Alii Ficus

Joe1980(5)April 12, 2011

Ok, today I picked up an Alii Ficus. Thing is, I spotted this fella just before it became dumpster fodder. I told the lady in the greenhouse that I could probably save it, so she let me have it for nothing.

Here's the scene: It's in a tree form, about 4 feet tall. It isn't very full, because a lot of leaves have dropped, but, what caught my eye is that it has some new growth starting. The roots, well, long story short, they haven't been properly pruned in ages. There were several large roots, between 1 and 1.5" in diameter, obviously crowding the 1 gallon pot it was in. There is a good amount of feeder roots at the top of the root ball, and a few medium size roots as well. The tree has good form, with a small amount of dead twigs in it.

Here's what I did: I cleaned ALL of the soggy soil from the rootball. Then, I proceded to cut out all large roots, and any medium ones with not much for feeder roots attached. I did leave a few roots that are larger than I'd like, but they had to stay in order to not remove more than 1/3 of the root ball. I potted the plant in the 5-1-1 mix, because I plan to repot next spring, to cut out more of the roots that are bigger then ideal. I then clipped out all dead twigs, gave it a shower to remove the dust, and placed it in the corner between an east and south window, where it's bright, but not being pounded by direct sun.

So, anyone have any experience with the Alii Ficus, and is it a pretty tough plant that will beable to recooperate from this? Hopefully, I get a nice plant out of this deal, and am not wasting my time. I value everyone's thoughts and opinions, so please feel free to chime in.

Thanks,

Joe

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birdsnblooms

Joe, one thing..It's Ficus Alii, not Alli Ficus..lol..Toni

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 9:35PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The plant itself (AY-lee-eye)is genetically vigorous enough to tolerate a LOT, but repotting an already stressed tree out of season is a little risky. It sounds like your tree was being tossed because it was already sorta circling the drain. Add the fact that tropicals are usually at their lowest energy levels of the growth cycle at about the spring equinox, and you have good reason to want to wait until the tree had gained some energy later in the summer. That does have to be balanced against whether you thought it was a life/death emergency though.

It sounds like you have a good plan. Keep the roots in that 65-75* range if you can, keep it damp - not wet and in good light and just wait it out.

You might wish to read the link below about Ficus in containers. I probably have between 25-30 Ficus that have been with me quite a while - prolly my favorite indoor tree.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: About Ficus in Containers

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 11:14PM
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Joe1980(5)

I did indeed feel it needed a repot ASAP. The largest root in the pot was big enough that it had the container pushed into an oval shape, and the soil was soggy, and had fungus gnats flying around, resembling Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown. I of course did the repot work outside, and gave it a bath in insecticide to rid any bugs. Basically, this plant wouldn't stand on it's own because of the pot being warped, so it definately needed a repot. I guess I kind of figured that the new buds meant that it had some energy, and it was now or never. So, I am assuming that me cutting out the fat roots isn't going to harm it, and the fact that it had a lot of healthy feeder roots means it should be ok, root wise anyway. There is plenty of leaves left to gather light/energy, so I'll wait it out, and hope for the best. Once it recoops, then I must take on the task of pruning branches to stimulate some back budding.

Joe

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 7:05PM
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Joe1980(5)

Well, it's been a few days now, and the tree hasn't dropped a single leaf yet, so I'm assuming it's not all that upset. What is the normal time that it takes for ficus alii to drop leaves when upset??

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 9:00PM
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ronalawn82(z9FL)

Joe1980, it will not necessarily drop leaves but you can find out by giving the plant a vigorous shake. I look for the color of leaves that fall as a result. If they are green, or a large percent of them are green, then the plant is telling me that it is upset about something that has been done to it recently.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 7:57AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If a tree is to shed foliage due to a cultural influence, how quickly they do it depends in large part on how great the influence is that ultimately ends in the abscission layer becoming complete. The abscission layer at the base of leaf petioles forms as a result of how reduced the flow of auxin is across the abscission zone. In your case, that issue would be largely related to water supply to the top of the tree, but in other cases, reduced photo intensity or photo period, or sudden chill might be at play; so might nutritional deficiencies/toxicities or tight roots.

As a general rule, instead of looking at what happened in recent days, I would look back 2-3 weeks, even longer in some cases (tight roots, deficiencies/toxicities) when trying to determine the probable source of shed foliage, if the reason isn't already obvious.

Al

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 11:26AM
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Joe1980(5)

Well Al, you were right, it's been 2 weeks now, and my rescue attempt is looking grim. The tree has dropped about 90% of the leaves that were left. The newest leaves still remain, so there is a little spark in it.

My question now, is if I have branches that have completely defoliated, can I commence pruning them off, or is that going to add more stress? I want to do what's best to get some signs of life. I will obviously not remove any leaves at all, but I was curious if branches were necessary with no leaves to gather energy. I know there are still lots of good roots in the soil, so I would think it would eventually recover. Or, am I fighting a losing battle here??

Joe

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 8:04PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I would just wait & be sure the plant isn't wet - just damp. You may not need to water for weeks if the plant has no foliage. I wouldn't prune anything yet. Just put the plant where it will remain warm. It's not unusual for in situ Ficus trees to defoliate during the growth cycle in response to drought or go into a temporary situational dormancy. If the plant had enough energy to push a new flush of growth, and the roots are functioning well enough to move water topward, the tree will recover; if it doesn't, it's back to the dumpster or the compost pile.

I took a very fat root cutting of a F salicifolia last Jun or Jul when I repotted & root pruned it. I thought the root had nice movement & would make a nice trunk, so I potted it & set it in the shade. It was only in Feb that I started seeing buds form on what was the old root surface. It took that long for tissues in the cambium to dedifferentiate into meriSTEMatic (think STEM cells) cells and then redifferentiate into growth apices. I haven't counted, but I bet there are at least 25 new buds emerging from the trunk & from the cambium where the distal end is truncated.

Trees are very patient organisms. So much so that we'd all do well to borrow from them in that regard from time to time & give them a chance to work things out. That's not preaching - just musing. ;o)

Al

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 9:26AM
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Joe1980(5)

Well, in that case, I'll let it be. If that means I have an ugly twig tree for a while, so be it. I haven't watered it since the repot, 2 weeks ago, so it's not wet. I think it's angry at me, so I'll give it some time to get over it, and someday realize it's better off with me than where it was headed......

Joe

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 5:34PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

They always pitch a fit & throw their leaves on the floor when the get angry. Usually, if you ignore them they get over it. ;-)

Al

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 6:18PM
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Joe1980(5)

Well, my ficus has stopped dropping leaves about a week ago, but you can count on 2 hands how many leaves are left. None-the-less, it is alive, and looks like it is going to start growing, because leaf buds are emerging. My question is, is it a good idea to put it outside this summer? If I do so, won't I be inviting a leaf drop when I bring it back in at the end of summer??

Joe

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 11:01PM
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birdsnblooms

Joe, F. Alii isn't as finiky as F. Bejis. In other words, leaves won't, or shouldn't drop when moved like it's relative, benji. So you don't have to worry about leaf drop.

Are new leaves still growing? Have more produced?

Summering outdoors would benefit. Place in a shady spot to start. 'Preferrably on a cloudy day.' Gradually move to a brighter location. You can move it toward light, a little each day or every other day.

In autumn, do the same, only in reverse..Place in a shadier spot a little each day until it's indoors. Shortened daylight hours helps, too. Even if your tree isn't manually moved, Mother Nature/God does it for us.

Hose leaves before bringing in your home in case critters found their way on your Ficus.

Yep, Joe, natural sun, fresh air and humidity helps. Your Ficus will no longer 'show hostility towards you,' lol.

Although it's stated never fertilize a sick plant..if you see new growth, you can bet your Ficus is resuming, or better yet, resumed health. The poor tree has been through a lot, insects made it much worse. You said you used insecticide? How did you rid them? Chemcial or organic insecticide?
What type of bug/s did it have? You mentioned Fungus Gnats. If gnats were the only bugs, the best solution would have been to repot in fresh soil/mix. Then, water, but allow soil to dry a little, in-between drinks.
Constant, wet soil will worsen the problem, and leaves are likely to drop.

Apparently the store didn't privide proper care, which is the reason they were tossing it.

Joe, I have a question..Why did you prune roots? Were they rotted?
Good luck, hope your ficus does well. Toni

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 2:02PM
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Joe1980(5)

I pruned the roots because there were 2 massive thick roots that had deformed the plastic pot to the point that it wouldn't stand on it's own. If I were to have left those roots, I would have had to overpot in order to fit them in a pot. With the pruning, I was able to put it in a more appropriate sized pot.

The tree does indeed have new growth forming, and the small ones that were on it when I got it have grown bigger as well. I guess I will be putting it outside, assuming I can actually get some decent weather for long. Last night was a low of 40, but it appears it'll be staying in the 50's for a while. Remember, I live in Wisconsin where the growing season is VERY short for frost tender plants. Basically, 3 months is all I get.

Joe

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 2:17PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

".... is it a good idea to put it outside this summer?"

Yes - I don't grow Ficus that don't tolerate full sun well (like Alii and excepting pumila) because the larger leaves don't reduce to the point they make realistic bonsai, but the plants I grow in full sun don't shed foliage when I move them back indoors under lights, though I'm sure they would if I just stuck them in front of a small window for the winter. I suppose it depends on what you're looking for and what kind of light you have indoors now. The advantage in the amount of added energy gained and stored by the trees moved outdoors in the summer probably outweighs the leaf abscission considerably in most cases. It's just hard to beat natural sunlight and the air movement found outdoors, which also (both) help to stimulate back-budding for a fuller tree and more pruning opportunities.

"If I do so, won't I be inviting a leaf drop when I bring it back in at the end of summer."

Since you should be growing the tree in open or dappled shade, or protecting it from midday sun, it may or may not shed foliage when you bring it in. It probably depends on how bright it is where you site it. It may drop some foliage, but it would probably be interior and lower leaves. Still, the gain in growth & vitality probably outweighs any loss of foliage in the fall.

Leaves can adapt to changes in light only over a certain range. Explaining is a little difficult, but lets say that light levels are graded from 1-10 with 1 being dark and 10 being the brightest light. If you have a plant growing at a level of 5, the plant might only be capable of adjusting to light levels 2-3 levels on either side of 5. If it goes outside of that range, the leaves might easily be shed and the plant will use stored energy to push a new flush of growth.

Try to protect your plant from temps below 55*. All of the tropical species shut down their photosynthesizing ability at temperatures much below 60*, and the interval between exposure to cold and the plant's return to normal photosynthesizing ability after temperatures return to more favorable levels is measured in days, not hours. I usually move mine outdoors after Memorial Day when I see by the long range forecast that nights should remain reliably above 55*. After that, they're on their own (temperature-wise) until they come back in in Sep.

Take care - best luck!

AL

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 6:46PM
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Joe1980(5)

My indoor spot for this guy is in front of my sliding glass doors, so it gets a lot of light. I basically have to move my plants in and out up until June in order to get them some sunlight. It got up to 72 here today, but 40's again for tonight. Ugghh, someday this year, it'll warm up.....

Joe

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 7:48PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I know what you mean. Our forsythia are just coming now, easily 2 weeks behind last year because the ground is so cold due to the unusually cool temps all spring.

Al

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 9:02PM
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Joe1980(5)

Just an update, in case anyone cares. My ficus is coming back to life with a vengance! It is growing more leaves then you can shake a stick at, so I would have to say that my rescue mission was a success!

Joe

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 5:35PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Strong work, Joe! Just think - with your tree freshly repotted, it will have at least a whole year, probably 2 or 3, to recover w/o the stress of a repot. It should really take off now.

AL

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 9:44PM
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Lisa Saxon

Joe, I can see this post is from a few years back but I'm wondering how your Ficus Alii is doing these days. I'm located in Pert WAustralia and bougght a Alii Petite about a year ago, it was already a decent size and cost me approx $45 ..quite a bit really. I had it indoors for a month or so them moved it outdoors in courtyard which got direct sunlight for atleast 3-4 hours per day. Sadly we had a weird spring hail storm where it and my magnolia trees got hammered by marble sized hail. They're all still recovering from leaf damage even still and that's been 6 plus months. I moved the ficus into rear courtyard into much larger glazed pot and have it located next to house outside bedroom widow where it receives direct sun for similar amount of hours unless I have my outdoor setting umbrella up which gives a lil more shade. It's halved again in size and I feel is quite sun hardened now, Perth can have extreme summers with tops on a few occasions into early 40's Celsius, but would usually be more regular around mid 30's. ...our lows in winter maybe around 15 c during day...it's adjusted well I feel and although it would look totally awesome in my living room coz of its size plus good oxygenating effects, I think il leave it outside bedroom window. Iv just taken about 6 cuttings to try propagate, have 4 in water and 2 I dipped in rooting powder then potted. Hoping either or both ways work. Would luv to grow lots and possibly sell some. Sorry it's sideways but u can save image then rotate. Lisa

    Bookmark   13 minutes ago
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