Ficus Care Tips: Keeping it alive through the winter

A friend gave me this large ficus tree. Let’s see if I can keep it alive this winter!

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Feel the fear and do it anyway. Friends, I like to think of myself as being pretty good with plants. What’s probably more true is that I’ve selected house plants that are pretty good with me. I’ve tried to grow a ficus tree before. I got it on special at a big box garden center. It didn’t do so well. Leaves turned yellow and dropped. I read things that said this was normal but I just couldn’t hang on. It ended up being compost.

This week a friend passed along a hurricane Michael refugee – his mature ficus tree with a braided trunk. It’s beautiful and in good health as you can see in the photo. It was outside for the summer. The winds of the hurricane toppled it and broke the terracotta pot it was in. They decided it was time for it to find a new home.

Last night I found a new pot for it and got it all settled in its new home. I’ll leave it outside on the deck until the weather really turns cool. Then I’ll bring it in and get it close to a sunny window.

Please, please, please let me not kill this tree! (this is the fear part)

Here are some things I’ve learned about caring for a ficus in my recent research:

Light and Soil

Use a well draining potting mix. Use a deep pot with drainage holes so the water can run out. Place the ficus near a window in a room that gets bright light in the summer with more moderate light in the winter. Turn the plant occasionally so all the growth does not occur on one side. The previous own of this tree takes it outside during the summer. They protect it from full sun until it’s acclimated a bit.

Watering

Water weekly during the summer with room-temperature water. Add water until it drains from the bottom of the pot. Discard the excess water if it flows into a container. Allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings. If the leaves turn yellow and begin to drop, you may need to increase or decrease the amount of water. Check the root ball. If the roots are soggy water the plant less often. If they are dry, increase watering. Humidity and light levels affect the amount of water needed.

I used to live in Tel Aviv and ficus trees are common street trees there. They have small fruit which is pollinated by one species of wasp. Check out this (long) article about the symbiotic relationship between tree and wasp.

Get your own ficus here.