The tropical wet climate of Queensland, Australia is perfect for ornamental Ficus trees. Most tropical figs can grow very large, covering vast areas wider than the tree is tall making them unsuitable for all but the largest planting areas. Naturally they grow among the rain forest trees and on the edges of the rain forest called dry forests. They grow in just about any type of soil, as long as it drains well. Some do not even need soil, and grow directly on rocks or on other trees. Most species of tropical ficus can withstand short temperature drops to freezing and some frost, which allows them to thrive in subtropical climates like in the state of New South Wales just south of Queensland.
Moreton Bay Fig
Moreton Bay figs (scientific name Ficus macrophylla) are native to the tropical and subtropical coastline of eastern Australia from the York Peninsula in the north of Queensland to northern New South Wales in the south. They can reach up to 200 feet tall and have 6 to 12 inch long oval glossy green leaves.
This is not a plant to use in a small space and does best when planted in very large open areas like public parks where it has room to spread. Moreton Bay figs naturally grow as strangler figs in the branches of other trees with massive aerial root systems wrapping around host's trunk choking and shading them them until they die. In an open area these roots will form multiple trunks, allowing the tree to spread.
Hills Weeping Fig
Hills weeping fig (scientific name Ficus microcarpa var. hillii) is a smaller tropical Ficus native to Queensland. It reaches 50 to 100 feet tall and about 50 feet wide. It sometimes grows as a strangler and its roots can be invasive damaging water pipes, foundations and sidewalks. However, the tree is manageable if pruned to a single trunk when young. It has 3 to 4 inch long leaves on weeping branches in a dense rounded canopy.
The figs are under 4 inches in diameter and ripen to a pink color with green-yellow warts. It is an extremely urban tolerant tree and is commonly planted along roads and in parks in tropical and subtropical Australia.
Rusty figs (scientific name Ficus rubignosa) are a tropical Ficus commonly found in Queensland. It grows naturally along rocky hills and on slopes in the margins of the rain forest. They are among the best tropical ficus trees for landscape use and can tolerate drier conditions than other tropical ficus. They grow to 50 feet tall with a spread of up to 60 feet.
Although they do develop as stranglers, they can be managed for landscapes but should be kept away from underground utility lines. The main attraction of the rusty fig is the small 3 to 6 inch long glossy green leaves that are rust colored on the undersides. As a bonus they attract seed eating birds and butterflies.