Ficus lower leaves yellowing and falling off

cynapseApril 9, 2007

Hi all,

Please help me. I have an indoor plant, a ficus (the kind with thin, long leaves), which I've had for almost 2 years now, and has been doing fine.

As of a few weeks ago, a high number of lower leaves have been turning yellowish and then falling off (something like 2-5 per day). The top leaves look fine, and in fact it looks like new leaves might appear soon (there are little "buds" at the end of the plant tips on the top).

Is this behavior a problem? What might the cause of the problem be? What can I do about it?

I have not changed anything in terms of watering habits. For a while, the room this plant was in had the blinds kept down (for about a week or so). I thought that was the cause (or certainly was not helping) so I fixed that, but it has now been a week or so since I pulled up the blinds and the problem is still there. Also, I repotted the plant about 3 months ago to a bigger pot (though I think I prob should have done that sooner according to the advice I got when bought it, they said to do within 6 months). But I am guessing it has not yet run out of room in the new pot (but that might be wrong?).

Please let me know your advice! thanks!

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Though older, yellowing leaves are often a sign of a mobile nutrient deficiency or mites, I'd bet that your issue is the fact that you lowered light levels. The tree should recover with bright light. A week in tree time is like an hour in people time. ;o)

If you're curious as to why leaves fall when light diminishes, I'll provide a more technical answer.

Also, the advice to repot 3 months ago was not the best advice, though it has nothing to do with your leaf loss unless you over-potted and are over-watering. Ficus is best repotted in the month prior to its fastest growth - July, where you are.

Al

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 6:48AM
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vt_fiji

To add to tapla's advice. I would suggest starting to fertilize your ficus every few weeks. Use a standard indoor plants fertilizer and dilute to about half strength to start. Be sure to let the plant dry slightly in between watering. Yellowing leaves on the lower half of the plant is often a sign of nutrient deficiency, and you havent fertilized it before I garuantee this will make your ficus smile.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 6:46PM
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trace00969

Tapla, I would like the more technical answer.....whay do leaves fall with lowered light....I dont know the answer, so I'll be checking....lol. Newbie....me :)

    Bookmark   April 11, 2007 at 4:58PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Well, there is an abscission zone at the base of each petiole (leaf stem) that allows water and nutrients to flow freely from roots to leaves and for photosynthate (the plant's true food) to flow freely from leaves to sinks (areas in the plant that are "calling" for more food so that they can grow or store it for further use).

There is a growth regulator (or hormone), auxin, produced as a product of plant metabolism, primarily in the apices (growing tips of branches) and leaves that must flow across the abscission zone to keep it open. If photosynthesis/metabolism is slowed due to a decrease in photoperiod or light intensity, the flow of auxin is slowed and a corky abscission layer forms at the base of leaf petioles. This corky layer is impermeable (a barrier) to the flow of water/nutrients and food, so the leaf dies and separates from the tree at the abscission layer.

We frequently talk of leaf abscission in Ficus trees as if it's a great mystery, but technically, anything that slows photosynthesis and the flow of auxin can cause leaf abscission. Chill (particularly sudden chill), lowered light levels or exposures, wet or dry soil, and other stress agents that affect photosnythesis all cause leaf abscission.

Often, people will tell us that any cultural change will cause a Ficus to shed foliage, but not so. Changes like increased light, warming temperatures (when it's been cool), better soil, etc., things that make the plant want to grow with better vitality, do not cause leaf loss. Improving conditions will encourage better growth and more biomass.

Al

This is part of the mechanism by which deciduous trees change colors and then fall (abscise/abscission) during autumn in temperate regions.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2007 at 6:43PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Sorry about accidentally sending the above before I finished proofing it - it should have read:

Well, there is an abscission zone at the base of each petiole (leaf stem) that allows water and nutrients to flow freely from roots to leaves and for photosynthate (the plant's true food) to flow freely from leaves to sinks (areas in the plant that are "calling" for more food so that they can grow or store it for further use).
There is a growth regulator (or hormone), auxin, produced as a product of plant metabolism, primarily in the apices (growing tips of branches) and leaves that must flow across the abscission zone to keep it open. If photosynthesis/metabolism is slowed due to a decrease in photoperiod or light intensity, the flow of auxin is slowed and a corky abscission layer forms at the base of leaf petioles. This corkey layer is impermeable (a barrier) to the flow of water/nutrients and food, so the leaf dies and separates from the tree at the abscission layer. This is part of the mechanism by which deciduous trees' leaves change colors and then fall (abscise/abscission) during autumn in temperate regions.

We frequently talk of leaf abscission in Ficus trees as if it's a great mystery, but technically, anything that slows photosynthesis and the flow of auxin can cause leaf abscission. Chill (particularly sudden chill), lowered light levels or exposures, wet or dry soil, and other stress agents that affect photosynthesis all cause leaf abscission.

Often, people will tell us that any cultural change will cause a Ficus to shed foliage, but not so. Changes like increased light, warming temperatures (when it's been cool), better soil, etc., things that make the plant want to grow with better vitality, do not cause leaf loss. Improving conditions will encourage better growth and more biomass.

Al

    Bookmark   April 11, 2007 at 8:34PM
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