Ficus is known for its glossy foliage that brightens the home throughout the year. From the Indian rubber plant to the weeping fig, ficus encompasses over 800 species of trees and shrubs. These tropical plants originated in Southeast Asia and thrive inside the home under typical household conditions, making them a common plant in both homes and offices. Although individual species vary in their needs, there are some general rules for their care.
Things You'll Need
All-purpose plant food
Pruning shears or sharp knife
Place ficus in an area that receives full sun to bright filtered light. Although direct sunlight is preferred by some ficus, many thrive in areas that receive filtered light or even indirect light from a northern window. Observe the recommendations for your specific species and adjust the light exposure when necessary. Slow growth, small leaves and general lack of vigor may indicate a lack of light. Try moving the plant to a brighter area.
Water ficus thoroughly until water runs freely through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Discard excess water and allow the soil to dry before watering again. A few days of dry soil is recommended for all but the creeping fig, which should be watered as soon as the soil feels dry 1 inch below the surface.
Fertilize ficus with all-purpose plant food diluted to 1/2 strength during periods of active growth. An application of fertilizer every three to four weeks from early spring until fall provides the nutrients the ficus needs to thrive. Withhold fertilizer during winter when growth slows and resume in the spring when a flush of new growth appears.
Prune ficus to maintain its overall shape and to control growth. Cut stems just above a leaf node or where new branches form along the stem. Not only does this help control the height of the plant, it forces new growth along the branches and creates dense, compact foliage.
Groom ficus frequently by dusting the leaves with a soft, damp cloth to prevent the buildup of dust and dirt. Remove any dead or dying leaves regularly, and clean away any plant debris in the pot. Occasional yellowed or dead leaves are a natural part of growth and should not be a concern.
Turn the plant pot 1/4 turn once a week to encourage even growth. Plants left sitting in the same location tend to produce abundant foliage on the side that faces the sun. Turning them helps the ficus develop into a well-balanced plant with lush foliage on all sides.
- University of Minnesota Extension; Rubber Trees, Weeping Figs and Other Friendly Ficus; Deborah Brown; June 2001
- University of Illinois Extension; Ficus; Jennifer Schultz Nelson; March 2007
- Cornell Cooperative Extension; Care and Selection of Ficus; Cynthia D. Mitchell; August 1993
- University of Illinois: Houseplant Care