Give a fig for indoor splendour
In almost every photo of an interior in magazines at the moment you will see a fiddle leaf fig (ficus lyrata). These fabulous plants have been enjoying a prolonged spell in the spotlight because they are a perfect indoor plant, almost indestructible and so easy to grow.
But there's a limit to how many fiddle leaf figs even the most devoted indoor plant grower needs. I have four, if you count the potted ones on the shaded veranda, and maybe that's enough.
Happily, there are other figs that also make great indoor plants, and, given that they are all part of the same family, they are also pretty much the same in terms of being easy to grow.
Commonly known as Rubber Plant, ficus elastica shares its cousin's ability to create a dramatic, luxurious jungle vibe with a minimum of care and fuss. Where the fiddle leaf fig delivers lush, deep green foliage, the rubber plants offer rich burgundy leaves, sometimes variegated with cream and pale green tones. They may develop some crazy aerial roots that I think make the trees look like they might be about to latch on to the furniture. Maybe not an ideal plant for someone who likes things to be super-neat and orderly.
Ficus benjamina is another form of fig that can grow indoors, although I find these to be a bit touchier. They will thrive in a certain position, with a certain amount of light and water, but if you move or change their routine at all they are prone to sulk, dropping large numbers of their lovely green or variegated leaves. If you have one looking good in a particular position, leave it there.
These figs can all be pruned if they start to get a bit tall. When it comes time to repot, you can take them out of the existing pot, prune the root ball and replant in the same pot with some fresh potting mix. If you do root-prune, make sure you also prune the top by an equivalent amount. The good thing about this technique is that you don't have to keep going into ever-larger pots.
Figs are also one of the best varieties to have as a bonsai for indoors. While most bonsai plants need to be grown outside, figs will survive inside for years. Pot belly figs are especially good - they develop gorgeous fat, bulbous trunks, sometimes with two or three separate parts, creating some interesting, almost grotesque, shapes. Aerial roots add to the effect.
All of these figs will live happily in pots for many, many years. But they will grow into enormous trees if they are planted in the ground.