Growing Green Island Ficus Indoors & Outdoors

Green Island Ficus

The Green Island Ficus (Ficus microcarpa ‘Green Island’) is a cultivar of the Ficus microcarpa. It is a slow growing plant that will grow to over 20 feet high and produce a huge canopy.

While that makes it great for creating some shade in your yard, many growers take advantage of its looks to turn it into a bonsai tree. Although, you won’t see as many green island ficus bonsais as you would the F. retusa or Ginseng Ficus, both of which rank among the most popular figs that are used for indoor bonsais.

That said, this plant gives you the option to grow it the way you want. Here are a few popular choices:

  • Hedges in your garden
  • Ground cover
  • Houseplant
  • Container plant outdoors
  • Bonsai tree

Thanks to the plant’s dense foliage that’s made up of lots of small round leaves, it lends itself to many different forms.

Green Island Ficus Plant Care

Green Island Ficus Light

The green island ficus can be grown indoors and outdoors. More importantly, how and where you grow it affect its size and lighting requirements.

In its native environment, the tree will grow to over 20 feet tall with a huge canopy. This makes it a great shade tree.

However, this is not the case here in the U.S. since the varieties that are sold are much smaller. So, most of them will get to between 6 to 10 feet tall.

As a result, they’re often grown as hedges or ground cover outdoors. You can likewise keep them in containers which lets you take them indoors or keep them outside.

Similarly, some are grown as houseplants. And, some growers make them ficus bonsai trees.

What does this all mean for lighting?

When it comes to light your Ficus microcarpa green island thrives in bright, indirect light indoors. You want to keep it away from extended periods or intense direct sunlight.

As such, direct light from morning sun actually makes it grow better. But, that of the afternoon or summer will burn its leaves.

Outdoors, where light becomes ‘stronger’ because there are no walls and ceilings, the plant prefers bright shade.

Similarly, it can handle more full sun in high humidity. But, will do better in shade in drier areas.

What this ultimately means is light is affected by different environmental factors. So, giving it bright, indirect light is the easiest way to avoid any potential issues that can happen from sudden changes in climate or weather.

 

 

Temperature

Because fig trees (ficus) are native to tropical regions, they like warm, humid environments. Keeping it in these conditions makes it easier for the plant to grow optimally.

That said, it can tolerate mildly cool conditions. But, more care is needed.

The plant does best in USDA Hardiness zones 9 to 11. In these regions, you can keep it outdoors all year long. But, elsewhere, it is important to take the plant indoors once weather drops under 60 degrees.

While the plant can tolerate up to 50 degrees, or even 45 degrees at most, you’ll start noticing its leaves dropping around the low 50s. And, when a plant is under stress, it is more prone to pests and disease.

This can quickly compound problems.

As such, they are best avoided.

For best results, keep the plant in moderate to warm weather between 65 to 80 degrees.

 

Humidity

Humidity is likewise another important factor. Ideally, keep humidity around 70%.

Your green island ficus thrives in high humidity. And, keeping it at these levels will produce a more vibrant plant with beautiful leaves.

That said, it can tolerate average household humidity. As long as you keep humidity levels at 40% or higher it will do fine.

Be wary or dry conditions, including the winters and spaces near vents since heaters and air conditioning will dry the air.

green island ficus

source: wikimedia commons

 

Green Island Ficus Watering

Your green island ficus does not need a lot of watering.

Do note that it will need more when it is young. But after it matures, it can tolerate more dryness.

That said, it does best when regularly watered during the summer. This often comes out to about twice a week or so. But, it really depends on how hot summers get in your area and where you place the plant.

In the winter, scale back to about once every 2 weeks in the plant is in a container. Otherwise, water every 7 to 14 days.

The most important things to remember with watering it not to overwater your plant. You do not want to let it sit in water at any given point in time for extended periods. This will lead to root rot.

The easiest way I’ve found to make sure you can avoid this is to go by feel. Sticking your finger down 2 inches into the soil lets you easily gauge when it is time to water.

If the soil is dry, it is time to water. If it is moist or some soil or mud stick to your finger, wait a few more days then test again.

Don’t worry if you’re late in water a few days. The plant can tolerate dryness. Besides, as long as the soil does not dry all the way, you’re fine.

Ideally, you want the soil to get dry 2 inches down to about a third of the way down. Between these points, you’re sure it is dry enough to avoid overwatering without being too dry that the plant starts experiencing any stress from it.

 

Soil

Since overwatering and waterlogging are to be avoided by all means, the most important thing about soil is it should be well-draining.

This keeps your green island ficus healthy as it gets enough water to stay hydrated and absorb nutrients from the soil and fertilizer. But, not be left with soggy or muddy soil.

As such, you can use regular potting soil. Ideally, you want to go with high quality products that are loose are well-aerated.

If you already have potting soil at home and find that it isn’t draining enough, you can add pumice, perlite or sand.

If on the other hand, the soil you have is too light or drains to quickly as is the case for sandy soil, add peat moss to improve water retention.

 

Fertilizing Green Island Ficus

Your green island ficus may or may not need fertilizer depending on the soil you have. if your:

  • Garden soil is loamy, you likely won’t need to use fertilizer. Soil high in organic matter contains enough nutrients for the plant’s sustenance.
  • Garden or potting soil is amended with compost, you probably also won’t need to feed your plants. Compost adds organic matter to soil. So, with enough of it, you don’t need fertilizer.
  • Potting soil contains fertilizer, you don’t need to add plant food. The question here is for how long. Sooner or later, the added fertilizer will run out. But, depending on how much they put and what kind it can be a few weeks to 6 months. So, make sure to ask your nursery. This way you don’t double the fertilizer.
  • Potting soil is soil-less or DIY, you will need to add fertilizer. Most potting soil are not made from soil at all. So, they don’t contain nutrients. This means you need to supply the plant food yourself. This is likewise the case for substrates like peat moss, coconut coir, perlite and the others.

Because ficus are light feeders, all you need to do is apply fertilizer twice a year – once in the spring and another in the summer. Use a slow release fertilizer.

Avoid overfertilizing at this will result in root burn. Similarly, don’t feed the plant when it is sick, stressed or in shock.

 

Pruning

Your green island ficus is a slow grower. As such, most of your pruning will fall under one of these categories:

  • Controlling the size and shape of the plant
  • Removing dead, discolored or unhealthy stems and leaves
  • Cut back leggy stems

The only exception here is if you grow it as a ficus bonsai. Here, pruning will be one of your main tasks at will is needed to keep the plant small, nicely trimmed and neat.

As always make sure you sterilize your pruning shears with alcohol before making any cuts.

Using gloves is likewise a good idea since the milky sap that comes out when you cut into it can irritate skin.

 

Green Island Ficus Propagation

Green island ficus can be propagated from cuttings. Here, you can do stem or root cuttings.

Both work. But, they’re very different processes.

The best time to propagate the plant is during spring or early summer.

How to Propagate Green Island Ficus from Stem Cuttings

  • Stem cuttings can be done by taking stems from your shrub. You want to pick stems that are about 4 to 6 inches long with at least a few leaves on it.
  • Cut the stems with a sterile pair of scissors or pruning shears. You can take one cutting or make many of them if you want to grow multiple plants.
  • Place the stem cuttings into a container with fresh, well-draining potting soil. If you’re using one cutting you can use a small container. If you want to do many at once, use a 12 or 14 inch pot and plant many of the stem cuttings in that pot.
  • Water the soil to keep it moist. Keep the pot in a humid area with bright, indirect light.
  • After 3 weeks or so, the cuttings will root. If you’ve grown many in a large pot, this will be a good time to move them to their own containers.

How to Propagate Green Island Ficus from Root Cuttings

  • For root cuttings, you’ll need to get access to the roots. Since the green island ficus’ roots spread quickly, they will grow quickly as well.
  • Take a root cutting from the mother plant
  • Dip it into root hormone. This is an option, but it helps speed up the rooting process.
  • Plant the cutting into a small container.
  • Place the plant near a window with bright, indirect sunlight. Water it so the soil is kept slightly moist.
  • After 2 to 4 weeks, the cuttings will develop roots.
  • You can now move it to the garden or keep it in the container. For the latter, you have the option of repotting it to larger containers as it grows or keep it smaller pots to grow as a bonsai.

 

Transplanting & Repotting

Repotting is often needed once in every 2 years or so. This is the case for potted green island ficus including those grown as bonsai.

While the plant is not a fast grower, its roots do spread out quite a bit. As such, they will want to go beyond the walls of their containers at some point in time.

This is also the reason why it is not a good idea to grow beautiful flowers and foliage plants near them in your garden. Because of its size and spreading roots, it will win out when competing with smaller ornamentals in water and nutrient absorption.

This means the flowers and foliage plants will grow lackluster or start to deteriorate after a while.

If you want to grow more than one green island ficus near one another, keep them at least 3 feet apart. You also want to keep them 3 feet away from any structure like your home or shed you may have in your yard.

If you’re growing it as a bonsai which many plant owners do, here’s a nice video that will show you how to repot a green island ficus as a bonsai.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl2WeJimr8A

 

Toxicity

As mentioned above, the milky sap of the plant can irritate skin. As such, it is not a good idea for young children, dogs, cats or even horses to be around them.

Their curiosity can cause them to play or ingest parts of the plant which can result in unpleasant side effects.

 

Pests and Disease

Ficus microcarpa green island don’t experience many pests or diseases. This means you may never need to deal with them. But, you always have to worry about them.

As such, regular inspection should be part of your plant care routine.

Mealybugs, centipeded and scale can attack the plant and damage it in the long term. As such, spotting and treating them as early as possible is essential.

Similarly, the plant can get fungal diseases including Anthracnose disease. Root rot is always a potential problem if you overwater as well.

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