13 Types of Indoor-Friendly Ficus Trees
Thinking of adding a Ficus tree to your indoor garden but aren't sure where to start? There are a number of species of Ficus tree that can thrive indoors with proper care. In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton shares her favorites, with names and pictures of each!
There are a few plant genera that have become famous in the houseplant community, featuring several popular species well-known to indoor gardeners. One of the best-known for tree lovers has to be the Ficus or Fig, featuring several tropical plants great for growing indoors.
Whether you’re looking for a classic Fiddle Leaf Fig or a more unique cultivar, these are a few of my favorites for growing indoors. Each plant offers something a little bit different for the indoor gardener, depending on your aesthetic goals.
Keep in mind that all of the following plants are toxic to pets. So, be extra careful if you have any furry friends in your home.
Any houseplant enthusiast discussing ficus trees to grow will likely start with the most famous of them all – Ficus lyrata. Commonly known as the Fiddle Leaf Fig, this tree exploded in popularity a few years ago. It continues to be loved by indoor gardeners and interior designers.
Ficus lyrata is named after the uniquely shaped leaves that grow larger than most other Ficus species. This makes it ideal for foliage lovers. They can grow to ceiling height after a few years indoors as long as they are growing in the right conditions. These trees are great for filling empty corners. They do well in sunny rooms where they will branch and continue to produce leaves.
Unfortunately, although they are easy to find, Fiddle Leaf Figs are not as easy to grow as they may seem. They don’t appreciate changes in the environment and often drop leaves if they are unhappy. Provide plenty of bright indirect light and keep humidity and temperature consistent throughout the year for the most robust possible growth.
You may know this Ficus species by the common names Rubber Tree or Rubber Fig. This is the first Ficus I ever purchased, and it quickly became one of my favorite houseplants overall. The glossy leaves emerge strong and upright, adding a sense of structure compared to the softer-formed Fiddle Leaf Fig.
As I live in a tropical climate, many of my neighbors have a Ficus elastica in their gardens. Here, they often reach an impressive 40 feet or more in height, becoming almost unrecognizable. Indoors, where their size is limited by the size of the container and the height of your ceiling, their growth is much more manageable.
My best advice for growing these trees is to give them a bit more sun than you think they need. Ficus elastica can handle direct sun well as long as they are introduced to it slowly. That, along with pruning to encourage new growth and branching, will limit any potential stretching and leaf drop.
Ficus elastica ‘Abidjan’
‘Abidjan’ is a popular cultivar of Ficus elastica, also known as the Burgundy Rubber Tree. The main attraction of this cultivar is the color of the leaves, starting out a deep glossy green and fading to a deep burgundy, almost black color. If you’re looking for something more dramatic for your interiors, this is the one!
The Burgundy Rubber Tree has a unique look and color that is tough to find in the houseplant world. The dark color is great for muted, modern or minimalist interiors and looks even more impressive when paired with a stark white ceramic pot.
Bright light is key to growing this cultivar successfully. Low light will limit growth and the development of new leaves. The color will also be most intense when given bright indirect light for most of the day and a few hours of gentle morning sun.
Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’
The’ Tineke’ cultivar is probably a better fit if you prefer a pop of color over deep and dark leaves. This Rubber Tree sports variegated leaves with patches of dark green, light green, and creamy yellow. The undersides of the leaves also have a slight pink hue, most prominent on newly emerging leaves.
As the leaves are variegated, they are slightly more sensitive to scorching than other types. While they do need bright light to thrive, too much intense direct sun will lead to brown patches on the foliage. If you want to give them some direct sun, slowly introduce them to gentle direct sunlight over a week or two to prevent damage to the foliage.
A plant as striking as this needs an equally striking container. I’ve added a pastel pink decorative pot cover to mine to bring out the pink tones, but any bright color will complement this unique plant well. Ensure you repot regularly to give the roots enough space to expand, increasing height over time.
Ficus benjamina seems to have faded in popularity over time. It used to be one of the top Ficus picks, especially a few decades ago, but has now been taken over by the Fiddle Leaf and Rubber Tree. However, if you’re a Ficus lover looking for a taller plant to grow indoors, this is the plant for you.
Rather than the large leaves of the previous species discussed, Ficus benjamina (commonly known as the Weeping Fig) has many small leaves in an eye-catching bright green. The leaves are glossy and have a gentle ruffle to them that almost shimmers as the wind blows.
This Ficus species is widely considered easy to care for. I have had trouble keeping them alive indoors and often find mine dropping leaves, but that’s down to my forgetful watering more than their ease of care. Look for varieties with braided stems for an added decorative touch.
Ficus benjamina ‘Starlight’
As is the case with many popular houseplants, the variegated version is usually more sought-after than the original. ‘Starlight’ is a variegated cultivar of Ficus benjamina, often labeled simply as Ficus Starlight.
There is no doubt that the most captivating feature of this plant is the leaves. A combination of creamy white and green, the light edges contrast wonderfully with the darker centers. If they get enough sunlight, some leaves may emerge almost completely variegated, with only a small patch of green in the middle.
As the leaves are variegated and lack chlorophyll in some places, this cultivar grows slightly slower than the original species. If you want them to grow to their full potential, give them plenty of bright indirect light throughout the day and water as soon as the top half of the pot’s soil has completely dried out.
Ficus benjamina ‘Danielle’
‘Danielle’ is another popular Ficus benjamina cultivar. However, departing from the previous one’s bright and colorful leaves, this cultivar is grown for its deep green leaves that differ from the almost neon of the original species.
The leaves certainly aren’t as dark as some other Ficus cultivars, but they are darker than usual, helping them stand out from other options. They emerge a vibrant green and slowly develop a deeper hue as they age. Ficus Danielle can be tougher to find as it is not as common as some of the other options on the list, so make sure you snatch one up if you see it.
Like the famous Fiddle Leaf Fig, this species is prone to dropping its leaves when environmental conditions change. Luckily, they have a lot more leaves to drop, but it’s still important to keep temperature and humidity consistent throughout the year. They don’t look as impressive when they are sparse.
Plenty of confusion surrounds this unique Ficus with narrow, hanging foliage. Commonly referred to as the Banana Leaf Fig, you may see similar plants labeled F. binnendijkii or even F. longifolia. Confusion aside, the drooping leaves on these large trees make a wonderful statement, well worth growing indoors.
Of all the Ficus species on this list, I believe Ficus maclellandii has the most tropical look. When pruned and cared for correctly, they branch well, producing dense leaf growth in a large cover that is uncommon in indoor plants. If you’re looking for a large tree to fill a space, Ficus maclellandii is your answer.
Native to India, China, and parts of Southeast Asia, these trees love warmth and plenty of humidity. This will keep them looking their best, preventing potential leaf drop. Water consistently and keep them away from harsh direct sun to avoid scorching the leaves.
Ficus maclellandii ‘Alii’
‘Alii’ is a cultivar of Ficus maclellandii that has become so widespread that it’s likely more commonly sold and grown than the original species. This tree holds a special place in my collection as the largest tree in my home, taking up plenty of space with many branches. I even used it as my Christmas Tree replacement last year, hanging a few ornaments on the spreading branches.
Despite its towering size, this tree appears wonderfully delicate, softening harsh interiors and adding a touch of nature. While they can be pruned and shaped to remain compact, I allowed the branches of my Banana Leaf Fig to spread naturally, creating a wilder look fitting of an indoor jungle.
Care of this Ficus doesn’t differ much from others. I’ve found they can even survive on a little less water than the other Ficus species I own. Watch out for pest issues like spider mites, as these problems can be tough to detect in such large trees.
When I first spotted one of these Ficuses at my local nursery, I thought they looked like a very strange kind of Rubber Tree. On closer inspection, you’ll notice that they’re actually a completely different species known as Ficus altissima. The shape of the leaves is similar, but they have a unique texture and overall structure that makes them easier to tell apart.
Ficus altissima is less common than other species and can be tough to find, especially in its original form. I have seen the cultivar ‘Yellow Gem’ (discussed next) several times but don’t really come across the original Ficus altissima as much.
Nevertheless, if you can get your hands on one, I think they make a great addition to any Ficus collection.
Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’
‘Yellow Gem’ is a variegated Ficus altissima cultivar developed for indoor gardeners who love bright colors. With a similar variegation pattern to Ficus elastica ‘Tineke,’ the leaves feature patches of bright green and yellow with a wonderful sheen.
The leaves are quite large and stand upright to show off their stunning color. This brightness is especially helpful in the cooler fall and winter months, uplifting indoor spaces when it’s chilly and gloomy outside.
Yellow Gem is also a tough plant, tolerating some neglect well. Keep it in a bright area and clean the leaves often to help them maintain their sheen. To grow more of them, trim a section of new growth off and plant into a soilless mix to propagate.
Ficus microcarpa has several common names, including Chinese banyan, Indian laurel fig, and curtain fig. This species is so tough that it is often grown in cities in warmer regions worldwide to provide shade. Some areas have even declared them invasive due to their vigorous and aggressive root systems.
Luckily, you don’t need to worry about invasive issues when growing in a pot indoors. In fact, Chinese banyan is quite common in bonsai, trimmed and controlled to keep the branches and leaves small. The rounded shape of the foliage suits this look and makes an ideal starter bonsai tree for beginners.
Ficus microcarpa has similar needs to other Ficus species, making it great for growing as a houseplant. If you go the bonsai route, extra care and regular maintenance must be followed to keep it healthy and looking its best.
You may know the final entry on this list as Ficus Audrey, the name common among houseplant owners. Grown outdoors, the most common nickname is the Banyan Fig, native to Asia and well-known around the world.
When I first spotted this plant for sale, I snatched it up instantly. There is something so unique about the rounded leaves and gray-green trunk that sets it apart from the other Ficuses. I’ve also found this species the easiest to grow of all and haven’t had a single problem in the two years I have owned one.
Whether you’re looking for a large houseplant to fill an empty space or would like to expand your Ficus collection, these 13 species are bound to deliver what you need. If given the proper growing conditions, each cultivar we’ve discussed here will flourish in just about any indoor environment.