Botanical Name: Ficus binnendiijkii 'Alii'
Origin: This house plant does not exist in the wild. It is a 'man-made' hybrid created just a few years ago.
Height: Left to its own devices, Ficus Alii will grow as tall as 3 m (10 ft), even when kept indoors. Its height needs to be controlled through regular pruning.
Soil: Most quality potting mixes are suitable for this plant, although some growers prefer to use mixes based on peat moss.
Light: Ficus binnendiijkii 'Alii' needs bright, but indirect light throughout the year.
Humidity: Average levels of humidity will be sufficient to keep this house plant happy.
Temperatures: This lovely indoor tree prefers normal room temperatures of between 16 and 24 degrees C (60 to 75 degrees F).
Water: After watering thoroughly, the top of the soil (2.5 cm/ 1 in) should be allowed to dry before watering again. The water used should be tepid, as cold water may shock the plant into dropping its leaves. Softened water should be avoided, as the salts contained may harm Ficus Alii.
Fertiliser: A diluted (half and half) liquid fertiliser (balanced) should be fed fortnightly from spring into autumn.
Propagation: Ficus Alii can be propagated from stem tip cuttings or by air layering. As this tree is very slow to root whichever method is used, patience is required.
Description and Care Tips
The slender, long and deep olive-green leaves of this beautiful tree taper to a point and have a natural glossy sheen. Less fussy than some of its relatives (such as, for example, the demanding Ficus benjamina, which will drop its leaves at the slightest whim), Ficus Alii is comparatively easy to care for. As a rule, it will only drop leaves if it does not get enough water or light.
As the plant matures, it will, however, drop some of its lower leaves, revealing a woody trunk and giving it a somewhat palm-like appearance. Some growers take advantage of this by braiding trunks to give the tree a topiary-like look.
To control the height of Ficus Alii or create a specific shape, stems/ branches can be trimmed off in winter, using sharp pruners. Cuts should be made just above leaf-nodes/ branches. Weak growth or dead branches can be removed in the same manner.
Relatively slow growing, Ficus Alii trees prefer to be slightly pot-bound, making repotting -preferably done in spring - only necessary once every two to three years. The new pot should have adequate drainage and be just large enough to comfortably hold the roots.
Although this tree is fairly resistant to pests, it is advisable to watch out for whitefly, scale insects and falcifer ground mealybag, as these little blighters do tend to bother Ficus Alii. It is also recommended to look out for Pytium blight (Fusarium, Helminthosporium and Pythium), as well as black root rot (or Thielaviopsis basicola), as there is a potential risk of the plant becoming infected with these diseases.