Let’s celebrate the genus Ficus! It contains some 850 species, including the yummy figs we love to eat and a few of the most popular indoor trees in the houseplant hobby. Most houseplant enthusiasts have probably owned one or several types of Ficus tree at some point.
Looking for some indoor tree inspiration? Let’s go into 6 of the most popular types of Ficus tree and some of their care basics.
Fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata)
If you’re looking for a larger plant to fill up a sizeable space in your home that’s lacking greenery, chances are you’ll stumble upon Ficus lyrata, also known as the fiddle leaf fig. This tropical species from the fig family can be a little fussy, but has been one of the plants to own for quite a while now regardless of that.
Because fiddle leaf figs naturally occur in tropical rainforests in West Africa, yours can have a little trouble adjusting to your home. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get this plant to thrive, though: you just have to make sure you imitate its natural habitat (and if it’s struggling, there’s always the list of common fiddle leaf problems and diagnoses).
Place your fiddle leaf fig in an area that receives bright light. Outdoor sun can be a bit harsh on this one, but indoors, it’ll probably enjoy some direct rays. The more humid, the better, so consider your kitchen or bathroom. Spots that contain many plants grouped together can also be helpful in terms of maintaining humidity, as will running a humidifier.
|Soil type||Light & airy|
Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)
If you’d like to grow a tree from the Ficus genus but are intimidated by the fiddle leaf’s care requirements, no worries. There are plenty of other types of Ficus tree, most of them not overly fussy. Also known as weeping fig, the Southeast Asian Ficus benjamina is another example of a staple in the houseplant hobby. It’s definitely one of the more common houseplants for public spaces.
Ficus benjamina’s abundant small leaves really add a great pop of green to your home, and as a bonus, it’s quite easy to care for as well. The species is a popular choice for bonsai-type growing, so try your hand at that if you’re worried your benjamina will grow too large for your home.
To keep Ficus benjamina healthy, provide bright indirect light. Soil and pot should be well-draining to avoid standing water, and it’s especially important to keep the plant’s environment stable. It won’t appreciate sudden changes in light levels, moisture or humidity. In fact, a benjamina might punish you rather dramatically with significant leaf loss if you dare to move it. Don’t worry, though: those lost leaves will grow right back if you care for it well.
Another very popular member of the Ficus genus, the rubber fig’s irresistibly shiny and large foliage has made it a favorite among indoor gardeners. The species has been selectively cultivated into multiple different leaf colors, with variegation that can appear in cream, (like Ficus ‘Tineke), pink (like Ficus ‘Ruby) or very dark green foliage with a reddish tint (like Ficus ‘Burgundy’).
In its natural Southeast Asian habitat (and many other tropical regions in the world where it’s grown in parks and gardens), the rubber fig can attain immense sizes. Heights of 30 meters and up have been recorded, with the plant growing a massively wide trunk and abundant aerial roots. In the home, these common houseplants can also grow quite large, although you generally won’t have to worry about it taking over.
As with the other members of this genus, provide indirect but bright light and try to keep the humidity up. Find more information about growing Ficus elastica in the full rubber fig care guide or buy a rubber fig online.
Did you know? Some refer to Ficus elastica as rubber tree, not rubber fig. However, this might lead to confusing with the ‘real’ rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis. This is the actual plant used to produce natural rubber.
If you’ve ever seen a photo of a banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) growing outdoors, you might wonder how in the world you’re expected to fit it into your house. No worries. When grown indoors, they don’t get quite as mind-bogglingly large as they do in their homeland of India, where they are considered the sacred national tree.
The variety of Ficus benghalensis that’s usually grown indoors is a cultivar named Ficus benghalensis ‘Audrey’ or just Ficus ‘Audrey’. In the home, your ‘Audrey’ will appreciate bright indirect light, although a little bit of direct sun shouldn’t be a problem. The soil should be kept lightly moist.
Ficus ‘Audrey’ seems to have been gaining popularity, maybe because it’s quite a bit more forgiving than the fiddle leaf fig. It still drops leaves when upset, but it’s not as finicky about its watering needs.
Ginseng bonsai (Ficus retusa & Ficus microcarpa)
Most types of bonsai trees are a bit too complicated in terms of care for the casual houseplant enthusiast. There’s a nice exception, though: many types of Ficus tree do quite well as easy bonsai. The most common is the Ginseng bonsai, which is a common name slapped on mini versions of both Ficus retusa and its similar cousin Ficus microcarpa.
It can be a bit challenging to find out what kind of Ficus bonsai you’re dealing with, but at least it doesn’t matter much for their care. They like a nice sunny spot and to be kept lightly moist.
You can let your Ginseng bonsai grow free and do its thing, repotting to a bigger planter as it goes. This does mean forfeiting its bonsai look. If you’d like to maintain it small, you’ll have to prune it regularly. You should also prune the root ball every few years and then pot the plant back into its normal container.
You can buy a Ficus bonsai online.
Long leaf fig (Ficus maclellandii & Ficus binnendijkii)
Let’s finish off with a sorely underappreciated Ficus gem. Or rather, two of them, which are very difficult to tell apart for the untrained eye. Known as long leaf figs or narrow leaf figs, Ficus maclellandii & Ficus binnendijkii look quite different from the other plant on this list with their skinny leaf shape.
Unlike the other species discussed, the long leaf Ficus can truly be considered a low-maintenance houseplant. I have no idea why it isn’t more common! It doesn’t have the same tendency to drop its leaves and it can do with slightly less light (although bright indirect is still the best option).
Keep your long leaf Ficus lightly moist in summer and let it dry out a bit more during the winter months.
Did you know? Ficus maclellandii is often sold as Ficus ‘Alii’. It can have either a tree-like appearance (bare stem but bushy on top) or be lush all over.
If you have any more questions about these 6 types of Ficus tree, want to suggest another species or would like to share your own experience, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! 🌿