by Chris Winslow
With over 850 species of plants throughout the tropical and sub-
tropical world, the family of plants known as 'figs' forms one of the
most useful groups of plants in the world. Among them is the
fiddle leaf fig.
Chances are when you hear the word fig, you think of the edible
fruit varieties that are planted outside. But this family of plants
also provides gardeners and plant lovers with many choices of
tropical plants that are suitable for indoor use.
With their growth habits from the tropical rain-forest, they have
adapted well to the lower light levels required as indoor plants.
One of my favorites is the fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata). The large
leaves are broad at the apex and narrow in the middle, and resem-
ble the shape of a fiddle. Recently this plant has had a high profile
in Southern Living and Better Homes and Gardens magazines as
a top choice for indoor gardens. You might say that the fiddle
leaf fig is trending now.
Another popular one is Ficus benjamina, also known as the weep-
ing fig. Benjamina is a stately tree with weeping, shiny leaves and
it will flourish in a bright place in your household. It also has a
variegated (green and white leaf) cultivar called Starlite which is
also very striking.
Another fig that's easy to grow in indoor light is Ficus elastica, or
rubber plant. Its beautiful broad leaves come in an array of colors.
There's a green leaf form, two varieties of variegation, one with
added red tones, and a black leafed form.
The ground cover fig (Ficus repens) is another form that is pop-
ular in central Texas landscapes. Quite winter hardy, this clinging
ground cover is often used for covering walls and fences. It does
best if you plant it with eastern exposure and some protection from
the hot afternoon sun.
All of these are suitable as house plants. Be sure to set yourself up
for success by choosing a premium container potting soil with
great drainage. Best choices are the soil-less mixes with a blend
of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite.
A bright light indoor location is also best. Plants should be kept
moist but not soggy. Allow the potting media to just dry out bet-
ween watering. Water a bit more in these warmer months and a
little less during the short days of winter.
Another benefit of indoor plants is that they help to purify the air
in our houses. One website claims that indoor figs can detoxify air
that has formaldehyde. That would have been a great use for those
toxic Katrina trailers. Happy gardening everyone!