Ficus Altissima Care – How to Grow Council Tree

Ficus Altissima

The Ficus altissima is commonly referred to as the Council Tree. It is known for its solid green leaves with light green veins.

Outdoors, it grows to nearly 100 feet tall as a huge tree. As such, you won’t see a lot of it in backyards.

Instead, most growers keep in containers where its size is more manageable.

It is worth noting that it does have a variegated version, the Ficus altissima ‘Variegata’ or the Asian Council Tree. The two are very similar to one another including care.

But, you can easily tell them apart because the variegata has yellow variegations near the edges of its leaves.

Similarly, because the tree keeps its form even when its size is controlled, it is often turned into a bonsai tree.

That said the Ficus altissima is a great choice if you want a lovely indoor trees that is not as fussy as the Fiddle Leaf Fig (which has become more popular as of late).

Ficus Altissima Plant Care

Ficus Altissima Care Summary

 

Ficus Altissima Light

The Ficus Altissima thrives on bright, indirect light. It also does well in medium light and when receiving dappled or filtered light throughout the day.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Ficus Altissima has solid green leaves. But, its variegated version, the Ficus Altissima Variegata comes with yellow colored edges, which makes it popular.

Both need lots of sun. But, they cannot tolerate direct sunlight which will burn their leaves and cause them to drop.

Where the two varieties differ is the amount of light they need.

  • The Altissima, because of its solid green foliage can tolerate less light.
  • The Altissima variegata needs more light because its variegations are not involved in photosynthesis, which is the process by which plants make their own food and energy from sunlight.

So, depending on which you have, adjust to their lighting needs.

What this means is that

  • Be careful with the west and south directions. The afternoon sun in these locations will get too intense. So, direct contact with the plant’s leaves for a few hours a day will eventually damage them.
  • East facing windows are best. The plants can tolerate gentle morning sun even it if the rays touch its leaves. Plus, it gets a lot of bright light here in the morning.
  • North facing windows only work for the Ficus Altissima, not the variegata. You can try if you live in the hotter regions of the country like Southern Florida. But do monitor to see how its foliage reacts.

 

Related Posts

 

Temperature & Humidity

The Ficus Altissima enjoys warm weather. Since it is native to the tropical regions of Asia, it is accustomed to warm, humid environments.

More importantly, it cannot tolerate cold weather or frost.

What does this mean?

  • If you live in USDA Hardiness zones 10 and 11, you can keep the plant outdoors all year round.
  • If you live elsewhere, make sure to bring the plant indoors once late fall arrives or the weather drops under 60 degrees. The Ficus Altissima will not survive a snowy winter season.

Indoors, keep temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Although, they do best between 70 and 80 degrees.

This is a good thing because this is where we are most comfortable. As such, most households have this climate condition.

 

Humidity

That said, humidity is something you’ll need to pay more attention to.

This is because the Ficus Altissima enjoys humid conditions. Unfortunately, most homes have low to average humidity.

To give you an idea, the plant does best when humidity is over 60%. In contrast, average household humidity runs between 30% to 50%. It is lowest during the wintertime followed by very hot summers.

If your home’s humidity runs on the higher end of that range, the plant will do fine. It can tolerate 40% humidity. This means you don’t need to make any special arrangements.

However, be aware that it grows better and produces lovelier leaves when humidity is high.

As such, you may want to mist the plant 2 to 3 times a day, But, we careful not to wet the leaves too much. Too much moisture that doesn’t dry can cause fungal problems.

Thus, good air circulation is crucial since it helps droplets and excess moisture dry up quickly

ficus altissima

source: wikimedia commons

 

Watering Ficus Altissima

Water is probably the trickiest part of caring for your Ficus Altissima. That’s because the plant likes humidity (which is air moisture). But, it does not like sitting in water or wet soil.

So, there’s a bit of irony here.

What this means for you is that you want to allow the soil to slightly dry up between waterings. The best way to gauge this is to stick your finger into the soil about 2 inches down.

If it feels wet or even slightly moist, wait a few more days. Then, test the soil again. Only water if the soil is dry at this depth.

You can tell that the soil is dry if you take your finger out there should be no mud or chunks of soil that come with it. Instead, just bits and pieces of dry soil that fall off your fingertips like dry powder or salt does.

If the latter happens, it is time to water.

 

How to Water Your Ficus Altissima

Likewise, there is a proper way to water the plant.

Here, you want to water thoroughly. This means pouring the water until the root ball is saturated. This allows the moisture to reach the roots.

You do not want to just dump all the water is because it will flood the plant. And, the water will find the quickest way to drain. Often, this is through the small air creases.

As a result, the inner and bottom parts of the root ball don’t absorb the moisture.

Instead, add water at a steady pace until the it begins to drip through the drainage holes at the bottom of the container. Then, stop.

Next, allow all the excess liquid to drain completely. This takes a while so be ready to wait anywhere from 5 to 12 or so minutes.

Make sure to discard the excess water than ends up in the saucer under the pot.

Because of weather changes and the plant’s growth activity, expect to water more frequently during the summer and less in the winter.

 

Soil for Ficus Altissima

Ficus Altissima does well in the ground or in containers. But, depending on where you put it, you’ll either be using garden soil or potting mix.

Either way, the plant does best in rich, fertile soil that is well-draining.

The former will help improve its growth. And, the latter will keep it alive. As such, you need the two.

You want to avoid heavy soils because they retain too much water. This means the soil will become waterlogged. And, the plant will end up sitting in water for long periods of time. This can lead to root rot if not corrected in time.

 

Fertilizer

ficus altissima

Ficus Altissima are fast growers. This means it needs sufficient nutrients to sustain the rapid growth.

To supply it with that, feed it once a month during spring and summer. Then cut back to once every 2 months in the winter.

User general purpose liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength.

Alternatively, you can use slow release fertilizer. If you do, you’ll only need to feed it thrice a year.

Whichever way you decide, avoid cheap, low end products. These will work to provide nutrients. But, they also leave behind lots of excess salts in the soil. As this builds up it will burn your plant’s roots and leaves.

So, it is a good idea to flush the soil every few months to get rid of the salt and minerals that have accumulated in the soil.

 

Pruning

Ficus Altissima don’t require a lot of pruning. This is yet another reason why it is fairly easy to care for.

That said, you do need to remove dead, unhealthy and diseased leaves to help the plant keep growing and stay healthy.

Occasional trimming also helps especially if you want to limit its size and spread indoors. You can likewise do so to manicure its looks.

Finally, wear gloves when pruning. The plant releases milky sap when wounded or cut. This can irritate skin for some people.

 

Ficus Altissima Propagation

ficus altissima

The easiest way to propagate Ficus Altissima is via stem cuttings. Here’s how to do it.

  • Take a stem cutting. You can start with a 4 to 7 inch stem or take an entire branch (1 to 3 feet long) if you want to make multiple new plants.
  • For a single cutting, choose a healthy segment and cut below the leaf node. You want the section to have at least 2 to 3 leaves.
  • If you’re making multiple cuttings, cut off 4 to 6 inch sections of the branch so that each segment has 2 to 3 leaves on it.
  • Once you have the cuttings ready, prepare the potting mix. You can use a combination of peat and perlite or sand.
  • Fill 6×6 inch plastic containers with the potting mix. You can likewise use a small pot if you’re doing one or two.
  • Dip the end of each cutting into rooting hormone (the leaves are on the opposite end of this).
  • Plant each cutting (with the rooting hormone end down) into a container so that the leaves are standing upright.
  • If you’re propagating one or two new plants, you can cover then with plastic bags to increase humidity.
  • If you’re propagating many, get a large see-through plastic bag and put all the small plastic containers with cuttings in. Then, tie it up to close the bag.
  • Keep the plants in a bright place with indirect lighting.
  • In about 3 to 4 weeks, the cuttings should start to root. At this time, you can take the plastic bag away.
  • You can check by taking one of the cuttings out of the plastic container. This is why I like the plastic container since it makes it easy to do this.
  • You should see small, white roots at the bottom of the root ball.
  • Let the cuttings keep growing. By 6 to 8 weeks, you can move them to larger pots without risk of damaging them.

 

Transplanting & Repotting Ficus Altissima

Repot your Ficus Altissima once you notice roots start to come out of the drainage holes.

This is a quick way to tell when to move the plant to a larger home.

The best time to do so is in the spring and summer. Moving it during this time helps the plant quickly recover from the shock it experiences when taken out if its container and moved somewhere else.

That said, be aware that repotting speeds up its growth. This also means that unless you separate it or prune regularly, it may soon outgrow its indoor space.

For this reason, some people wait longer before repotting.

When choosing a new container, remember 3 things:

  • Get one that is 2 inches larger, nothing more.
  • Make sure the new container has a drainage hole at the bottom.
  • Use fresh, well-draining potting soil.

 

Toxicity

Ficus Altissima is not toxic. But it can irritate skin because of its milky sap can trigger latex allergies.

Similarly, ingesting parts of the plant can cause some mouth and throat irritation.

So, while not poisonous per se, it is a good idea to  keep it away from kids, cats and dogs who may be inclined to play or chew on parts of the plant.

 

Pests

Ficus Altissima are prone to pests. The most common offenders include scale, mealybugs and spider mites.

The good news is, keeping your plant healthy will make it more resistant to these critters. As such, giving it the proper living conditions goes a long way.

In contrast, a weak, stressed or in shock plant is very susceptible to them.

 

Diseases

Diseases are another problem for this plant.

Sometimes it is temporary. For example after moving the plant, will will start dropping leaves for a while before recovering.

It will likewise do so when it is experiencing stress. But, this time, you’ll need to address the cause, be it lack of humidity, light or over or underwatering.

Overwatering is another issue. This is something to always watch out for, which is why water is the trickiest part in caring for your Ficus Altissima. As such, close monitoring in the beginning to understand its preferences and how it responds to too much or too little water is important.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.