The Green Island Ficus – Ficus microcarpa, [FY-kus my-kro-KAR-puh] is a slow-growing plant that belongs to the fig family Moraceae.
The Ficus microcarpa is also known as the ‘Ficus Nana plant’ with its glossy leaves is different and known for its smaller size and more ‘friendly’ root system.
Ficus microcarpa is relatively easy to grow outdoors in warm, humid regions like South Florida but requires a little more patience in cooler areas.
I remember first being introduced to this Ficus in south Florida during the plant craze of the late 1970s. In 2001, the Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association (FNGLA) recognized the Green Island Ficus as the ‘Plant of the Year’.
Green Island Ficus Plant Care
A quick glance at this Ficus variety with glossy deep green leaves one could mistake the plant for a jade plant at home in a tropical garden.
Green Island Ficus Size and Growth
In its native regions, Ficus microcarpa green island can reach over twenty feet tall with a massive canopy.
The selected varieties commonly sold and cultivated in North America are a little smaller, reaching 8′ feet tall if left unattended.
The green island Ficus plant is typically grown as a low hedge or as a ground cover. The shape is managed by pruning to keep the Ficus at the desired height.
Some people keep it trimmed from an early age to maintain it as a small Japanese bonsai tree.
The Ficus microcarpa features dense green foliage with small, rounded leaves. The glossy foliage is often used to help complement surrounding plants with a tropical garden feel.
As a slow grower, the Ficus microcarpa is easy to manage but the root system tends to spread quickly, which is why it shouldn’t be planted close to other vegetation or structures.
Flowering and Fragrance
The plant rarely flowers. It’s grown for its dense deep green glossy leaves, offering shade or helping to establish a perimeter.
Light and Temperature
The ficus is a tropical plant and thrives in warm, humid locations. It’s recommended for USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11.
In areas with dry or cool weather, the green island Ficus should be grown indoors or moved indoors in the fall.
Outdoors, it should receive full sun to part shade.
Microcarpa can handle full sun and is recommended in regions with high humidity while part shade is preferred for drier areas, helping the soil retain more moisture.
When placed indoors, ensure that it gets plenty of light throughout the day.
Consider setting it in an enclosed porch as the large glass windows often help trap in more humidity compared to the rest of the house.
Watering and Feeding
This ficus variety is a low maintenance shrub that doesn’t require frequent watering except when young.
Until mature, water two to three times per week throughout the warmer months. Fertilizer isn’t needed.
After the plant matures, it only needs infrequent watering, about once every one or two weeks.
Give it a deep thorough watering, saturating the soil without completely drowning the plant. Ficus nana is more drought tolerant than other Ficus varieties.
Soil and Transplanting
Use ordinary houseplant soil with good drainage. The island Ficus is low maintenance and an easy plant to grow. It tends to take root in almost any condition unless the air is too dry or cool.
If the plant is grown in a container throughout the year, transplant it every two years to freshen the soil or if it outgrows its home.
Transplant in the early spring before active growth starts.
Green Island Ficus Bonsai
Maintenance and Grooming
Grooming is the main maintenance task when caring for the Green Island Ficus. It is easy to keep small with pruning.
Always use sharp pruning tools and trim throughout the year as needed.
TIP: Remove dead branches to encourage denser growth.
How to Propagate Ficus Microcarpa ‘Green Island’
Propagation is possible with root cuttings. The root system spreads quickly, often reaching several feet.
The roots can be divided and separated to spread the plant or grow new plants.
Take a cutting from a younger plant, dip it in root hormone and plant it in its own four-inch starter container.
Don’t cover with plastic. Simply set it near a window and keep watered.
Within a few weeks, the cutting should take root, becoming its own new plant.
It can then be transplanted to the ground or kept in the container as a small bonsai.
Ficus Microcarpa Pests or Disease Problems
Microcarpa is easy to care for with no major pests or disease problems to worry about.
However, mealybugs and scale insect pests do set up residence on the underside of leaves and along leaf axils.
Inspect plants for pests and apply Neem oil for control.
Suggested Uses For The Ficus Island Microcarpa
Island Ficus is best grown as a low hedge in the landscape or as a small Ficus bonsai plant.
The plant grows easily indoors as a small house plant or outdoors. When planted in large containers and planters it makes an attractive bush when pruned for shape.
When grown from cuttings it’s easy to keep trimmed as a small bonsai tree.