Ficus Alii Care: Growing Banana Leaf Fig Ficus Maclellandii [UPDATED]

Ficus Alii (FY-kus ah-lee) is a relatively new 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 plant is native to the warm climates of China, India and Southeast Asia.

Up close of Ficus Maclellandii alit with the banana like leaves

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.”

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” ficus tree has been around for several decades its popularity grew due to its ability to adapt to growing indoors.

As an indoor plant, the banana leaf ficus is easier to care for when compared to its cousin Ficus benjamina that requires more pampering.

From Holland, one superior 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

This is slower-growing ficus plant than its relatives:

Alii has an upward growth, long, thick, slightly curved, narrow olive green leaves, which hang downward.

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

Regular pruning allows you to control the size of your plant.

Its long slender dark green leaves provide an oriental look.

This appeal makes it an extremely attractive indoor tree that appeals to both to the interior plantscape industry and the homeowner.

Tree form or standard Ficus Maclellandii Alii

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, avoid direct sunlight and overexposure.

If you keep your Alii Ficus Fig in very shaded spots or low light, it will take much longer to produce new leaves.

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.

Ficus Alii’s are tolerant of temperature fluctuations but should ideally be kept in temperatures that are between 60° – 85° degrees Fahrenheit.

This 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 or expect leaf drop. Be careful not to let Ficus maclellandii 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 it immediately.

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

During the spring and summer growing season 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 is boron sensitive.

Soil and Transplanting

This plant isn’t too picky about potting soil. Any well-draining, well-aerated potting soil will do.

Just make sure that your soil does not stay waterlogged and 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.

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 plant 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 a slightly different appearance and qualities.

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

Braided Ficus Amstel King

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 care discussing:

  • Lighting
  • Pruning
  • Fertilization
  • Watering

How To Propagate Banana Leaf Ficus Plants

Most growing propagate Alii from stem cuttings or air-layering.

  • Cut off a healthy branch with a few plant nodes on it, dip 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 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.

Alii Fig Pest or Disease Problems

This plant is susceptible to a few pests including mealybugs, whitefly, and scale.

Control these pests by keeping a close eye on your plant and treating it with neem oil insecticide, and keeping the leaves clean.

Alii Ficus has few foliar disease problems.

Alii will suffer twig dieback and leaf drop if the plant is allowed to dry out.

Although Ficus binnendijkii will handle dry conditions better than Ficus benjamania a steady supply of moisture will benefit the plant.

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

Suggested Uses For Alii Fig

The Ficus maclellandii Alii makes an excellent indoor plant for bright light areas in the home.

You’ll find these upright growing ficus trees as small tree form and as braided plants at garden centers and nurseries.

Look for the variety known as Ficus ‘Amstel King’ with its reddish new growth.