NASA CLEAN AIR PLANT #8
If you are looking for a tree that is perfect for the home or the office, then Alii Ficus is your best bet. Though its in the ficus family, it don't tend to be as fussy as the Benjamin Ficus or temperamental like the Fiddle Leaf Fig. This gem grows slower than most ficus, tolerates lower light, can be moved without having a hissy fit and it rarely drops its leaves. Native to Asia, Malaysia and India, The Alii Ficus was first commercially grown in Hawaii where it received its name Alii, meaning "King".
Alii Ficus has an upward growth with long, curved leaves that hang down. It can grow to 10' indoors, however with regular pruning you can maintain it to the size best for your home.
The worst a home grower can do (which are common mistakes) is over-water, move the plant around too much or to a spot with less light or with colder temperatures. Sudden drops of temperature or cold drafts are also not good.
Light - Ficus Alii are quite easy to make happy, though they prefer to receive plenty of bright light. Avoid extended periods of direct sunlight. They will grow in medium light, however this is not their favorite. The lower the light the longer it takes to grow new leaves. Remember to rotate your ficus weekly to maintain its shape as it tends to grow to the light. Your best bet for placement is in an eastern window, in a western window with a blind or shear or in a southern location just a bit back from the window.
Temperature - Alii Ficus tend to be more tolerant to temperature changes than other ficus. Indoors they do well in warm temperatures between 65°-85° with a night-time temperature around 65°. Keep your Alii Ficus away from cold drafts, air conditioners, heaters, and fireplaces. These plants can survive for a short time in temperatures as low as 45°. If you allow your ficus a summer vacation outdoors, remember to bring it back inside when nighttime temperatures start to drip below 50°.
Water - This plant prefers soil that is consistently and evenly moist. Water when the top 1" of soil is dry. If its in a larger container, wait until its a bit drier as large pots hold water longer. Water until water starts to drain into the saucer. Remember to remove any excess - do not allow your Alii Ficus to stand in water! Keep the soil drier when your plant is in lower light or the room temperature is cooler. If you have healthy leaves dropping off, you are overwatering and if the leaves are brown and crunchy, increase watering. The worst thing you can do regarding watering is "give it too much".
Humidity - The Alii Ficus is happy with normal household humidity.
Soil - All purpose potting soil works well for the Alii Ficus.
Fertilizer - During the spring and summer growing season, feed monthly with a balanced liquid fertilizer. Stop feeding in October. This plant does not need to be fed during the colder months as grow slows down.
Re-pot - Alii Ficus like to be potbound. Their roots grow very slowly so make sure they completely fill the pot before moving them up a pot size. Also be sure any pot you use has drip holes in the bottom. Large pots retain too much water and will drown this plant. The best time to repot is at the end of the winter season.
Maintenance - Remove dying leaves to maintain good looks. Regular pruning during the winter months will keep your ficus looking its best and give you a bushier plant. Cut branches back about 4" to encourage new growth and remove anything dead. If your ficus should produce berries, remove them as soon as they appear to keep the plant healthy.
Pests - White flies, scale, thrip and mealybugs can be a problem. Check frequently for pests by examining the backs of the leaves and new growth. If a ficus becomes infected, spray with 91% Isopropyl Alcohol mixed with water (2 parts Alcohol, 1 part water) or an insecticidal soap at 1/2 the recommended strength. Ficus as susceptible to Botritis if the leaves are kept too wet. Use a general fungicide. Remove the diseased leaves, replace the soil, and scrub the container with a mild bleach solution. Keep infected plants away from your other plants.
Propagation - Propagation is done by stem cutting. Use rooting hormone for the best success and stick in regular potting soil.
Loss of leaves: Most common cause is over-watering. Other conditions can also cause leaves to drop including, low temperatures, not enough light or cold drafts. Moving your plant from a bright location to dim can also cause leaf drop. It's normal for some of the bottom leaves to turn yellow and drop, but do check if conditions are OK.
Special Notes - These plants are considered poisonous and should be kept away from pets and children. Ranked as NASA Clean Air Plant #8 for its ability to increase oxygen, remove formaldehyde and other chemical toxins from an indoor environment.