METRO PLUS

A fig for home

THERE ARE over 800 species of the genus Ficus (Latin name for fig). Most of them make excellent houseplants except for the edible fig Ficus carica.

The species used indoors are prized for their evergreen foliage.

Ficus elastica, the familiar rubber plant is the best-known indoor Ficus.

They have large shiny leathery leaves with prominent midribs, and the central stem tends to grow straight without branching or producing side shoots.

Cutting off the growing point however can induce branching. While cutting the stem, the latex-like sap will flow out.

A fig for home

Applying charcoal powder or ash to the wound can stop this. Among the many forms, Ficus elastica decora is the most popular. It has dark green oval oblong leaves up to 25 to 30 cms long and stands at a 45 degrees angle to the main stem.

New leaves emerge from a bright red sheath that drops off. Ficus elastica black prince has shiny greenish black leaves divided by a red mid-vein and will grow into a handsome and prominent indoor plant.

Ficus elastica variegata has leaves with a yellow border as well as yellow patches all over.

Ficus likes bright light but not direct sunlight. Propagation is by cuttings or layering.

Any good light soil with rich compost is required. Water the plants moderately. Over watering will cause their lower leaves to fall.

Sponge foliage frequently with soft water containing a few drops of milk. Do this gently. Use one hand to support each leaf so as not to put too much strain in its stalk.

These plants, all Ficus elastica, if planted outside in the garden, will grow into very large trees.

CHITRA RADHAKRISHNAN

Recommended for you