As one of the favorite plant among naturalists, anyone could grow string of frogs quite easily once they know the trick. You can plant it in various medium besides a regular pot such as in the ground and a pond.
So, what do you need to know to take care of this “frog” plant? Here are what we have been compiled for you.
Back to the ancient times a bit further, the genus Ficus where string of frogs belongs, has been famous with its medicinal use. The genus itself also has around 7.500 species alone. It is a native plant of East Asia, but people also can find it in Himalayan region other areas around the world.
Shape and Growth
Ficus pumila ‘Quercifolia’ or simply Ficus quercifolia is a botanical name of string of frogs. The Latin term “Quercifolia” means oak, while folia (from folium) means leaf. One of the distinct features of this evergreen plant is its small oak-shaped foliage that resemble a frog.
Moreover, the dark green leaves grow from the long tendrils which are also responsible for the climbing and expansion of the plant. This plant can either stay indoor or outdoor and the ideal growth zone is USDA 9-11.
In a mature stage (usually takes 2 years), string of frogs is able to grow up to 3 m tall and spread 5 m wide. In fact, due to its fast growth pace, the plant could reach 4 feet (around 120 cm) tall in only 30 days.
Note. String of frogs will naturally seek for support with its tendrils, such as cracks and crevices. Consequently, it might damage the wall structure. To tackle this problem, you can utilize climbing stick, trellis, moss pole, or large plant to support this plant.
Light and Location
String of frogs prefers partial indirect sunlight to thrive well.
First, choose a bright spot inside your home which is free from the strong sunshine exposure at noon. Many recommend a spot near north or east facing window to obtain the good morning and evening sunlight daily. A south facing window is acceptable as long as you put a drape or sheer curtain to filter the direct sunlight.
In outdoor setting, there are a few options to grow this plant such as at the front porch, patio, or besides a wall. The reason why these shaded places are good is because the direct sunlight will not directly hit the plant. In addition, they also allow the plant to grow as it wants like in the wild environment.
On daily basis, string of frogs would need an average of 4-6 hours of bright and indirect sunlight. Unexpectedly, this evergreen plant is rather tolerant to low light conditions in case you cannot provide a spot with ideal lighting.
Danger of direct sunlight
In particular, sunlight at noon is very dangerous as it could burn the foliage creating brown crisp edges. Eventually, the leaf color would fade and the plant becomes less bushy.
Since the plant originally lives in the tropics, string of frogs are more familiar with warm weather.
- From 55-75 °F (13-24 °C) = ideal for the plant
- Below 50 °F (10 °C) = will hinder the plant growth
- Above 75 °F (24 °C) = will damage the leaf shape and appearance, but still able to survive in 95 °F (35 °C)
Following the information above, it is not necessary to put string of frogs in a greenhouse. The key for adjusting the temperature is to make sure there is no frequent temperature fluctuation (sudden change).
Indoor is preferable area to grow the plant since the temperature outside the house can change drastically especially in winter. A severe frost would practically stop the plant from growing and force it to enter dormancy. Furthermore, the bursting of cell walls may occur and damage the roots and leaves too.
Tips to maintain ideal temperature
- When the plant grows outdoor, bring it outside before the temperature drops too low in winter.
- Put the plant away from AC, oven, draft, etc. as they could change the temperature suddenly.
- To keep the plant warm, use bed sheets and frost blankets, or just simply put them near window to get the warm sunlight.
Read also : String of Pearls : Basic Care and Treatment
Although string of frogs likes a humid environment better, this plant is still tolerant to dry condition. In the natural environment, canopies of big tress create a moist and fresh condition for the plant. Thus, this plant will appreciate a humidity range of 60-80%.
Low humidity level under 50% resulting bad effects such as stunted growth, crisply leaves, wilting leaves, and yellow leaves. If you are not sure about the right humidity level, having hygrometer will help you a lot.
The problem is, sometimes the room can be too dry due to various reason. If you face this problem, here are some tips to increase the humidity level.
- Put the plant in humid place such as terrarium, bathroom, or kitchen.
- Place a pebble try under or near the plant’s pot.
- Mist the plant, but do not let the leaves wet for too long.
- Invest on electric humidifier for long term solution.
Providing the best soil based on the plant nature is important for any gardener. Basically, string of frogs like well-draining, sandy soil. In contrast, a heavy potting mix (usually have a clay-like texture) is a bad choice for this plant. However, you can improve its drainage by adding sand or perlite.
Soil material composition
To retain enough moisture, prepare coco coir or peat moss. Coco coir is also useful as an organic matter which provide nutrients for the plant. Meanwhile, perlite or vermiculite works to improve drainage. An example of good soil mixture ratio is garden soil, coarse sand, and aged manure. (40%:40%:20%).
For a short cut method, commercial soil mix with porous and well-draining characteristics will be an alternative if you don’t want to bother making your own mixture. You should also go with neutral soil pH level (6.8-7.2) and use a pH meter to check it.
Actually, string of frogs doesn’t need a lot of fertilizer. If you put enough organic matter in the potting mix, your plant could last long even without fertilizer.
- You can add the fertilizer around the plant’s base or mix it with the potting soil.
- A small amount of fertilizer is better than over fertilizing. Over fertilizing will harm the plant, thus causing problems like brown tips, leaf curling, and crisping leaves. In the worst situation, your plant might die.
- Several experts suggest to apply dilute solution of liquid fertilizer once a month in summer and spring.
- Do not fertilize the plant in winter as it could force the plant to go dormant.
- A weak fertilizer solution would encourage rapid growth in the growing season. When using commercial fertilizer, always follow the instruction on the label. The recommended dosage is using half or one-fourth of fertilizer strength.
- Organic fertilizer is also a good choice for string of frogs. Some example of organic fertilizer are fish meal, vermicompost, and blood meal.
Even though this plant loves moist condition, wet soil is a BIG NO. Many plant owners also consider watering as one of the trickiest things when caring of string of frogs.
- Water the plant during the day so that it has enough time to absorb the water. It is also helpful to prevent the leaves wet for too long.
- You may water once a week in a growing season. On the other hand, reduce the frequency in winter months to biweekly or every 3 weeks because it might lead to overwatering.
- It is crucial to only water the plant when the soil is dry and finger test will help you to confirm that. Just insert your finger (±1 inch) on the soil surface. Dry top soil means ready for watering and wet top soil means no watering yet.
Pour the water on the soil level. Make sure the pot/container submerged completely in water to keep the soil moist. Wait till the excess water flows out through the drainage holes. Remember to also throw out the water in the saucer/tray under the pot if you use it.
Note. Some symptoms of overwatering are yellow leaves, discoloration, and root rot. Using an automatic drip system might help to keep the plant watered well.
As a matter of fact, most of Moraceae family plants are toxic especially when touch the skin and when accidentally ingested. The sap of string of fogs may cause phytophotodermatitis or inflammation.
Symptoms of poisoning that may visible on human and animal
- Abdominal pain
- Decreased appetite
- Irritation and itching of the skin
- Pawing the face
- Redness of skin
- Redness of the skin
- Skin inflammations
For this reason, you MUST put the plant away from of kids and pets. Once you notice one of these symptoms on your children or pets, ask for a medical help immediately.
Tips to prevent poisoning
- Place the plant in a spot far from child and pet’s reach. It will be beneficial too if you teach your children to not get close or play with this plant.
- To prevent the pets from getting closer to the plant, try the following tricks.
- Add some coffee ground near the plant.
- Spray a pet repellant.
- Keep neem plants or mothballs near the plant since pest hates their smell.
- Always use protective glove and sterile tools when handling the plant.
Tips. To stop the spread, you could apply sunscreen to the affected area first. Then, don’t expose the affected area to heat as well as moisture because it could worsen the condition.
Trimming and Pruning
Due to the plant characteristic as a fast grower, some trimming and pruning are necessary. These actions have a purpose to control the spread and make it looks bushy and tidy. Additionally, these would encourage new growth and make sure the dead parts of the plant don’t consume much of the important nutrients.
How to do
- Mid-spring to summer is the best time for pruning as the plant is in active growth phase. Don’t prune the plant in winter to avoid the plant from getting stress.
- Use sterile and sharp shears to remove damaged, sick, and dead leaves.
- Pinch the back tips of stems to promote bushier growth.
- Also cut the plant’s part which is far from the support.
- Clean cutting help preventing disease and pest.
- Never prune more than 1/3 of the plant leaves.
Potting and Repotting
Potting and repotting steps are simple because you only need to remove the current plant in slightly larger pot. You may repot the plant every 1 or 2 years in early spring or summer. Start repotting when the roots have outgrown (root bound) or when it needs fresh soil.
The advice is to increase the pot 1 inch larger than the old one whenever you repot the plant. Oversize pot may trigger overwatering problem while and small pots could hinder the plant’s potential to grow well.
Regarding the pot material, many people use plastic or ceramic. Nonetheless, whatever pot material you choose, you must consider the pot strength, maintenance, and price.
- Fill one-third of the slightly larger new pot with well-draining potting mix.
- Take out the plant carefully from its old pot.
- Prune damage part of the plant if any.
- Put the plant inside gently and add the remaining soil up to 1 inch under the pot brim.
- If your potting mix has enough organic matter, you don’t have to apply fertilizer.
- Water the plant regularly.
There are various methods to propagate string of frogs including stem cutting, leaf cutting, and by seed. However, stem cutting is the most effective and easiest propagation method even for beginner.
How to propagate by stem cutting in water
- During the growing season, cut the stem by 6-8 inches in 45° angle cleanly and prune the lower leaves using disinfected tools.
- Prepare a clear/transparent jar, fill two-thirds of it with clean water.
- Put the cuttings inside, but don’t let it touch the jar base.
- Keep the jar in a spot with indirect lighting.
- Change the water if it gets dirty, preferably every few days so that the algae won’t grow.
- After the cuttings reach 3-4 inches long, move the cuttings in a good size pot with fresh soil.
Note. Some people like to do stem cutting in soil because they don’t have to transfer the new plant to the soil. Still, the downside of this method is it could take longer time for the plant to develop its root. Moreover, propagating in water has lower risk of contamination.
Mealybugs, spider mites, as well as scale are the common pests which may attack string of frogs. Several symptoms of pest attacks are yellowing leaves, wilting leaves, and tiny dots appearing on the leaves.
How to deal with pest
- Isolate the plant to stop the pest from spreading.
- Shower the plant with clean water.
- Prune the severe infected parts using sterile shears.
- Use cotton ball dipped in alcohol, insecticidal soap, or neem oil to get rid of the remaining pest.
- To prevent the past from attacking again, perform regular inspection, control the watering, always use sterile tools, and boost the plant health with organic matter and proper care.
This plant doesn’t have a rare disease to worry about. However, here are some diseases that may occur and how to handle these issues.
Plant is turning brown
Usually, excessive direct sunlight is the main culprit of this condition. What you need to do is to move the pot in an area with bright and indirect sunlight. If there is no significance change after several days, cut the brown part and continue with the regular care.
Over watering, over fertilizing, and wrong potting mix could trigger root rot. When the plant is in a wet and soggy condition for a long time, the roots are unable to distribute the oxygen, allowing bacteria to grow.
If you notice the symptoms such as wilting leaves, stunting growth, leaf discoloration, and foul smell, check the plant condition immediately.
- If the spread is still in early stage, quarantine the plant first.
- Cut the heavily infected parts with sterilized knife.
- Repot in a clean pot with fresh quality soil.
- Wait for 2-3 hours before watering the plant.
- Place the pot in well-lit spot.
Note. Sadly, you must dispose your plant in case of severe root rot especially if you cannot find any white and firm root. When disposing the sick plant, make sure to throw it in a safe place to prevent the disease from spreading.