Family: Moraceae
Common Name: Fig

This large, diverse genus of around 800 species includes trees, shrubs and climbers, both ever-green and deciduous, widely distributed over the warmer areas of Australia, Southeast Asia, India and the Pacific islands, extending as far as the Mediterranean and Africa. Some start their life as epiphytes, eventually strangling their host with their strong aerial roots; others are popularly used as house plants; and some are grown for their fruit. In all species the flowers are monoecious and quite unusual as they are enclosed in what later becomes the fruit. They vary widely in foliage and habit, but all species have a milky sap. Most figs grow extremely large but in cool and cold climates they make fine pot plants for home, warm greenhouse or conservatory.


F. aspera, 'Parcelli', clown or mosaic fig, is a very showy shrub, with thin, dark green leaves, splashed with white. The fruits are striped cream and pink.

F. benghalensis, banyan tree, a native of India, is renowned for its fascinating display of aerial roots which eventually form secondary trunks. It can grow to 30 m (100 ft) tall and much, much broader, sometimes having the appearance of a small forest. It is widely cultivated in the tropics for shade, and is considered sacred by the Hindus in India.

F. benjamina, weeping fig or laurel fig, is a tropical, evergreen tree from India and Southeast Asia, often used as a potted inddor plant, but also grown outdoors where it can reach 15 m (50 ft) or more. The form 'Exotica' has wavy-edged leaves. It is known for its extremely invasive root system and should not be grown near foundations or underground pipes.

F. carica, common fig or fig tree, zone 8, from the Mediterranean, has been cultivated for centuries for its delicious edible fruits which come in a variety of shapes and colours. It gen­erally grows 3-5 m (10-16 ft). (See Fig, Ficus carica.)

F. elastica, India rubber plant, from tropical Asia, is widely cultivated for shade in tropical countries, though generally as a pot plant outside the tropics. Its new growth is contained in rosy sheaths which look very attractive against the glossy, dark green mature leaves. Cultivar 'Decora' has shiny, dark green leaves with an ivory midrib and red on the undersides; 'Doescheri' has leaves boldly varie­gated with cream, white and grayish green, and the central veins and leaf stalks are pink; 'Variegata' has light green leaves with white or yellow margins.

F. lyrata, fiddleleaf fig or banjo fig, from tropical Africa, grows to 12 m (40 ft) outdoors, although it is often grown as an indoor or pot plant. The large, fiddle-shaped leaves are a bright, glossy green.

F. macro­phylla, Moreton Bay fig, occurs in coastal rain-forests of eastern Australia where it reaches heights of 60 m (200 ft) with a vast spread. Too large for most gardens, it has been widely planted as a shade and park tree in many warm to mild regions.

F. microcarpa var. hillii, to 20 m (65 ft) or more, makes a good street, park or shade tree, and is also grown as a standard, either in the garden or in a container. It has graceful, weeping branches and small, neat leaves. This variety will tolerate a temperate cli­mate.

F. obliqua, Australian strangler fig, grows huge under rainforest conditions, and has a buttressed trunk and aerial roots.

F. pumila, creeping fig, zone 9, is an evergreen climber from Asia, with heart-shaped leaves and aerial roots, and is attractive growing on walls. Cultivar 'Minima' has small, slender juvenile leaves.

F. religiosa, bo tree or sacred fig, occurs in India and throughout Southeast Asia. Quite similar to the banyan, though not as tall, it is a deciduous, fast-growing tree, widely planted in the tropics. The bo tree is sacred to Hindus, and Buddhists particularly, as Buddha received enlightenment under the shade of this interest­ing tree.

F. rubiginosa, Port Jackson fig or rusty fig, from New South Wales, grows to 30 m (100 ft). It has a wide-spreading crown, but-tressed trunk and pendulous branches. The small leaves are a rust colour when they are young and the fruits are borne in pairs in the spring and the summer. Too large for most home gardens, it is a good street, park or shade tree for coastal areas.

F. superba, sea fig, from Asia and Australia, grows to a large tree with very large leaves and dull purple fruits. Var. henneana, cedar fig, is a deciduous epiphyte native to northern Australia.

F. sycomorus, sycamore fig or Egyptian sycamore, from Africa through to Lebanon, is the sycamore tree of the Bible. It grows to 18 m (60 ft), with rounded leaves and fruits.


In frost-prone climates, grow as pot plants. Use soilless or soil-based potting com­post and provide good light, but shade from direct, strong sun. They like a humid atmo­sphere. F. carica, the common fig grown for its fruits, can be grown outside in zone 8 but needs sun, a sheltered spot and well-drained soil. Most figs can be propagated from semi-ripe cut­tings in summer, rooted with bottom heat. F. carica can be grown from hardwood cuttings in winter. Some species, like F. elastica, can be propagated by air-layering.


Zone 10 for most species.

Festuca      Fig