If you’re looking for a new, whimsical plant to add to your decor in 2021, the Ficus Umbellata could be the one!
While the not-so-humble Fiddle Leaf Fig has had more of it’s share of the spotlight, 2021 could be the year that some of its lesser-known cousins take a little of the light.
Being in the fig (ficus) family, the Umbellata is of African origin but has popularity in Japanese culture as a houseplant.
This newcomer has some similar features to the Fiddle Leaf Fig, with large, heart-shaped leaves and thin stems. So if you’ve tried (or failed) growing a Fiddle, maybe it’s time to move on to the next big Fig (see what I did there?).
Ficus Umbellata Care
This house plant lands under easy to medium standards to care for. With the right environment, your new ficus will grow like crazy!
With all indoor plants in general, I cannot stress enough the benefits of giving them enough light. If indoors, the Ficus Umbellata prefers bright light. A location close to a window is best, and more growth will be evident when the plant is given more light. This plant can handle some gentle direct light, but make sure to acclimatise them before giving them more than a couple of hours of direct morning light to avoid any browning.
Mine gets a couple of hours of direct sun through a window in the morning, and it is constantly growing new leaves! Do be aware that they start to lean towards the light very quickly. To keep your Umbellata growing straight, make sure you rotate its pot once a week or when watering.
This plant prefers to dry out a little in between waterings. When watering, be sure to water the soil until the excess drains out the bottom. This is better than watering with small sips. When they’re more established they’ll also be able to handle longer periods of dryness.
I have found that my Ficus Umbellata does need more frequent waterings when compared to my Fiddle Leaf! When they’re starting to dry out, you’ll notice a slight droop starting from mid-leaf. My plant can get watered up to twice a week (and loves it!) while my Fiddle Leafs generally get watered every 7-10 days.
Most plants in the ficus family prefer a well-draining soil. This helps prevent issues caused by over-watering too. If repotting, consider using a cactus & succulent mix, or mix a handful of horticultural charcoal and pine bark mulch into the mix. These chunky particles will help the soil to drain. Horticultural charcoal also has a bunch of other benefits, including antibacterial properties.
While this is a fairly adaptable plant, once you’ve found a good position for your Ficus Umbellata it’s best to keep them in the one spot. Like their Fiddle Leaf cousin, this plant doesn’t like to be moved around too much.
These plants are also sensitive to drafts and cold air, so keep them in a warm position (especially in winter), out of the way of air cons and heaters.
A regular liquid fertilizer in the warmer growing months will help keep growth full and the leaves green. I’m using the same formula that my Fiddle Leaf Fig gets, and being in the ficus family they both seem to be loving it! While a regular houseplant fertilizer will do, see if you can find one with an NPK ratio of 3:1:2 (or 9:3:6), or use this version here.
Where to find a Ficus Umbellata
If you’re looking for a Ficus Umbellata, you may realise that they’re not the easiest plant to find! I found mine at a pop-up plant sale just by chance. Only recently have I come across them in Bunnings and my local nursery. If you’re unable to find one, I’d recommend asking a few boutique plant stores such as Home of Houseplants (in Australia), see if your local nursery can order one in or check out this seller on Amazon (for US customers).
Enjoy looking after your new Ficus Umbellata!