From succulent plants to herbs to living room plants or bathroom plants, indoor plants make every home feel more warm and welcoming. A houseplant that’s reigned as one of the most popular for decades is the graceful ficus tree, with its glossy leaves and light gray trunk. It grows to about 10 feet tall indoors; in the wild, it can reach heights of 60 feet tall! Sometimes the trunks of ficus trees are twisted or braided or trained as a bonsai. “If you give it 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.”
Here’s how to care for a ficus tree, plus everything else you need to know about this popular (but somewhat finicky!) houseplant.
How much light does my ficus tree need?
As a tropical plant, a ficus tree, also called "weeping fig," need 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. 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 it’s a little on the messy side.
How do I care for a ficus tree?
Typically, your ficus will come in a black plastic pot with drain holes. Just drop that into a pretty, decorative pot, because the plant won’t need repotting for several years. Then give your ficus a good soaking, and let it dry out slightly. Over time, if you overwater, the leaves will turn yellow and drop. If you underwater, the green leaves will 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 water that sits in the tray beneath the pot because no plant likes soggy feet.
Feed your ficus tree with a liquid all-purpose fertilizer during its growing season from April to September. 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.
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’t cook in hot sun, so you 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. 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 has too much work, treat an insecticidal soap or neem oil. Retreat in 10 days.
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