Sunday, October 31, 2010

Favorite Ficus

All gardeners lust for plants we can not possibly grow in our yards due to some local factor, mine is the climate of N. Charleston. FROST! Tropicals are not fond of it and yet we gardeners try to grow them and ocasionally succeed.

Ficus auriculata is one of the triumphs! I first learned of this plant from a fellow palm society member who was growing it in Augusta,Ga.
If it could survive there it would do just fine on the coast.

The plant is fast growing and recovers rapidly in spring and reaches 15' by fall. In my yard it alway freezes to the ground but in milder situations it can survive because it is a cold/drought deciduous plant and thus has a dormant period that increases hardiness.

It`s a beauty, large dark green leaves that are large enough to give a garden that tropical look. My 8 year old plant produces ten stems all reaching heights between 10' and 15'.

I have tested many other figs for cold tolerance, some such as F. petiolaris and F. aurea survived the winter as root hardy but return too slowly to be garden worthy. These plants are the nothern most species in North America.

Ficus elastica is written to be a good candidate for colder areas but it also returns to slowly. Older books recommend this one often so the problem may be that todays cultivars have all been selected for slow or compact growth.

There is one other that is proving to be a good candidate and that if F. religiosa. This again is a plant that has a dormant period and also returns at a good rate in the spring. I have not had it long enough to give its ultimate heights but it has impressed me so far.

Since the Genus Ficus is so large there are probably many other candidates so let`s keep trying.