Ficus trees range from Ficus benjamina, which is grown primarily as an indoor plant in the United States, to the common fig tree, which can be planted as a specimen tree in mild climates. Ficus trees are tropical; they do not handle cold winters well. Most ficus trees are hardy between USDA zones 8 and 11; the common fig is hardy to zone 7. Ficus trees can be rewarding to grow, but they require moderate care.
Choose a ficus tree that will respond well to your USDA zone. If you live in a mild climate, such as Southern California, consider planting a common fig tree. This species is easy to maintain and can grow to 30 feet tall. If you live in a colder climate, you will need to bring your ficus inside for at least part of the year, so choose a smaller variety such as Ficus lyrata.
Choose a location to plant your ficus tree. Common figs can handle full sun to partial shade. Indoor ficus trees need indirect sunlight to thrive (Reference 1). All ficus trees need well-drained, rich soil. Improve your soil with compost, manure and topsoil if it is not rich.
Plant your ficus tree. Plant outdoor trees in the spring. Dig a hole for the ficus about 3 feet deep and 2 feet wide. Place the tree in the hole and cover it partially with soil. Add water to the hole and allow the soil to soak up the water. Finish filling the hole with soil and pat it down.
When planting an indoor tree, use rich potting soil and a large container that has drainage holes. Fill the bottom of the container with soil. Place the tree in the container and finish filling it with soil.
Water your ficus tree regularly. The soil around the roots should be kept moist but not saturated. Water your outdoor ficus once a day for 5 minutes per watering. Water your indoor ficus when the topsoil is dry. Use 2 to 3 cups of water per watering.
Prune your ficus in the spring while it is still dormant. Remove any dead or damaged branches at the base of the tree, including vertical branches. Remove overreaching branches. Allow 6 inches between each branch to increase the amount of light the inner portion of the tree receives (Reference 2). Indoor ficus trees can be neatly groomed.
Fertilize your outdoor ficus in the spring with compost or manure applied around the base of the tree. Feed your indoor ficus with plant food pellets per the manufacturer's guidelines.