How to Care for Indoor Ficus Tree

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One of the first spaces people decorate with plants is the living room. A few living room plants can add life and warmth to your home, help purify the air, and of course give you something attractive and fun to look at.

One of the most popular living room plants for decades has been the graceful ficus or fig tree, with its glossy leaves and light gray trunk. It’s tall for a houseplant, but well-suited to a large pot or container where it will definitely attract the eye.

There are more than 800 species of ficus plants, including fruiting fig trees, shrubs, vines, and more. Only a few are used as houseplants. The most popular of these are Ficus benjamina, though Ficus lyrata and Ficus elastica are also quite popular.

Though they typically grow to at most 10 feet tall indoors, in the wild, certain species can reach heights of 50 feet tall or more! Sometimes the trunks of Ficus benjamina trees are twisted or braided or trained as a bonsai.

“If you give [a ficus] what it needs, it’s the closest you come to having a tree indoors,” says Barbara Pleasant, author of The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual. “With the right care, a ficus tree can live for about 20 years.”

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Here’s everything you need to know to care for a ficus tree, plus everything else you need to know about this popular (but somewhat finicky!) houseplant.

Ficus Tree Plant Highlights

  • Botanical Names: Ficus benjamina
  • Plant Family: Moraceae
  • Common Names: Benjamin Fig, Chinese Banyan, Indian Rubber Plant, Weeping Fig, Fig, Small-leaved Rubber Plant
  • Type of Plant: perennial
  • Native Origin: Asia and Australia
  • Sun Exposure: full sun to partial shade
  • Preferred Soil Type: well-drained and airy
  • Fertilizing Period: April to September
  • Maturity Size: 40-50 ft tall and 25-30 ft wide outdoors / 2-10 ft tall and 3 ft wide indoors
  • Flower Color: White and Yellow (outdoor plants bloom in spring/Indoor plants do not bloom)
  • Related Varieties: Ficus Pumila (Creeping Fig), Ficus Microcarpa (Green Island Ficus), Ficus Lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig), Ficus Alii (Banana Leaf Fig), Ficus Elastica (Rubber Tree Plant), Ficus Benghalensis (Ficus Audrey)
  • Hardiness Zones: 10-12 (USDA)
  • Helpful Tidbits: They are sensitive to environmental changes related drafty air conditions, poor sunlight exposure, over or under watering. Avoid moving the plant once you identify a spot where it thrives.

How much light does my ficus tree need?

As a tropical plant, a ficus tree, also called “weeping fig,” needs lots of bright indirect light. Place it near your brightest windows, typically south- or west-facing, or give it supplemental light with a grow light. (These are our favorite grow lights.) Once it’s situated, leave it be. It’s a little fussy and doesn’t respond well to changes. Ficus trees will sulk by dropping leaves anytime light levels or temperatures change. It also drops leaves seasonally, so be prepared with a good dustpan.

How do I care for a ficus tree?

Typically, a new ficus will come in a black plastic pot with drain holes. Simply place it into a pretty, decorative clay planter. The plant shouldn’t need repotting for several years.

watering green flower pot in garden at bright sunny summer day from watering can small ficus benjamina bush in white pot under water drops at sunlightpinterest

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To water your ficus, simply give it a good soaking and let it dry out before watering again. If you overwater, the leaves will turn yellow and drop. If you underwater, the green leaves will begin to drop. A way to judge whether it’s time to water is to tip the pot and feel its weight; if it’s really light, it’s probably time to give it a drink, says Pleasant. You’ll get the hang of it after a few weeks. After watering, always dump out any water that gathers in the tray beneath the pot; no plant likes soggy feet.

To feed your ficus tree give it a liquid all-purpose fertilizer during its growing season from April to September. (Here’s what the three main numbers on fertilizer mean.)

According to the ASCPA the sticky sap may irritate tummies, so keep this plant away from curious pets who like to nibble on houseplants. Occasionally, dust or spray its leaves with a damp cloth or a gentle spray from the shower head.

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Can I take my ficus plant outdoors in summer?

You can, but it’s not the best idea, says Pleasant. For starters, it will likely drop leaves, being the diva that it is! It also can cook in hot sun, so you would need to find a shady spot.

Finally, you’ll have to bring it indoors before the night temperatures drop into the 50s in the fall. Take it aside, and spray it with neem oil about a week before you bring it in to kill any hitchhikers such as aphids, scale, mealy bugs, or spider mites, that potentially could infest your other indoor plants.

Also, expect it to drop leaves again when it comes inside until it readjusts to the light levels indoors.

Does the ficus tree have any particular problems?

Keep an eye out for an infestation of scale insects. These insects have a waxy exterior appearance, and you might see them attached to leaf surfaces.

Read more: How to Get Rid of Indoor Houseplant Bugs

There’s also a sticky substance called honeydew, which you’ll find on your table or floor, that’s excreted by the scale when feeding. Try controlling a minor infestation by using a soft cloth dipped in warm, soapy water to wipe these insects away, says Pleasant. If that’s too much work, treat it with an insecticidal soap or neem oil. Retreat in 10 days.

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Chris is the Senior Food & Garden Editor at Country Living, where he covers all things edible or growable. He has two kids and lives in Birmingham, AL.

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Arricca Elin SanSone has written about health and lifestyle topics for Prevention, Country Living, Woman’s Day, and more. She’s passionate about gardening, baking, reading, and spending time with the people and dogs she loves.

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