Propagating Ficus

Have you fallen in love with ficus’s glossy green foliage? Would another one of these low-maintenance tropical plants make you smile even bigger? If so, propagating ficus using stem cuttings is relatively easy. Within 4 to 6 weeks, you will have another beautiful ficus to call your very own.


Methods To Propagate Ficus

Ficus is commonly propagated by air layering and stem cuttings. Depending on the particular species, stem cuttings are usually most successful. With species such as Ficus benjamina (weeping fig), Ficus elastica (rubber tree), and Ficus lyrata (fiddle-leaf fig), stem cuttings typically root in about 4 to 6 weeks. 

To propagate by stem cutting, identify a 6-inch leafed sprig with at least 3 nodes and make a cut about an inch below the third node. After clipping the sprig, dip it into rooting hormone and insert it into a rooting medium or damp soil. Wait 4 to 6 weeks until roots form. Potting in soil is a better choice than water because the developed roots will have a better chance of growing well in future soil mixtures.


Image by Jerry Norbury, unedited, Flickr, Copyright CC BY-ND 2.0

Best Rooting Media To Propagate Ficus

Two superb rooting mixtures to propagate ficus are perlite/peat moss and vermiculite/sand, each mixed 1:1. Perlite, peat moss, and sand improve aeration and facilitate drainage; peat moss and vermiculite help to retain moisture. Water can be used as a rooting medium, but the roots often do not establish as well when transplanted into a soil mixture.

Steps To Propagate Ficus

Step 1 - Protect your hands from ficus’s milky sap by wearing a pair of gloves.

Step 2 - Clean a pair of pruning shears with alcohol.

Step 3 - Choose a healthy, green sprig about 6 inches in length that has at least three nodes.

Step 4 - Make a cut about an inch below the node.

Step 5 - Remove all of the leaves except the top one or two.

Step 6 - Dip stem cutting into organic rooting hormone or a synthetic auxin such as IAA (indoleacetic acid).

Step 7 - Place the stem cutting into a moist rooting medium, such as a perlite, peat moss, vermiculite, and sand mixture.

Step 8 - Mist to keep the medium moist.

Step 9 - Cover the stem cutting with a clear plastic bag.

Step 10 - Wait 4 to 6 weeks for stem cutting to root.

Step 11 - Transplant rooted plantlet into a new pot filled with houseplant potting soil amended with perlite.

Caring For Ficus Cuttings

To care for your ficus stem cuttings, mist the cutting and rooting medium every 3 to 4 days. To increase the chances of these cuttings rooting, maintain them in temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees with at least 90 percent humidity. Cover their container with a plastic bag to help retain the proper temperature and moisture levels. Give the cuttings about 12 hours of bright, indirect sunlight, or if that is not available, 16 hours beneath grow lights.

Transplanting Ficus Cuttings

After the stem cutting has rooted in approximately 4 to 6 weeks, transplant the plantlet to a 4-inch pot filled with average potting soil amended with perlite moss. Moisten the substrate. Using a pencil or finger, dig a hole slightly larger than the root mass. Place the roots into the hole and gingerly fill the gap around it. Lightly tamp the soil. 

Ficus has a fast growth rate, so you may need to repot the new plant into a larger vessel within a few months. For now, it needs enough soil volume to give the roots space to grow but not too large a volume to retain excess moisture. Ficus is susceptible to fungal diseases such as root rot, so adequate moisture levels are essential. Set ficus in a room receiving bright, indirect sunlight, preferably 3 to 5 feet from an east-facing or west-facing window, and watch its gorgeous broad leaves unfurl.

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 Author Suellen Barnes - Published 6-02-2023