African Fig Tree (Ficus cyathistipula) Care Indoors, Propagation and Growing Problems

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, Birchbark Fig, Ficus cyathistipula

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


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


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.


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.

Where to Buy

Ficus Plants are a spectacular addition to your plant collection, they are available online on Etsy.

Ficus cyathistipula Care Indoors

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

Ficus cyathistipula requires regular pruning to keep it neat, discourage pests and diseases as well as 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.

African Fig Tree, Birchbark Fig, Ficus cyathistipula

Light Requirements

African Fig Tree grows best in bright light with at least 4 hours of morning or late afternoon direct sunlight.

Birchbark Fig can adapt to lower light but it will grow much slower. For even growth, rotate the pot regularly to ensure that the plant receives light on all sides.

Ficus cyathistipula can also grow under a grow light where natural light is not sufficient. Check out these full spectrum grow lights on Amazon.


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.

Lessen watering during the cold season to maintain the soil barely moist as growth is minimal at this time but do not let the soil dry out completely.

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

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

Temperature and Humidity

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.

Average room humidity is ideal for African Fig Tree. However, if the air is too dry especially where temperature is high, elevate the humidity.

To raise humidity, set the pot on a wet pebble tray. Take a look at these techniques 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.

Fertilizer (Feeding)

Feed African Fig Tree every 2-3 weeks during the growing period with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer to promote a lush growth.

Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is reduced and feeding at this time can lead to fertilizer burn and death of the plant.

Potting Medium

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 this plant. Buy quality Potting Mix online from Amazon.


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. Check out these Ceramic Pots with Drainage Holes and Saucer on Amazon.

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.


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

Cutback the branches when the African Fig Tree has reached maximum height or it has become leggy, to rejuvenate growth and encourage a bushy growth.

You can use the foliage emating from pruning to propagate new plants.


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 and confirm 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 acclimate 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

African Fig Tree (Ficus cyathistipula) problems include leaf drop, yellow leaves, drooping leaves, pests and diseases among others. Keep 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 often happens 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, position it under bright light with 4 hours of direct morning or late afternoon sunlight and warm conditions.

Water the plant 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.

Place the plant in 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.

Ficus cyathistipula is similar to Ficus elastica (Rubber Plant) in its requirements and are 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 but do not feed in the cold period.

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 during the growing season and fairly moist in the cold period.


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. Read on how to identify and get rid of pests in houseplants.


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 treat it.

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