Ficus is Latin for “fig tree,” which makes sense given common that fig trees are in the Ficus genus. These plants include 800-1000 species of woody trees, shrubs, and vines . Many are grown as houseplants or outdoors. They come in many shapes and sizes and are native to tropical regions, but some species extend into subtropical areas.
The Many Wonderful Features of Ficus
Species of Ficus vary from tall, forest-filling trees to trendy, ornamental plants.
Indoors, they are statement-making potted trees, often with gorgeous green leaves. Most are easy to care for, reaching between 5′-10′ feet tall indoors. Since they lack a pollinator, the many types of indoor Ficus trees never fruit or flower. Outdoors, most Ficus will flower and develop fig-like fruits.
Some types of ficus plants have broad, flat leaves. Others bare drooping branches and small, ovular foliage. A few larger species have unique aerial roots that hang down from the treetops and anchor into the soil. The most popular is the Banyan tree.
If you happen to live in a tropical region, your Ficus might grow outdoors in direct sunlight. Most species are semi drought-resistant and easy to grow.
Make sure you have space, though; some species can grow to well over 50′ feet tall.
Ficus Benjamina – Weeping Fig
The Ficus Benjamina is known as the common Weeping Fig. It’s a popular potted plant with long drooping branches and slender, glossy leaves. Though it prefers bright light, it will adjust to shady spots. If you move Benjamina around, expect leaves to drop. Don’t worry. It will grow new ones better equipped to handle the amount of light in its new location.
Rubber Tree Plant: Ficus Elastica
Ficus Elastica is the common Rubber Tree Plant. These plants have large, stiff leaves, usually dark green. There are some variegated rubber tree varieties. Interior designers refer to this plant as heavy because of its glossy, leather-like foliage. So it tends to look best in open spaces.
There are a variety of uses indoors. Outdoors these plants grow very tall (upwards of 100′ feet tall) and often drop aerial roots. They look gorgeous in big, open spaces, like public parks.
Ficus Robusta is also referred to as a Rubber Tree Plant, or sometimes an Indian Rubber Tree. It looks like Ficus Elastica. The leaves on Robusta are broader and stiffer than Ficus Elastica and stand more upright.
Ficus Decora also goes by the common name Rubber Tree Plant. It is a close cousin to Ficus Elastica and Ficus Robusta. As its name suggests, the Ficus Decora is a favorite for home decor. Its leaves are bigger and broader than Ficus Robusta and have a reddish central vein.
Ficus Burgundy – Burgundy Rubber Plant
Another close relative of the Ficus Elastica is the Ficus Burgundy or the Burgundy Rubber Plant. It’s also sometimes referred to as Abidjan. This species has conspicuous dark red foliage stands upright. It does well indoors, especially when kept in a warm and sunny location. The leaves turn almost purple under lower light conditions.
Green Island Ficus – Ficus Microcarpa
Ficus Microcarpa goes by the common name Green Island Ficus, is a climbing shrub. It has small, round leaves that darken from yellow-green to emerald as they mature. This one is low-maintenance, adaptable, and ideal for landscaping projects. It’s often used to create hedges outdoors and requires no pruning. Indoors it looks like a small, potted shrub or bonsai and is considered very easy to grow.
Ficus Pumila – Creeping Fig
It’s small, green, and ovular leaves darken in color as they mature. Some varieties feature variegated leaves, with olive-green centers that fade to ivory edges. It makes a beautiful houseplant, too, especially when kept in hanging pots. This allows its vine-like tendrils to dip over the sides.
Ficus Alii – Banana Leaf Fig – Ficus Maclellandii
The most common cultivar of the Ficus Maclellandi is Ficus Alii or Banana Leaf Fig. It has long, slender, banana-like leaves that are olive to dark green. Ficus Alii does well in dry environments
It’s a favorite amongst house plant enthusiasts because of its attractive look. Dense foliage hangs from drooping branches. Trunks are often spiraled or even braided. Banana leaf figs do well outdoors, too, when placed in a warm and sunny location. Even there, though, they usually only grow to about twelve feet.
Ficus Pandurata – Ficus Lyrata – Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
With large, deep-veined, violin-shaped leaves, the Ficus Pandurata or Fiddle Leaf Fig is a popular choice for home decor. It has bright green foliage and can grow up to ten feet tall.
It prefers warm, humid environments, and in most locations, will do best indoors. Though it may be the most trendy houseplant on the list, the Fiddle Leaf Fig also has a finicky reputation. It likes filtered sunlight and can’t handle cold drafts. At the same time, it struggles if placed too close to indoor heat vents or in too much direct sun.