How to Grow and Care for African Fig Tree (Ficus cyathistipula) Indoors

African Fig Tree, Birchbark Fig, Ficus cyathistipula

Botanical name: Ficus cyathistipula
Family: Moraceae
Common names: African Fig Tree, Birchbark Fig


African Fig Tree (Ficus cyathistipula) or Birchbark Figis an evergreen, vigourously growing shrubby plant with glossy, leathery, tumbler-shaped, dark-green leaves arranged spirally on a 4 cm long petiole.

Birchbark Fig has a thin trunk, which branches readily and may have adventitious roots. The leaves clothe the upright stems all through the year.

African Fig Tree has a dark and flaky bark which gives it the common name, 'Birchbark Fig'.

The figs are reddish when ripe, and have thick, spongy walls which enable them to float on water. The epithet, 'cyathistipula', arises from their cup-shape (cyathus-) and persistent stipules (stipula).

Unlike most plants in the Ficus genus, African Fig Tree is more tolerant to dry air and shady conditions.


African Fig Tree is an evegreen shrubby plant which can grow to a height of 16 ft in the wild but grows to 6-8 ft indoors. The leaves are about 1.8 ft long and 3 in. wide.


Ficus cyathistipula is native to tropical forest regions of Africa where it grows besides freshed streams and rivers or in swamps where they ovehang pools.

Where to Buy

Beautiful and healthy Ficus Plants in various sizes are readily available online at Etsy. Purchase Fig Trees online from Etsy.

African Fig Tree, Birchbark Fig, Ficus cyathistipula

Ficus cyathistipula Care Indoors

African Fig Tree (Ficus cyathistipula) thrives in bright light with some direct sunlight, warm and humid conditions and moderately moist, fertile, well-drained soil coupled with regular feeding during the growing season.

Birchbark Fig requires regular pruning to keep it neat and also encourage a bushy growth. Repotting is only needed when it becomes pot-bound. Keep reading for more on these growing conditions and how to achieve them.

Light Requirements

African Fig Tree grows best in bright light with at least 4 hours of morning or late afternoon direct sunlight. It can also grow under a grow light where natural light is inadequate.

Ficus cyathistipula can adapt to lower light but it will grow much slower. For uniform growth, turn the pot regularly to ensure that the plant receives light on all sides. Check out this guide on understanding light for houseplants.


Water African Fig Tree liberally during the growing season and allow the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings to keep the soil moderately moist.

Reduce watering during the cold season to maintain the soil barely moist as growth is minimal at this time.

Ensure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to leaf drop and root-rot.

Use tepid, chlorine-free water to water Birchbark Fig to avoid spots on the leaves. Read more on how to water houseplants.


The best temperature for growing African Fig Tree indoors is an average warmth within the range of 16-240C. Protect it from cold draughts to prevent sudden drops in temperature as they can lead to leaf drop. Read more on understanding temperature for houseplants.


Average room humidity is ideal for African Fig Tree. However, if the air is too dry especially where temperature is high, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier to raise humidity. Read more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Regularly clean the leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to get rid of dust and discourage pest infestation. Read more on how to clean houseplants.

Fertilizer (Feeding)

Feed African Fig Tree every 2-3 weeks during the growing period with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time can lead to fertilizer burn. Read more on how to feed houseplants.


Repot African Fig Tree at the beginning of the growing season only when it has become pot-bound.

Avoid frequent repotting as it prefers to be pot-bound. Repot only when it has outgrown its current pot; when roots begin to grow through the drainage holes.

Use a pot 1 size larger and one that has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy. Use a heavy pot as the plant can become top-heavy and topple over.

Never allow the roots to sit in soggy soil as it may lead to leaf drop and root-rot.

For a large Birchbark Fig which may be difficult to handle, annually replenish the top 2-4 in. of soil with fresh soil.


African Fig Tree soil should be rich in organic matter and free-draining to prevent it from getting soggy while providing the required nutrients.

Most multi-purpose potting mixes are ideal for the plant. Buy quality potting mix for Birchbark Fig from Amazon.


Pruning African Fig Tree is easy. Remove dead and yellow leaves to maintain the plant neat and tidy.

When African Fig Tree has reached maximum height or it has become leggy, cut back the branches to rejuvenate growth.

The foliage emating from pruning can be used to propagate new plants. Read more on how to prune houseplants.


African Fig Tree (Ficus cyathistipula) can be propagated during the growing season by from stem and stem-tip cuttings.

How to Propagate African Fig Tree from stem and stem-tip cuttings

Take non-woody stem or stem-tip cuttings of about 6 in. long from a healthy African Fig Tree. Strip off the lower leaves from the cutting and retain 2-3 leaves on top.

Allow the sap to dry and then dip the lower cut end cutting in a rooting hormone to hasten rooting.

Insert the cutting in moist rooting soil. Ensure that the rooting container has adequate drainage to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to rotting.

To enhance rooting of the cutting, create a mini-greenhouse by covering the set up with a polythene bag or sheet.

Ensure the leaves do not touch the bag or the sheet too much by propping it up with sticks.

Place the set up in warm, well-lit spot and maintain the soil moist through out until new growth emerges.

New growth indicates that the cutting has rooted. In about 3-4 weeks, rooting will have taken place.

Gradually over a period of two weeks, remove the plastic cover to acclimatize the new plant.

In 4-6 months, there will be adequate root development after which you can begin Ficus cyathistipula routine care.

African Fig Tree, Birchbark Fig, Ficus cyathistipula

Ficus cyathistipula Problems Indoors

African Fig Tree (Ficus cyathistipula) problems indoors are caused by cultural faults (improper care). These problems include leaf drop, yellow leaves, drooping leaves, pests and diseases among others. Continue reading for more on these problems and how to fix them.

Leaf drop (loss)

There are many and varied causes of leaf drop in African Fig Tree. One possible cause of leaf drop is sudden changes in the growing conditions.

This is likely to occur when you bring the plant home or when you move it to a new location in the home.

When you bring the African Fig Tree, place it in bright light with 4 hours of direct morning or late afternoon sunlight and warm conditions.

Water it liberally during the growing season while allowing the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings. It may loss a few leaves but will eventually settle.

If you need to move the plant to a new location in your home, do so gradually to acclimate it to the new conditions.

For instance, if you want to take it outside, move it to a shaded place first before you can take out under bright light.

The second possible cause of leaf drop in Birchbark Fig is extremely cold or hot temperatures due to drafts. The plant requires average room temperatures within the range of 16-240C inorder to thrive.

Too high or too low temperatures (outside the above range) will affect the normal functioning of the plant systems.

Too high temperatures will cause dehydration which can lead to wilting and leaf drop while too low temperatures cause the plant to stop growing and begin to die. Leaf drop is one of the signs of a dying plant.

The third possible cause of leaf drop in African Fig Tree is too little light The plant requires bright light with some direct sunlight for optimum growth.

Move the plant to a brighter spot and ensure it is receiving bright light with some direct sunshine or instal a grow light where natural lighting is not sufficient. Read more on understanding light for houseplants.

Ficus cyathistipula is similar to Ficus elastica (Rubber Plant) in its requirements and is thus affected by similar problems.

Read more on 14 reasons why Rubber Plant is dropping leaves and how to fix them

Yellow leaf edges

Yellowing leaf edges in African Fig Tree are due to underfeeding. Feed the plant every 2-3 weeks with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer during the growing period. Read more on how to feed houseplants.

Drooping leaves

Drooping leaves in African Fig Tree are an indication of underwatering. Water the plant immediately and the leaves should perk up. Never allow the soil to dry out completely; maintain the soil moderately moist at all times.


The common pests in African Fig Tree are Aphids, Mealy Bugs, Scale Insects and Spider Mites.

Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to other plants and treat with Neem oil or Insecticidal soap. Keep the plant properly pruned at all times to reduce the hiding places for these pests.


African Fig Tree is prone to root-rot disease which is enhanced by soggy soil. Ensure there is free drainage of both the soil and the pot and also reduce watering during the cold season. Read more on root-rot disease and how to deal with it.

Is African Fig Tree toxic?

African Fig Tree (Ficus cyathistipula) like other Ficus Plants is toxic to humans and pets according to Pet Poison Helpline.

The plants produce a milky white latex which is an irritant to the eyes and the skin. If ingested it can cause irritation in the mouth, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and abdominal pains.

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