Ficus (Ficus spp.) trees are often used in shady areas, in pots or indoors as this genus requires less sunlight than most trees. As a whole, ficus trees are known for their vibrant, green foliage, which ranges in size from a few inches to a foot and varies in shape from oblong to lobed. Ficus trees are tropical plants, many of which are native to Asia, and most thrive where there is little chance of frost.
The only member of the Ficus genus that produces edible fruit, the common fig (F. carica) is a fast-growing tree that can reach 30 feet, but is usually shorter. The foliage and branching are both unique. Leaves, which are lobed, are rough to the touch and may reach 9 inches long while the trunk and branches often have the gnarled look of an ancient tree. Common figs are not fussy about soil and should produce two harvests--one in June or July and the second in the fall. Fig trees thrive in full sun with regular water, and may be planted in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone 7 or above.
The Rubber Tree (F. elastica) is best known for its large, thick, glossy dark green leaves, which can reach 12 inches in length and 4 inches in width. Native to Malaysia, the rubber tree can tolerate some frost, but if damaged by cold weather, may be cut back to the ground. This tree thrives in shade and needs regular water. Rubber trees can grow to 40 feet outdoors, but are good indoor plants, as they require less sunlight than other big house plants. Rubber trees thrive in zones 10 to 11.
Weeping Chinese Banyan
Native to India, the Weeping Chinese Banyan or Weeping Fig (F. benjamina) can grow to 30 feet and has leathery, green, 5-inch long leaves on drooping branches. This tree should be planted in a frost-free area and is best planted where there is some protection from the wind. Weeping Chinese Banyans thrive in sun or shade and may be used in entryways. This tree also makes a good house plant. Weeping Chinese Banyan, which may be planted in zones 9 to 11, should be planted in rich, organic soil, which should be kept moist.