Ficus is a family of tropical plants with shiny oval leaves. The rubber tree plant is one of the members of this plant family. When people refer to a "ficus tree," however, they are referring to the benjamina ficus plant, which is also called the weeping fig tree. The ficus tree is found outdoors in temperate climates, and indoors in all gardening zones. Ficus trees require specific care in order to remain healthy.
The ficus tree is an evergreen plant that has a narrow trunk and droopy, cascading branches. The tree's leaves are bright green and shiny, with wavy edges. Because the trunks do not get very thick, three juvenile ficus trees are often braided together, to create a striking braided trunk with a full triple canopy.
Ficus trees prefer high-quality soil that drains quickly. Ficus trees grown in containers need drainage holes to allow for proper drainage. If your soil is water-retaining, amend the situation by adding gardening sand or peat moss, at a ratio of 1:1.
Ficus trees like to be on the dry side of moist most of the time. These trees are known to be very particular, and protest by turning yellow or dropping leaves if too much or too little water is provided. For best results, provide water only when the top two inches of soil feel dry to the touch.
Besides water, lighting is the thing ficus trees are most finicky about. These trees like light, but not too much of it. Filtered light--as provided by the sparse canopy of an overhead tree or through a window with blinds--is best. The ficus tree does not like change, and protests when it is moved from an area to which it has become accustomed. If it's moved from one area of the yard or home to another, even if the temperature stays the same, the ficus protests by dropping up to a quarter of its leaves. With proper care, the leaves grow back once the tree is acclimated to its new surroundings.
Ficus trees are poisonous, and cause topical and respiratory symptoms. The plant produces a substance that is chemically similar to rubber and latex. The substance causes itching, redness or stinging when it comes in contact with skin. This substance also seeps onto the leaves, where it becomes enveloped with dust. If this dust is inhaled by people with allergies or latex sensitivity, reactions include cough, itchy eyes, wheezing, or--in highly sensitive people--anaphylaxis.