What are Ficus Nitida Trees?
These trees are from the Moraceae fig family and are commonly known as the Indian Laurel.
Though Ficus Nitida/Indian Laurel is used as a formal hedge and grows to be about 10-30 feet tall (if maintained at that height) they also can grow up to 50-60 feet tall at maturity here in our desert climate.
They are the number one tree variety purchased at Moon Valley Nursery in Phoenix.
Intense Summer Heat Tolerant
Ficus trees can handle the most intense summer heat here. The dense, thick foliage of these trees provides the absolute coolest shade available in Arizona.
Because the Ficus Nitida/Indian Laurel trees grow very tall they provide a great variety for shade trees. Although they do not lose their leaves completely in the winter, they do lightly shed throughout the year.
Back in January 2007, Ficus trees across Phoenix experienced freeze damage. Foliage and young branches can freeze during cool winters, but they recover quickly.
Where to Plant Ficus Trees
These trees are best planted near buildings on south and east exposures so that the tree can intercept night-time long wave radiation as a heat source during the winter to guard against freeze injury.
They do bear flowers and fruits that are small and inconspicuous. Fruits are usually yellowish-green. Leaves are bright green oval leaves, smooth light brownish-grey trunks (some are multi-trunk trees) with aerial roots.
Ficus trees can grow in full sun to partial shade. Avoid reflective western exposures because tree trunks are prone to sun scald injuries. Generally, sunnier locations produce the best growth.
Indian Laurel tree care requires watering regularly, but longer deep waterings are recommended to promote deep root growth. We even see them get much larger where flood irrigation exists throughout the valley.
See our recommended watering guidelines at azlawns.com/watering.
These trees are also tolerant of the soils of Phoenix. They perform best in sandy or loamy soils. If using the Ficus Nitida columns for privacy we recommend spacing them out between 3-5 feet apart and letting them fill in.
Ficus are toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. Their leaves contain a sap that can be very irritating to dogs, either on the skin or when ingested. Ficus poisoning can happen when they eat any part of the ficus plant. Here is a great blog about symptoms and treatment if your pet consumes any part of these trees.
In summary, we recommend Ficus Nitida/Indian Laurel for creating a hedge barrier or for large multi-trunk shade trees that need more room to grow.
These trees are pretty low maintenance if there is room to grow their natural size. They can grow tall quickly unless we get an unusually cold winter, and their trunks need to be protected with shade or their foliage. Their roots have an extensive amount of surface roots so deep watering is always better.