The ficus is a plant genus known for its attractive indoor houseplants. According to the University of Florida Extension, there are more than 800 species belonging to this genus. These plants are known for their shiny, rough leaves, according to the University of Minnesota. They come in various heights and have different growth patterns, besides different leaf shapes and sizes, offering variety to houseplant caretakers. Ficus plants originated from tropical areas of southeast Asia and India.
There are several varieties of ficus plants. Ficus benjamina is one of the most productive varieties. Although it was once mostly used as a landscape plant, the plant's large size and aggressive root system have damaged landscapes, making architects reconsider the plant's use, according to the University of Minnesota. Ficus lyrata, or fiddle leaf fig, has huge bold, broad leaves. Other common varieties include Ficus wiandi, Ficus monique, Ficus midnight and Ficus indigo.
Insect pests known for bothering ficus plants include mealybugs, scales and thrips. Mealybugs appear on leaf axils as white, cottony masses. They're also found on the lower surfaces of leaves and on roots. These pests leave a sooty mold and honeydew deposit on infested plants, causing stunted growth. Plants can die if there's a serious infestation. The University of Florida Extension recommends using systemic controls, which are pesticides used for individual pests. Scales weaken a plant and stunt its growth with the plant eventually dying. They feed on stems, leaves or petioles. Systemic controls are also used with scales. Thrips cause leaves to curl or distort, leaving silvery-gray scars.
Ficus plants battle several diseases that can be fatal if ignored. Even worse, they can easily spread to other healthy houseplants, so preventing them is the best treatment. Anthracnose is a fungal disease in which slightly sunken spots are enclosed by a tan or dark brown edge. To control the problem, Ficus Tree Information says to give plants only minimal water and heat to reduce stress. Other common ficus diseases include Southern blight, sooty mold and corynespora leaf spot.
Because these plants come from tropical or subtropical regions, they can tolerate considerable heat, making them ideal plants for a sun room or bay window that faces south, notes the University of Minnesota. Conversely, don't place them in cold areas or near drafty areas such as doorways or frosty windows during winter.
When a ficus is moved to a new environment it's normal for the plant to lose 20 percent of its foliage, as it adapts to its new surroundings. Moving a ficus to another room is even considered a new environment.
The weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) species has toxic plant sap found in all parts of the plant. Although this plant can cause only a minor irritation, it can still cause some discomfort. Frequent contact with a weeping fig can lead to symptoms of itching eyes, coughing and wheezing, according to North Carolina State University.