HELP! Ficus With Brown Spots & Dropping Leaves

yogaholicDecember 26, 2012


I have a five foot tall Ficus with a braided trunk that has gradually been losing leaves (about a dozen a week or more) since I purchased it 5 months ago. Attached are pictures of the Fiscus. Here are my questions related to stopping the leaf drop:

1. Is this a Ficus Amstel King? Or what type is it?
2. What are these brown spots and how do I treat them? (I have sprayed the plant four times over the past month with "Safer Brand Organic Garden Fungicide" and the brown spots and leaf drop continues.)
3. I have been watering the tree once a week. I check the top soil and water when dry but I wonder if twice a month (less) is better?
4. I think the plant needs more light. I don't have a better spot to move it to but am considering mounting a grow light from the ceiling. Any advice for or against this?
5. I have been fertilizing with a 10-15-10 Schultz Plant Food Plus Fertilizer once a week with watering. There is a moderate amount of new plant growth. Any recommendations better or different fertilizing?

Many Thanks!

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Are any of the affected leaves falling off the tree when it's bumped or the leaves are tugged lightly?


    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 9:28PM
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Yes, indeed some are... what does that mean?


Also, here is the whole plant pic.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 9:59PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Before leaves can be shed, an abscission layer has to form at the base of the leaf. Under some conditions, it can form partially, so the leaf doesn't fall off on its own. That happens more often when there is no wind, or something to knock the leaves off the tree. Leaf tissues can actually start to break down while leaves are still on the tree, as the fungi whose job it is to do this begin their work. That's what it looks like. It's likely there was something contributing to the localization of the necrotic tissues, like a chemical being sprayed on the tree and allowed to dry, localized exposure to sudden chill .... That's just the sense I get from looking at the picture and based on what I've seen in Ficus before.

Here's a copy/paste of a reply I left on another thread (Lamora's) about general fertilizers for houseplants. If you have questions, please ask.

It's not that you can't grow healthy plants using 8-7-6 (it's harder with 10-15-10, though), but plants use about 6X as much P as N, so all that extra P has only the potential to limit. An excess of any single element can be as limiting as a deficiency.

If I had to make some sort of order out of a few of the more common fertilizers being used for houseplants, from poor to very good, it would be like this:

20-20-20, 14-14-14, or any other 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers
MG 12-4-8
MG 24-8-16 or any other of the other very common 24-8-16 brands
Foliage-Pro 9-3-6

The closer you get to being able to supply nutrients in the ratio at which plants use them, the better off your plants will be, unless you understand how to manipulate them with cause and are intentionally taking that control. The last 3 fertilizers listed supply NPK in as close to the same ratio as the average of all plants as you can buy.

Below, you'll find a link to a thread about tending Ficus in containers. Hopefully, you will find it of some value.


Here is a link that might be useful: Click me & I'll show you ....

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 5:52PM
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Thanks so much for this response. So helpful!

- I will definitely change the fertilizer.

- As for the dropping of the leaves, I am unsure how to proceed. Does your lack of specific advice suggest that my tree is not salvageable? Or what specifically may I do to curb the leaf drop?


    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 10:13AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

As for the dropping of the leaves, I am unsure how to proceed. Does your lack of specific advice suggest that my tree is not salvageable? Or what specifically may I do to curb the leaf drop?

Since we don't REALLY know exactly what's wrong with your tree, the best bet is to A) get it through the winter in the best shape you can, and B) repot/root-prune in early summer, being sure you get it into an appropriate soil that allows you to water properly.

To get it through the winter, I would flush the soil very thoroughly, then fertilize with a half strength dose of a good fertilizer with a 3:1:2 RATIO, 'ratio' being different than NPK %, then make sure you don't over/under water. The tree should be kept in very bright light and in a warm spot, but away from heat registers and cold drafts. If you decide that's how you want to proceed and need more help, especially with flushing the soil so the soil doesn't remain wet too long, just ask. I'm usually around more often than I have been lately, and I'll see your post.


    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 12:53PM
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