How to Grow a Ficus Nitida

The Ficus nitida is actually short for its complete scientific name which is Ficus microcarpa “Nitida”. As you can see, it is a variant of the Ficus microcarpa.

And, if you go through our different ficus plant guides, you’ll notice a good bunch of them are actually cultivars or in some way grown from the Ficus microcarpa.

This is probably also the reason why many other figs (ficus plants) are often confused with and referred to as a Ficus microcarpa.

The reason I mention this is that you always want to double check the plant you’re getting. I’ve seen at least a few online stores and quite a few nurseries label other ficus varieties as microcarpa.

That said, the Ficus nitida is a beautiful foliage plant that can grow into a large tree.

So, you do need to decide what you want to do with it fairly early. And, grow it according to how big you want it to get.

Like other ficus plants, it is its lovely form and beautiful leaves that make the Ficus nitida shine.

It comes with dark green oval-shaped foliage that have a glossy look to them. As it grows, the leaves become dense and full.

This look, along with its easy care and ability to thrive in indoor conditions makes it perfect for homes and offices that need an accent piece.

Ficus Nitida Plant Care

Ficus Nitida Light

Ficus nitida thrives in bright, indirect light. But, like all houseplants, be aware of two things:

  • It grows much bigger outdoors compared to indoors.
  • It will need more light indoors compared to outdoors

As such, you’ll notice that the plant will become a full-fledged tree outdoors. Indoors, it will be a large houseplant that’re more manageable in size.

Similarly, to do well in your home, it will need bright, indirect light. But, outside, it does best in bright shade.

And because the plant is susceptible to drafts, you want to keep it somewhere it is protected from the wind as well.

This is why it makes a great patio plant. Similarly, keeping it somewhere where it gets shade from direct sunlight and strong winds will help it grow at its best.

This is worth keeping in mind as the plant appreciates the chance to go out during the summer.

But it is also worth noting that some growers slowly acclimate the plant to sunny areas. Over time, these Ficus nitida are able to live under direct sunlight. But, it takes time and effort to get them there.

As such, without the proper acclimation, it is important to keep them away from long periods of direct sun. This is true whether they are indoors or outdoors.

Since the plant has solid green leaves, it can tolerated medium light as well without any problems. Do note that you’ll also find a variegated version of the plant.

If you have that one (it has yellow variegations on the edges), it will need more light than the solid green leaved one.

The two final tips to remember are:

  • The plant grows towards the light. So, rotate it once in a while so all sides get even amounts of light. This will keep it growing upright as opposed to bending to one side or another.
  • Cleaning its leaves regularly goes a long way it helping it accumulate as much light indoors. This is because dust will collect on its foliage over time.

 

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Ficus Nitida Temperature

Since your Ficus nitida is native to tropical climates, it enjoys warm temperatures. In general, it can take a wide range from as low as 60 degrees to 90 degrees.

But, its sweet spot is around 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit where its comfortable and not overly hot.

While the plant can tolerate heat more than cold, it does not like extremely hot or sunny conditions. So, do avoid 95 degree temperatures.

That said, you want to be very careful with the cold. In its native environment, it never experiences frost or snow. So, it cannot take freezing weather.

This means once the mercury goes under 60 degrees, it will experiences stress. If you leave it in 55 degree weather or lower, it will sustain damage. The lower the temperature, the faster it will deteriorate.

It is hardy to USDA zones 9 to 11. So, you can keep it outdoors here all year round. This means you can grow in it your yard or in a container.

But, be aware, in the ground, it has the potential to grow to between 30 and 60+ feet high with a huge spread. This makes it ideal only for large backyards.

As such, most growers keep it in containers which helps control its growth.

In fact, I was actually surprised to see one that was miniature size. They owner was able to limit its size by using a small container and pruning often. She also adjusted feeding and watering.

Since the plant is a fast grower, this is a viable solution for many homes.

 

Ficus Nitida Humidity

In addition to warm conditions, your Ficus nitida also enjoys high humidity. Here, it will grow at its best.

While it can tolerate some household humidity, it won’t necessarily be happy with all households.

As such, it is important to see how your plant reacts to your home’s conditions.

Picking up a digital hygrometer really helps here as it will let you monitor humidity levels and compare it to how the plant grows. In doing so, you can easily adjust.

If you find that your home’s humidity is not high enough, you can mist it in combination with placing it on a pebble tray. One or the other may be enough to work. Otherwise, use both.

 

Watering

Your Ficus nitida can tolerate dryness for fairly long periods. But, for optimum growth, you don’t want to let its roots go dry. This means not letting the soil (root ball) go completely dry.

In its growing season, it will appreciate regular watering. Keeping the soil moist during this time will help it grow quickly. That’s because it will be drinking a lot to sustain its growth.

But, be careful not to overwater it.

Too much water or watering too often is its number one enemy. So, avoid at all costs.

You want to wait until the topsoil is dry to the touch.

Ideally, to prevent overwatering, you want to wait until the top 2 inches of soil is dry before watering. So, testing this by sticking your finger into the soil before watering is very important.

You want to do this every time before you want to water. If soil, mud or dirt sticks to your finger, wait a few more days.

The soil that’s left in your finger should be dry and feel like bits. Think of fine, dry ground coffee or powdered milk just falling bit by bit from your hand. If you feel that, it means the soil is dry.

And, it is time to water.

Don’t worry about being late. Since the plant can tolerate drought leaving it a couple of days more does no harm.

As long as the soil is dry between the 2 inch depth to before it hits 50% of the soil (root ball), you’re good. You water any time between that and it will be happy.

In the winter, allow the soil to dry out a little bit more.

When you do water, make sure to do so thoroughly. Then allow excess moisture to drain out completely.

You can add a layer of mulch during the warm months to help retain a bit more moisture.

 

Ficus Nitida Soil

Ficus nitida enjoys well-draining soil. This is the most important feature to consider when choosing soil for this plant.

Of course, there will be a big difference between growing it in a container compared to your garden. Here’s why.

  • Potting soil, is not soil at all. Most mixes are soil-less. So, there’s no soil. The ingredients are designed to mimic soil without the nutrients. This lets the manufacturer or you (if DIY mix recipe) to control its features depending on what your plant needs. As such, you’ll need to fertilize the plant or use compost.
  • Garden soil is container nutrients. But, it also comes with your home. So, in most cases, you don’t get to choose if it is loamy, sandy, clay or somewhere in between. Instead, you work with what you have and amend it according to what your plants need. Just as importantly, garden soil can contain pests and diseases. In contrast potting mixes are sterilized, this is why most houseplant owners use them.

Since your Ficus nitida may be grown indoors or outdoors (in containers or in the soil), the kind of soil you use will vary.

That said, ideally, you want rich (high in organic matter) and well-draining soil.

Indoors or in containers, you can use either:

  • Regular potting soil with perlite or sand
  • Peat moss, perlite or sand

Always make sure there is at least one drainage hole at the bottom. Avoid heavy potting soil that will compact and retain too much moisture. The end result will be waterlogging which can eventually lead to root rot.

Your Ficus nitida also enjoys mildly acidic soil with pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Avoid overly acidic soil which will negatively affect its growth.

As such, you want to avoid rose or azalea potting mixes even if they fit most of the requirements. Their low pH will make the mix too acidic for your ficus’ liking.

 

Fertilizing

Again, how much you feed your Ficus nitida will vary depending on the kind of soil it lives in.

If it lives in sandy or poor soil, it will need supplementation. Because you can’t control what soil your home is built on (to a large degree), you want to apply a 10-10-10 (balanced) fertilizer once a month during its growing season. Make sure dilute to half the recommended label strength.

If your soil is loamy or rich in organic matter, you won’t need to feed the plant at all. Do monitor it initially to see how it responds.

The Ficus nitida is a fast grower, so if it grows slowly or produces smaller foliage, it means it will need some help. But, add slowly as it likely won’t need a lot.

When it comes to the type of fertilizer, you can use either liquid or slow release. Both work.

But, you need to adjust the frequency depending on which type your use because they work very differently.

If you’re growing the plant in a container, you’ll need to feed it once a month with general purpose fertilizer because potting mixes don’t have any nutrients. The only exception is if you use compost.

As always, don’t feed a sick, stressed or shocked plant.

 

Pruning Ficus Nitida

Because your Ficus nitida will grown quite a bit, how much you prune will depend on how much you want to limit its size and spread.

This is more likely to be the case indoors than outside.

Besides this, trim any leggy stems or those that are long and bare. You’ll also want to remove any dead or discolored foliage.

Other than that, there isn’t a lot of pruning to be done.

 

Ficus Nitida Propagation

Stem cutting is the easiest way to propagate your Ficus nitida. The good news is, it is fairly simple to do.

Here’s how:

  • Take a 4 to 6 inch stem cuttings. Make sure to have at least 2 or 3 leaf nodes for each cutting.
  • Alternatively, you can take off one long branch and cut it up to several cuttings. This will let you plant multiple new plant if you want to sell them or fill a blank spot in your yard.
  • Mix the potting soil. You can use peat moss and perlite or sand.
  • Fill 6×6 inch containers. You can use the small plastic ones for convenience.
  • Dip each stem cutting into rooting hormone.
  • Then, insert the end with the rooting hormone into the pot with soil. Do this for all the pots if you have more than one.
  • Get a plastic bag. You’ll be covering the plants to increase humidity which will help it grow iinitially.
  • If you made many pots, you can take one of those big transparent plastic bags. Then, open it up on the ground and place all the small containers with the plant in it.
  • Then tie up the plastic bag.
  • Leave the plant with the bag, or the plastic bag with many plants in a spot with bright indirect light.
  • In about 3 to 4 weeks, they should develop roots.
  • You can check one of them by pulling it out of the container (which is why I live the small plastic ones). If you look at the bottom of the root ball, you should see while roots growing. That means it is rooting.
  • By 6 to 8 weeks, the roots will be developed. And, you can move it to a bigger pot without fear of damaging them.

 

Ficus Nitida Transplanting & Repotting

You’ll only need to repot your Ficus nitida once it has outgrown its container.

The most telling sign of this is to look under the pot at the drainage hole/s. If there are roots coming out of the holes, it is time to move to a larger pot.

If not, you can wait a bit more.

When choosing a container, you want to focus on 2 things:

  • Maximum 2 inches wider in diameter. Nothing more.
  • It has a drainage hole at the bottom.

You want to avoid overly large pots because it will contain too much soil relative to the plant.

So, when you water, there will be way to much water for the roots. And, it will take longer for the moisture to dry up. As a result, you unintentionally overwater your plant each time.

Of course, if you plant it in the ground, there won’t be any need to repot it. But, you do want to make sure you dig a big enough hole for the plant. Ideally, something 3x the size of the root ball.

Also, keep the tree away from colorful flowers and lovely foliage plants. These plants will easily lose out when it comes to competing for nutrients and water vs. the Ficus nitida extensive root system.

As a result, they’ll become lackluster in size and color.

 

Toxicity

According to the ASPCA, the Ficus nitida is toxic to cats, dogs and horses. As such, keep it away from your pets since it can cause gastrointestinal and skin irritation.

It is likewise a good idea to keep it out of reach of young children who may want to play wit it.

 

Pests and Diseases

Your Ficus nitida will be susceptible to aphids and thrips. Bugs may also come around.

Since you’ll be cleaning its leaves every now and then, it is a good idea to inspect them for these critters or the damage the inflict during that time.

Treatment is via neem oil or insecticidal soap spray.

Similarly, overwatering is another problem. But, you can prevent it by not overwatering.

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