The many varieties of ficus are most often grown as houseplants. They thrive with minimum care and live many years, making them a suitable low-maintenance plant in many homes. Watering them properly ensures that they will continue to grow and remain healthy. Most ficus varieties share the same watering needs, though the creeping fig variety is one notable exception.
When to Water
Most ficus tolerate some drying between watering, as long as the soil doesn't dry out completely around the root ball inside the planter. Allowing the surface of the soil to just begin to dry out is best, but avoid letting it dry out more than an inch deep. Stick your finger into the soil 1 inch, and if it feels dry, it is time to water.
The creeping fig ficus is an exception. These plants do not tolerate any dryness in the soil. Water creeping fig as soon as the soil surface begins to dry but while it is still moist if you stick your finger into it.
How to Water
Water so the soil is evenly moist throughout the planter, ensuring that there is enough water in the bottom of the planter where the roots are. Water the plants from the top until the water starts dripping from the bottom drainage holes on the planter. Empty the drip tray under the planter 5 to 10 minutes after watering to prevent disease-causing organisms from growing in the standing water.
Use room-temperature or slightly warm tap water when watering the ficus. Cold or hot water may shock the roots and cause damage to them. When fertilizing, mix a liquid feed with equal parts water. The water aids the roots in quickly accessing the fertilizer nutrients and prevents damage from fertilizer burn. Ficus only require fertilization once monthly while they are actively growing.
Leaf loss is a common problem in ficus that are improperly watered. Overly wet soil leads to browning leaves that then fall off. The roots are drowning in the too-moist soil which leads to this leaf death. Check for overly moist soil by sticking your finger in the soil. While it should feel moist, if large clumps of the soil stick to your finger, the plant needs to dry out further before the next watering.
Leaf drop combined with dry yellow or brown leaves is caused by too little water. Do not allow the soil to begin cracking or to pull away from the side of the pot before watering.