How to Care for Your Mistletoe Fig

by | Apr 1, 2020 | 49 comments

During this stressful time, I find that working with my plant is my best relief and frankly, my joy. I’ve been in some stage of writing a book for the last four years and I am not exaggerating when I say that my houseplants and house have suffered. Isn’t it weird that I was writing about houseplants and yet my own plants were being put on the back burner? I turned in the final edits of my third book yesterday and now I can spend some much needed time with my plants. If you follow me on Instagram, I shared some pictures of my kitchen area a couple of days ago, where I have over 50 houseplants. Today I decided to clean off my antique sewing machine/plant stand and rearrange and repot plants in my south window. Eventually, I will get all the windows clean and the plants groomed. I started with my mistletoe fig or Ficus deltoidea.

Mistletoe fig

This is my mistletoe fig before up-potting it into a bigger container

I’ve had this plant for quite a few years and it has been growing great in this southern exposure window. It has grown a lot since I bought it I’ve up-potted it once, and now today I needed to do it again.

Finding a new pot

It isn’t a very good picture, but I chose a pot (left) not much bigger than the one it had been in (right). I find it dries out faster than my other plants and I have to water more than usual, so I took it out of the pot and checked the roots. It wasn’t crazy root bound but I decided a bit bigger pot wouldn’t hurt. (I watered the plant in the shower and that’s why it is wet.)

Two pots for ficus

I chose a pot just a bit bigger for my ficus

Upotting a plant

I up-potted my plant from the pot on the right to the pot on the left

Mistletoe name

The Ficus deltoidea or mistletoe fig is so named because of the white berries it gets which makes it resemble a mistletoe plant and also because it naturally grows as an epiphyte in its natural habitat in SE Asia. The real mistletoe plant grows on and parasitizes its host plant and you can read more about it here. The mistletoe fig is an easy plant and unique with its triangle-shaped leaves and berries that start out white and turn red.

When I repotted the plant I used some systemic insecticide in the mix as I think it may have a small amount of scale on the leaves as you can see in the left picture above on the lower-left edge of the leaf.

Unique leaf properties

Though there is scale on the leaf above, on the leaf below you can see some small dots that appear to go through the entire leaf. These are called hydathodes which are modified pores on the leaves. Guttation happens through these “pores” which means extra water escapes through these small openings.

Mistletoe fig leaf

Mistletoe fig leaf -notice the dots in the leaves

Fruit

With all this fruit, why haven’t I ever showed you the flowers? Because they aren’t able to be seen. Figs are considered false fruit or composite fruit. The flowers and seeds grow together in an enclosed capsule and the flowers can’t be seen unless the fruit is cut open. So weird.

Up-potted fig

My up-potted mistletoe fig fresh from the shower (You can see more of those hydathodes on the leaves)

Care

My fig is growing in a south window and is growing well. I have let it dry out more than once though and it has developed a few yellow leaves. I’m hoping that by up-potting it into a bit larger pot, it may help. It needs to be allowed to dry out quite a bit, but not become completely dry. Because of its thick leaves, it can tolerate drying out (as I can attest to) but may react with a few yellow leaves. This is a good plant if you are a forgetful plant parent. I can personally attest to the fact that this plant has been allowed to dry out more than once and though I don’t like yellow leaves, it hasn’t died and is doing remarkably well. You can see that a few yellow leaves haven’t really affected the plant overall. It’s still full and looks great.

If you can find this plant, buy it. Here is another post about many other great plants in the ficus family. It’s a wonderful group of plants, some easier to grow than others with creeping plants as well as large trees. You should be able to find a ficus that will work for you. Do you already have one? Or two?

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49 Comments

  1. Tara Douglass

    Hello,

    Where can we buy one of these?

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      I’m not sure. I bought mine at the Chicago Flower Show many years ago. Google it and you may find a source for it. Perhaps Logee’s?

      Reply
      • S. Hamilton

        Got mine at CT Bonsai in Manchester, CT 10/28/23

        Reply
  2. Victoria Karen

    Hello, it’s great to read about this plant since I have had one for about 5 yrs. I bought it very small at the farmers market. It is quite big now. I have transplanted it at least twice and it is doing well except for one big thing. The leaves have morphed into longish pointed leaves and no fruit. Do you know anything about this phenomenon? I noticed a few years ago that some leaves were the new type but now they all are. It is in a good location of southern sun. You are doing a great job with yours. It’s lovely to see.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      I had not heard that. Do you think it may have new growth coming from the bottom? I’m sure it isn’t grafted, so I don’t get it. So weird.

      Reply
      • K10

        Yes! This is happening to my mistletoe and I have not gotten any answers. I thought it might have to do with grafting or reverting but then read about this plant having male and female plant type, each having different leaves. Some branches on my 2 year old plant have both types of leaves but few of the triangle shape I want and more prominently the benjamina type.

        Reply
        • Lisa Steinkopf

          Are you talking about it having berries but no obvious flowers?

          Reply
          • K10

            It has berries, they fall off but don’t flower. This ficus is growing more and more into a benjamina. There are now more benjamina leaves than mistletoe leaves. It’s extremely frustrating.

          • Lisa Steinkopf

            I don’t think it become a benjamina, so let’s figure out what is wrong. Mine is in a south window and has full sun most of the day. That helps keep the leaves the shape they should be and not elongated. Do you think your plant has enough light?

      • Elysium

        I have an answer to this! According to an article I found when I first got my specimen about a year ago, the leaves morph based on the gender of the plant. “larger and rounder for females, smaller and oblong for males” There are also a few species that are both, so they can grow both types of leaves in the same branch. I remember seeing a cultivar with both leaf shapes at the Fairchild Botanic Garden.

        Reply
        • Lisa Steinkopf

          Wow! That is amazing! Thanks for the information! Lisa

          Reply
    • Mary Lou Taft

      My mistletoe fig has done the very same thing….developed long pointy leaves. So now some of the leaves are pointy and some rounded triangle shape. If you discover the answer I would like to know. TIA

      Reply
    • Daniel

      The long pointy leaves mean that you have a male plant, the females have rounder leaves and “figs”.

      Reply
  3. carol morotti

    Hi Lisa,
    Thank you so much for the wonderful article! Full of great information but doesn’t exactly pinpoint the issue I am having with my Mistletoe fig.
    It has sort of ‘bleached out leaves’. The new growth is coming in darker but the older leaves are just bleached out. I tried leaving it completely dry out before watering thoroughly and now I am letting me slightly moist and then water. It normally gets South light indoors and this summer it is on a side porch that has a greenhouse roof so gets lots of light. Just gave it a bit of miracle grow. It is growing, has a beautiful shape, has two yellow leaves – that’s all – and I transplanted it about a year ago. I have mostly succulents in my home so I have to make an effort with my non succulents to give enough water. What to do. I’d love to send you a photo that might explain this bleaching effect if you’ve never seen.
    Thank so much.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Carol,
      Definitely send a picture to Lisa@thehouseplantguru.com. It may just need some fertilizer, or maybe the older leaves are just old and its time for them to drop….?

      Reply
    • K10

      Only bright indirect light. I will move it and experiment. Fascinating that the light can do that! Thanks for the easy advice!

      Reply
      • Lisa Steinkopf

        Hi K10, I hope your plant is doing well after its move! Lisa

        Reply
  4. Rick

    Can you tell me if its possible to take cuttings from this plant and are they easy to root? Thanks very much.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Rick,
      I have never taken cuttings, but I don’t think it would be hard to root them. If it is a woody plant, you could try air layering or just use the tips for cuttings. Let me know how if it works for you.
      Lisa

      Reply
  5. Barbara Hall

    I purchased my Mistletoe Fig at Redondia home of RJ Reynolds Tobacco in Winston Salem North Carolina, now under the care of Wake Forest University. It was in a 4 inch pot so it traveled in my suitcase to Texas. That was 5 years ago. It has grown quite a bit. I have transplanted 3 times into larger pot. I use Osmocote for Flowers/Vegetables 14-14-14. Outside in summer and drinks a lot of water. This plant is so special to me because it has survived with me for 5 years.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Barbara,
      Thanks for sharing the story of your plant. I love the mistletoe fig and actually bought a variegated one today in Florida! So funny you commented on this post today.
      Lisa

      Reply
  6. Jenn Latessa

    I purchased a large (6-7 ft.) mistletoe fig tree at Terrain in Pennsylvania and drove it home to D.C. (yes it was a bit of an impulse buy!) I repotted into a very large pot with quality potting soil and it is next to window in a fairly sunny room. I expected it to have an adjustment period but after two weeks it’s still dropping what look to be mostly healthy leaves (a few yellow ones).I’m completely inexperienced with this a had no business buying such an expensive tree!! Please help!

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Jenn,
      Can you send a picture? It sounds like it is having a hard time acclimating to the new surroundings. How much did you up-pot the tree? I would have only gone up one size if it was root-bound. If it wasnt’ overly rootbound, I wouldn’t have put it into a larger pot. Maybe it is overpotted and the surrounding soil is staying too wet. I hope this helps. Lisa

      Reply
  7. Roxanne

    Hello! I purchased my Mistletoe fig a few months back, it was doing great until I went out of town. The person taking care of my plants over watered my mistletoe fig. All of the leaves turned yellow and fell off. It does look like it is trying to grow new leaves. Is this a lost cause? Or should I wait it out a little longer?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Roxanne,
      By this time, you probably have a plant with leaves again. Ficus or figs are usually good at growing new leaves if they lose their leaves. As long as the roots were still good after being overwatered. Lisa

      Reply
  8. Mary Jane Doney

    A co-worker gave me a couple of Mistletoe cuttings about 3 years ago. I was able to plant them and they grew. However ‘ve had mixed results ever since. I have one that is branching nicely but the other one started growing just 2 very long branches out to the side, with no further branching I’ve since taken off a couple of cuttings myself. One is ‘ok’ but just growing one straight branch. The original plant developed yellow leaves and lost most of them. Another cutting was doing ok, then all but the top-most leaf turned yellow and dropped off. I can’t seem to figure out if it’s under-watering or over-watering. And I don’t know how I can get them to branch out more instead of just one long straight branch. Help!

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      I would trim them back to make them branch out. If you cut the dominant apical bud at the top, it should shoot out two new side branches. I find if I let my get too dry, it drops yellow leaves, but it is forgiving and bounces right back. I think it would not like to be constantly moist so keep it a bit drier. I hope that helps. Lisa

      Reply
  9. Carole Hayles

    Hi Lisa,

    This enquiry is coming to you from Australia. I’ve been reading up on mistletoe fig and thought you might be able to help me please Lisa.

    I bought two small plants 6 months ago at the time only a leaf or two. barely any roots established, but on the way. I planted them side by side.
    They were growing well, but lately the new growth is being eaten by something before it gets a chance to develop to its full size, the leaf is partially eaten but also distorted,

    all of the earlier growth has been perfectly formed & healthy.

    Knowing that it was an epiphyte I had included a lot of decomposing dry leaf mulch into the potting mix.

    At times I notice a TINY black winged fly that crawls around the surface of the amongst the mulch. It doesn’t appear to climb up onto the plant during the day, but something has begun causing this damage to the new leaves whilst they are still forming on the tip of the plant.

    Since this is the third time I’ve cut the affected leaves off, I have to acknowledge that the plant is having a problem. The existing leaves are a good size and colour, no yellowing.

    Considering it is only a young plant, do you think I should take the risk of repotting into straight potting mix eliminating the mulch. Or would you suggest spraying the plant?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Carole,
      It sounds like the mulch should go. It is hard to tell without a picture. Can you send some to Lisa@thehouseplantguru.com? Thanks,
      Lisa

      Reply
      • Mary

        Sounds to me like you are having a fungus gnat issue….cover the soil with about 2” of sand. It will suffocate the gnats, whose larva feed on the roots. They can be quite bothersome and cause a lot of damage to roots. If you have a lot of teeny black flies flying around the pot, this is the issue.

        Reply
        • Lisa Steinkopf

          I’m not sure where the fungus gnats came in…..No fungus gnats on the fig.

          Reply
  10. Brenda Ramler

    Hi, I have a mistletoe fig plant that I have had for almost 4 years, almost a year ago all the leaves fell off. I took it outside thinking that is was done for as I read or saw on youtube that once the leaves fall they will never come back…. In a few weeks it began grow new leaves, it stayed outside all last summer and now I have it inside because of the freezing cold. I live in the northeast corner of Texas. I would like to start another plant but have not been able to find information on exactly in detail how to do so. Your help would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Brenda,
      Sorry I am so late in responding. Ficus plants of all kinds are known for regrowing their leaves after falling off. I am friends with a bonsai grower who removes all the leaves from his ficus when they come in so when he puts them in bonsai pots, they grow smaller leaves. Anyway, as far as propagating them, you could take cuttings of the softwood or you could air-layer them because they are quite woody plants. Let me know how it goes.
      Lisa

      Reply
  11. Lisa V

    Is there a specific time of year to repot a mistletoe fig plant?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Lisa,
      I generally repot/up-pot plants in the spring and summer when they are actively growing. It seems to work best. But, if you are growing plants under lights, anytime is fine.
      Lisa

      Reply
  12. Matt

    Can you share your recipe and ratios for the potting mix used?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Matt,
      I use a nursery mix that I order in large bags wholesale as we own a garden center. I then add perlite and vermiculite to the mix and if I am potting ferns or a few other kinds of plants, I add orchid bark to the mix. You can use any good houseplant mix from the garden center and then just add some more perlite (coarse, not fine grade) and a bit of vermiculite (could leave this out) until you feel it is a better well-drained mix.
      Lisa

      Reply
  13. Carol Ficorilli

    I just received my Mistletoe ficus in the mail from a Nursery and it had several yellow leaves, but other than that it was in good condition.
    Do you leave the yellow leaves on or pinch them off?

    I am thinking the yellow leaves was from being stuck for travel in a box filled with foam peanuts. As soon as I got it out and unwrapped I watered it good.

    Carol

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      I remove the yellow leaves. Once they are yellow, they aren’t going to change to green again. I hope it recovered well and is thriving.
      Lisa

      Reply
  14. Frank N Koob

    My mistletoe fig has a glossy sticky substance on the top of some of its leaves. Is this normal? Is it a problem? If so is there a solution?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Have you checked for scale or mealybugs on the leaves above the sticky leaves? The sticky substance or honeydew is an indicator that there is a problem. Remove the insects and wipe off the honeydew and all should be well.
      Lisa

      Reply
  15. Frank

    My mistletoe fig has a glossy sticky substance on the top of some of its leaves. Is this normal? Is it a problem? If so is there a solution?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Frank,
      Did you check to see if there were any scale or mealybugs on the leaf above the one that is sticky? Usually, if your leaves are sticky, it means something that secretes honeydew is living on it and leaving it behind on your plant. Check for the insects and eradicate those and all should be good
      Lisa

      Reply
  16. Kitty Rozenstraten

    To all of you gardeners, the mistletoe fig is very easy to propagate. Whenever I take cuttings I save some 4-5 inch cuttings. remove three or four of the bottom leaves. Make sure you have at least 1 leaf nodes so roots will grow out of these. You can use root hormone powder (or not) Put your cuttings in a jar with enough water. Put the jar somewhere in medium shade and just ignore it. You should be able to see some roots begin to develop in 3-4 weeks.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Kitty,
      Thanks for the tips on propagation!
      Lisa

      Reply
  17. Karla

    Thank you for sharing your mistletoe fig knowledge…very helpful! I purchased one in the spring, locally, from a nursery in Columbus OH. I kept her outside all summer and watered every third day…the plant thrived in those conditions, but with cooler nights and heavy rains forced me to bring her inside. We went on vacation and although someone was taking care of the plant when we returned the soil was totally dried out and now there’s one yellow leaf, which apparently I shouldn’t be concerned about. However, I am wondering about a small orange dot that appeared on one of the leaves before we left 4 weeks ago…the leaf is green and seems healthy. Any thoughts as to what might have caused the ‘damage’ and if so what I might do about it? Your advice would be much appreciated. Thank you, in advance, for your reply.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Karla,
      I’m so sorry for the late reply. My daughter had twins 11 months ago and I haven’t been on here much at all.
      Anyway, I’m hoping that your plant is doing well. I’m not sure about the orange dot. I probably wouldn’t worry unless more appeared. How is it doing now?
      Lisa

      Reply
  18. Susie

    I am in the process of hoping to resurrect a dying mistletoe fig tree. It was my teenage daughter’s and she unfortunately neglected it’s care. It was dry, all the leaves had to be removed, crispy branches trimmed. There is still tender wood, so I eliminated everything except what was still tender. I then gave it a decent watering, but the pot it is currently in is vented at the bottom, so water pours right through. I am considering repotting it. For now, it is in a bowl to catch the remaining liquid and hopefully it can bottom water from there. I also added a tiny amount of fish emulsion (fertilizer) in the water to give it a boost. It is currently in a window. Do you think there is any hope?? Perhaps no one can say from the state it’s currently in, but at any rate, I’m sharing the saga in hopes to give a good report eventually. I suspect if it is still alive, it will take a long time before she recovers. I am expecting by next summer. IF she makes it.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Susie,
      I am sorry for this late reply. My daughter had twins and my life changed dramatically. (for the better, of course) Anyway, let me know how your plant fared over the winter and if it came back.
      Lisa

      Reply

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