it could be because it’s not getting enough sunlight.
The best spot for your plant gets enough bright but indirect light both in summer and winter.
Too much stress
A ficus tree is an extremely sensitive plant and almost anything can disrupt its growth.
If you don’t notice any of the signs that the above-mentioned problems have, and if you recently moved the plant or repotted it, there’s nothing to worry about.
Your plant will adjust soon.
2. Ficus Tree Leaves Turning Brown
If you notice that the leaves of your ficus tree are turning brown it’s most likely a watering problem.
Everything is going to be fine if you notice it early enough.
Overwatering and how to save a rotting plant
Just like with underwatering, the first sign is in the leaves. Besides getting brown spots, they could even turn yellow and fall off.
Check the roots. If you notice that the roots are soggy, rotten, and brown, and the soil is wet, the problem is overwatering.
Saving an overwatered plant isn’t impossible, but it isn’t easy.
The first step that you have to take is pruning all the leaves and branches that are sick. Next, lay the tree down so that you can access the roots and remove any rotten ones.
After that, repot the plant and get rid of as much old soil as possible, get some root rot formula to add to the soil, and wait for the soil to dry before the next time you water it.
Your ficus tree is most likely to get some pest at one point in its life, especially if it’s overwatered and moist.
These pests usually aren’t that dangerous, as they are the usual household pests, and there’s a simple solution for them.
Whether it’s the mealy bugs, the spider mites, or the thrips, you can get rid of them by using some simple items, like insecticidal soap and water.
The first step is to get some soap and mix it with water, put it in a spray bottle and cover your ficus tree completely.
Make sure to cover every part of the plant, especially the bottom of the leaves, so that you aren’t left with some pests hiding where you were too lazy to get to.
The insecticidal soap should work when it comes to simple household pests, but if it doesn’t or if you don’t want to use chemicals on your plants, you can use some natural neem oil or some other essential oil.
If there are too many pests you might need to get rid of the plant.
1. Why does my ficus tree keep dropping leaves?
A ficus tree could be dropping leaves for several reasons, but there’s an easy solution to all the possible problems if you notice them early enough.
It could be dropping its leaves because of the lighting, humidity, watering, repotting, moving, and even some small changes in the environment.
All in all, it’s a sensitive plant.
2. Will my ficus produce fruits?
It’s very unlikely that the ficus tree will produce fruit if it’s kept inside and if it isn’t in the right environment, but it’s possible.
3. Is the ficus toxic?
The sap from this tree can irritate the skin, and it’s toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.
Other than that, the weeping fig is bad for people with allergies.
4. What are the benefits of keeping a ficus tree in my home?
Besides its ornamental value, it should be noted that the weeping fig, or the ficus benjamina, is great for purifying the air from formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene.
This is what makes this plant more than just a pretty tree to look at, and you know that owning this will help you turn your living environment into a healthy and fresh spot for everyone.