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The Complete Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ Care Guide For Indoor Gardeners

The Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ is a beautiful fig tree that’s easier to care for than some of its more finicky cousins (we’re looking at you, Fiddle Leaf Fig!). The altissima Ficus ‘yellow gem’ is a gorgeous tree with dark green leaves and beautiful lime-yellow variegation. 

In this post, we’ll explain proper Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ care tactics. And if you want to buy this plant, we also have options for you to explore below.

What Is Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’?

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ is a perennial well-known for its glossy green foliage and slightly yellow variegation.

Commonly known as lofty fig, council tree, and fig tree, this epiphytic plant has oblong leaves with a jagged point at the top, which make it a beautiful décor for your home.

When Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ is grown indoors, it can be placed near an east or west-facing window. When raised outdoors, it should be in hardiness zones 9-11 to survive. It’s commonly grown in more tropical areas, such as part of Hawai‘i landscaping

What Is The Difference Between Ficus Altissima And Ficus Altissima ‘Yellow Gem?”

While both the original altissima and the ‘Yellow Gem’ require similar maintenance, there are notable cosmetic distinctions. The original Ficus altissima has uniform green leaves; however, the “yellow gem” has two-tone (variegated) foliage patterned in lime green and dark green.

For the purposes of this article, we will be speaking about the ‘Yellow Gem,” but for the most part, these recommendations can be applied to the original Ficus Altissima as well.

More interested in growing veggies and herbs instead of houseplants? We’ve got you covered. Check out this Gardyn review for a recommendation on growing your own food indoors.

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Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ Origin And Family

From the Ficus genus in the Moraceae family, the lofty fig is native to the rainforests and other tropical areas of southeastern Asia and islands throughout the Pacific Ocean.

In 1826 Dutch botanist Card Ludwig Blume first described this plant, and it has steadily transitioned from an outdoor/tropical plant to an indoor houseplant. 

Where To Buy A Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’

Those who are looking for a Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ should consider searching online. Etsy is an excellent platform for buying houseplants.

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem” can be pretty expensive, between $50 for younger plants and up to $250 for larger plants.

Ficus Altissima, Yellow Gem on Etsy

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ Plant Size

When grown indoors, the Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ grows to a height of about 6-10 feet (1.8-3 meters) when grown indoors (up to about 100 feet or 30 meters outdoors) and spreads to a width of 8-12 feet (2.4-3.5 meters).

 It grows at a moderate-to-fast, with ficus trees in the wild growing up to 25 feet in just ten years.

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ Care Needs

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’s are bright, light-loving plants that need relatively dry soil throughout the year especially compared to other plants in the Ficus family (like Ficus benghalensis). 

During the summertime, water your plant when you notice that about four inches of the top soil are dry (use your index finger to help judge this). Keep pouring until water flows out of the drainage holes. Be sure to empty the catch plate to avoid root rot.

Check out this more detailed guide to care for your Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’!

GuideCare Specifics
Botanical NameFicus altissima
Common Namelofty fig, council tree, fig tree
Plant FamilyMoraceae
Originsouteastern Asia, as well as islands throughout the Pacific Ocean
Plant Typeperennial
Leaf Shapeoblong with a jagged point at the top
Leaf Coloremerald green with lime green variegation
Recommended Home Placementnear an east or west-facing window
Growth Ratemoderate-to-fast, with ficus trees in the wild growing up to 25 feet in just 10 years
Lightbright indirect light
Soilstandard commercial potting soil or a cacti and citrus potting soil - and perhaps a little perlite and peat moss added
When To WaterWater when you notice that about 4 inches of the top soil is dry (use your index finger to help judge this).
When To Fertilizeonce a month during growing season
Preferred pH6.5-7.0
Humidity Range40% or higher
Toxic To Pets?Yes - symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, mouth irritation, and upset stomach - skin irritation is possible if the altissima's sap touches you as well
Common Pests & Diseasesspider mites, brown tips, fungus gnuts, scale insects, yellow leabes, root rot, aphids, mealy bugs

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ Care Difficulty

There’s good news when it comes to growing Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem.’ Unlike other plants in the Ficus family, altissimas are a bit easier to care for. The main things to look for are proper lighting (bright indirect light) and proper watering (letting the top 4″ of topsoil dry). 

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ Growth Rate

The fig tree plant measures about 6-10 feet (1.8-3 meters)when grown indoors (up to about 100 feet or 30 meters outdoors) in height when grown in an indoor environment. The warmth of spring and summer jumpstarts this plant’s growth.

Ficus species grow fairly quickly, with ficus trees in the wild growing up to 25 feet in just 10 years speed, including the altissima.

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ Potting

Ficus plants generally prefer a nursery pot with good drainage – they do not want to stand in water. A pot that is 2-3 inches larger in diameter than the root ball is what the Ficus altiisma needs. It can be made of plastic, terracotta, or clay. Drainage holes are essential to keep excess water from drowning the roots of your lofty fig.

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ Repotting

This Ficus typically needs to be repotted about once every year to keep your altissima from getting too rootbound. If you notice that the soil starts to seem hardened or dense – and you notice water flooding before draining into the soil – these can be signs that you need to repot. When this happens, carefully remove the plant from its pot but be careful not to disrupt the main root ball. 

You can then transfer the plant into a bigger pot. The roots will adapt quicker when planted in the same standard commercial potting soil or cacti and citrus potting soil you used previously.

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ Soil

Ficus altissima grows well in standard commercial potting soil, cacti, and citrus potting soil. You can also make your own potting mix by adding one part perlite, peat moss, and commercial potting soil. This plant likes its soil to stay relatively dry, unlike other Ficus varieties.

Additionally, adequate drainage is critical to avoid fungal diseases, root rot, and other issues.

These are some soil options we recommend:

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ pH

A soil pH of roughly 6.5-7.0, which is neutral, is ideal for the fig tree. If you’re concerned about the acidity of the soil, you can buy a simple pH meter device to evaluate it.

To lower pH levels, use sulfur or aluminum sulfate. On the other hand, use baking soda, calcitic or dolomitic lime, or wood ash to increase pH levels in your Ficus’ soil.

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ Water Needs

The Lofty fig needs relatively dry soil, unlike other Ficus varieties.

During the spring and summer, water your plant when you notice that about 4 inches of the top soil are dry (use your index finger to help judge this). Drench the soil until water drains out the hole at the bottom pot. If you’re using a collection tray, toss out the water to fend off root rot and other diseases.

In the winter, you won’t need to water as much. Continue to water your plants deeply but do it less frequently.

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ Light

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ wants to be in bright indirect light for 4-6 hours daily. Remember that lofty fig is from the rainforests and other tropical areas of southeastern Asia and islands throughout the Pacific Ocean. In most cases, placing this plant near an east-facing window works fine. Regarding direct bright light, give your altissima no more than four hours – preferably in the morning.

When you might see its leaves start to burn or crisp around the edges, you’ll know your Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ needs less light. And if you see yellowing leaves, that could mean this evergreen plant needs more light (though this could be a symptom of several problems. Again, avoid putting your Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ in direct sunlight for more than four hours, as this could severely damage or even kill it.

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ Fertilizer

The council tree’s growing season is in the spring and summer. Give your altissima some plant food using a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half-strength. A slow-release fertilizer is acceptable as well.

When this plant’s development naturally slows in the colder seasons, you should avoid using any fertilizing. 

Humidity And Aeration for Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ is an easy-going tropical plant that prefers moderate-to-high humidity– starting at 40% or higher. According to the Mayo Clinic, 40% is also a good humidity for humans. That said, a little extra humidity does not hurt. 

If you see browning edges on your plant’s leaves, consider these options for creating a humid environment:

  •  Huddle your houseplants close to each other to create a humidity bubble
  • Invest in a pebble tray
  •  Invest in a humidifier
  • Mist your plant, but only do it occasionally, or you might invite fungal diseases. 

Did You Know: Ficus trees make excellent air purifiers, according to the NASA clean air study. Its huge leaves may absorb and degrade airborne toxins, rendering them harmless.

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ Temperature Needs

Like most Ficus plants, your fig tree will do best in a cool-to-temperate location. Keep the temperature between 60-80°F (15.5-26.6 C).

Houseplants can be sensitive to drastic shifts in temperature, so make sure you keep your fig tree away from heat sources such as vents, hand dryers, furnaces, and other appliances. 

In the same way, don’t expose your plant to chilly drafts and frost spells during the winter. Like other Ficus plants, the altissima is known to experience leaf drop in times of stress.

Is Ficus altissima Toxic?

The council tree is toxic to pets, including cats, dogs, and humans. If ingested, you can expect the following symptoms: diarrhea, vomiting, mouth irritation, and upset stomach – skin irritation is possible if the altissima’s sap also touches you. In most cases, this plant is considered non-life-threatening.

If your pets have ingested any part of the Ficus altissima, start by contacting your vet.

Pests, Diseases, And Other Problems for Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’

The Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ is a plant resistant to several bugs, issues, and diseases. However, problems can still happen, and Penn State Extension has a good guide on common Ficus diseases.

In the sections below, I’ll lay out some of the most common issues for the Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ and some tips and tricks for treating them.

Spider Mites

Houseplants can sometimes bring unwelcome visitors to your home through pests. One example of such is the spider mite. The larvae will not be visible, but adult mites can be seen quickly scampering around when disturbed.

Spraying diluted neem oil on your plant’s leaves can help eradicate spider mites at their larval stage. There are also organic Pyrethrin sprays that are effective in killing adult mites. When spraying any pesticide indoors, make sure you choose products that are non-hazardous for humans when inhaled.

Fungus Gnats

The fungus gnat is one of the most common pests to infest your lofty fig. These aptly-named pests will harbor fungal diseases on your plant and produce larvae that feed on the roots.

To discourage adult gnats from laying eggs on your plant, you can dry the topsoil by bottom-watering. Instead of pouring water from above, water your lofty fig by placing a bowl underneath the pot. Let the pot sit for 10 minutes as the roots take up water from below.

If the problem persists, make a solution of 1 cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide and 4 cups of water. Spray this on the top of the soil to kill any remaining larvae.

Scale Insects

Adult scales are sedentary and covered in a waxy coating, but they will give birth to extremely small crawling bugs.

Armored scales can be scraped off, but you must do it gently using an old ID card or fingers. Take care not to rip the leaves of your Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’.

Use insecticidal soap, horticultural, or neem oil to suffocate scale insects. When you see active crawlers, spray your plant with a general pesticide, and follow it up with a second application after a week. We recommend some products below:


Aphids are usually found as a cluster of bugs on your council tree, and they could be colored green, black, red, brown, yellow, orange, or white. They multiply extremely fast and can weaken your plant within a matter of days!

Aphids are particularly attracted to new shoots, flower buds, and areas of fresh growth. They will leave behind unsightly black and white splotches as they feed on the sap.

If you spot these crawlers, immediately isolate your infected plant from the others. Give your plant a strong spray of water to dislodge the aphids, but remember to cover the soil with plastic to catch any falling bugs and their eggs. Dispose of the plastic somewhere far away from your garden.

An insecticidal soap spray, neem oil, or horticultural oil can solve the problem. Still, you may need to repeat this several times until you’re sure that the aphid population has been completely eradicated.


Mealybugs have the potential to infest your fig tree. These parasites cause damage by absorbing the nutrients from the plant. If left unchecked, mealybugs have the potential to kill your fig tree.

Rubbing alcohol is your number one weapon against mealybugs, and it will kill mealybugs on contact and turn them into a translucent brown. Dilute the alcohol in water and spray directly on the pesky critters.

Brown Leaf Tips

The edges of your lofty fig’s leaves may turn brown if it’s not getting the sufficient moisture it needs, both from the air and through its roots. Water your plant on time and check if the humidity level in its location is consistent with its needs.

You may also need to consider the amount and frequency you apply fertilizers. Overfeeding can burn the foliage of your houseplants, and this is typically manifested as browning edges on their leaves.

Yellow Leaves

Several factors can cause the leaves of a council tree to become yellow. One possibility is that it doesn’t get enough sunlight, and it could also be that the plant gets too much or too little water.

Yellow leaves should be pruned to encourage new growth and prevent the spread of deterioration. Besides, they can be unattractive and worrying to look at. Trim the leaves off with a sharp, sterile pair of shears.

Root Rot

An overabundance of water, which leads to root rot, is often fatal for the fig tree. Once rot starts to set in, it isn’t easy to control. Your best chance is to completely cut off the root system and restart your plant like when propagating a cutting.

Of course, you can always take certain precautions to prevent root rot. Start by giving your plant a fast-draining, well-aerated soil mix. You can add chunky materials to create air pockets and allow the roots to breathe.

Next, make sure you choose a pot for functionality, not just for aesthetics. The most important requirement for houseplants is drainage. If there are no drainage holes in your chosen pot, feel free to use your driller!

Finally, hold off on drinking your plant until you are sure the soil is no longer wet from your last watering. Stick your finger into the soil, or use the classic wooden skewer trick to check for moisture.

Similar Plants to Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’

Love lofty fig? Here are some other similar plant options you should try:

Ficus Lyrata Compacta – The Lyrata Compacta is well-known for its lyre-shaped, dark green leaves. Commonly called the Dwarf Fiddle Leaf Fig, this beautiful plant will brighten up any home.

Ficus Lyrata Bambino – Ficus Lyrata Bambino is a member of the Moraceae family. It is most recognized for its large, dark green leaves with a lyrate shape. It also distinguishes out among houseplants because to its densely packed leaves. It looks even smaller than the Lyrata Compacta.

Ficus Audrey – Ficus benghalensis ‘Audrey’ is a native of India and the surrounding region. It is a Strangler Fig. variety. It usually loses its leaves rather easily.


With its attractive characteristics, Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’ is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a new houseplant. Your efforts to care for this plant will be rewarded with beautiful exotic flora you will enjoy having in your home!

Need more plant guides? Check out these other options below.

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