How To Grow And Care For Ficus Altissima

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Ficus altissima (FIK-us al-TISS-ih-muh) is also called Lofty Fig, Asian Council Tree, or simply Council Tree. It is a flowering plant in the Mulberry or Moraceae family of plants.

This large, evergreen native of southeastern Asia is somewhat epiphytic. In the wild, it usually starts out growing in the branches of another type of tree. It quickly grows aerial roots and abundant foliage to smother out the host.

Ficus altissima growing indoors
Image: KENPEI | CC 2.1

Ficus Altissima Care

Size and Growth

Planted in the landscape, in a tropical setting, Lofty Fig can very quickly reach the lofty height of about 40′ feet with a crown of about 30′ feet.

This type of Ficus is lovely due to its contrasting variegated leaves and colors of deep green and lime green-yellow.

Flowering and Fragrance

This type of Ficus does not usually bloom indoors. In a wild setting, all kinds of fig trees produce rather strange flowers that seem to be inside out.

Altissima has no fragrance.

Light and Temperature

Keep the plant in a consistently warm setting with bright, indirect light. This setting will produce the most beautiful leaf coloration.

When growing Ficus indoors avoid placing your plant in direct light as this may burn the leaves.

If kept outdoors, your Altissima Ficus will grow in direct sunlight. Otherwise, place it in a setting where it will have protection from the sun. A covered deck or patio or under a tree that provides high shade are all excellent choices.

Sunburned Ficus leaves will be dry and brown in the center of the leaf. Under watered Ficus leaves are dry and brown on the tips.

As a tropical plant, this type of Ficus prefers warm temperatures. Ideal temperatures for Ficus range from 60° to 68° degrees Fahrenheit.

Your plant will enjoy time spent outdoors during warm weather. But be sure to bring it in when temperatures drop below 60° degrees Fahrenheit.

Watering and Houseplant Fertilizer

Water your council tree thoroughly when the top couple inches of soil have become dry. Check the soil closely so that you will know when it is time to water.

Poke your finger into the top of the soil. If the top couple of inches are dry, it’s time to water your plant. Do not water again until the first couple of inches of soil are dry.

It’s hard to say how often you should water your Ficus because this depends on several factors. If the air in your house is quite arid, you will need to water more often. But, if you have a relatively high humidity level, water less.

Additionally, the season will affect the frequency of watering. Water more during the hot summer months and less often during the winter when your plant is not growing as much.

As a tropical plant, this type of Ficus likes a very humid environment. It’s a good idea to surround your Ficus with other houseplants so that they can share their humidity.

A humidifier is not needed as excessive humidity can cause problems with fungus; but, if your Ficus is all alone, it may need a humidifier.

Ficus are heavy feeders. Indoor they do not require lots of fertilizer. They will do well with a half-strength dose of liquid fertilizer once every month during the spring and summer. Do not fertilize in the winter. 

When providing fertilizer, take care not to damage the plant’s delicate root system. An excessive amount of fertilizer or harsh chemical fertilizer can burn the roots or cause your Ficus to drop leaves.

So it’s always a good idea to fertilize Ficus with organic fertilizer or to add organic matter, such as aged manure(but not indoors), to the soil as a form of fertilizer.

Soil and Transplanting

Use any good quality, standard houseplant mix as a potting medium for your Ficus tree. If you do not have commercially purchased potting soil on hand, you can make a good potting mix using:

  • One part garden soil
  • One part peat moss
  • One part vermiculite, perlite or sand

When you repot your Ficus, take care not to damage the roots. You’ll know that it is time to repot when you see roots beginning to grow out of the drainage hole.

Move up to the next sized pot, no more than a couple of inches larger than the pot the plant is already using.

If you give your plant too much space for roots, it will put its energy into growing roots, and the leaves will not be as vibrant as you might like.

Another way to know that it’s time to repot is if your plant has stopped putting out new leaves. This may mean that it doesn’t have space to grow at all anymore.

The best time to repot your Ficus is when it is about to need watering. Remove the plant from the pot carefully; set it up in its new pot, add fresh soil and give it a good watering.

Grooming and Maintenance

Control your Ficus’ growth and enhance its shape with regular pruning. Prune away any dead or damaged leaves and shape the canopy of the tree as you desire.

The best time to prune is late in the winter or very early in the spring before your plant begins to put out new growth. Always use a very sharp, sterile cutting tool. Trim right above a leaf node to encourage more branching stems.

Council Ficus Plant dropping leaves do not like excessive handling or exposure to sudden changes in temperature, light, and other ambient conditions. Remember to place your plant carefully and avoid disturbing it unnecessarily.

NOTE: Ficus Audrey is related to Ficus Altissima.

How to Propagate Ficus Altissima

To propagate your Ficus, you can either use the air layering method or take cuttings. Taking cuttings is the most common and easiest method.

After pruning, set aside some healthy cuttings and place them in slightly moist soil to establish roots. When you see new growth on your cutting, you’ll know it’s time to set it up in its own pot plant.

Ficus Altissima Pest or Diseases

Avoid moving this tree as Ficus do not like it. Identify the perfect location for it before you bring it home. Keep it in that location and avoid moving it. Frequent moving will cause leaf drop.

When moving your plant indoors or outdoors, do so gradually to avoid shock. Remember that anytime you move your Ficus plant, it may experience leaf drop. If this happens, don’t despair, the leaves will grow back soon.

If you notice the edges of leaves drying out or brown or yellow spots on the leaves, this is a signal from the plant that it needs water.

Be careful not to overwater, and don’t allow your plant to sit in water as this can cause root rot.

Excessive watering will cause yellowing leaf tips. Too little watering will cause brown, crispy leaves.

Related: Getting Rid Of Ficus Mealybugs

Is Altissima considered toxic or poisonous to people, kids, pets?

When you prune, you will notice that the plant seeps very white, milky sap. Take care not to get this on your skin as it is slightly toxic and can be irritating. Remember to wash up with soap and water after pruning your Ficus.

Is the plant considered invasive?

All Ficus trees are members of the Mulberry or Moraceae family of plants. As such, in conducive settings, they can become invasive.

Suggested Ficus Altissima Uses

Usually kept as a houseplant, Council Tree is a close relative of the Fiddle Fig. Although this type of Ficus is closely related to the Fiddle Leaf Fig, it is easier to care for.

It’s easy to grow Asian Council Trees as houseplants as they grow quite well in containers even into maturity.

These colorful, attractive plants make excellent specimens and serve as a beautiful focal point in any home setting.

In hot regions, you can plant Council Tree outdoors, where it will reach a height of 40′ feet.

In their native setting, these trees are harvested to produce latex and fiber. Because of their quick rate of growth, they help with reforestation in Thailand.

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