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Ficus nitida in the Valley.

September 24, 2005

OK I know some folks consider Ficus nitida to be an annoying plant, but in my opinion it's one of my favorite trees in the Valley. And just like anything in life,depending on who you ask you'll get a bunch of reasons as to why they like or dislike it.







And not to leave the folks in Yuma out, considering how massive Ficus nitida can get down there:



And even us in Tucson have our token few:


Arizona would be a lot less green if Ficus nitida were never introduced. And who would have guessed that a plant native to such a tropical location would do so well in our unforgiving climate.


Comments (84)

  • AzDesertRat

    I wonder though, what is happening to our ecosystem here, when we are adding all of these big broad,leafy things?

    Roo, I have thought about that for a while and did some research. Actually, others have done the research, all I did was look for the info. Here are a couple of articles about it

    Article 1

    ASU article

    I do think people should plant more trees in the Phoenix metro area, whether ficus or other types to try to combat the biggest problem here which is our urban heat island. Trees can do much to curb that effect.

    Now if someone would fricken answer the question of why the trees in parking lots are alway chopped down to take away the shade I would be really happy. They should really send out a survey: It's 110 outside (measured officially), 140 in the parking lot. Would you risk a little birdpoop on your car if you can park underneath the tree or would you rather have no shade at all (why the tree then) by trimming the tree next to nothing? My bet is that a vast majority would risk birdpoop here.

    My take anyway


  • Easygoing

    If it makes anyone feel better, I removed a big ole water thirsty mulberry tree from my yard a couple of weeks ago, and replaced it with a Desert Museum Palo Verde. Sorry AZ Desert Rat! ;) But I love the green color of the trunks, and the dappled light these trees allow through. Not to mention the wonderful canopy of yellow blossoms in the spring. It should look stunning with my Jacaranda with it's purple blooms being it's backdrop! :)


  • sonotaps


    I'm not here to express my 'approval' or 'disapproval' (nor should anyone care what I think), but I think those Desert Museum Palo Verdes are beautiful trees.

  • PenBuilder

    "I wonder though, what is happening to our ecosystem here, when we are adding all of these big broad, leafy things?"

    What ecosystem do you mean? The Phoenix metro area? I think that the three million people that live here have already destroyed that. The only large community around here that has been able to develop around their environment is Tucson. I'd love to live there. Their lawmakers have it figured out: water conservation - NO LAWNS. Everyone has an environmentally friendly landscape with water smart plants. The wildlife has all of those dried rivers and washes that cut through town to use as highways. In a way, it almost seems like they do live within the ecosystem. Native birds, reptiles, and plants are common around town. I am much more cynical about us up here around Phoenix. No one holds developers or lawmakers responsible or accountable for environmental issues around here. Heck besides environmental issues, they don't even plan for roads when new areas are developed (see Queen Creek). Besides a few outlying communities around the foothills and away from agriculture, it is hard to even tell you are in a desert when you are driving around town. I would understand if someone would not plant a ficus for water reasons, but I don't think is has any effect on the ecosystem. I ficus wouldn't last a year out in the desert alone - I don't think we have to worry about that.

    We are all passionate about this topic. It would be neat to start a charity organization that converted peoples eastern style green landscapes into Xerscapes. Get volunteers together and do it. Granite is pretty cheap when you get it in bulk and we all know how easy and relatively cheap it is to quickly grow desert plants: mesquites, palo verde, brittle bush, sage, ect, ect. After that, you just need a couple of boulders and to alter an already in place watering system. Obtaining the materials could either be done through a grant (there are programs that will fund things like this) or through donations. It could be put together in an organizational form that has a continuous mission, or it could be like an event that happens once or annually. Just dreaming here, but i'd be nice to make things better.


  • tomatofreak

    "It would be neat to start a charity organization that converted peoples eastern style green landscapes into Xerscapes. ... Granite is pretty cheap when you get it in bulk and we all know how easy and relatively cheap it is to quickly grow desert plants: mesquites, palo verde, brittle bush, sage, ect, ect. After that, you just need a couple of boulders and to alter an already in place watering system. ... Just dreaming here, but i'd be nice to make things better."

    I'm not going to mount an argument simply because I'm not sure you're wrong. I'm not at all sure you're right, either. I cannot imagine how much hotter it would be in this city if all yards were covered in gravel, a la Sun City West where the summer temps are always higher than here in the city.

    "What ecosystem do you mean? The Phoenix metro area? I think that the three million people that live here have already destroyed that."

    Well, you're absolutely right about that. The original ecosystem is kaput, gone forever. We have what we have and the only thing that makes sense to me is to pressure elected officials to put measures in place to improve the present environment and repair as much damage as possible.

    Now, back to the ficus nitida! Anyone want to hazard a guess when it *might* be cool enough to prune these puppies??

  • roo2000

    I agree that more green is good, when talking about the urban heat island. I don't agree, however, that Ficus are the way to remedy the situation for many of the reasons above. I also wonder what the difference is in the amount of transpiration that occurs for broad leafed-plants versus desert adapted. Does the higher rate of transpiration in plants such as Ficus sp. increase the humidity in our area?

    I feel like we should be obligated as humans to repair as much of the damage that we have done as possible, as tomatofreak says. In that vein, I wish people would plant more native trees that have evolved to to deal with the stress of the ridiculous temperatures here. Additionally, more native trees would provide habitat for native animals. Have you ever tried mesquite honey? Yum!

    A native mesquite that is deeply watered and mostly left alone, except for some judicious pruning, can provide excellent shade in the summer. I have seen a number of streets that have mesquite planted on both sides of the sidewalk, and walking under them during the hot summer months is a pleasure (relatively speaking, of course).

    I'm not advocating mesquites over other native trees, but they are a good example of what we have to work with. Diversity is also important. There are lots of interesting things that rarely get used.

  • eileenaz

    You guys know I just love y'all, right?
    Okay, let me go for the obvious and point out that when they started living in this unique environment they shot most of the "natural" part down. Then came businesses, parking lots, malls, huge tracts of land (that's for you, ADR) with houses and streets and driveways- not to mention putting in a melon-farming GOLF COURSE every couple of square miles- well, there's room for more than native vegetation. We do have to live here, after all.
    There- that's seven straight months of summer getting my back up about haters of ficus nitida and all the other trees that aren't native but provide us with wonderful, wonderful shade!!!
    By the way, what beautiful trees! I didn't know what they were before this thread. I think there's a gargantuan one kittycorner across the alley from me. I'm in awe of it, and hope it has found a couple of old defunct septic tanks to feed from!

  • AzDesertRat

    OK, I think this thread has migrated from just the discussion about the ficus tree to the urban heat island to native trees. And another thing, how did I get called out on huge tracts of land by Eileen. I thought I would get called about golf courses, parking lots, or even native vegetation. I don't recall anything about land. ;-) A question first. What native trees are people talking about? I drive from Phoenix to LA and the only trees I see are saguaro and a few Palo Verde/mesquites in rest areas or other "man made" areas. While some of these trees may be native to other parts of Arizona or the southwest, I don't see any of them growing in the wild. Native to the southwest or Arizona or the southwest does not mean it is native the Phoenix area. We have introduced these plants here. That should be cleared up immediately.

    The urban heat island effect is mainly due to 2 factors: Concrete and asphalt. Cars and people add to this effect, but the vast majority of it is due to concrete and asphalt. These materials absorb the heat during the day and retain it at night leading to warmer nights and eventually hotter days. We have only a couple of choices here: A) get rid of C & A and replace them with something else or B) reduce the sunlight from hitting these surfaces in the first place. Lets go into each one of these choices

    A) Right now, we don't have much choice in this one. Unless they invent something to replace all of our city streets and sidewalks with other materials, we are stuck with this. I guess they could paint everything with a mirror paint to reflect the heat back into space, but everything would be so bright outside it would be difficult to drive or even walk around. Imagine driving on those surfaces at night with other headlights shining on the streets. I know they are developing other materials that don't retain heat as much, but right now they are just not available for projects of this magnitude. I know granite can be used to make streets, but I don't believe it is too cost effective.

    B) The easier option is to prevent the sunlight from hitting these surfaces in the first place. Trees can play a major role here. It seems like any time a tree gets big enough to cover part of a parking lot or a street, someone trims it down to a shadow of itself. WHY? Lining streets with trees that actually shade the streets (novel concept here) is a big step in reducing the amount of heat and sunlight that are absorbed.

    There are other steps that can be done also. Roofs can either be made out of different materials such as tile (much better than asphalt shingles) or another similar material. In some areas of the country where they get more rain, some are even using sod on their roofs (I don't know how they would mow it when they needed to). The easiest choice is to use trees and other vegetation to create a cooling effect in urban areas. I personally do not like ficus, but it does not mean I do not like the benefits of its shade and cooling effect. For mass areas, I would suggest a more drought tolerant tree--but that's only my opinion (still no Palos/mesquites please).

    OK, that leaves us with a dilemma: Do we plant more trees and use vegetation to cool our city at the expense of using more water or do we knock down the trees, save water, but pump out more greenhouse gases for the extra energy required to cool our homes and businesses? You choose. We can't change the past but we can plan for the future. It depends on which road we want to take.

    My 6,8 cents now--whatever.

    There's no present. There's only the immediate future and the recent past.

    ----George Carlin

    We must dare to think 'unthinkable' thoughts. We must learn to explore all the options and possibilities that confront us in a complex and rapidly changing world. We must learn to welcome and not to fear the voices of dissent. We must dare to think about 'unthinkable things' because when things become unthinkable, thinking stops and action becomes mindless.

    ----J William Fulbright

  • Easygoing

    I like your way of thinking AZDesert. However, I think the reason trees are kept trimmed back is because of property damage and liability for when those monsoon storms do move in and topple trees, break off branches, etc. Can you imagine the lawsuit from a person who has a love one killed by a huge branch spanning a road, and then falling on and killing a family driving down the road? Whether they would win or not, I don't know, but I can see the cost involved in the lawsuits. To me it should be something else. Something more permanent. Steel frames over the freeway supporting a very durable shade cloth. Something that wouldn't be at risk of injuring people on the roads. As much as we spend on freeway architecture and landscaping, why not get rid of all the fancy pots on the walls, trees and landscaping bordering the freeways, and put in some kind of support structure that shades the entire freeway system. Just a crazy thought...


  • desertdenial

    I bought a 36" box ficus from Moon Valley last spring and it died for the 4th of July. Their arborist inspected it and told me that I need to water it 36 gallons a day or every other day. I am taking that as hyperbole to emphasize that I should water it ALOT. I just put in the replacement and I am watering it a few hours 3 times a week.

    Keep this in mind if you are planning on buying a more mature specimen. They are thirsty.

    (I had planted 2 large jacarandas at the same time as the first ficus and they flourished while under the same watering conditions)

  • Pagancat

    36 gallons a DAY????

    That pretty much kills any arguments for this tree for me. That's a ridiculous for the desert in the middle of a drought. I'll keep my other, more judgemental comments to myself, but frankly, I'm stunned.

    GT, hold the computer up to the tree and I'll tell it - it's a freakin' water hog!!!!

  • lee_tucson

    Pagancat did you read how desertdenial's Ficus is a recent transplant? What desert evergreen tree can you plant that does not require more water when recently transplanted then after established? Let's use a little plant 101 logic here. All plants require more water when recently transplanted then they will when established.

    And desertdenial stated that the tree was purchased from Moon Valley, so Pagancat how often do you seek advice from Moon Valley? I'm going to guess not much, but if I'm wrong and if you're a big believe in getting advice from Moon Valley then I take no offense to a correction.

    Now I don't want to start a Moon Valley bashing post, that's certainly not my intention, I enjoy the occasion plant gawking trip there, but I just thought it was fair to offer perspective.

    The climate in PHX has changed greatly over the last 30 years. And the Ficus nitida is a great addition to the PHX landscape. Once again you can't grow that beautiful tree in the midwest, so make the most out of this unique climate


  • Garden_trolip

    Pagancat.....Kiss my Ficus ;)

  • Pagancat

    Lee, I didn't say it was good advice but I certainly would not plant a tree that I thought would take a 1/4 that much water to establish. I have successfully planted trees and not come near that. I'm glad you think they're beautiful, and have no qualms about planting something that has that kind -or even close to it- water use, here. I think they fit about as well as a pink flamingo would in the desert, and there is plenty of those, too.

    We're gonna have to agree to disagree on this one - I have different priorities and different tastes. I like native trees.

    GT, you got it - and your little dog, too!

  • lee_tucson

    Pagancat, I agree that perhaps it's just best to agree to disagree. And I think that the pink flamingos at the PHX Zoo and Reid Park Zoo look wonderful in the desert, I always enjoy seeing them. Pink flamingos are certainly another pleasant addition to our area.

    I as well like native plants, but just because you like this:
    And this:
    And this:
    And this:

    Doesn't mean you can't also like this:

    (I wouldn't have taken those photos above long before this thread if I didn't enjoy those trees as well.)

    Garden trolip, A+ use of you Ficus. It looks great there. Thank you for the picture.


  • PenBuilder

    Not to change the subject, but I couldn't help but pick up on PCat's "I love native trees". I have been wondering lately about the Mexican Palo Verde trees (not necessarily native) and cork screw bean mesquites. I have seen full grown Mexican PVs in landscapes, and man are they elegant and pretty. They are like the Desert Museum, but with brown bark and have a less obvious character. I also like that they are not a hybrid. The corkscrew mesquite are not necessarily strong in stature, but neat in bean. My question to PCat and all: why do you think others don't grow these trees. They are definitely not common, but they can be found. I think I am going to plant one of each, but want to know if anyone out there has tried either of these bad boys. Is there something I don't know about them? Extraordinarily messy or problematic in other ways?

  • Garden_trolip

    What did you say about my dog?!

  • Easygoing

    I like the hybrids because they are thornless. Have you ever had to prune one of those fully loaded thorny desert trees? ;)


  • Easygoing

    GT, did I tell you I adopted another Yorkie. Regrettably it was a puppy mill dog, but I have had her spayed, a tumor removed, and seven loose teeth pulled, and she is in a better home now, and can retire and enjoy the rest of her life. I didn't realize she was a puppy mill dog till I took her to the vet, although I wondered. The breeder told me she had only been bred once per year. The vet said not true at all. The breeder told me she was only 5 years old. The Vet said, no way...with all those loose teeth! She is a little angel, well behaved, wonderful little girl. Love her to death. We'll have to have a yorkie get together one of these days. So now I have my Yorkies, Bridget and Megan. Any my very old make Sheltie, who I have had since he was 8 weeks old Chipper. They are such wonderful animals!


  • roo2000

    I am going to the DBG sale next weekend, specifically to purchase a screwbean mesquite (Prosopis pubescens), Pen Builder. I bought one there last year, but it didn't make it (completely my fault). So far the DBG is the only place that I've found one. I'm very excited to try this tree!

  • Pagancat

    Your dog? I said I would kiss your dog, by your command! And that's it!

    Roo, have you been down to the Rio Salado project at all? There and at Tres Rios they have a bunch of the screwbeans. I was actually surprised at how small they were, but who knows how old they were, too.

    Tony, I think Easy's answer is it - people see them as too messy or too thorny. Which is too bad - like anything else, you'll have your upsides and your downsides. When you breed out one factor, you ultimately lose another (as Easy can tell you about the newer hybrid roses with gorgeous form but no scent). I've got a pair of fairly scarred up mitts, but thems my gardening hands, so...

  • Pagancat

    Oops - sorry, I didn't really address your question about the Mexican Palo Verdes ... many people believe them to be noxious weeds - like the Tree of Heaven, that sort of thing. They re-seed very easily, I guess, although some of the offices near by have them and they look great. I've heard that they also break easily in the monsoon winds, but I haven't seen it happen, so...?

  • PenBuilder

    Screw bean it, I think I'm going to try them both. I have a spot for two desert trees and I have been debating what type to use for a while. I wanted to get something different, so I will try these. I figure that they probably have as much chance getting blown over as any of the other desert trees. The mess - I can deal with. The thorns - It will fit in nicely with the others. The baby tree weeds - I'll have to stay on top of it. Thanks for the advice. If anyone has anything to add, I'd appreciate it.

    I'm also going to the DBG sale next Friday, but I have also seen them at Shady Way.

  • drygulch

    Okay, I have a confession to make.

    I don't like xeriscapes (forgive me Lord, bless the pygmies in New Guinea).

    I have never seen one that I liked. Most of them look to me like...well, like a gravel pit.

    Most of the xeriscapes that I've seen contain what appear to be non-native plants, anyway. At least, I've never seen most of them in the many hours I've spent tromping around in the desert.

    My next door neighbor has a native mesquite, of which about 1/3 hangs over my roof. *&$^& messiest tree in creation! It throws seeds everywhere, and the little sprouts are one of the worst weeds in my yard. Plus they bite when I reach down to pull them.

    I don't want my yard to look like a...well, a gravel pit. I want it to look as fresh and inviting as possible. But to each his own, if you want a xeriscaped yard, more power to you. It just bothers me a little bit when others promote their way as the only acceptable way. Political correctness begone!

  • Garden_trolip

    Yeah, xeriscape....I'm ALL over it!

  • tomatofreak

    Hmmmm, and I'll bet that Yorkie can fly, too, GT!

  • PenBuilder

    DryGulch, the desert will grow on you - trust me. It's like stinky cheese -it's an acquired taste. I've lived here my whole life. I used to hate it here, but now, honestly, I think this is the most beautiful place on earth. I've been around, and I think I can say that there is no place quite like the Sonoran Desert. I've never been to South Africa, Madagascar, or Australia, but I'm sure that those are the only deserts that rival ours. As far as natives you cant find in our landscapes: there are Jojobas, Creosote, Ironwood, Blue Palo Verde, Ocotillo, and Saguaro's that first come to mind. Don't forget organ pipe, strawberry hedge hogs, brittle bush, fairydusters, several types of agaves, our own little Mammillaria, cholla, a plethora of prickly pear, different yuccas that are found all over the state, and barrel cactus. Take me blind folded to any sub division, I will find all of the above. If you find a cult Xerer, you will find the Baja stuff: Cardon, Bursera, Pacycormis, the Sonoran Euphorbia and Jatropha, even a ficus, and lots of column cactus. If I keep thinking I will go on and on. As far as rocks go, you are in the right place. We have a complete fossil record from the Cambrian to the Permian along the rim (that covers evolution from trilobite to reptile). Beyond that you can find dinos from the Triassic to the Jurassic in the Navajo Nation. We have some of the oldest rock on earth 30 minutes north of town, and some volcanic action from the Superstition calderas to the cinder cones around flagstaff. Not to mention all of the recent ice age mammal fossils found around town. I guess what Im trying to say is that desert landscape is a little more than a pile of rocks.
    (I guess this is why people dont like me)

  • roo2000

    *I* like you, Tony! :D

  • eileenaz

    Grant's right- this is a great thread!

  • aztransplant

    Ok, I'm going to chime in here, too. :-)

    The wonderful thing about gardening is that there are so many different ways of doing things, you'll never get bored. I love how those big ficus trees look and appreciate that others plant them. However, I don't want to bother watering them. Nor do I want to bother watering and caring for grass, either. I enjoy my small monthly water bill.

    That being said, certain folks on this forum water their yards a lot with thirsty plants, but check out the picture that Gardentrolip just posted on this thread...absolutely gorgeous! I'd love to have a back yard as gorgeous as that. However, I can't really afford too expensive of a water bill.

    Nor can I afford at this time to install a complicated drip irrigation system in my backyard, so I'm relegated to water harvesting techniques (I've been creating an awful lot of berms lately) & soaker hoses. Neighbors of mine have had gutters installed on their houses, but I can't afford that, either. :-)

    That's why I love to go to places like local botanical gardens to get inspiration on how, over time, I can hopefully have a beautiful landscape with native plants. I, too, love those non-natives. heck, I just got my 1st banana plant. And I succumbed last week to black & chartreuse sweet potato vine at Lowes. :-)

  • PenBuilder

    Thanks roo

  • Garden_trolip

    I have 2 ponds (soon a 3rd) And when I had 3 TEENAGERS at home in the summer my highest water bill was $72.00. Because of my GIGANTIC Mesquite tree I have my own little micro climate. So I can have a tropical look in my backyard without the high H2o bills :)

  • oldtimeradioguy

    I HAD 2 Ficus trees I planted in my back yard. The first one planted 3 years ago, was just removed from my yard yesterday, it DIED. Not sure why, but last summer almost all the leaves turned brown and fell off, but in the spring it came back. The other one was planted about the same time, but much smaller. It has been doing just fine, until this summer, leaves turned brown and fell off, not as bad as the other one and it is now recovering. What is happening? I have it on a drip system, I water for 50 minutes twice a week. I am using 2 (4) gallons per hour heads to the drip systemn. HELP, I don;t want to loose this one.

  • oldtimeradioguy

    I HAD 2 Ficus trees I planted in my back yard. The first one planted 3 years ago, was just removed from my yard yesterday, it DIED. Not sure why, but last summer almost all the leaves turned brown and fell off, but in the spring it came back. The other one was planted about the same time, but much smaller. It has been doing just fine, until this summer, leaves turned brown and fell off, not as bad as the other one and it is now recovering. What is happening? I have it on a drip system, I water for 50 minutes twice a week. I am using 2 (4) gallons per hour heads to the drip systemn. HELP, I don;t want to loose this one.

  • aztreelvr

    There could be a number of reasons why you are having trouble with your ficus trees. They are not considered low water use so it could be a water issue. Right now you are delivering about 8 gallons twice per week which probably isn't enough and it's probably too often. You could try running your system for 4 - 6 hours once per week instead. Our clay soils hold quite a bit of water so as long as you are applying enough you shoudn't need to water more often at this time of year. Your goal is to get the water to soak down to three feet - long run times will accomplish this.

    Your trees could also be planted too deeply. I see this all the time and it causes a slow decline/death in trees and shrubs because the zone of trunk tissue just above the root flare gets covered with soil. This basically suffocates the plant. You can gently remove soil next to the trunk of your tree until you can see where the roots begin to extend into the soil. If this is below the grade of the surrounding soil, your tree was planted too deeply. Remove about a 6" ring of soil from around your tree's trunk and it might recover.

    There is an outside chance that something else is causing the trouble with your trees. Cotton (Texas) Root Rot is one. It affects non-native trees and shrubs and travels from plant to plant by the roots that grow and touch one another. There is no cure. The good news is that most natives are resistant; palms, grasses, yuccas, lilies (monocots) are not affected.

  • vikqueens

    Hey everyone. I'm new to the forum and would like some advice. I just planted a ficus microcarpa (Indian Laurel Fig) which is in column form right now. Does anyone have any pictures of a mature column form ficus? I'm not sure if I want to trim it up to regular tree form, or keep it the way it is. Thanks in advance for your help.

  • anabella

    I live in Los Angeles and am considering planting ficus nitida at a western exposure. Questions:
    1. How are the root systems on these? How far or near a house can they be planted?
    2. How quickly do they become trees- fast or slow growing
    3. Can they be kept/trimmed as hedges instead?
    Home Depot had some and they were pretty reasonable.

  • aztreelvr

    Be sure you keep this tree far away from buildings, sidewalks, pools and fences. They have roots that tend to valut these structures causing significant damage. They are fairly fast growing, but frost tender. In the winter of 06/07 many trees were lost in the Phoenix area due to below freezing temperatures.

    You could certainly make a tall hedge out of them but it will lock you into a regular maintenance schedule to keep them contained. Make sure you are prepared for that.

    Take a look at the photos at the beginning of this thread - these trees can become huge. Pay special attention to the 'buttressing' roots on older trees. Perhaps a smaller shrub/tree would fit your hedge needs better than Ficus nitida.

  • jaimesix

    I love these Nitida Ficus.
    I do not understand the fuss against them. I love shade, specially in summer and spring. Here in California, greedy tree trimming companies trim trees 3, 4 times a year!!!! what a robbery. In summer time, in need of shade, and trees get trimmed!!!
    The Ficus is a beautifull tree that offers shade, lucious green canopies, powerful growth. About water usage, yes, they need water, so what, I would galdly use water to grow such a beautifull tree. Those that complain about sidewalk damages, well, I think it is a good way to make sure my tax dollars are spent, I would rather have big green trees, and have a crew repair a sidewalk every 15 years, than have no crews working, some fat politician divwerting my tax money, and little bony trees.
    I do not live in Arizona, but in such unforgiving summer climate, I would consider the Ficus a blessing.
    Long live the Ficus, there is place for all trees in this world. Those that like other trees, plant them in your property. Instead of complaining about Ficus, please germinate and plant those trees you favour all over town. Be proactive, not destructive.

  • nativeazchica

    Hi, brand new to this site but this thread convinced me to register :). As someone with 20 plus years in the valley, I can say for a fact that xeriscapes and desert do not grow on everyone. I can not wait til I can move somewhere that lush green trees grow naturally!

    That said, I have a question on ficus nitida care, rather than a comment on their virtues:

    I am caring for my mother's garden for the summer and it requires lots of care. The biggest problem so far is the ficus nitida that are in the front and back, in wooden boxes. I water them about every 3 days and soak them well with the hose, but nevertheless, some of the trees have turned brown literally overnight after watering, and dropped most of their leaves. The same trees standing next to them and purchased at the same time are not dropping leaves. What causes this, and what's the best way to care for these trees (like how much & how often to water, fertilize, etc)

  • drmeow3

    According to Landscape Plants for Dry Climates (written by a faculty member at UA), Ficus Nitida in the ground should be watered every week or two in the hot season and every month or two in the cool but they also point out that many established trees seem to do fine without water - while its not really a low water use plant it certainly is not a water hog. They also recommend them as large container plants.

    Personally I absolutely love them. I bought one which I have not yet planted cause I don't know where to put it. I might put it in a container - I am concerned about how big it will get in the ground and the roots. I keep changing my mind about where to put it.

    I also absolutely love Palo Brea which I will put in my yard when I convert it to Xeriscape. I love Ironwood and Jacarandas and Agaves. On the other hand, I'm indifferent to palms and don't care for Chilean Mesquite. There is a Acacia which I can't even be close to when it blooms cause the smell makes me gag. Unfortunately there are tons of them by my work building - guess its not so bad that I'm losing my job :)

  • genieaz1965

    Hi...looking for advice! My house backs onto a major street, and so we are looking to put up a hedge that might absorb some of the traffic noise. Oleanders are out because we have dogs, and anything flowering (Like Lady Banks Roses) won't work because we have a pool, and the scent will attract bees.

    We have sort of settled on column Ficus, because it grows fast and thick, and is tolerant of the heat, without flowers, seed pods, or any of the other waste we've seen on some hedging materials.

    I'm wondering about the roots. My understanding is that if we put it on a drip line, watering infrequently but deeply, and keep it trimmed, the roots will not be a problem. I guess I'm looking for someone with experience with this plant to confirm that? I'm also wondering about how frequently we will need to trim them to keep them at no more than about 8ft. Help!



  • aztreelvr


    You may have been misinformed because Ficus do flower and produce marble sized inedible fruit. Even though this tree is evergreen, that doesn't mean it doesn't drop leaves - it does - all year long. Some people have allergic dermititis from the sap of ficus trees.

    Ficus trees have roots which are known to vault sidewalks, pool decking and fences, no matter how they are watered.

    An alternate choice might be Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa) a tall screening shrub (10' tall x 8' wide) with low litter. The variety known as 'purpea' has leaves that turn a bronze-purple in the winter. Its not poisonous, has no thorns and grows fairly fast.

    Keep in mind that plants make poor noise deflectors and you may not notice much improvement to your traffic noise.

    Try the link below for details.

  • Pauly_in_AZ

    Well, the frost of 2011 will go down in history as one of the worst here in Arizona. There were 3 days of frost on the first of the year 2011, but that didnt have much effect on my Ficus tree, just the tops and one of the outlying branches got killed. But the frost last night, the night of Feb. 3, 2011, the Ficus really got walloped. Im sooooo sad, heartbroken. I have only had the Ficus one year, and now all the outer leaves are brown, killed by the frost, and while the inside looks green, I really have no idea how extensive the damage is. Can anyone help me decide what to do? They are young enough that I could maybe replace them with a more frost-tolerant tree, though I wouldnt know which one at this point can grow as fast and yet be frost tolerant. There are other netighbors with Ficus around this South Scottsdale neighborhood and they ALL have their Ficus looking sickly, beat up by the frost. Dont know what to do.

  • joechien0218_yahoo_com

    Pauly, Yeah I really know what you are talking about. Exactly the same situation happened to my 3 ficus trees which were planted in October 2009. Only 4 months later, they got completely destroyed by the 20-deg night.

    But it's spring time again, I see new baby sprouts coming out. My only question for the experts here is: How long would it take to get back the original bushy look?


  • dorothyroeder

    >>How long would it take to get back the original bushy look?

    Couple years maybe. I had one that was about 6 yrs old, 14 ft about that was completely frosted 4 yrs ago. It regrew from the bottom. I pruned out all but two trunks and it was back to 12 ft when this last winter hit. There are little tiny shoots coming out from the trunks 4-6 ft off the ground as well as from the base. The main trunks were still green under the outer layer of bark this time.

    I love it when it is full and green and growing like mad. Gives me something to do when I feel like pruning. I am sad when it is just bare stumps.

  • cdn_snowbird

    In the west valley and everything is back from the frost except the Ficus. So it has been over 3 months and I am just starting to get a few shoots out the bottom. The other 2 still have no signs of life. Is there any hope?

  • aztreelvr

    cdn snowbird,

    Your trees have been damaged by the frost to the point where it has destroyed the natural shape of the tree. The sprouts you have at the base will never provide the traditional, single-trunk tree you once had.

    I'd recommend you start over with a tree that can withstand the frequent sub-freezing temperatures in our winters. Before this past freeze, the winter of 2006/2007 also killed or damaged ficus trees all over the valley.

    Now is a good time to plant, or if you are going to be gone over the summer and can't supervise a new tree, wait until October. There are dozens of lovely trees to choose from that will provide shade, colorful flowers, a habitat for wildlife or even fruit.

    The link below has a powerful search feature that lets you select any number of criteria for your 'perfect' tree. Give it a try.

  • catchkathy

    Hello, I have been reading the posts about the Ficus Nitida, which by the way I planted 5 in my backyard this past Friday, and I would like some tips on how to water and care for them. The planter said water from top. I would prefer the roots to not be exposed. Would deeper watering be a better choice?

  • newtoucan

    I wish everyone would just plant more trees. We definitely need more shade.

    People waste tons of water and energy keeping their lawns up. I'm sure the water for a tree is much less than water use for a lawn. Who uses a lawn anyways. I never see kids playing on their front lawns. It's way too hot and full of so many chemicals, I wouldn't want my kds playing on an AZ lawn.

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