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Ficus proves itself a versatile and tough houseplant. You’ll find a form to suit your needs among growth habits ranging from creeping vine to giant tree. Its glossy leaves grow in a variety of colors and patterns. And even though this cousin of the edible fig is a tropical plant, it survives in a wide variety of conditions.
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Many Sizes, Shapes
The 850 species span a wide range of looks. Leaves grow dark burgundy on the rubber plant, diamond-shape on the weeping fig, small-as-a-pinky-nail on some creeping varieties, and as large as a football on others.
Ficus Care Must-Knows
Needs vary among the varieties, but generally ficus prefer well-drained, fertile soil kept consistently moist. Although it can tolerate an occasional missed watering, allowing them to dry out regularly stresses the plant.
When it comes to lighting, ficus plants can be somewhat tricky and needy. Ficus require high levels of light, especially for the best color display. But there are varieties of ficus that tolerate medium to low-light conditions. In low-light conditions, ficus tend to be sparser and can have poorer branching habits. They also tend to be much slower growing in part sun. In less-than-ideal light or if moved to a new spot, ficus can drop a large amount of leaves. Though alarming, the plant recovers once it adapts to new conditions.
In the right conditions, ficus grow fast. If you've got a large kind, this can become troublesome because it can quickly outgrow its space. Regular pruning prevents this and promotes good branching. However, there is a limit to the amount of pruning larger species of ficus tolerate. For woody types, starting a new plant by air layering is the best option.
Air layering consists of scarring or removing some of the bark and dusting the wound with rooting hormone. Wrap it in moist sphagnum moss and dark plastic to keep it moist, humid, and out of the light. In 2 to 3 months roots will emerge. As these roots develop, keep the moss moist, and check every few weeks for root growth. Once roots begin to grow in the sphagnum, cut the stem below the new root and plant.