Ficus Alii Care: How To Grow Banana Leaf Ficus Maclellandii

Ficus Alii is a newer addition to the world of cultivated Ficus plants. It is a perennial “ornamental fig” plant belonging to the family Moraceae and makes for a beautiful addition as an indoor tree to any home.

The Ficus Alii plant is native to the warm climates of China, Malaysia, India, and Southeast Asia. The horticultural industry began offering Ficus maclellandii Alii in the late 1980s. In the trade, it goes by the name “Alii,” the Hawaiian term for “king.”

Up close of Ficus Maclellandii alit with the banana like leavesPin

Alii ficus goes by several other names. In Europe, it is known as Ficus binnendijkii. Some nursery catalogs list the plant as Ficus longifolia.

Common names include:

  • Banana leaf ficus
  • Banana leaf fig

While the Alii tree has been around for several decades, its popularity has grown due to its ability to adapt to growing indoors.

As an indoor houseplant, the banana leaf Ficus is easier to care for when compared to its cousin Ficus benjamin, which requires more pampering.

From Holland, one superior Alii cultivar emerged by the name Ficus “Amstel King.” The plant has more vigor, and the new leaves have a reddish color.

Ficus Alii Care

Size and Growth

The Alii Ficus is a slower-growing ficus tree plant than its relatives:

Ficus Alii (FY-kus ah-lee) has an upward growth, long, thick, slightly curved, and narrow olive green leaves hanging downward.

It prefers to be pot-bound and can grow to be up to 10’ feet tall with leaves around 3” to 10” long.

Regular pruning allows you to control the size. Its long slender dark green leaves provide an oriental look. This appeal makes it an extremely attractive indoor tree that appeals to both the interior plantscape industry and the homeowner.

Tree form or standard Ficus AliiPin
Acclimated Alii ready for use indoors. Ficus trees are moved to lower light levels to prepare them for use as an indoor house plant.

Flowering and Fragrance

As mentioned, the narrow leaves of Ficus “Amstel King” are gorgeous reddish-brown in color when they first appear.

As they mature, the leaves become a deeper dark green color.

The plant will produce flowers and berries. They should be removed immediately.

Light and Temperature

These house plants can do well in medium light to bright light. However, it is better to give partial shade and avoid direct sunlight and overexposure.

The best location for this fig is the east-facing window, where it can receive appropriate light for its growth.

Keeping your Alii Fig in very shaded spots or low light will take much longer to produce new growth.

A good way to combat this and make sure plants get enough light is to rotate the plant weekly. Even amounts of bright indirect light help maintain Alii’s shape.

This hardy plant can thrive well in normal household conditions. If an environment is too dry, try increasing the humidity by misting the plant regularly, or installing a humidifier will also work.

Ficus maclellandii is tolerant of temperature fluctuations but should ideally be kept in temperatures between 60° – 85° degrees Fahrenheit.

This long-leaf Ficus is a fairly hardy plant that can survive even in temperatures as low as 45° degrees Fahrenheit for short periods of time.

Watering and Feeding

Avoid overwatering ficus trees or expect leaf drops. Be careful not to let banana Ficus plants sit in water.

Wait until the top inch or so of the soil has dried out after thoroughly watering again.

If there is any excess water left at the bottom, make sure you drain the excess water immediately.

Using well-draining soil, our root supplement, and an optimum watering schedule can prevent the disease. Common symptoms of root rot are the yellowing of leaves and mushy roots. 

While Ficus Alii is a low-maintenance plant and isn’t fussy about watering, it doesn’t like sitting in water. So be careful about the watering frequency of the plant; allow the water to get soaked in the soil and dry out, then water again.  

Ficus alii doesn’t need to be fed during the colder months of winter and fall.

During the spring and summer growing seasons, use a balanced liquid fertilizer to feed your plant once a month.

However, it is advisable to steer clear of fertilizers with high levels of the chemical boron. Alii Ficus is boron sensitive.

Soil and Transplanting

The banana Alii plant isn’t too picky about potting soil. Any well-draining, well-aerated potting mix will do.

Just make sure that your soil does not stay waterlogged and that the pot has drainage holes.

Your Alii Fig will need repotting every three to four years. The best time to do this is towards the end of the winter season.

You can also repot if you feel like your plant is too cramped in its current pot. You only want to allow the top 1” – 2” of the soil to dry between waterings, but avoid overwatering as they are still susceptible to root rot despite their high moisture requirements. 

Once you’ve transferred your plant to its new larger pot size, water it once and then let it dry down and produce roots before watering it again in about a week.

Grooming and Maintenance

Pruning your Ficus tree before or right at the beginning of spring can give it a nice and clean appearance.

Trim your branches back about 4” inches to encourage new growth.

Also, remove any bare branches completely.

Make sure you are wearing gloves to avoid getting the sap from the leaves on your skin, as it can cause skin irritation.

Ficus ‘Amstel King’

Ficus ‘Amstel King’ is a selected Ficus maclellandii variety from Holland with slightly different appearance and qualities.

Amstel King has superior qualities for use in indoor environments where plants sometimes encounter adverse conditions.

Braided Ficus Amstel KingPin
Ficus Amstel King – New foliage display a pink to reddish color

Growth tips are pronounced pink to red that beautifully contrasts against its broad, longer, wider, banana-shaped glossy leaves.

In this video, Kevin from Kraft Gardens looks at Ficus Amstel King’s care discussing:

  • Lighting
  • Pruning
  • Fertilization
  • Watering

How To Propagate Banana Leaf Ficus Plants

 The propagation of Ficus Alii is possible at home, but it can be a bit difficult for beginners. However, the plant can be propagated through stem cuttings and air layering. 

To propagate the plant, you can use the concept of branch cuttings and make sure that you cut the right branches so that the plant does not go into shock.  Most growers propagate Ficus Alii from stem cuttings or air-layering.

  • Dip the cutting end in a rooting hormone and plant it in a container with fresh soil. Keep it in a bright location with indirect sunlight and water it thoroughly. 
  • Cut off a healthy branch with a few plant nodes on it, dip it in a rooting powder, and plant it in your potting mix.
  • Cover the plant with plastic and ensure the soil is damp.
  • Place your pot in a warm location with plenty of indirect light – no direct sun.
  • The plant will take a few weeks for new roots to begin to form.
  • Check by tugging lightly on the cuttings.
  • If you feel resistance, it means the plant has developed roots
  • If rooting, uncover the plant and care for it regularly.
  • Both methods are equally successful. Propagation through cutting: Select a healthy plant branch with a couple of leaves. 

Alii Fig Pest or Disease Problems

The Alii Ficus tree is susceptible to a few pests, including Ficus mealybug, whitefly, and scale.

Control these pests by closely monitoring your plant, treating it with neem oil insecticide, and keeping the leaves clean.

Alii Ficus has a few foliar disease problems. It will suffer twig dieback and leaf drop if the plant is allowed to dry out.

Although Alii will handle dry conditions better than Ficus Benjamina, a steady moisture supply will benefit the plant.

Treat any infestation immediately. You’ll find alii ficus plants for sale in garden centers or online nurseries in spring and summer.

NOTE: When ingested, this plant can be poisonous, so you should exercise caution if it is planted around pets or children.

Suggested Uses For Ficus Alii Fig

The Alii Ficus makes an excellent indoor plant for bright light areas in the home. With its growth, the Ficus Alii may divulge a very thick trunk with pronounced beautiful variegation, giving it a palm-like appearance.  

Despite its toxicity, the plant is not a bad option for a house plant. The glossy finish of the leaves gives your home the aesthetic value you need.

You’ll find these upright-growing ficus trees as small tree forms and as braided plants at garden centers and nurseries. Look for the variety known as Ficus ‘Amstel King’ with its reddish new growth.

More On Caring For Ficus Varieties

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