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Ficus — A Tree For The Indoors

The ficus tree is a mainstay of many interior landscapes, especially those in malls and larger public buildings where they are often positioned under skylights to ensure they receive enough sunlight. They can be used in houses where there is space to accommodate them. Ficus (fig) trees like bright light and when grown indoors will appreciate receiving around six hours of sunlight per day, so in the wintertime a fig tree can be placed in front of a sunny window. In the summertime, however, in this location the foliage would burn.

The fig tree is just that – a tree – and it is native to the tropical and semi-tropical regions of the world where it grows in jungle conditions. Therefore, it likes high humidity and a constant source of water. It is also adverse to changing temperatures and will often not perform well as a potted houseplant if it is placed near a door or vent where it is exposed to drafts.

The lush green foliage (there are variegated varieties) of the fig tree is its main attraction and this foliage must be kept clean. Although it is a tedious job, wiping the leaves individually with a damp cloth will remove dust, but putting the pot into the shower will accomplish the same thing although that is a rather messy approach. The plant should be watered when the top few centimetres of soil feel dry, which will occur more often during the active growing season than during the winter when growth slows dramatically. Fertilizer should be used only when the plant is in active growth.

Ficus trees have vigorous root growth and will need to be repotted every two years. Pot up to a larger pot which is at least five cm in diameter larger than the existing pot, and use a porous, peat-based soilless mix and provide good drainage. Fig trees like high humidity and so during the winter, at least, use of a pebble tray will benefit the plant. Just ensure that the pebbles hold the bottom of the pot above the water so that good drainage still occurs.

When purchasing a fig tree, look for a sturdy trunk with no signs of damage, rich green foliage which is free from damage and exhibits no signs of the presence of insects, and moist soil which indicates the plant has not been allowed to dry out. One of the first signs of stress of a ficus tree is the dropping of leaves. The plants are somewhat temperamental, particularly when conditions or location changes, and the plant may react by dropping up to a quarter of its leaves.

To minimize leaf drop of a newly acquired tree, give it good light, water carefully, make sure it doesn’t get chilled, and try to provide high humidity by misting the plant for the first couple of weeks. If the leaves yellow before they drop, this is a sign that the plant has been overwatered and you may have to adjust the watering regimen. A ficus tree will need to be pruned to keep it from outgrowing its location; this is best done in the spring when new growth is beginning.

Besides a single specimen tree, ficus trees lend themselves to being used in a couple of different way. They are ideal candidates for bonsai, also, when fig trees are small their trunks are very pliable and sometimes three or four tree trunks are braided and the trees are planted in a clump as one tree so the “trunk” then is composed of the several individual trunks braided together. As the trees grow, further braiding is required. These trees will need to be pruned judiciously to make them conform to the shape desired.

– Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba

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Iftheleavesyellow beforetheydrop,this isasignthattheplant hasbeenoverwatered.

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