Ficus Outside the Tropics

What is the northernmost ficus you've encountered, not counting creeping fig or edible fig?

I recently spotted a two story tall fiddle leaf fig in between two buildings in Orange Park Florida, zone 9a.  The more exposed branches were nipped by the 20F freezes, making it look similar to salt pruned trees growing along the beach.

There are even some large ficus growing at the Jacksonville Zoo and Ravine Gardens State Park!

At the Jacksonville Zoo, when you have just entered past the ticket booths, there are these walled plantings of palms and other tropicals to your left and right, and to the right is what looks to be a banyan or strangler fig, complete with aerial roots.  There are also a couple I've seen growing vinelike at Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka, just as you descend the stone stairs into the ravine.

I grow ficus decora (or rubber plant) in my garden and though it died back to the ground in our unseasonably cold winter, it came back with extra vigor on sturdy stems.  There is a larger bush at a doughnut shop in Orange Park that only got its outer leaves burned!  There were two others right next to it that mysteriously died immediately following the arctic blast, so I might chalk it up to genetics.

One of the most exciting parts of my hikes in South Florida is an encounter with the magnificent Ficus Aurea, or strangler fig.  Depending on what your source is, they can range into Brevard county, or anywhere all the way up to Ponce Inlet, just south of Daytona Beach!

I love the way the aerial roots wrap around palm trunks and other obstacles (sometimes buildings) and form intricate shapes of webbing and melted forms, as if the ficus melted and solidified around its "host plant".  Though they're not parasitic, they do outcompete for light and nutrients and eventually overpower the unfortunate plant in its tangled grasp.  Here's a link to an excellent article on banyans.

That "Angkor Wat" look is very appealing to me, as it embodies the savage and graceful struggle that plays out in the rainforest every day.  I have no illusions about their potential for damage when placed too close to structures, but I would really love to someday grow a strangler fig or a banyan in a container at least, planted among rocks and other plants for the roots to fuse around.  Since banyan forming ficus trees are undesirable in residential areas of South Florida, they're not easy to find on sale.  (Ps: If you have any seeds, seedlings or rooted cuttings of a banyan or strangler fig I'll trade you!)

Back in July Danger Garden posted an amazing photo of a common fig tree grown as a banyan in Oregon.

Isn't that cool?  I may consider doing that with my own fig tree, maybe air layering the branches or mounding the soil and unearthing the exposing roots every so often. 

Be sure to tell me about your ficus experiences!  I also have a thread going on at Gardenweb.

Other posts
I Survived the Freezes!
5 Ways to Fight Cold Damage
How to Keep Tropical Flair Through Winter


  1. So I guess you know what my answer would be then huh? :) Thanks for the link!

  2. Danger Garden:
    Hey, you're the most adventerous gardener I know of on the west coast! People here in Florida really need to see your blog and garden for inspiration!

  3. Hey!
    I've been fascinated with these trees for years and finally found a few here in Texas. The most northern here grows on Galveston Island...a zone 10ish island just off the coast of Texas.
    We had a number of 25 foot Rubber trees in Houston metro, but all died with the 21 degree freeze. We had had 10 or 11 years of mild winters, hence their size.
    There's one Ficus that seems to be hardier than the rest. I don't recall the name, but all grow very easily with cuttings in water.
    You can also root them in pure sand, volcanic rock, and any fast draining medium. It takes from a week to a month to see roots. Keep them warm. I found someone in our area that had cut back their Zulu fig trees and had bagged up about 100 or so green stems with leaves. I left half out in the cold winter weather with a zero survival rate. Those inside and warm all rooted.
    I would not recommend Zulu fig because they freeze at about 30 to 31 degrees F.
    Best Wishes,
    David/ Tropical Texana/ Houston

  4. Banyans are certainly faves of mine, though I agree, it must be the right environment. There is a lovely little neighborhood I know that has a beauty of a banyan growing on the edge of a certain yard. And into the street. Uplifting pavement. But then, to see one in a botanical garden, like the one in the now defunct Cypress Gardens of Winter Haven...what a sight to behold!

    I grow the rubber plant in my garden as well. Very fast grower. At a hotel across from the aforementioned Cypress Gardens, there is a ginormous specimen. I see it and ask myself, what was I thinking? It will likely have to cut down some day.

  5. David, Melanie and Family:
    I'm curious about the ficus that you say is hardier than the rest! Let me know when you find out... That's really interesting to hear about the houston ficus trees, and I guess that the smaller ones actually stand a better chance of surviving than the overgrown ones. I'll have to try some cuttings of the native strangler fig, or maybe a banyan tree.

    I suppose the advantage of a "not so tropical" climate is that I can get away with growing tropicals that would be invasive or too rowdy further south... since they just die back to a manageable size in winter. Even my pothos died back to a shell of its former self this winter!

    Sorry it took so long to reply to your comments... I've been busy with fun wedding planning stuff and gasp! Gardening!


    This is, probably, the northernmost fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) in the world, at least in the northern hemisphere.
    It's located in Tortolì, Sardinia 39°56′N 9°39′E.


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