Fig trees are a type of fruit-bearing tree that is commonly grown for its sweet and nutritious fruit. While fig trees are often referred to as “fig trees,” they are actually a species of ficus known as Ficus carica. In fact, there are over 800 species of ficus, including both trees and shrubs, many of which are commonly grown as houseplants. Understanding the relationship between fig trees and the ficus genus can help gardeners make informed decisions about plant selection and care.
What Is a Ficus
A ficus belongs to a large genus of plants that includes around 850 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, epiphytes, and hemiepiphytes, all within the Moraceae family. Often known as fig trees or figs, these plants are native primarily to tropical areas and are distributed throughout the world’s tropics, with a few species extending into semi-warm temperate zones[source].
Types of Ficus
There is an extensive range of ficus species, each with distinct characteristics. Some well-known types include:
- Ficus carica: Commonly known as the common fig, this small tree species produces the edible fig fruit and is native to the Mediterranean region and western and southern Asia[source].
- Ficus benjamina: Also called the weeping fig or Benjamin fig, this species is a popular houseplant due to its graceful drooping branches and attractive glossy leaves[source].
- Ficus elastica: Commonly referred to as the rubber fig or rubber tree, this species produces a milky latex substance that was once used to make rubber[source].
Ficus plants display several common traits, such as simple, smooth-edged leaves. However, they can also exhibit considerable variety depending on the species. In their native habitats, these plants frequently serve as landscape trees, displaying features like hanging and buttressed roots as well as grand, lush crowns[source].
Many ficus species exhibit a fascinating relationship with pollinating insects called fig wasps. These wasps enter the unique, enclosed flowers of the ficus plant, depositing pollen and laying their eggs. In turn, this pollination allows the plant to produce seeds and fruit, ensuring the survival of both the wasps and the ficus species[source].
While some ficus plants, like the common fig, produce edible fruits, others do not. Despite these differences, all ficus plants share a standing as important ecological contributors, playing key roles in their ecosystems as food sources for various animals and helping to maintain biodiversity[source].
Fig Trees as Ficus
Fig trees and ficus trees belong to the same plant family, Moraceae. There exist several types of fig trees, which are encompassed within the Ficus genus. Three notable types of fig trees include the common fig tree, banyan fig tree, and weeping fig tree.
Common Fig Tree
The common fig tree, or Ficus carica, is a species native to the Mediterranean region and parts of western and southern Asia (Wikipedia). This tree is widely cultivated worldwide for its edible fruit, known as figs, and for its ornamental value. The common fig tree is the primary species that produces figs, while most other species in the Ficus genus produce latex instead of fruit (The Spruce).
Banyan Fig Tree
Banyan fig trees are another type of Ficus species. They are characterized by their unique aerial roots that grow into thick, woody trunks to support their expansive growth. Popular as ornamental plants due to their distinctive appearance, banyan fig trees are often found in tropical and subtropical climates.
Weeping Fig Tree
The weeping fig tree, or Ficus benjamina, is a popular houseplant known for its simple, smooth-edged leaves (Gardening Know How). Though it is a member of the Ficus genus alongside fig fruit trees, the weeping fig tree does not produce edible fruit. The weeping fig tree’s foliage and aesthetic appeal make it a popular choice for indoor and outdoor gardening.
Caring for Ficus Plants
Ficus plants, also known as fig trees, are popular houseplants known for their lush foliage and flexible care requirements. In this section, we will discuss the essential care elements for keeping your ficus plant healthy and vibrant.
Ficus plants thrive in bright, indirect light, and should be placed near a window that receives ample natural light. Avoid placing your ficus in direct sunlight, as this can scorch the leaves and cause them to drop. During the winter months, it is recommended to provide supplemental light, such as a grow light, to maintain healthy growth (Gardening Know How).
Water your ficus plant only when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other harmful issues(HGTV). To maintain ideal humidity for your ficus, consider misting the leaves regularly, preferably every day(The Spruce).
Ficus plants are fast growers and require adequate nutrients to thrive. Fertilize your ficus once a month during the spring and summer seasons, and once every two months in the fall and winter(Gardening Know How).
Pruning and Maintenance
To maintain the desired shape and size of your ficus plant, regular pruning is necessary. Remove dead, damaged, or crowded branches to encourage healthy growth. Additionally, wipe the leaves with a damp cloth monthly to remove dust and improve photosynthesis(HGTV).
By following these care tips, your ficus plant can flourish and become a beautiful addition to your indoor or outdoor living space.
Common Ficus Diseases and Pests
Ficus trees, which include the popular fig tree, often face various diseases and pests that can affect their growth and overall health. One common issue affecting ficus trees is Alternaria rot, a fungal disease caused by Alternaria spp., Cladosporium herbarum, and Ulocladium altum. These fungi overwinter in plant debris and can lead to symptoms such as small, olive-green specks or sunken yellow-olive lesions covered in green spores on fruit, and water-soaked areas on fruit surfaces where figs touch Plant Village.
Another common issue in ficus trees is leaf drop, which is typically caused by a change in temperature. This is the most frequently encountered problem among ficus tree owners Dengarden. Moreover, ficus trees are also affected by various pests, like beetles, which can spoil the fruit and make them more attractive to other pests. Fig trees can also become infected with Aspergillus niger, a fungal disease affecting ripening fruit Gardening Know How.
Ficus trees can also be prone to foliage plant diseases due to living organisms such as fungi, bacteria, and foliar nematodes. These diseases generally begin during production and can be unfavorable for the tree’s growth Penn State Extension. In addition, fig tree roots and fruit can also attract various animal pests like birds, gophers, rabbits, and squirrels. Root knot nematodes can be a limitation for fig trees planted in sandy soils, but are usually not a problem in fertile or loamy soils University of Florida.
Preventing these diseases and pests often requires proper care and maintenance of the ficus tree. Regularly monitoring the tree for signs of distress can help ensure its healthy growth and development.
My name is Daniel Elrod, and I have been houseplant love ever since I was 17. I love how much joy they bring to any room in the home. I’ve always been amazed at how a few pots of flowing leaves can turn a drab and sterile office into an inviting place where people love to work at.