With more than 800 species available, ficus trees are one of the most popular decorative trees grown indoors. However, they are also rather sensitive plants, so get tips on how to care for them properly and help them thrive.
Basic Ficus Tree Info
Ficus trees are part of a classification of woody fig trees that exist naturally in tropical or temperate climates. Their lush, richly-colored foliage, along with the fact that they are easily trained into desirable shapes, makes them one of the most common indoor tree varieties for both novice and experienced house plant enthusiasts. The weeping (Ficus benjamina) in particular is one of the most popular species.
Caring for ficus trees requires constant vigilance because these plants can be very sensitive to environmental conditions and changes. Properly cared for, they will easily flourish and can provide years of beauty to complement any home décor.
Care Tips for Your Ficus
Caring for any houseplant starts long before the plant takes up residence in a kitchen, office or den. From properly choosing the best plant to understanding why a ficus tree loses leaves, these tips can help keep your plant healthy and vibrant.
Choosing a Ficus
Ficus trees are very temperamental and can become stressed from simple actions such as being moved from one room to another, so it is essential to choose a healthy specimen from the nursery before taking it home and immersing it in a completely new setting.
When choosing a ficus, look for the following characteristics.
- The tree should have a straight, sturdy trunk free from scars or warping.
- A ficus should also have rich green leaves with no signs of browning or yellowing, and no rips or tears.
- The soil should be moist, which indicates a well-watered plant.
- There should be no bugs in the leaves or soil.
- There should be no signs of recent leaf loss that would indicate plant stress.
Ficus trees have vigorous root growth and may easily become pot bound. Replanting the tree is easy, and should be done every one to two years depending on its growth. Choose a pot at least two inches wider in diameter than the previous pot to ensure plenty of space for the tree to grow. For many trees, this will need to be done soon after they have been purchased as they are moved to a new home.
The single most important key to your ficus' ongoing health is where you place the plant.
- The tree should be placed in a location that receives some bright sunlight during the day, but it should not be in full sun all day long.
- The optimum temperature range is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Do not position the plant next to heaters, vents or windows that can create widely varied temperatures.
Watering and Humidity
Since ficus trees are native to more humid climates, they require careful watering and humidity control for the best growth.
- The soil should be kept moist but not wet.
- Place a saucer under the pot to provide extra drainage which will help prevent root rot.
- The tree should be watered after the top inch or two of soil has dried.
- Mist the tree gently once or twice daily, particularly while it is young or if it is adjusting to a new location. This can help it maintain its humidity.
- In extremely dry homes, adding a room humidifier can help adjust the humidity level to match the ficus tree's needs.
Leaf loss is typically the first sign of stress a ficus tree exhibits, but proper care can help minimize any problems. It is not uncommon for a tree to lose one-quarter of its leaves even after a simple environmental change such as switching rooms, but proper watering and temperature regulation can help mitigate additional stress. If the leaves turn yellow just prior to dropping off, it is a sign of over-watering, while dull leaves may indicate a lack of essential nutrients.
Your ficus will need to be fed regularly to keep it healthy.
- Use a guaranteed analysis 10-10-10 slow release fertilizer.
- Apply it at half the strength of the average recommended dosage to reduce the chance of burning your plant.
- Apply it once a month during active growth, which is typically from spring through fall.
Ficus trees are seasonal plants and have different growing cycles for different times of the year.
- During spring and summer, the trees grow quicker and require more water, fertilizer and sunlight to stay healthy.
- When nighttime outdoor temperatures remain above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, these trees may be placed outdoors for the summer in a bright, sunny area where they can take advantage of natural humidity and rainwater.
- In late autumn and winter, as the days grow colder, the growth slows down. Less water and fertilizer are required during cooler seasons.
Additional Ficus Care Advice
For the healthiest, most beautiful ficus trees, remember these additional tips:
- Prune and shape the trees in early spring just as the growing season begins.
- Ficus trees can be groomed into bonsai if desired, using both buried and exposed root designs.
- Wipe dust off the tree's leaves regularly to keep the pores clear so they can absorb humidity more easily.
- Do not use wax-based cleaners on the leaves because it clogs the pores.
Your Care Pays Off
Don't shy away from bringing home a ficus tree just because the plant is a bit temperamental. Following these care tips will keep your tree healthy and vibrant throughout the year, and bring a bit of the outdoors into any room you choose.