Fig Trees can fill lofty heights indoorsMany times, when we enter shopping malls or indoor office buildings with bright skylights and windows, we encounter indoor plants of various sizes. Sometimes it is the typical vining pathos plant mixed with scheffleras (Umbrella trees), hibiscus, sansevierias (mother-in-law’s tongue), and spider plants, among many other selections.
By: By John Zvirovski, The Jamestown Sun
Many times, when we enter shopping malls or indoor office buildings with bright skylights and windows, we encounter indoor plants of various sizes. Sometimes it is the typical vining pathos plant mixed with scheffleras (Umbrella trees), hibiscus, sansevierias (mother-in-law’s tongue), and spider plants, among many other selections. To give some height to some of the spaces, we often see a variety of fig trees that range in height from 6 to 20 feet tall. These green indoor spaces add a great deal of character to the settings and offer a place of solace and relaxation.
Many of these plants can be grown in the home with the proper conditions. Some of the trees require a large amount of space to reach their lofty heights, but some of these trees can be grown in our own homes with some minor pruning to keep them to the size we desire. Of the most common of the trees, the ficus is the one that entails the fig trees. Most of us are familiar with the weeping fig, the fiddle leaf fig and the laurel leaf fig trees, as they tend to thrive in many of our indoor spaces. They do not require direct light, but they do require a bright location to grow well.
The fiddle leaf fig is probably the least known of the three, as it is not grown often in our homes. it creates large leaves in the shape of a fiddle, which are narrow at the base and broad near the end. The leaves are a deep green and have a leathery feel. These trees require a bright location and some patience in growing. Once they are established, they can grow 2-3 feet a year. If they reach the ceiling, simply lop off the top portion and allow the tree to branch. The branching structure of this variety is a bit sparse over most other types and largely spaced from one branch to another. Typically I suggest this tree for those who have bright rooms with cathedral ceilings or in an atrium that has good height. The bark is a deep brown and has a flaky texture to it as it ages. With its large leaves, this selection can create a very dramatic effect in an indoor garden setting.
The laurel leaf fig has long narrow leaves that are about 4-6 inches long to about 1 inch wide. The branching structure is finer with numerous thin branches that are created as the tree grows. This tree also likes a space that has bright indirect sunlight and plenty of room to spread its crown. As the crown of the tree develops and thickens, interior branches may die out due to the shade created by the outer canopy. These twigs and small branches can be pruned out to clean up the interior look of the tree.
The most common of the grown fig trees is the weeping fig. This has numerous deep green oval leaves that taper to a point. They are about two inches long by an inch wide. Their bark and structure is similar to that of the laurel leaf fig with its great dense form and silvery, smooth bark. It can be grown as a short specimen of three feet to a large tree of 15 feet given the space requirements. In some cases, people have used these to create the art of bonsai to stunt them in shallow pots and grow them to a height of 12 to 20 inches in height. Bonsai trees take a great deal of patience and knowledge to succeed in a healthy product. We will discuss this art in a future article, so keep reading.
As with all figs, they prefer a well-drained soil that never becomes waterlogged. Heavy, wet soils will cause root rot and the demise of the tree. Water the plant only when the soil has become dry for a period of a few days. Water them less in the winter months when they tend to grow a bit slower.
All figs are sensitive to cold drafts, so keep them away from leaking windows and doorways that may allow cold winter air indoors while opening and closing. This temperature change will cause the tree to loose many leaves and in some cases kill the plant.
Fig trees are also touchy with their locations. Once you have found the ideal spot for your tree, try not to move it to another location if at all possible. A three foot move of the plant can cause it to drop its leaves due to a change in conditions. This typically will not kill the plant, but it will cause leaves to fall and take time for new ones to form. Many times this drop occurs because the light conditions change. With the new light conditions, it produces a new set of leaves to accommodate for the change.
There are very few insects that will affect this plant, but one of the most difficult ones to get rid of is the hard-shelled scale. These are usually green or dark brown in color and rest on the underside of the leaves and along the thin stems. They feed on the sap of the plant and will cause defoliation. If not stopped when first discovered, it can decimate a plant within 6 to 12 months. The reason they are so tough to kill is because any sprayed insecticide does not reach their underside. The best way to eradicate them is from the inside out. Systemic insecticides like powders or granules added to the soil will enter the root system and flow into the stems, branches and leaves. As the pests take in this poisoned sap, they will slowly decline in numbers and cease to be a further problem. The other route is to pick them all off the plant by hand, which can take hours! If you have a great deal of time on your hands, this may be the option you choose.
As with all houseplants, different varieties require various amounts of space. If you have the room, some of the indoor tree selections can offer you a focal point and soften the interior look. Most of these varieties do not require large containers unless they become lofty, so judge accordingly for your environment.
Fig trees can be quite resilient in most circumstances and are a great fit for many of our indoor spaces. Give a small one a try if you are concerned about the space that you currently have available and prune it routinely to keep it within the constraints of the spaces within your own home. It may be just what you are looking for to add a new dimension.