Overwatering or even Underwatering Ficus Alii

The evergreen “Alii” ficus (Ficus maclellandii “Alii”) makes a good houseplant — its roots grow slowly, minimizing the need to re-pot the plant. It can also grow outside year in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, where it may finally reach a height of 10 feet. This plant only requires basic attention to thrive, but it is important to recognize the signs of underwatering or overwatering to keep the plant healthy.

Warning Signs

To decide whether an “Alii” ficus has been underwatered or overwatered, look closely in the plant. If it has not been getting enough moisture, then its roots might be damaged, preventing water from getting into the plant. This could slow growth, cause borders of leaves to turn brown and might cause wilting or falling of leaves and young shoots. If the “Alii” ficus is a houseplant, you might also see dry dirt pull away from the sides of the pot. Overwatering can also cause leaves to fall, but they generally turn yellow first or maybe you observe soft, brown leaf spots that indicate rotting. You might also observe moldy spots on the leaves and the dirt might smell musty.

Watering Correctly

An “Alii” ficus typically requires an ordinary quantity of water, but this may also depend on some degree on its growing conditions. When it’s grown in a warm, dry or brightly lit spot, it likely needs more water, while expanding it in low light or shade lowers the plant’s need for water. It’s best to check the plant’s soil regularly, to ascertain exactly if it needs water. Examine the dirt with your fingertip and water only when the top 1/2 inch feels dry to the touch. When watering, do so thoroughly, until water drains in the pot. Always allow the excess water to drain and never to leave a potted plant standing in a water-filled saucer. For an outdoor-grown plant, then check the dirt often for dryness and also aim for about 1 inch of water weekly, including from rain.

Other Care

The “Alii” ficus is native to the warm climates of India, Southeast Asia and China. Due to this, it may be sensitive to cold water, which may eventually lead to loss of leaves, so use tepid water for a plant grown indoors. If your plant is in the garden, don’t water it directly from the hose — instead, use a water-filled bucket or watering can that has been allowed to sit in ambient temperature for a few hours. If your “Alii” ficus is potted and appears to dry out every few days, this may indicate that the origins have overheard the container, so move it into a new, bigger pot, and always choose a pot with a drainage hole. For an outside plant which dries out quickly, add 2 or 3 inches of mulch, such as straw or shredded bark — place it on the ground under the plant’s canopy to help preserve soil moisture.


If you’ve overwatered or underwatered that an “Alii” ficus and many or all its leaves have dropped and stems appear dry, then it is probably too late to save the plant. But if you’ve caught the problem early, when damage is just beginning to look, the plant is likely to recover fully. When it is a houseplant, store it in a well-ventilated room that is between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, in a spot that gets bright indirect light — too much sun through a hot window may lead to scorching of tender new growth. Cut back any branches which don’t reveal new leaves after a few weeks, wiping your blades with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol between cuts to avoid spreading plant infection.

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