If you’re looking for another cool ficus to add to your collection, try the ficus umbellata! Ficus umbellata care is pretty simple, and they make excellent houseplants. Learn more about them with this post!
How do you care for a ficus umbellata?
Ficus plants remain some of my favorites for both beginner and intermediate houseplant parents. They have a ton of different and interesting varieties, and care can be pretty easy once you get into a routine.
So I’m pleased to be finally writing about a newer ficus I’ve added to my plant fam—the ficus umbellata! umbellata is a dainty ficus that grows elegant, tall stems and broad, textured, heart-shaped leaves.
I like to think their leaves look like elephant ears! Even more so than alocasia plants, which are commonly known as elephant ear plants. Ficus umbellata is closely related to the fiddle leaf fig (ficus lyrata), but umbellata hasn’t quite reached that same popularity in the western hemisphere.
If you have experience with fiddle leaf figs, you’ll probably enjoy growing an umbellata, too. To successfully grow those heart-shaped leaves, it does take a little more care and attention than most plants…but they’re worth it!
Umbrella ficus origins & background
The ficus umbellata is sometimes called the umbrella tree fig, a reference to its close relative the fiddle leaf fig. It is popular among Japanese households, but it is harder to find locally in North America (though I’m seeing it pop up more and more lately).
For whatever reason, the U.S. has not added the umbellata to its assortment of popular indoor houseplants. But I predict that will happen very soon!
The ficus umbellata originated in Western Africa, where it can be found growing abundantly in the forests, enjoying the sunshine and moisture. In nature they can even flower.
As for potted umbellatas, they can reach up to four feet tall and are very fast growing, sprouting up to one new leaf every week during spring and summer.
Are ficus umbellata rare?
I would say no, ficus umbellata isn’t rare. While it doesn’t seem to be a plant any of the big growers in the U.S. are mass producing, it can be found pretty easily in local specialty nurseries. I have seen them off and on at my two favorite local nurseries.
You can also order a ficus umbellata online through a variety of sources. I like using Etsy to buy plants I can’t find locally—just make sure to read the shop reviews!
How much light does a ficus umbellata need?
These beauties love sunlight. The more bright, indirect sun, the easier your ficus umbellata care will be and the more they’ll grow! Without it, those broad, beautiful leaves will start to droop.
If you’re growing it indoors (which is probably best if you’re in a climate similar to mine), I suggest placing it near a large window that gets plenty of sunlight throughout the day.
Being indoors will protect the leaves from browning under the sun’s harsh rays. Once you find the optimal spot for your ficus umbellata, try not to mess with it. And be mindful that they will grow in the direction of the light, so you might need to rotate it once in a while.
Too much direct sun can burn the leaves. So if you have it outdoors for the spring and summer, make sure it lives under a dense tree canopy or a covered porch or patio. This also helps protect the delicate stems.
Ficus umbellata care & watering needs
Watering is where this ficus becomes finicky because they like to be moist, not wet. You might be thinking these forest fairy ficuses need a lot of water, but they surprisingly don’t. They prefer to dry out about 25% until the next watering.
So what does that mean? Water the soil deeply about twice a week during the growing season. This will ensure better growth than daily small sips.
Monitor the soil, though—if the top 25% of the pot’s soil isn’t dry, don’t water it yet. The plant will likely go dormant in the winter, which means you’ll need to water it even less.
Why are the leaves of my ficus turning yellow?
Much like the finicky fiddle leaf fig, yellowing leaves on a ficus umbellata can be due to a variety of things. This makes troubleshooting issues challenging, but not impossible.
The first issue I recommend checking is watering. If you aren’t giving the plant enough water, the leaves may begin to droop and yellow. Too much water, however, can lead to root rot and yellowing leaves.
I generally tell people that the soil is their best gauge. If the soil has been consistently wet, yellwing leaves are probably due to overwatering. Consistently dry? Probably underwatering, then.
If your watering is up to par, try moving the plant to a brighter spot with little to no risk of cold drafts from windows. And once you find a spot where this plant is happy, don’t move it. It will grow like a weed, much like the fiddle leaf fig!
Why is my ficus umbellata drooping?
Your ficus umbellata is probably drooping because it is thirsty. The same thing happens to my fiddle leaf fig when I forget to water it. Try not to let the plant regularly get to the point of drooping, though.
Once the leaves start to droop, you may also notice other signs of stress like yellowing leaves or the plant totally dropping leaves. Remember that this plant likes to stay moist but not wet—only about the top 25% of soil should dry out before watering it again.
Ficus umbellata care & soil needs
In order to ensure your ficus umbellata stays moist and not wet, it needs soil with good drainage and the right amount of moisture retention. To accomplish this you can do one part regular potting soil to two parts cactus soil.
You could also mix in some coco coir, which is a great alternative to peat moss for lightweight moisture retention, with your indoor potting mix.
Mixing in some organic matter or compost is never a bad idea, it’ll give your plant some extra nutrients. Waterlogged or rotted roots is something you can prevent by picking the right soil.
Temperature & humidity
This ficus can be fickle about temperature as well and cannot tolerate anything that’s too hot or cold. The optimal range is between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, which is conveniently right around room temperature—that’s why I suggest keeping this pretty plant indoors!
Most owners won’t have to artificially add humidity. These plants do fine in the average household humidity. Though if you live in a dry climate, you might want to get your hands on a humidity gauge.
Try to keep the room they’re in above 50% humidity. Once you’ve found the perfect placement for your ficus umbellata, keep in mind any drafty windows or heater vents that could cause damage. This plant likes its environment to remain as stable as possible.
How big does ficus umbellata grow?
I mentioned earlier that when the umbellata is happy, it can throw out a new leaf per week. That is a pretty fast growth rate! So it won’t surprise you to learn that the umbellata can grow up to 4 feet tall indoors.
Keep in mind that the large, lightweight, billowy leaves also spread as the plant grows. They can create a lovely canopy that expands the plant’s width—though it will likely remain taller than it is wide.
How do you prune an umbellata?
Speaking of, you can prune your umbellata. Aside from cutting away dry or old foliage, you can also prune the plant to encourage different growth patterns.
For example, if you want your plant to be fuller, you can prune off the top of the plant on a stem. This will encourage the plant to grow out rather than straight up. I have done this many times with my rubber plant (ficus elastica) to slowly make it bushier.
Below is an example of what I mean. The one branch was getting out of control, so I pruned that down. I trimmed up some of the other branches to encourage bushiness, too. The first pic is before, the second pic is a few months later.
When should I repot my ficus umbellata?
Because this ficus grows pretty quickly, you can expect to repot your umbellata roughly every year in the spring. Or when you see signs of stress from a pot that is too small—like roots growing like crazy out of the pot’s drainage holes!
When you do repot the plant, make sure you size the pot up only 1 to 2 inches. And use fresh potting soil so you make sure you’re refreshing all of the nutrients the plant needs to keep throwing out healthy growth!
You can loosen the root ball if necessary, but I usually just throw my plants into the next size up pot without messing with the roots too much. Messing with the roots can disturb the plant and occasionally piss it off.
Can you propagate a ficus umbellata?
Thankfully, ficus plants in general are easy to propagate! All you’ll need is some potting mix, a new container with drainage holes, sharp scissors, and some rooting hormone if you’re feeling it.
Find a healthy stem from the parent plant and snip it, being careful not to get the sap on your hands since it can be hard to wash off. Cut off any leaves on the lower half of that stem, and allow the cutting to air dry for a few hours.
This will scab up the part of the stem you cut, which keeps out mold or fungus once you do plant it. Next, you can dip that end into rooting hormone to help the process along, then place it in fresh, moist soil.
Although ficus umbellatas are fast to grow, they’re slow to root! Be patient with your new seedlings and make sure they’re staying moist and getting plenty of indirect light. Once there is new growth (I’m talking in several months), you can transfer them to their own pots.
If you’d like, you can also water root the cuttings before planting them. I’ve had a lot of luck propagating fiddle leaf fig cuttings in water and then transferring them to soil! (I also have a post about rubber plant—or ficus elastica—propagation, which is a similar process!)