Flickr photo by Andre Benedito
Need a holiday plant to take to a dinner party but tired of the traditional Poinsettia? The Mistletoe Ficus is an interesting alternative for the holidays with its innuendo, and can be grown as a great houseplant all year round with ease. It's also the only ficus that will grow fruit indoors that are reminiscent of the berries of the famous kissing plant. This plant not only has the visual resonance of mistletoe but most likely received its common name due to the fact that this herbal plant of the Malaysian jungle has been known to have medicinal and healing properties as well as being used as an aphrodisiac.
The plant grows freely with limbs spreading in every which direction and has mostly oval-shaped leaves of gray green and small pea-sized fruit. The fruit starts out as light green but eventually turn pink and then red as the plant matures. The leaf shape can also vary depending on whether it is a male or female plant -- the male being more oblong in comparison to the oval shape of the female. As with most ficus it enjoys keeping dry to the touch in between watering and it grows best in bright indirect light, although it can handle low intensity direct sun in the morning or late day. You can mist the plant occasionally in the warm months with warm water and clean the leaves periodically with a damp cloth and a hint of castile soap. And remember to use a well-aerated potting mix when repotting it.
The Mistletoe Fig is favored by Bonsai enthusiasts because of its tree-like form even at a young age but it certainly lends itself to going natural. It can be planted in almost any style container but it is wise to pot it in one where you can control drainage so it does not accidentally get wet feet. For the holidays try planting it in an upside-down container like the Boskke sky planter, hang it in a doorway -- people will get the hint.