A Foolproof Guide to Ficus Alii Plant Care

Looking for a tropical-feeling indoor tree to brighten up your home? The genus Ficus (the figs) is a popular choice, but many species can be a little difficult to keep alive indoors. Luckily there’s an exception: Ficus ‘Alii’.

This long-leaved plant is known for being a lot more forgiving than most of its cousins (like the very popular fiddle leaf fig), making it the ideal choice if you don’t have a green thumb (yet). 

Below, find out everything you need to know about Ficus ‘Alii’ and how to care for this popular houseplant.

About Ficus ‘Alii’


The houseplant we know as Ficus ‘Alii’ is a cultivar of a wild fig plant known scientifically as Ficus maclellandii. In their natural habitat, these trees can reach impressive heights and grow thick trunks. The ‘Alii’ variety, however, was cultivated specifically for indoor growing.

This houseplant is quite a looker. You can tell it apart from other species of Ficus by its more elongated leaves (up to 10 inches long on mature plants!), which hang down elegantly from the stems. 

You’ll find Ficus ‘Alii’ for sale in two different shapes. One is a kind of cylindrical, bushy plant consisting of multiple stems bearing leaves from top to bottom. The other one is more “tree-shaped,” with one stem (or multiple braided together) and a tuft of leaves on top. 

If you prefer a variegated plant, you can consider a third variety called ‘Amstel Gold’. 

Natural habitat

Wild Ficus maclellandii figs can be found in tropical areas in Southeast Asia and China, where they form part of the rainforest vegetation. 

It’s not entirely clear how, who, and when, but it appears this plant was first cultivated on a commercial scale in the 1980s. This happened in Hawaii, an ideal place for houseplant cultivation thanks to its tropical climate. Here, growers added the name ‘Alii’, which refers to the traditional nobility of the Hawaiian islands. 

Caring for Ficus ‘Alii’

Light and temperature 

This handsome Ficus isn’t demanding when it comes to light. I’ve kept mine in relatively dark corners for years and they’ve always done well enough. For the best growth, place your Ficus ‘Alii’ next to a window that doesn’t receive direct sun (like a north-facing one). 

Like many houseplants, your Ficus can be moved outdoors in summer. They love the extra light and grow like weeds outside, though it is important to place your plant in the shade to prevent leaf burn. Also, keep in mind that it will likely need more water than indoors.

As for temperature, I’ve mentioned that the wild version of this houseplant is naturally found in tropical regions in Asia. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t like the cold. It’ll stop growing when temps drop below 50°F and can start dropping leaves if things get even chillier than that. Frost will kill it outright.

As with most tropical plants, room temperature is actually perfect for your Ficus ‘Alii’. If you feel comfortable in your home, then you can safely assume your plant does as well.

Water and humidity

One of the things that has made this indoor tree so popular is that it’s not quite as fussy as some of its cousins in the same genus. Take the common Ficus benjamina: It looks great, but it’s a drama queen that will drop its leaves if you wait just a little too long to water it (or if you dare to move it, for example). 

Though you should still keep an eye on your plant, Ficus ‘Alii’ is a lot more forgiving. The best way to figure out whether your plant is thirsty is to just stick a finger in the soil. If it feels dry, you can give your plant a drink. If it still feels damp, it’s best to check again tomorrow.

In practice, you’ll usually end up watering about twice a week during summer. You can reduce this to once a week during winter, as your plant will be growing more slowly in the cooler months. The exact watering frequency depends on factors like light and temperature. 

Soil and planting

You don’t need a complicated or expensive soil mixture for a Ficus ‘Alii’. A normal, high-quality houseplant soil works absolutely fine, although I do recommend also mixing in a handful of perlite or fine orchid bark for added drainage.

If you feel like the soil tends to dry too quickly, you can consider adding some peat moss or coco coir to the mixture. And if you’ve got some compost or worm castings on hand, that’ll definitely help, though it’s by no means a must. 

There’s no need for a special planter either, although you should always use a pot with a drainage hole in the bottom. In a closed container, excess water will have nowhere to go, which can cause the roots of your Ficus to rot. A saucer helps prevent leaking water from staining your windowsill.

This plant doesn’t mind being a little cramped, so you’ll usually only have to repot it every two to three years. If you notice the potting soil beginning to dry very quickly or if the roots are starting to poke out of the planter’s drainage hole, that’s a sign you should go up a pot size next spring. Don’t forget to also give your plant some fresh soil.


This Ficus isn’t known for being a particularly quick grower, but it’ll still appreciate some extra nutrients during the spring and summer growing season. Consider applying a liquid houseplant fertilizer once or twice a month during watering.

There’s no need to use fertilizer during winter, as it can actually damage your plant when it’s not actively growing.