The ficus alii, or ficus binnendijkii, is a very unique variety of fig tree that you probably better recognize as the ‘banana leaf ficus.’ This type of fig tree is a very popular indoor decorative tree that also has the ability to throw out quite a lot of clean, fresh oxygen. One of the most interesting facts about the ficus alii is that it is a plant that does not occur naturally in the wild. That’s right—this variety of ficus is actually a man-made hybrid and is one of the tougher ficus species around. If you’re on the hunt for a nice potted ficus species or if you’ve recently bought this variety but need some growing tips, then keep reading to learn the basics about ficus alii care.
Ficus Alii: Physical Traits
The ficus alii is a beautiful tree—it’s easy to understand why this variety is so popular! This particular species is only about a decade old but its appearance and hardiness have made this a common household plant, especially for those of us who aren’t particularly accomplished in the gardening realm or who have trouble remembering to water household plants. This particular variety has narrow leaves that are quite a bit longer than what most of us consider “normal” for a ficus tree. The leaves curve around the branches in a tidy manor, so you don’t have to worry about and unkempt, spidery appearance as long as the plant is healthy. This variety garnered its nickname the “banana ficus” because of the way that the long leaves curve together—similar to the way a bunch of bananas grows down the branch of a banana tree.
It has a thin, light colored trunk that can grow as tall as ten feet if it is given the right environment to thrive. Even without the help of pruning efforts, the ficus alii produces a semi-full spread with a sleek and uniform overall appearance. Whether you’re looking for a tree that can stand alone as a nice, classy indoor plant or as a complimentary piece to other indoor plants, this ficus hybrid should is definitely a fantastic piece to consider.
Choosing a Plant from a Local Nursery
For the best chance of ficus-growing success, especially if you have never cared for one before, you have to start out with a healthy specimen. When browsing around your local garden nursery you should keep your eyes peeled for plants that look bright and full. One of the universal signs of a sick or unhappy ficus is ‘leaf dropping’—which is a process where the plant sheds a significant portion of its leaves in order to conserve energy. Leaf dropping often occurs as the result of illness or lack of sufficient light or water. Try to stick with plants that are free from discoloration of the leaves and do a quick inspection of the soil to check for gnats or other pests that may already be damaging the plant’s health.
Transplanting Ficus Alii into a Pot
Once you’ve chosen your plant you should make it a point to transplant it into a new pot as soon as possible. By the time most nursery plants are purchased they are often well on the way to becoming root-bound and need to be transplanted. This occurs when the roots grow too large for the temporary pot in which the plant is housed. In order to cut down on the need to transplant in the future, as this process can shock and even kill a tree, try to select a larger pot that will be able to handle the tree at its mature size. Use a decent quality potting soil that is rich in organic matter and humus. The soil shouldn’t be too heavy, as excessive water retention can damage your ficus’ roots. Scoop some of the soil into the bottom of the planting pot before you sit the roots inside. Once the roots are in the pot you can fill in the open space with more soil until you reach the “soil line” on the ficus’ trunk. This is the spot that marks how deep the tree was previously planted. Be sure to firmly pack the soil in around the roots so that the plant doesn’t easily uproot when nudged; but also take care not to press so firmly that you damage the tree’s roots. Water the soil well and place it in a spot that has bright, filtered sunlight. Most ficus trees, including the toughened alii, can’t handle the stress of direct sunlight.
Long Term Care Tips
For a ficus, this variety is notoriously easy to care for as long as it does not become sick or infested with insects. This type of ficus should be watered often enough that the soil and roots are not allowed to dry out, but not so often that the soil becomes waterlogged or muddy. You should find that your watering responsibilities will be highest in the summer months and lightest during the winter. If you have particularly dry air, especially in the cooler parts of the year when heaters are used, you might make it a point to mist the ficus’ leaves with room-temperature water to simulate artificial humidity. Fertilizer isn’t typically necessary with this species of ficus except for the period just before serious growth occurs. You can note the ficus’ readiness by inspecting the branches; if there are new buds cropping up then you can add a slow-release fertilizer to the soil to give the plant an extra boost of nutrients as it prepares for serious growth.
The ficus alii is a great starter plant for individuals who would like to add a ficus to their household but aren’t particularly experienced with this variety of tree. If you take to the alii well, then you might even decide to add more ficus variants to your collection later on!