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Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Problems

Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
Tue, Apr 14, 09 at 14:10

A thread I was very active on just topped out at 150 posts in the middle of a conversation, so I thought I would continue the post here, for anyone that had questions or comments about Ficus benjamina (weeping fig), Ficus elastica (rubber tree), Ficus lyrata (fiddle-leaf fig), or other Ficus species commonly grown as houseplants. I currently maintain more than 30 Ficus trees covering many species, so I have a fair amount of practical and technical experience with the trees, especially in the areas of pruning, repotting, soil preferences, nutrition, and troubleshooting.

That there were 150 posts to the previous thread indicates readers ARE searching the forum for info on these trees.

Take care.

Al


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

I have a ficus that has a section that is dead/dying. The sections that still have leaves have new growth starting, but their is a whole section where all the leaves are gone and no new growth. What do I do?


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 15, 09 at 8:28

Where is 'the section' located on the plant? One of the branches or stems with attached branches? What type of Ficus?

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Hi Al and everybody,
My rubber plant is not doing well. It has 5 stems, each about 3 feet tall. For the last 3 weeks the plant has lost almost all of its leaves. A couple of stems have only 2 leaves at the top. Some falling leaves are yellowish, some are big and green. I assume it's overwatering. No visible signs of insects or disease. As I understand, I cannot trim/prune the stems as the plant is not healthy. Then how can save it and also make it look better? 3 feet tall bold stems look ugly. I'm going to replant it tomorrow to see if there are any rotten roots.
I would appreciate any help and advice. Really want my pretty plant back.
Thanks a lot!


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

I lost the label to this ficus.
I remember its a kind of variegated ficus but the name escapes me, any ideas on its identity?
Photobucket
Thanks, Will


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 19, 09 at 10:26

Ficus elastica 'Variegata' (aka variegated rubber tree)

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Thanks!


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Hi Al and everybody,
My rubber plant is not doing well. It has 5 stems, each about 3 feet tall. For the last 3 weeks the plant has lost almost all of its leaves. A couple of stems have only 2 leaves at the top. Some falling leaves are yellowish, some are big and green. I assume it's overwatering. No visible signs of insects or disease. As I understand, I cannot trim/prune the stems as the plant is not healthy. How can I save it and also make it look better? 3 feet tall bold stems look ugly. I'm going to repot it today to see if there are any rotten roots.
I would appreciate any help and advice. Really want my pretty plant back.
Thanks a lot!


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 19, 09 at 11:44

Sorry, Oasis - I missed your post until I saw it in my email.

It does sound like a drought response, which can be brought on by high salt levels in the soil from fertilizers and irrigation water, by dry soils - of course, and by over-watering. I won't bother to describe how the salt and under-watering can cause a drought response because you seem reasonably sure you've over-watered.

Over-watering causes impaired root function or root death, both of which compromise the tree's ability to move water to the canopy. The tree 'thinks' it's dying of thirst, so it sheds parts - leaves, then twigs, then branches - until more favorable conditions prevail.

You probably should do an emergency repot. Lift the plant from the pot & examine for dead/decaying roots. They will look limp & shriveled, dark brown or black, instead of white to tan. There will be a sour or rotten odor to the soil instead of an earthy odor. You should remove ALL the soil from the roots and prune back to viable tissue, then repot into a soil that is coarse and drains freely.

You need to decide if you're willing to go this far with a tree that sounds pretty far gone and may not survive anyway. The plant obviously has little in the way of energy reserves, and if the roots are in bad shape, essentially what you'll be left with is something close to a weak cutting. I hope you look at it as a challenge & try to save it. At a minimum, you'll have gone through the process of bare-rooting a plant. In my estimation, this is something that must be attended to regularly if you want your trees to grow at close to their potential genetic vigor and with good vitality.

I've made the case before as to why containerized trees need regular root-work and complete repots (instead of only potting-up), but if there is interest, I'll offer the reasoning again in greater detail.

If anything I said creates more questions, I'll be happy to answer to the best of my ability.

Al


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Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Problems

Thank you, Al, very much for your detailed response.

I have repotted my rubber plant (lost 5 more green leaves in the process). I am not sure if there were any bad roots. There was definitely no bad odor. Now I'm thinking that my problem was caused by not enough sunlight. About 5 or 6 weeks ago I purchased new darker curtains for the room. Do you think it's a possible cause?

I have moved the plant close the window. Should I put the plant outside on warm and sunny days?

Thanks again!


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

More questions.

If the plant survives, will new leaves start growing from the places were old leaves once were?

How often should I repot my rubber plant? Last time I did it last fall (maybe in October).

How should I judge when to water the plant? When I was repotting it I noticed that the soil at the top was very dry...although the soil at the bottom was damp.

Thank you!


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 19, 09 at 19:50

Yes, the curtains are a possible cause. A reduction in light levels can cause leaf abscission, and a 5-6 week interval seems reasonable.

I think there is some risk of doing more harm than good by putting the plant outdoors too soon. The photosynthesizing machinery of Ficus is adversely affected by temperatures below 50-55*, and the time to recover normal ability is measured in days, rather than hours. You plant will definitely appreciate being outdoors - no question - but it might be better to wait until night temps are reliably above 50* .... unless you're vigilant and bring it indoors when chill threatens. Also, be mindful of not exposing the plant to direct sun until it's fully acclimated. Start with the plant in the shade for a week or so, and then move it to a location that gets full sun on a cloudy day. BTW: If the plant is variegated, it won't tolerate full sun well, but the species plant will do very well there.

"If the plant survives, will new leaves start growing from the places were old leaves once were?"

It depends on how you approach things. If you don't prune, and you shouldn't NOW, back-budding is unlikely until the tree regains considerable vitality. When you DO prune, two things usually, but not always, go hand in hand - the time of the year you prune, and the tree's vitality/energy level. If your tree regains its health, and you were to prune in Jul-Aug, at the peak of vitality, likely all the latent axillary buds would be activated on that branch behind the pruning cut, and in some cases, it can even stimulate additional bud activation on other branches - especially if you tip prune several branches @ once. If you prune when energy levels are low, the tree is more likely to back-bud with less proliferance. It may even send up/out only one or two weak branches/branch until cultural conditions improve, or at least until energy levels are increased.

"How often should I repot my rubber plant?"

Repot as often as it needs it. When roots start crawling over thew surface of the soil, it's time to repot. mid - late June is the best time to repot in your zone.

"How should I judge when to water the plant?"

It tolerates dry soils well, and it's better to keep it on the dry side than wet. I would tip the pot and check the soil at the drain hole - if it feels damp, withhold water until it feels dry. You could also push an absorbent wick up into the drain hole & feel that to test for dry/wet & water when the wick is completely dry to the touch. After a couple of months, you'll have gained a 'feel' for when it's time to water.

Good luck. ;o)

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Al,

You are awesome! You give so much information.

I will follow everything you say. I"m sure I will come back to ask you more questions some time in the future. Thank you very much for now.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 19, 09 at 22:06

You're welcome - we'll keep our fingers crossed for you. ;o)

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Hi Al,

I have a question before I run into lanky issues with my Ficus elastica 'Burgandy." It looks great right now and is very visually apealing. Of course it is, I just bought it a little over a month ago and it's about 6" tall. What do you do each year to maintain the visual apeal? I read a post of yours saying something like trimming like a teepee, but my F. elastica does not currently have branches. There are four trunks - all of which grow from beneath the soil rather than forking above the soil.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 27, 09 at 20:46

Instead of a tree in a container, at some point you need to start thinking of your planting as a composition. In bonsai, plantings with 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, and nine trunks are acceptable as grove, clump, or group plantings. Odd numbers look better than even, until you get beyond 9. After 9, your eye is unable to discern between odd/even.

Think about the height you want the planting to end up at. When the tallest plant (main tree) reaches that height, cut it back to 2/3 of that height. At that point, if all 4 trees are still viable, I would suggest that you eliminate one of them, and not necessarily the weakest - you can decide which 2 trees best compliment the largest or main tree. You will be pruning the secondary trees back to (one) about 2/3 and (the other to about) 1/2 of the main tree's height after it was pruned back to 2/3 of ITS height.

Don't worry if there is no branching from the main stems for a while. When you cut the trees back for height, they will quickly back-bud & branch out.

Basically, for now your job is to provide the best cultural conditions you can.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Al,

As annoying as it may be, to make sense of things I always have to ask, "Why?" So here's my "Why?": Why 2/3 it's desired height? I understand trimming the other two trees (no sense in only triming one & don't want them to be all the same height). So I just let it grow and in a few years reduce the size? A desireable height is about 4 feet (in my oppinion - and that may change).


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 28, 09 at 9:27

If you chop it off at the height you want, you'll have a flat-top tree with no chance of developing an attractive crown w/o exceeding your target ht. If you chop back to 2/3 of your target ht, it allows you the extra 1/3 do develop a soft, rounded crown.

BTW - this tree is extremely apically dominant, so the crown is the easiest part. If I was growing it, I'd be developing it from the bottom up. I do realize our perspectives are completely different and I need to temper my advice with that in mind. You want something attractive to look at NOW, and I'm always considering things from a 'many years down the road' perspective. ;o)

If you stick around a while, I'll help you with strategies to keep the lower branches strong so the trees don't shed them.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Ooooo...do tell! Will these strategies also work for my Ficus binnendijkii 'Alii?' Of course, I don't know if I *want* it to be shaped the same - I'm thinking more of an umbrella look for Ficus binnendijkii 'Alii.' Have you read my follow-up about the Ficus my hubby froze? Anyhow, back to shaping. Yes, I do want my Ficus elastica 'Burgandy' to be pretty now. Overall, I am happy with the way it looks, but there are some improvements that can probably be made soon, if not now.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

hello to all.

i'm rather new on this site, and i've been reading and trying to find everything out about my two big plants. i have a very large rubber tree plant and one seven foot tall dumbcane that was chopped in half (before i got it)..so, two three foot tall dieffenbachias :)

truely, Al, i was wondering if it would be innappropriate for me to just upload a picture of my ficus elastica and simply ask your advise. i know it needs to get pruned, as i never have in the entire time i've had it. but maybe just ask where you think?

it started life as a clipping from my stepdad's eight or nine foot tall container plant, about 12 or 14 years ago. now mine is about six feet tall in it's pot and. but it's doing a silly mini V thing.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Welcome sessomatto and go for it! Post away!!! Hope you enjoy the forums. We're glad to have you here.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

I wish I had seen this thread before I gave my Lyrata a serious haircut a couple hours ago, oh well too late now.

I do have a question though. For years I have tried to start another plant from cuttings in soil, cuttings in water, a leaf in soil, I tried making a small slit on the stem and packing and wrapping it well with damp spag then wrapping with saranwrap, when that didn't work I did it again but deeper. Nothing has ever worked.

I have successfully rooted my Benjamina and rubber plant numerous times but the Lyrata refuses to cooperate. How do you do it?


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, May 16, 09 at 23:23

Hi, Sessomatto. I suspect you've moved on by now (I was away for awhile) ;o) but if you'd like to post a picture, I'll try to help.

PR - The Lyrata can be layered or started from cuttings. Cuttings are easier to attempt, but layering is more sure. Want to try?

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

OH YES!!!!

This one is so huge and unruly I seriously doubt if anything can be done at this point to make it beautiful again. I would love to start a new one and train it properly, please tell me how. I'm game to try both stem cutting and layering if you would be so kind to tell me how.

I will also take a couple pictures of this one and post them and maybe you could suggest a way to beautify it, just give me a couple days to find my camera.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, May 18, 09 at 14:26

OK - lets look it over. I'll wait on the photos. ;o) Don't be too sure that all is lost with the main plant. Since you're ready to give up on it, perhaps you would like to be the forum guinea pig and do some experimenting to show how you can reclaim what you might think is a lost plant. ;o)

Make sure you mention where you live. Adding it to your user info would be helpful.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

I am new to this site but I hope you can help, I recently got a rubber plant and it was real bushy and leafy now it looks like it is becoming more of a tree, it is very stick like at the bottom and the leaves are all coming out of the top, new leaves are forming but all from the top, I am not sure how to trim it but I would like it to be leafy again if possible. Thanks for any help you can offer. I don't know my zone, but I am in upstate SC. The plant is inside in a pot with indirect light most of the day.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 22, 09 at 9:44

Brighter light and air movement will help stimulate back-budding (read this to say you should get it outdoors for the summer - you'll be amazed), but you can actually FORCE the tree to back-bud with proper pruning. Tell me how many branches there are (approx) and how many of the branches have 4 or more leaves. Can you post or email a picture?

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

I am looking at my poor Ficus elastica 'Variegata'. It has three leaves at the top and since I put it outside it is starting to put out another leaf. My question is....

Should I cut and try to root the top?
How do you root this plant?
Is there a way to get it to branch or re-grow leaves further down the steam? It about a foot tall and I have had the plant for 1 year.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 30, 09 at 21:49

Hopefully the reason your tree was languishing indoors was lack of light, & that single cultural change will be enough to set your plant back on the road to better vitality. There is a direct correlation between the level of vitality of a plant when a cutting is taken and how quickly the cutting strikes. A high % of cuttings from weak plants fail, too. You're plant will be better served if you leave its photosynthesizing machinery intact for now - don't prune it. Give it a month to get some energy stored. It will grow more leaves & you can then prune it back later. It will back-bud much more profusely after you pinch it, but it's dangerous (to the tree) to reduce it when it's weak.

If your tree is only a foot tall & you've had it for a year, you're not providing it the cultural conditions it prefers. It wants very bright light, a soil that drains freely so you can water profusely whenever you water & flush the soil of accumulating salts, regular fertilizing with an appropriate fertilizer, and soil temperatures between 65-85*. It doesn't like low light, wet feet, cold temperatures or cold drafts.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

I have a rubber plant which i rescued. It was outside near freezing temps for a few days until i brought it home last fall. Its about 7ft tall (main stalk) with some branches reaching about 3 ft off that. When i got it, the branches lost all the leaves except on the ends. The tree just looks so awkward with such long branches with nothing on them, would like to know what i can do to encourage growth on those branches at this point. There are lots of smaller shoots that are doing well- its just the taller portion that looks like it needs help. Also, the plant is so root bound i can barely stick a moisture reader in the soil (its a struggle), how should i go about breaking up the roots (if at all) and repotting?


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 30, 09 at 22:11

Mr X - how many branches have 4 or more leaves on them & where are they located on the tree (the branches)? Are there any low branches that are viable? Any low branches that look like they might want to grow vertically with a little help? ;o)

After you answer those questions, I'll help you with a root reduction.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

does this work? i marked the areas of which lost all the leaves. all the branches in question do have more than 4 leave on them currently.

[IMG]http://i127.photobucket.com/albums/p124/Neely08/rubber.jpg[/IMG]


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Ficus e., Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 30, 09 at 22:45

I can't get to the image. I emailed you so you'd have my addy & can just send me the pic(s).

BTW - I've been emailing back & forth with Teresa for a couple of days. I helped her gather the courage to severely cut back a very overgrown scheff a little while back, & the 'NOW' pics of it are very impressive, She's done a great job. We're getting set to do a root reduction on the plant, now that it appears to be growing with superb vitality & is very high in energy reserves. I hope she'll post before & after pics. I'll encourage her. ;o)

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 1, 09 at 15:42

OK - here's a pic of Mr X's tree:

Photobucket

We can look at this two ways. First, we can eliminate the gangly (largest) trunk by cutting it back to somewhere below where the string is providing mutual vertical support, and then tip-pruning all the other branches to force back-budding. Or, we could remove the right arm of the slingshot and tip-prune to force back-budding. If we do that though, the top 1/3 of the 2nd tallest tree should be reduced so it looks natural (the fattest trunk should be the tallest or it looks unnatural).

The tree is in reasonably good health & will bounce back quickly from whatever I might suggest you do, N, so don't be concerned about losing the tree. So ... do you want to rehabilitate the tall tree or eliminate it (or cut it back severely)? I would really like to get a better look at how the trunk arrangement is configured (from different angles), too.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Thanks Al. You are right I did everything wrong. It does not have enough drainage, lighting was a challenge one place it was not enough I put it in the window and the leaves burned so that was too much and the soil is crap.

It is outside now and I will repot it in better soil so it can get healthy so I can make it look pretty again.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 1, 09 at 19:18

Good deal. It's better off kept a little dry than a little too wet, but be sure to flush the soil very thoroughly & then fertilize, now that it's outdoors. If you need help deciding how to do this, let me know. I hope you put it in the shade for the first week or so?

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Yes it is in the shade. How long do you think I will have to wait to start cutting on the poor thing.

I am ashame of what I did but I will show you anyway. LOL I love to mix my plants in pots because it saves space for me because I have so many plants and it usually works out good for me.

Here is my bad decsion. It worked beautifully for two years.

Photobucket


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 2, 09 at 21:31

You can cut the main stem back to just above the upper leaf pointing at 1:00. That will force back-budding along the stem.

You prolly already know that eventually you're going to need to repot, and it ain't gonna be pretty. ;o)

Drainage can't be all THAT bad .... if you've got the cactus doing reasonably well ....

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

HI Al, i think i would like to rehab the tall tree if at all possible. i have lots of short bushy plants, something with a little height on it is nice. Sorry for my ignorance, but i am new to plant pruning (i just water and let them do their thing), what is back budding and tip pruning? Also, did you get those pictures of the trunk arrangement? What about the root situation and repotting?


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jul 4, 09 at 11:08

Ok - rehab will be easy, and I did get your other pics. You've already put up with the bare branches for a while, so as long as you're not looking for an instant transformation (possible by cutting the thick stem back only) you can do it pretty easily.

My suggestion would be to remove the right side of the slingshot branching BELOW the first leaf on the branch. This section will eventually all be pruned off, but for now, you'll use the stub to tie the left side of the slingshot to, to make it flow with the rest of the trunk.

The secondary trunk on the right, should be about 2/3 the new height of the main stem, so you'll reduce it in height to about even with where the first (skinny) branch that emerges to the right (under the 'Y' in the slingshot).

We want only 3 trunks on the tree eventually, so reduce the height of the next tallest trunk on the left to about 2/3 of the height of the secondary trunk on the right. Now, you have 3 apexes of staggered height, which will even out your planting & make it look much more pleasing to the eye.

The two large branches emerging to the left, just under the 'Y' should both be cut back so only 2 leaves remain on each. Then, remove the growing tip from ALL the other branches. This will STOP all extension in its tracks & the tree will have no choice other than to activate dormant buds behind those pruning cuts.

Immediately (within a week or so - 'immediately' in tree time isn't the same as it is in people time) after you do the reduction, you should do a full repot into a free-draining soil and get the tree outdoors into shade to regain strength.

Now, if you don't want to remove the right side of the slingshot, let me know & I'll make another suggestion, but I think what I described is the best course for the tree's future.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

am i best to cut the roots loose or just bang the compacted dirt out the best i can? As i mentioned before, its packed in there REAL good


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jul 4, 09 at 21:57

Your container is very small for the tree, so I would suggest you cut the bottom 1/3 of the roots off with a saw, then use the hose & water under high pressure along with a chopstick to remove the soil (all of it) from the roots. Repot into a larger container (into a soil that drains VERY well) & use the chopsticks to push soil into all the air pockets in the roots. Secure the tree in the container (it will reestablish MUCH quicker if it is immobile in relationship to the container) with string or wire. I can guarantee that 'banging' the dirt off the roots is a measure that will prove counter-productive. ;o)

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

tapla: Sorry it took me so long but after finding my camera and taking the pics I got busy at work. Now I finally have time to tend to this plant.

What I would like to do is make it pretty and bushy :) and I would also like to start a new small plant. I'd appreciate any suggestions or comments you may have.

I'm in zone 3a, have lots of light here but it's never gotten direct sun, I face west so I get all that lovely afternoon and evening sun. It was orignally 2 plants in 10" pots and I (stupidly) put them both together in this huge pot, that was about 10 years ago.

http://i123.photobucket.com/albums/o320/pattirose4/IM001370.jpg

http://i123.photobucket.com/albums/o320/pattirose4/IM001366.jpg

http://i123.photobucket.com/albums/o320/pattirose4/IM001367.jpg


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Hello all, newbie here. First post, here goes. I purchased a midsized Ficus tree that quickly thrived and flourished in my home. It quickly doubled in height and the leaves grew large and strong. However over the last 3 months my tree has taken a serious toll for the worst. Almost all the leaves fell off with the last few at the top slowly dwindling off. After adjusting the water regiment, I decided to re-pot the plant. Actually, I just gave it new fertilized soil and put it back in the same pot. After reading several of the postings, I gather I have pretty much made all the wrong moves. However, after repotting I did start to get a bunch of new growth towards the bottom. So now I have what looks like a palm tree (long stems with few leaves at the top) with some growth at the bottom. What should I do? Should I prune these long stems? I love this plant and I don't think it's a lost cause based on the info in this forum. I am starting to think my new roommate may be part of the problem as he tends to like to sit in my living wrong with all the shades drawn closed.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

After reading through a few more forums I wanted to add. My plant has 10 branches, only 2 of which have more than 4 leaves. The rest are either bare or almost there. Also, I live in Las Vegas, NV.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 19, 09 at 17:36

Patti - I'm confused. How many trunks are actually coming out of the soil? How many do you want to end up with? Where do you live?

If you hustle, you can probably cut your plant back now, as long as you don't live too far north..

AV - What species of 'mid-sized Ficus' is it (probably benjamina - weeping fig, elastica - rubber tree, or lyrata - fiddle-leaf fig)? Is there a way you can get it outdoors so it can gain some energy before you work on it?

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

14 but 4 of them are small and only a foot and a half tall.

I live in Edmonton, Canada zone 3a and I face West.

What I would like to do is make this plant pretty. I would also like to start a new one or two.

It is also too large and too heavy to be put outside. It's in a 20" pot (across) and 18" deep and the dirt comes up to the 12" level. It has new soil as I replaced the top 6" in the spring, I also gave it a serious haircut a couple months ago so there is lots of new growth.
I do have a spot in front of the balcony window that gets full sun for a few hours in the afternoon/evening I could move it there, right now it doesn't get direct sun, it never has.

Would more pictures help?


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

I forgot to add that I was wondering if I could cut off the tops of the 4 tallest trunks (photo #1367) which are 8' tall and use them to try and make a new plant? There are leaves on those trunks down to about 3 feet from the soil but below that they are bare.
Then there are 3-4 more trunks that are all almost 4' tall, they are the shorter ones that are on the right side of the photo turned towards the window. And below that there are another 3-4 more trunks that are a little over a foot tall with very small leaves that are always yellow and have been that way for over a year now.

How many leaves should be on each trunk before cutting it?

I have tried numerous times to root cuttings in soil, and in water but have had no luck. I'm really hoping you can help me because I really think this plant is ugly and I absolutely hate this huge pot I have it in. When I bought them they were bushy and very full in their 10" pots but that was 10 years ago and all I've ever done since is cut off the tops when they hit the ceiling and stake each trunk so it doesn't fall over.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 20, 09 at 9:18

I think we can easily transform your planting into something more attractive. More pics would be helpful - maybe different angles of the entire grouping. Does it seem acceptable to you that we go forward with the idea we're going to shorten the planting considerably & wind up with 3 trees of different heights? Group (called 'grove') plantings look best if they have 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 trees in them. After 7 or 9 trees, your eye is unable to determine if the number is odd or even, but generally, odd numbers of trees (except for the mother/daughter arrangement with 2 trees) look best. Trees with large leaves look best with only a few trees in the grouping.

We can explore where the small sprouts originate & perhaps take advantage of their juvenile vigor if they are basal sprouts - to help you get them to root.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Sounds good Al! I have never had a grouping and losing height on this one doesn't bother me at all. Easy sounds good too! I have lots of different size pots and soil and more importantly time and patience. I don't mind experimenting either.
I took off all the supports and took more pictures, hopefully they help. The 4 tallest trunks can't support themselves and they are 8' tall, then there are 2 trunks that are 4' tall and not falling over, and 4 trunks that are 1 and a half feet tall but not that healthy as they are in various stages of yellowing but the new growth on them is a nice green color. I don't know if you can see on the pictures but there are brown spots on many of the leaves, I don't think it's bugs or disease but probably from moving the plant around and tieing it up and staking it.

http://s123.photobucket.com/albums/o320/pattirose4/

Where do I start?


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Al,

Sorry for the delay in response. I was scared to leave it outside for too long because of the extreme recent heat around here. I guess in small doses maybe? Anything else I should do before working on it? Thanks for the help!


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Just realized I didn't answer the whole question. It is a rubber tree. Ficus Benjamina...


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jul 21, 09 at 23:13

Hi, Patti. I think, after looking at the new batch of photos you provided, that we need to back up a bit and approach your situation from a different angle. The stems are much thinner than I had thought, and the information that the tallest trunks can't support their own weight is disconcerting because of the limiting affect that has on our options.

You need to get your planting into much better light. Low light is the only reason your planting is not self-supporting. Can you move it outdoors into better light for the rest of the summer & then find a brighter spot to over-winter it? Let me know.

Alex - Ficus benjamina is a weeping fig, and a rubber tree is Ficus elastica, and never the twain shall meet. ;o)

I hope you didn't move it out into full sun? It should be moved to shade for a week or so, and then perhaps to full sun for a half day for a while. It would be helpful if you thoroughly flushed the soil several times with at least a volume of water equal to the container size. A couple of days after you've flushed the soil (before the soil dries out) fertilize with a full recommended strength solution of MG 24-8-16 All Purpose fertilizer. There's really nothing else to be done after that except to water properly & wait for a few weeks for the plant to build some strength so we can cut it back.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Nope, this pot can't go outside, it's too big and too heavy and there is no shade on my balcony, plus the night time temps are 10-12C. sometimes lower.
I can put it in front of the balcony window where it would get 4-6 hours of direct afternoon sun.

I was hoping to cut off those tall stems and make new plants with them, then cut off most of the rootball and repot into a 12" pot, you don't think that would work?
I really really dislike it the way it is and if by chance I lost it and all the cuttings so be it. The reason I want to start a new plant or 2 is they are very difficult to find up here and I have always loved that variety, it took me years to find those and I haven't seen any since, but they way it looks now it's all I can do not to take it out to the trash.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Oops! Ficus Elastica it is... and no, I didn't put it in the full sun. I'm actually getting ready to put it under one of my large trees if that's ok. Is it ok to flush at this point or should I wait?


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Al: After reading all these posts on the two threads I have a couple questions about my other ficus plants.

I gave my rubber plant a serious haircut a month or so ago and this week changed the soil and repotted into a 8" pot. Then I put it outside on my balcony in the shade, it's been there almost a week now and seems to be happy.

So yesterday after reading your last post about lack of sun being the only reason for my Lyrata not being able to support itself, I took the supports off my Benjamina and seems it can't support itself either. I drastically cut it back and now it can stand up by itself without support, I moved it to full sun (4-6 hours a day) sprayed it for bugs cause I found a spider and washed all the leaves.
I was thinking of changing the soil and wondering if I should cut down the roots also, wash them off and repot?
Would this be too much of a shock after the haircut?
Then could I move it outside? It would be in full sun for 4-6 hours though but I could bring it in before the sun hits it, that way it would only get the morning light but no direct sun, it would also get the cool night temps.

Thanks again for helping.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 22, 09 at 21:14

"I was hoping to cut off those tall stems and make new plants with them, then cut off most of the rootball and repot into a 12" pot, you don't think that would work?"

I was going to suggest you sacrifice the tallest stems anyway. I would cut them back right to the soil line. Whether or not your cuttings will root, depends in large part on how much stored energy the cuttings have. Judging by their thin trunks, I'm betting that it's not a great deal. There is nothing to keep you from trying, though.

You'll need perlite, Turface, NAPA floor-dry, either singularly or a combination of those ingredients. It would also be helpful if you mixed in some chopped (in a blender or food processor) sphagnum moss (not peat, though - the whole moss).

When you look at the upper part of these trunks, can you see an area where the woody part changes from woody to green as you look at it moving toward the tip? Leave the three shorter trunks that look best to you and cut out all the rest. Light is what you need to focus on. If you can't improve the light conditions, the plants you allow to remain will grow in the same fashion as the taller stems you'll eliminate.

"I moved it (her Ficus b.) to full sun (4-6 hours a day) sprayed it for bugs cause I found a spider and washed all the leaves." I hope you didn't move it directly from indoors to full sun. Why oh why would you use insecticide on a plant to kill a beneficial spider?
"I was thinking of changing the soil and wondering if I should cut down the roots also, wash them off and repot?
Would this be too much of a shock after the haircut?"
Yes, I think it probably would, especially if the tree was weak to begin with. Save the repotting for early next summer. Let's try to stay more focused on one plant or the other for now. The thread is getting very confusing for me, and I'm sure it's becoming difficult for others to follow as well.

Alex - By all means - do flush it as soon as you get the chance.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Sorry, don't mean to be confusing and I didn't know spiders were beneficial.

I have perlite and spag, is that okay?
I assume the cuttings go in the perlite and spag, out of the sun and kept moist?
How much of the stem and how many leaves do I need to try and root each one?

It's no problem giving this plant more light, especially once I get it in a smaller pot. I have never put my non-flowering plants in summer direct sun mainly because after being happy in the sun all spring and summer once winter comes many die off from lack of sun and/or the light changes. I thought I was giving them a happy medium by keeping them 4-5 feet away from the window in summer and then moving them right in front for the winter to try and make up for the lack of light.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Al,

I just wanted to say thanks for everything. I flushed it today and have been setting it out in the shade over the last few. I will keep this up for about a week, then follow your 1/2 day in the sun recommendation. I gather it will be at least 2-3 weeks before I can really get started in cutting it back right?


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 23, 09 at 15:07

PR - When you look at the upper part of these trunks, can you see an area where the woody part changes from woody to green as you look at it moving toward the tip?

Did I/we see pictures of your plant, Alex?

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Yes, on two of them there are a couple inches of green before the woody part starts. Three of the four 8' stems have new side branches (shoots?) coming out at the top (see pics) and are a few inches long now, below that there are a couple inches of green before the woody part, the other two are woody right to the end (remember it got a haircut in May and I cut off the top foot or so of the longest ones)

The smaller trunks have green quite a ways down before the woody part starts, on average about 6-8 inches.

These are pics of each of the 3 stems with the green at the top and shows the new growth since the May 5th haircut.

http://i123.photobucket.com/albums/o320/pattirose4/topsofstems003.jpg
http://i123.photobucket.com/albums/o320/pattirose4/topsofstems002.jpg
http://i123.photobucket.com/albums/o320/pattirose4/topsofstems001.jpg


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

No not yet. Can I email it to you?


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Al:
Here's what left after the cut. You can see in the first pic the 2 plants that I put in the one huge pot. One has 3 stems left, the other has 5. I cut 5 stems down to the root.

http://i123.photobucket.com/albums/o320/pattirose4/afterthecut001.jpg
http://i123.photobucket.com/albums/o320/pattirose4/afterthecut002.jpg


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Nevermind, Here goes:
Topmost view
Topview
New growth


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jul 24, 09 at 21:43

Patti - What have you done with the prunings? Is your intent to start new plants from what's left of the 2 plants in the large pot?

Alex - Your trees are severely over-watered, or over-fertilized and have a high level of salts in the soil, or a combination of these 2 things. The plant may not be salvagable because of its weakened condition, but I would bare-root it and get it into an appropriate soil, then get it outside into the shade & wait. Keep the soil so that you can just barely feel a little dampness at the drain hole.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

I have tried many times to root cuttings off that plant over the years and never had any luck but I tried again. I have 3 cuttings in a moist perlite/spag mix in medium light, I have another very small one in water, and I stuck 3 more in the soil with the old plant. The latter more for looks than any hope of them actually rooting, lol!

I washed all the leaves and stems with soap, and let the roots soak in water a couple hours, then I potted in new soil and perlite in a 10" pot and put it a bright spot indoors in front of the balcony window where it will get 4-6 hours of direct sun daily. It doesn't look too bad, it's about 4' tall.

Should I fertilize again? I gave it a good dose a week ago but this is new soil now.

I also have 2 chunks of root (each about the size of a baseball) still in the old pot, what are the chances of that coming up with some new growth if I repot and put them outside in the heat and sunshine? I didn't have to cut them they were separate, actually the root system wasn't very large at all, I don't know how so few roots could maintain such a huge plant for so many years.

Thanks again for your help - appreciate it!


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jul 25, 09 at 9:25

Patti - you have me so confused ..... By the time I've sorted out what's been done, you're on to another step & we have to sort that out, too. I think it would be better if you called me so we can get this cleared up off forum. This is just too difficult to try to get done here. I'll send you my home phone & when you can best reach me.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

I will re-pot with fresh soil as soon as i get home. I'm gonna try even if it doesn't work out. Thanks Al.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

i have a very atractive large plant that i want to split but im not really sure what it is. it has large broad leaves that grow from a central stem. the leavesall have a dull off white random splotches covering them. can anyone help me identify it so i can propigate it correctly


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Aug 25, 09 at 9:45

Can you post a picture? - or email it to me & I'll post?
Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

I have a troubled ficas with pics. Before I post I'd like to make sure there are still responses to this old thread. Tapla, you sound like just the guy I need. Are you still there?!

Thank you!


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 9, 10 at 20:34

Mmhmm - just waiting on you so the party can begin. ;o)

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

We have a ficus, maybe a Ficus lyrata (fiddle-leaf fig)? It is our second ficus in this location. It is partially green and partially brown, as you can see from the photos. The degradation isn't uniform, but parts seem very healthy and parts very dead. This is the second ficus we've had problems with. We moved from the humid south to the dry north, and in the south I had problems with overwatering trees. With our first tree I held back the water, and I assumed that it's condition was water depravation. I didn't water it often after repotting it, and I thought perhaps the disturbed roots had needed more water after repotting than I had given it. Also, our conditions here are so much dryer that I believed I had underestimated how quickly the soil dried up. I've noticed since then that all my plants need water more often than I had been used to in the south.

I have done a fairly good job of watering this one, and I wouldn't think any dryness it had experienced would cause this kind of browning. I would also say that I would be surprised if it had been overwatered. It's as if only portions of the tree are having problems with the roots. It was purchased last year and repotted at that time into a bigger pot.

The corner it is in has light yellow walls and a white ceiling. The window to the right faces almost directly south and the window to the left east. The corner itself would only get reflected light, not any light directly from the windows.

Any thoughts? Water? Light? Disease? Need more info?

Any thoughts you have would be so greatly appreciated! A tree this size costs $$ and I sure don't want to lose it!

Deanna
Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 10, 10 at 10:36

Your tree is a variant of Ficus benjamina, probably 'Silver King'. Ficus b is also commonly known as a 'weeping fig'.

To logically isolate the problem(s) we need to first eliminate insects and disease. The trunk at the soil line looks healthy? No sign of scale on the branches or leaves? Did you check for spider mites? I'm almost sure the issue doesn't lie with any of these possibilities, but let's eliminate them anyway. Let me know if you don't know how to check for scale or mites.

This looks very much like a salt issue. By that, I mean an excessive amount of soluble salts in the soil from tap water and fertilizers - with fertilizer being most suspect. How often do you fertilize and with what - need the NPK % on the fertilizer container, please.

The damage isn't typical of a light issue, so if it's not insects/disease or a salt issue, it probably lies with the relationship between your watering habits and the soil, but we'll save that until after we get by (or not) the insect/disease/salt issues. That way you won't feel overwhelmed by questions, and won't feel I'm asking just for the sake of asking. ;o) BTW - do you have a cat? Have you inspected the roots?

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

I don't see any spider mites. I did have a couple of plants infested this year for the first time, so my experience is limited. But, I looked underneath some healthy and dead leaves. Saw no spots, no webbing.

However, at the soil line the trunk looks healthy but the soil has crystals on it. See?

Photobucket

Is that looking like salt is a likely culprit? Do we need to shake the old dirt off the roots and repot? As for fertilizers, I use the granules with a high N content, Osmocote slow release 19-6-12, and I'm sure I used more than recommended.


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Soil RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, P

Also, we have well water and have to use water softener salts. Those are supposed to be removed from the water, but could it be a culprit?


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 10, 10 at 15:52

OK - I think your feeling that you over-fertilized, + the water softener issue, is enough indication that it is indeed a salt problem, as suspected. I don't think it would be in the tree's best interest if you repot at this time, but potting up is a viable option if the roots are badly congested. It's critical that you reduce the level of dissolved solids in the soil solution (get rid of the salt) asap. You'll also need to find an alternate water source for watering your plant. A nearby friend with a RO water filtration system would be ideal, but that still leaves the issue of how to flush the salts from the soil using your salty water?

Can you share your options .... or do you want to give up on the tree? The two major issues right now are expediency and an alternate water supply. In the meantime - you could help by removing all the fertilizer prills you can from the soil surface.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Not ready to give up quite yet. I'm going to initially guess that the water softener isn't the biggest issue because all the salt used to soften is supposed to be removed from the water, and also because we have other plants (including another ficus) that aren't suffering like this. What if I scoop up all of the fertilizer granules and then just put it in the bathtub for a loooooooong time with water running through it? Would that flush out a significant amount of the build-up from fertilizers? Also, should I prune off the dead stuff?


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 10, 10 at 21:01

FWIW - here's what happens with the water softening process: Your water was probably high in Calcium or Magnesium - maybe both, possibly some other ions, but Ca and Mg are the big two. To get rid of the calcium and magnesium, water softeners go through a process called ion exchange, during which the sodium from the salt you load into the softener is exchanged for positively charged ions. The process is called ion exchange. I won't bother explaining the rest of the chemistry, but basically the sodium ions go into the water in exchange for the other ions, so the softener doesn't remove the salt. The sodium in the water doesn't create the scale in pipes & plumbing that Ca/Mg do, and it doesn't inhibit lathering of soap - things like that.

OK - back to your tree. Removing what fertilizer you can is something I suggested earlier, and flushing the soil thoroughly was definitely a part of the intended program. You might want to lift the tree from the pot after it stops draining and set it on a few sections of newspaper to help pull excess water from the soil. If the roots are really tight, you should probably pot up into a larger container, cutting some deep vertical slits in the root mass before you do.

With a water softener, it's important that you apply enough water to flush accumulating salts from the soil each time you water. If you can't do that w/o risking root rot as a result of a soil that stays soggy to long, you'll need to water in sips and employ regular and thorough flushings of the soil to keep salt levels down.

An ideal fertilizer would be Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. Miracle-Gro 24-8-16 or 12-4-8 are also good. All 3 fertilizers are 3:1:2 ratios, which will allow you to avoid NPK deficiencies at the lowest possible salt levels.

You can remove what's obviously dead w/o any additional negatives. Don't pull leaves off unless you're also removing the branch. Pulling dead leaves damages dormant buds in leaf axils if the branch is alive. Cut through leaf petioles (stems) with a pair of scissors & let the little stubs fall on their own. Prune back in short segments & stop when you get to viable tissue.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Deanna you are being given good advice. It looks like some major root damage, probably from using the water from your tap. I agree you need to find another source for your water for all your plants. Softened water is deadly to plants.

Can you collect rain water? I had softened water and used rain barrels on my deck to collect water. I also had a RO system installed under my kitchen sink which I used in winter. That is costly so it might be better to buy bottled water (on sale) to water your plants.

You might check to see if your water softener has a bypass valve where you can get water before it enters the water softener. Some units have this.

I wouldn't fertilize at all at this point until you get the salt issue under control. Wait until Spring to repot the plant, but try to flush the salt out as soon as possible.

Good luck,
Jane


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

OK, sounds like I have a place to start. I was under the impression that after the resin beads had removed the minerals, they were able to remove the water softening salt from the water. I often ask people who work on our system (we have a twitchy ornery well pump) for details, but they usually can't give me the real details. I'm still working on understanding the small details of how the softeners work. For example, if our well water has a high concentration of minerals during one day, does that mean the softener uses more salt to remove it, or is the salt content constant and it is limited in how much of the minerals are removed? If our softener is on a schedule, how do we know it's keeping up with our water usage needs? It's frustrating to get orange clothes out of the wash. Still many details I'd like to know but don't. We just collected rain water for toilet use during a bad rain/windstorm. (NH has a terribly old and troublesome grid, so one thing we can depend on is power issues during any wind...or ice...or hard rain...or anything.) I'll put the plant on the front porch and flush some of that through it. Next year we were going to install a very simple rain collection system for toilet water use during outages. For now, there is a valve on our system at the pressure tank, before the water goes through the softener. I can use that water for the plants.

So, I'm supposed to remove as much of the fertilizer granules as I can find, flush no-salt water through the dirt as much as possible, and carefully prune back to viable wood.

Thank you so much! You've been absolutely fantastically helpful. After I do some pruning, I may come back with some pics and ask you for shaping advice!

Thanks again.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 11, 10 at 9:53

More than happy to help.

BTW - the rain/dehumidifier water is a very good suggestion, as is the pre-softener by-pass for your humidifier, or other water supply not needing softening. You'll still need to guard against salt build-up (by-pass water), but the sodium ions are worse than the Ca/Mg ions they replace.

I wouldn't withhold fertilizer after flushing the soil. Plants need a full compliment of nutrients to grow normally. Flushing almost everything from the soil is sure to leave some nutrients at deficiency levels. There is no physiological reason to withhold all fertilizer, only to ensure the TDS/EC (total dissolved solids/electrical conductivity) of the soil doesn't get too high (back again to too much salt). Withholding nutrients would stall recovery or increase the amount of time it takes.

Changing gears, you can probably Google "how water softeners work" and get a complete explanation, if you're interested.

Good luck!!! Keep us posted.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

I would also suggest you move the plant closer to the window. You don't state how far it is from those two windows. SE exposure is generally good unless the plant is far from the windows. In your zone, light is at a premium this time of the year. Ficus respond to stronger light.

I do not fertilize during winter because growth is stopped or stalled due to decrease in light and light hours. After flushing the soil well, if new growth starts, fertilizing lightly is fine.

My Ficus stops growing over winter due to decreased light and light hours. If you can, I would give the plant as much light as possible. Foot-candles decrease dramatically with each foot from a window. Daylight hours will continue to shorten, gray skies and the gloom of winter starve plants of the light they require for growth.

Hopefully, you have caught the 'salt' problem early enough to turn your tree around. When daylight hours increase, you should see a flush of new growth.

Good luck,
Jane


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 11, 10 at 22:42

Deanna - Just to clarify - I have at least 30 Ficus trees that are fertilized at low doses every time I water (every 2-3 days), all winter long. This ensures they have, at all times, all the nutrients available that are required for normal growth and to keep their systems orderly. Though growth slows considerably in winter, it does not stop, and there is no physiological reason to withhold nutrients from plants just because growth slows. Actually, there is no physiological reason to withhold fertilizer even if growth HAD stopped. We do have a vested interest in ensuring that we control the level of salts in the soil so it doesn't impair water uptake, but withholding nutrients entirely would certainly be counter-productive.

Plants may or may not respond to stronger light, depending on whether or not light is the most limiting factor. If, for example, a nutrient deficiency resulting from withholding fertilizer is the most limiting factor, then making light stronger and the duration of exposure longer would have no effect. For a better explanation of How Plant Growth is Limited, click on the embedded link.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 12, 10 at 19:51

Hey, Al! My plants don't stop growing during winter, either... and I do as you do, fertilizing with a weak solution every time I water... or at the very least, every other time I water.

Most indoor plants are from other areas of the globe. They might slow growth because of the changing natural light, or it may be their natural resting period.

Either way, I continue to feed them a weak fertilizer solution to ensure they have access to nutrition.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 12, 10 at 21:42

Thanks, Jodi.

I think it's easy to look at a plant that we could almost see growing on a day to day basis in the summer, and think that because we can no longer observe the type of growth exhibited during that most robust phase of the growth cycle, that growth has stalled. We know this isn't true, even though it may appear so.

Even when plants are growing very slowly, there is still an ideal level of all 12 of the essential nutrients plants normally take from the soil. We know that 'ideal' level isn't quite as high as it is during periods of peak growth, but we also know it's not '0', or even close to '0'. If I had to come up with an analogy of withholding fertilizer entirely until growth is observed, I would ask you to picture a car that was out of gas, and consider the suggestion that we shouldn't add gas until the car was started. Gasoline fuels combustion and provides the power so the car will run. In the same vein, nutrients are required to produce the energy that fuels growth.

As you know, it's perfectly appropriate and effective to furnish low doses of fertilizer throughout the entire growth cycle, as long as you are using a soil that allows you to water copiously enough to prevent fertilizer and tap water salts from accumulating. If you're using a heavy soil that doesn't allow you to water as copiously w/o risking root rot, care must be taken to prevent a build-up. This doesn't mean that fertilizer should be withheld, only that we should use our best judgment in attempting to keep the nutrient supply at greater than deficiency levels and lower than toxicity levels, IOW in the adequacy range, at all times.

As you pointed out, light and the plants' own natural rhythms often work together as limiting factors during the winter; but that is not to say that another factor cannot become more limiting than either of these. Too much water, too little water, lack of nutrition, others, can all/either become so limiting the organism could actually die. Our job includes the obligation to ensure these potentially limiting factors are avoided and not intentionally created.

Glad to see you back and feeling better!

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Its amazing, isn't it that my ficus stops growing during winter. Light is definitely the 'limiting factor.' It is placed in front of a large, North window. I do not fertilize any plants which stop growing, including my orchids. I do not want to encourage spindly growth under poor light conditions.

When the days begin to lengthen and I notice new, strong growth I begin to fertilize. I have always grown this way and have good results. No need flooding our ground with unnecessary nitrates and wasting fertilizer.

The comment about salt build-up is not correct. I have found salt build-up on clay pots with only a few rocks inside. My orchids are grown on large rock, in clay pots which will show signs of salt build-up after time. Good drainage has nothing to do with salt build-up. Salt clings to rock and clay. Less likely in plastic.

Best to use your judgment regarding your growing environment. With strong, good light your plant might continue growing. Mine do not.

Jane


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Not sure if I should post this question in this thread or start a new one, as it's not pertaining to a rubber tree or benjamina.

I received a rooted cutting of what I thought was going to be a ficus triangularis in the mail the other day (I'm not sure if it is or not - the leaves still have a triangular shape, but they're longer and narrower than I expected). I'll try to post a picture when I get home this evening. At this point, it's just a long (2.5') cutting with about 10 leaves on the top 6" of the stem. It's a little sad looking at the moment - the lower leaves are yellowing and the whole cutting is bent over in an arch (not limp or soft) with the leaves pointing towards the ground.

Assuming it survives and takes to it's new surroundings, I'd like to eventually style it as a bonsai, but I have no idea where/when to start.

I live in Toronto on the 31st floor of a condo building with no balcony, so it cannot go outside. That said, I've got floor to ceiling windows facing south west out over Lake Ontario, so between the exposure and the reflection off the water I get an enormous amount of natural light (for an indoor space) in the afternoons.

I also have a number of 2" ficus bengalensis seedlings that I'd like to try this with as well, depending on how large the leaves get. Given the current size of these though, I think it will likely be a number of years before I have to worry about pruning them.

Any help/tips would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Tyler


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Below is information, taken from different sites, regarding fertiling in winter..

Winter can be a troublesome time for indoor plants. The lack of sunlight typical of winter, colder temperatures, and shorter days can wreak havoc on indoor plants. Here is what you can do to help you plants make it through the winter.

It must be remembered that most plants grow in locations that have an average of 14 hours of sunlight, an ambient temperature of 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and a relative humidity of around 100 percent. During winter months, even optimal conditions are around 8 hours of sunlight a day, temperatures average from 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity level generally between 15 to 20 percent. Plants can easily adapt to these conditions. They slow down on water requirements, and limit new growth. For all practical purposes, the plants become dormant during winter months. Even though indoor plants seldom drop their leaves, they do go through a dormant period, just like trees and shrub that are outdoors do. They do not produce new growth, and no new shoots appear. This is a natural resting period for indoor plants. It helps the plant to build up food reserves, and it compensates for the change in environment.

-----------------------------------

Fertilize plants only during their active growth phases. Most plants grow most strongly from spring through summer and need the most fertilizer at that time. Begin reducing the fertilization rate in the autumn (an excellent time to apply a bit of tomato fertilizer, which is rich in potassium, to help the plant through the dark days of winter). You may want to apply fertilizer at half the recommended rate in spring and summer and then cut back to a quarter of the rate in autumn.
------------------------------------

Most plants grow slowly, if at all, in winter. Give them either no fertilizer during this time of year, or only a weak dosage. Never fertilize a plant that is completely dormant.

------------------------------------

The need to fertilize houseplants varies with rate of growth, age of the plant, desire for growth, and growing season. Frequency of feeding can vary from every two weeks to every several months during the growing season. A general rule for application frequency is fertilizing at half the recommended strength, every 2 weeks from March to September. Do not fertilize most plants during winter months. Winter's reduced light and temperature result in little or no growth. Most houseplants are dormant during winter.
"Ohio State University"
-----------------------------------

For those who read the above four articles, 'taken from different sites and authors,' should understand the reasoning plants should not be fertilized in winter.
BTW, if one is interested, there are thousands more articles, written by the average person, horticulturists, universitites, etc, on the net.

There are many many plant books, written by published experts, who explain watering and fertilizing techniques.
Thanks much, Toni


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 15, 10 at 15:42

The point I made about Jane's Ficus, or anyone's Ficus, is that they don't literally STOP growing, they only slow down under the markedly reduced light found in many homes during winter; and my point wasn't that you should or shouldn't continue to fertilize during the winter - only that there is no harm, and considerable benefit, in our ensuring that all nutrients are in the soil and available at all times; and that there is no physiological reason to deprive a plant of nutrients, simply because it's experiencing slowed growth.

While it may be appropriate in some cases that we don't fertilize a particular plant for the entire winter, we are discussing this particular case and the suggestion that the person seeking my advice should fertilize after thoroughly flushing the soil. This suggestion was offered to ensure that nutrients would be available as needed, not in excess or in deficient amounts. To withhold nutrients after thoroughly flushing the soil ensures deficiencies.

We need only to look to nature for confirmation that indeed, the nutrients plants need to grow normally are in the soil at all times - even in the middle of a dark, freezing winter when plants are dormant, which is a large step beyond the period of slow growth many/most houseplants experience in the winter.

These are not difficult concepts to understand, so I'm unsure of why they need to be argued over and again.

The same is true of the statement that my comments about salt build-up are not correct. The evidence that fast soils reduce the likelihood and potential for salt build-up is overwhelming. I would point out that any salt clinging to clay pots is obviously not in the soil solution, so has no affect on TDS or EC (soil solution salt levels). When we talk about accumulating salts, we're not talking about the deposits on pots; rather, we're talking about the salts that remain in the soil/soil solution. These accumulate from fertilizer salts and/or tap water.

The idea that drainage, salt retention, and watering habits are intimately related has been thoroughly explained many, many times. Basically - in soils that drain poorly, you're forced to water in sips to prevent root rot. When you water in this manner, and since no water exits the drain, ALL the salts from fertilizer and tap water accumulate in the soil. A large % of the problems brought to this forum are related to issues caused by salt accumulation and other problems associated with slow soils. Anyone growing in fast soils can attest to to the absence of this issue.

I see Toni has offered an opinion now as well.

As I stated, we are talking about one plant that would be virtually devoid of all soluble nutrients after a thorough flushing. Anyone with an understanding of plant physiology understands that there is never a sound reason to deprive a plant of all nutrients. It cannot even carry on photosynthesis w/o robbing mobile nutrients from the parts it will have to shed.

You've all seen many pictures of my plants. If the blanket advice not to fertilize all winter held water, why are my plants so healthy and robust? I fertilize every time I water - even the plants not under lights. Many others who are growing in the gritty mix and other fast soils understand that maintaining a favorable level of fertility is far more desirable than withholding fertilizer entirely so the nutrient content of the soil drops to near 0. It's just not logical.

People that adhere to the idea that you should never fertilize in the winter are trusting one-size-fits-all advice instead of relying on their ability to reason and consider the plant's needs. There are too many variables that can trump that advice. Two that come immediately to mind are plants that have just had their soils flushed, and plants in fast draining soils. That advice, for those applications, is detrimental to the plant, so we can easily see that the one-size-fits-all advice really doesn't fit all.


Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Al, yes, I decided to join in.

I truly don't understand why you disagree with my reasoning when it comes to fertilizing in winter.'

I posted four articles above that explain.
I also do not understand why you find it illogical? BTW, I am not arguing, I'm merely stating my opinion.
Instead of Talk Radio, we'll coin it Writer's Net. Eg. Rush/Hannity, Toni/Al.

Perhaps, people who use your soil-less mix, and additional light, can get away with fertilizer through shorter days without a plant growing spindly.

Even then, I'd suggest using 1/4 the recommended dossage.
Most fertilizer companies instruct to use, what they conisder appropriate dossages.
Sure, they want to sell their product.

Now that the net is around, people in all walks of life, who garden, are able to warn others about 1. dossages, over-stated, 2. withhold fertilizer in winter.

Many books are written on this subject. Unless an author/s, like Hyponex, have written a plant book, 'which they have,' authors that have nothing to gain by using Brand Names, state the facts. If you've ever sat down and read a plant book/s, which I'm certain you have, you'll note, 98% suggest withholding fertilizer in winter.

I am not ordering people here to stop fertilizing. I'm only saying, I don't. It's up to the individual how they care for their plants.

Al you said you've posted pictures here, and said they're robust? I too have posted pictures, and had many compliments. My website is available to anyone who wants to spend an hour looking at plants.
So, what does that say? Could it be we're both correct? Unless you think my plants look sick, are dying, you have to admit I must be doing something right. Right? Toni


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RE: Pot of Chili

One more thing.

Is there or is there not more than one way to make a steak or a pot of chili?
People add different ingredients, but the end result is the same..a delicious steak, or yummy pot of chili.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 15, 10 at 18:01

In all seriousness, I'll ask a simple question of anyone who would like to reply, one that requires only a simple yes/no answer:

Would you, after having flushed the soluble nutrients from the soil of a plant in early October, withhold fertilizer from that plant until spring?

If the answer is 'no', there is no need to continue the discussion. If the answer is yes, an explanation of how you arrived at the conclusion would help others understand the reasoning.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

This is what I get from all this..

Your both using completely different mixes, and whatever works for your mixes then you need to do what works for you and your plants..

I grow in" soilless" gritty very porous mixes that allows me to fertilize at every watering as much as I want which my plants always appreciate it, in fact are radiant, without the fear of salt build or bad reactions, even in winter...

The other grows in mixes which holds nutrients a lot longer than mine, and accumulates salt build up when not flushed after time....

So I see both your points..Both viewpoints will help many:-)

Mike


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 15, 10 at 20:11

Tyler - I'm sorry you almost got lost in the shuffle. I'm not sure what kind of tips you're looking for. Are you looking for cultural tips - how to bring your tree along and get the best growth and vitality from it - or are you asking for tips about bonsai and how it relates to your plants?

Al


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RE: RRubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Probl

Sorry forgot an example..

I am growing a peace lilly in the 5.1.1 mix and water and fertilize it with a weak strength of Foliage Pro every time I water all winter long..It flowers like mad, the edges of the leaves never turn brown, and it never yellows on me..It is robust and is thriving, even in winter..I never have to flush the soil of salts either..That is where Al and others come in with their help and I thank since I am using these mixes ..

I have another growing in the soil in came in from the greenhouse, very heavy and peat mossy...This one I have to treat differently until I change it into the 5.1.1 mix...Last year I fertilized all winter long and the leaves turned brown, flowers were far a few in between and turned brown as soon as they grew..I had burnt tips and yellowing leaves and a very salty pot. In fact I almost killed it...Once I flushed the container out with rain water for over ten minutes and stopped fertilizing frequently, even through the summer, it did much better but not as good to this day as the one I can feed every time I water, if this make sense to anyone..? That is where Toni and others come in if I should ever grow in these mixes for help, and I would thank..

Each plant has to receive different care because each is in two completely different mixes..One is much more forgiving than the other, especially through the winter..

Mike


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Ficus Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 15, 10 at 20:52

Guys - somehow the discussion has been twisted into an argument about winter fertilizing, which has nothing to do with what I said.

I said that since Deanna would be flushing all the soluble fertilizer from her soil, she needs to return the fertility level to a range that is appropriate - so nutrients are available, but not excessive in the soil. A half recommended strength dose of a 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer is entirely appropriate and will achieve this nicely.

I said that I (and we can see others do as well) do fertilize all winter long, which shoots a huge hole in the idea that you should NEVER fertilize in the winter. This was seized on as though I said that everyone should fertilize all winter long, which if you look carefully at the thread, you'll see is not the case. I qualified the statement by saying this might not be appropriate for all plants, and explained why.

I have no idea why this needs to be argued so vehemently. I don't mind the debate, but lets not turn what I said around. If anyone can fault that particular advice, by all means speak up and offer your reasoning, but creating an argument that was never there and pressing it, is no fun for anyone.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

"I said that since Deanna would be flushing all the soluble fertilizer from her soil, she needs to return the fertility level to a range that is appropriate - so nutrients are available, but not excessive in the soil. A half recommended strength dose of a 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer is entirely appropriate and will achieve this nicely."


Well this is obvious after looking at this thread much more closely...I never saw it the first time around..

With this point I myself 100% agree with the advice given to Deanna...I missed that point completely and totally apologize..Thank you for clarifying it and for explaining..:-)

"I said that I (and we can see others do as well) do fertilize all winter long, which shoots a huge hole in the idea that you should NEVER fertilize in the winter. This was seized on as though I said that everyone should fertilize all winter long, which if you look carefully at the thread, you'll see is not the case. I qualified the statement by saying this might not be appropriate for all plants, and explained why.

Al,I can see this now..I skimmed read a lot and my bad..;-(

Very tired I guess....

Mike


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Thanks for replying Al.

I guess I'm looking for a few things. First, an identification of my plant. Like I said, I thought it was a ficus triangularis, but I'm not certain anymore. I'm including a picture below. It's currently about 30" tall, and the largest leaf in the picture is 3"l x 1.5"w, and I've staked it up so it isn't bent/bowed over anymore.

Second, I had said I wanted to use some bonsai techniques on this plant. Even if I don't turn it into a true bonsai in the end, I would like to prune it and shape it so that a number of years down the road I have something that looks more treelike and less like a straight trunk in a pot of soil. Ultimately something that looks like a 6-7' miniature old tree planted in my living room. If that's even possible, I know it will take years or even decades, but I'm willing to take on the long term project.

What I'm asking for here is a starting point. How tall do I let it grow as-is before I start pruning? When do I do this pruning? What are the next couple steps from there? Are there any resources on the web that you would recommend?

Thanks,

Tyler


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 16, 10 at 11:10

Lolol - I looked at that pics and thought "Wow! That's one tall fig tree!"

It looks like triangularis to me, though the leaves appear to be more oblong/longer than those I've seen. I'd considered lyrata, but it lacks the pronounced venation common to that species, so until we know different, it's triangularis. ;o)

Not to start out on a negative point, but the issue you have facing you is the leaf size. Small trees look best with small leaves, and though it's achievable to increase the ramification (#of branches) and number of leaves on the plant, which decreases leaf size, they are never going to be small leaves like benjamina, microcarpa, salicifolia, others.

Bonsai involves harmonious energy management and manipulation of the tree. It probably sounds like I'm trying to impress you, but not so. To manipulate a tree, you need to manage the energy in such a way that the tree can tolerate the manipulations. The briefest way to describe how the process works, is you allow the tree to grow unencumbered for awhile, to build up energy reserves before you perform any radical procedures.

Dynamic mass (the amount of living tissue a tree has) is a good indicator of the state of a trees energy reserves. Trees with lots of leaves and branches have large storehouses of energy and will bounce back quickly from the same radical work that will kill stressed/struggling trees. So, your job is to provide ideal cultural conditions to set the tree on a path that maximizes stored energy. When you get the tree healthy & full of vitality, we can start building the tree. Always remember that good health must come first, otherwise you either kill the tree or are waiting forever for it to recover.

From this, you can see that patience is a key ingredient in carrying out your plan. Where (if it was summer) in a healthy, robust tree you could chop the tree back hard and wait for it to back-bud, with your tree, it would kill it or the recovery would be painfully slow - probably taking all of next summer. That's if the tree survived. You can remove the growing tip of the stem and a leaf or two. That will get the tree thinking about back-budding and perhaps even force a few new branch beginnings from axillary buds (dormant buds in leaf crotches), but this will take time because of the season and the stressed condition of the tree.

I would start thinking about flushing the soil and potting up as a precautionary measure until you can do a full repot next summer. I have no doubt we can get your tree healthy and back on track. It just depends on how hard you're willing to work at it. I'll help you with tips about how to manage nutrition, watering, and how to guard against salt build-up if you decide to put the effort into it.

Take care.

Al



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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by ttkidd Toronto ON (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 16, 10 at 12:54

Thanks again Al.

:) I probably should have moved it away from the window to give a better sense of scale.

I wasn't necessarily looking to start chopping now, but rather was looking for a time when I could start chopping, which I think you answered - next summer. It arrived only a few days ago as a bare-root, rooted cutting, and I only just potted it. The yellowing leaves along the bottom are a sign of the stresses it suffered through the mail system, and not a sign of an unhealthy plant I hope.

You mentioned I could nip the growing tip now, but given that I want the tree to eventually be 6' to 7' tall, should I? Back earlier in this thread you said that the first cut should be made in order to put the plant back to 2/3 the desired height (or does that only apply to hard cuts rather than just removing growing tips?), so that would indicate that I should wait until I have a trunk taller than 4'...or am I totally off base? I've also heard though, that forcing some branching could help me thicken the trunk.

Given the size I eventually want it at, hopefully the slightly larger leaf size (currently really only a little larger than a standard benjamina leaf) will be less important.

Tyler


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 16, 10 at 13:38

There are a couple of considerations re the best way to arrive at your target ht. One of them is, we want to get rid of the stake and make sure the tree is self supporting. Light is a key issue and the primary determining factor in the thickness/strength of the trunk. If your tree is self supporting, you can prune off the top at about 2/3 of your preferred ht & start building branches, allowing the canopy to provide the last 1/3 of the ht as it fills in.

To achieve this, you allow all branches to extend to 4-5 leaves, then cut the branch back to 2 leaves. From each of those 2 leaf axils (crotches) a branch with form that you allow to grow to 4-5 leaves, then cut back to 2 leaves again. This is called secondary, then tertiary, quaternary, quinary, senary ..... branching. In numbers, it means you start with a single branch. By cutting it back, you get 2 branches. Cutting them back gives you four, then 8, then 16 branches ......, all from a single branch. Of course, you only keep the branches that enhance the composition, but within 2-3 years, you might be presented with dozens of pruning options instead of only 1-2. This technique for increasing branch ramification is what allows us to have little 12" tall bonsai trees with dozens of branches and hundreds of leaves. The technique is readily applied to almost any houseplant that branches - even if it only 'eventually' branches. I'm always pinching/pruning to keep my houseplants tidy and compact.

This is a Ficus b that I'm hoping will eventually be a decent bonsai. Note how healthy and dense/compact the foliage (that badly needs pruning) is, and how the leaves have reduced in size because of the large number of leaves. I'm just waiting for the 5-6 trunks to fuse into a single trunk, which will add to the illusion of age. This picture is about 3 years old, so the planting has progressed quite a bit since it was taken:
Photobucket

The things for you to focus on now are the soil, watering habits, a nutritional program, and siting it in the best light you can, and where the soil will remain between 65-75* How fast you progress depends on how well you're able to manage things cultural.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Hey, Tyler, I just wanted to let you know that Al won't steer you wrong.
I don't grow Ficus (other than a volunteer fig out in the flower bed), but Al's
advice is sound for a great range of plants.

Last Christmas, I received my first bottle of Foliage Pro 9-3-6 liquid fertilizer,
and I began using it in mild doses on my houseplants. I'd never fertilized in the past,
so the improvement in plant vitality was impressive! By using a mild application of
fertilizer and by flushing my container soils, I kept my plants green - but didn't get
any of the leggy, stretched, etoliated growth associated with low light and heavy fertilizing.


Josh


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

" By using a mild application of
fertilizer and by flushing my container soils, I kept my plants green - but didn't get
any of the leggy, stretched, etoliated growth associated with low light and heavy fertilizing."

Are you stating that the fertilizer and flushing diminished the need for good light? Wow...

Truly amazing!

Jane


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Whilst reading this forum i thought to myself 'there is a lot of good information being provided' but then again 'eek i don't agree'.
The problem i see with Deanna's tree isn't just a water softener over salting problem.
From the pictures i would have to say your ficus Deanna is a Ficus Benjamina Spearmint. I know this because i have many of the same. The reason i believe this over AL's suggestion is because the Spearmint tends to mutate from its mutation. What i mean from that is it has branches that can pop up from anywhere that are pure green. Back to its original cultivar line. as well as spearmint has a specific variegation that i think if you were to google image pictures you'd see it's very much like yours.

Moving forward.

Your Tree needs a new pot. Contrary to what many say i repot plants regardless of time of year. When a plant needs a new pot i give it one. I just watch my watering during the winter months if and when i repot in later fall/winter to ensure its not being over watered. Even using a water meeter once in a while to make sure it's doing alright. If i were you, and you were very worried about your water softener issue is to buy a couple gallons of distilled water from walmart and ask a friend who lives in town if they would mind letting you fill them a couple times a month. A tree your size doesn't need to be 'flushed' so often.

Give it a good potting medium. I use plain Miracle Grow indoor potting soil. It's both light, not packed with fertilizer and over all can hold its own for quite some time. Due to the potting up idea i wouldnt necessarily fertilize since the potting soil you'll hopefully use will have some sort of slow release fertilizer in it.

I know you've probably done some things that were suggested, and please don't think i'm saying they're wrong... i just have a differing opinion on what to do in some aspects.

Also, I'm sure a question about my logic may surface and or my credibility... Or since i differ in opinion a mini faux argument may come up due that differing opinion but i digress.

To Credit myself I own many ficus tree's as well, from small tree's to large tree's and have had many of them for MANY a years.

I also have MANY years of experience with these tree's and thanks to me the Medical Centers and Hospitals (as well as private practices) in the City in which I live have many a Beautiful ficus trees that i have resurrected from almost dead to live many more years to come.

These tree's range from a foot tall, to over two stories tall. I live in Upper Michigan where we receive below freezing temperatures from late august into june of the following year.

So please although there are many differing opinions and suggestions from me. I only ask that you do what you feel is right for you. Don't just do it because you're told to. DO it because it feels right for you.

Good Luck :)


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 17, 10 at 6:08

Do what's right for your plant... not what's right for you. Basic plant science gives us general rules to follow, and if you know the how and the why... how a containerized plant grows and why you're doing the things you do, everything else will fall right into place, quite easily.

"As you know, it's perfectly appropriate and effective to furnish low doses of fertilizer throughout the entire growth cycle, as long as you are using a soil that allows you to water copiously enough to prevent fertilizer and tap water salts from accumulating."

It's the second part of the above quote from Al that is most important to remember... otherwise, salts will build up, and a consistent fertilizer program will be for naught.

Most people tend to think of their potted plants from the top down, generally by what's above the soil surface... but if you think first about the roots and what keeps them healthy and happy, what's above the soil surface will naturally follow. Healthy roots mean healthy plants... provided, of course, that other needs are met at the same time.

The attached link is to an article you may or may not have read, but if you haven't, it's a positively great, and important, starting point for growing very healthy plants, regardless of plant type.

Personally, I'd nix the commercially sold potting soil and go for a mix that allows better aeration, better drainage, and makes for healthier roots. The gardening industry isn't interested in providing you with a product that keeps plants healthy... they're interested in making money. And if you're constantly buying new or replacement plants and constantly re-potting, they're making money. Profit makes the retail world go 'round.

Providing enough light goes without saying. And as Al states, the onset of winter does not mean growth stops entirely. Just because growth can't be seen with the naked eye doesn't mean it isn't occurring.

Al is not just some hobby grower offering you his opinion... Al is an extremely accomplished grower offering us all his vast knowledge, years of experience, and his verifiable expertise. In all the years I've known him, he's never given a bad piece of growing advice. Many of us consider him to be our teacher, our professor of collegiate gardening, our in-house expert on all things green! Instead of being a published gardening expert selling his knowledge through expensive books, Al has graciously deigned to share his knowledge with us novice growers, without charge. He believes as I do... that successful gardening is for sharing.

For what's it's worth, I've learned more about how to grow healthy, happy container plants since first reading Al's articles, than in all my previous years of reading general gardening books... going by general advice, a lot of which turned out to be fallacy... and my own many years of experience aided by those books and gardening lore. There's a lot to be said for getting accurate and simplified information taken directly from the science of plants and growing.

Good luck with your interesting rubber tree... I may be a bit prejudiced, but I believe that if you take Al's advice, your tree will flourish. :-)



Here is a link that might be useful: Basic Science - the Why and How


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 17, 10 at 10:41

There is actually very little difference between what Grr said and what I said. The instructions were so close they're virtually a paraphrasing of what I said, so I don't really think that if that person disagrees, it's very strongly.

If we disagree on the cultivar of the plant, no big deal - not enough there for there to be any impact on the advice. The species is more important, and we agree that it is benjamina.

I said the tree needs a new pot - he says the tree needs a new pot.

I said the tree needs to be flushed often if using the softened water because of salt build up - he said it doesn't need to be flushed that often because of the size of the tree, but doesn't go into detail. If the only difference between us is the frequency with which the tree needs to be flushed, we're nearly in accord on that topic; but here, I would ask you to consider that the size of the tree really has nothing to do with how often it's appropriate to flush the soil. What determines the appropriate intervals between flushings (if that is a word) ;o) is how quickly soluble salts accumulate, which has nothing to do with tree size. Besides, I think we can both agree that it's better to be safe than sorry, and I don't mind being charged with being overly cautious. We know that the water softener exchanges sodium chloride for Ca,Mg,Fe,Mn,S, and other ions, and though sodium is required in such minute amounts that it is virtually never deficient in any medium, it does become toxic very quickly at very low levels, as does the chloride ion, the other half of sodium chloride. This explanation offered as the reasoning behind my suggestion.

He said give it a good potting medium - I don't think I got that far, but I would suggest that as well. For Deanna and for the short term, I would suggest she uses a similar soil to what the plant is in - until the time to do a full repot is more appropriate. At that time, I would suggest she repots into a soil more durable and less water retentive than the MG. The reasoning is simple. Fast (draining) soils allow you to water copiously at every watering, flushing the soil of any salts that are accumulating and helping to prevent a plant that looks like the pictures Deanna posted.

That Grrr is willing to allow it's OK to pot up using a soil that contains a slow release fertilizer, he's probably willing to allow that a half recommended dose of fertilizer is appropriate after flushing the soil. It seems logical that if it's ok to use a soil that contains fertilizer, it must be ok to fertilize should the soil NOT contain it. I wasn't willing to make the assumption that the soil would contain fertilizer, because those that do always note it on the package. It serves to warn the buyer there is already a starter charge in the medium, and it is a selling point the manufacturer wouldn't miss taking advantage of. It's safer to assume that a fertilizer that is not labeled as containing fertilizer has none, than to trust that it has enough nutrients to sustain normal growth, no matter how reduced that growth might be come winter.

So you see - the differences in opinion are very small. For the minor variances, readers can decide what approach is best reasoned/makes most sense, and choose as they might. Other than the soundness of my reasoning and the facts I offer to support the things I say, all I'll additionally offer is that I do consider my advice very carefully/thoroughly before I offer it. I take into consideration things that many miss, or are totally unaware of. Small disagreements like this are kind of fun, because it gives good reason to go into detail (for any interested) and helps others learn as the discussion progresses.

Changing gears:

Jodi - thank you for the nice compliments. It's not really important, but I have been published several times, and I'm often contacted for permission to use articles or parts of the advice I've offered in forum settings in books and articles of others. Not long ago, a variation of the article you linked to was published in The Journal of the American Bonsai Society. FWIW - I've never submitted an article for publication - in every case, the article was discovered online, or as something I wrote on request for someone's newsletter.

To the forum: Jodi and I go back a while. I THINK this is how we met: She was having rot issues with her Hippeastrums. I got her address under the guise of wanting to send her something, and surprised her with a bag of the gritty mix. I'm sure we talked about fertilizers & watering ....... The end result is that reports currently indicate Jodi is much happier with the results of her efforts - greater rewards with less effort and a much wider margin for grower error ....... and we're friends, for which I'm grateful.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

There you have it..

If I agree with one, I keep a friend..If I agree with another, I keep that friend...If I disagree with one, I lose that friend, and if I disgree with the other, I loose that friend..For me, who gives a hoot if you loose a plant...

This thread is a joke..I kept a good friend and lost another over it, because I shared my belief..Thanks to the one that stayed with me, and is not as shallow as some of my pots.

So much for sharing my opinion here..

Mike..


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Tyler, that is ONE huge Ficus! I love its leaves. I wouldn't mind getting one. Can you tell me where you purchased this lovely tree?

It's not Triangle, although closely related.

Here's a pic of my Triangle, but variegated.

Fic-Tri-V10-09

Note, the Triangle leaf shape is wider, although both Ficus have heart-shape tops. Your leaves are narrow, mine, wide. Hope you get an ID, it's very interesting. Toni


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

I bought a rubber plant last week at Lowe's. I have other plants so I'm a bit concerned because its developing brown spots on the leaves. It had a few when I bought it I just figured it was from neglect but since it has developed more. Do you think its from stress, over watering or some kind of pest? Any ideas?
thanks
cyn


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RE: Spots

Cyn...are the brown spots in the leaves, or do they stick out? Like bumps? Toni


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 17, 10 at 14:46

It could be from a number of things, Cyn. Something called oedema is common and results from combinations of over-watering, cloudy days and/or reduced light and high humidity, but over-watering is enough to cause it. It starts as a watery looking spot caused by burst cells. The spots eventually take on a corky appearance.

Other suspects are fungal infections, particularly one of several leaf-spot diseases, or the effects of over/under-watering or a high concentration of salts in the soil.

If I had to give odds w/o more info, I would bet on oedema (most common in the fall) or a reduction in light. As the plant prepares to shed the leaves, it removes nutrients and bio-compounds from the leaves. The same fungi that break down dead material in the soil, are often able to get a head start before the leaves fall.

If you're familiar with scale, and the spots/bumps are very small, you need to eliminate that as a possibility first.

Take care.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by ttkidd Toronto ON (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 17, 10 at 17:15

Al - Hopefully you don't mind, but I've copied the contents of your last message to me into a text file for future reference. There's a lot of great information in there. Thanks!

If I wanted to create some natural looking movement in the lower trunk so it's not just growing straight up, would it be best to do so by wiring it in place, or would you suggest making cuts below the 2/3 max height point? I would love to create some kind of twist or curve to the trunk before the canopy starts.

Toni - I hope you were being facetious about the plant size :) I really should have moved it away from the window before snapping the photo. It's about 30" tall at the moment.

I bought it on a whim actually. I was placing an online order with Glasshouseworks for a bunch of Jades and Portulacaria afra, but needed another plant to reach the minimum required for international orders. They have it listed as Ficus triangularis. I agree though - according to pictures I've seen online and what you showed above, my leaves are too narrow. Nothing else on their website matches with what I have, and I've done a couple web searches to no avail. I'm just calling it the 'mystery fig' for the time being.

Hopefully it stops defoliating soon. I can almost sit here and watch the lower leaves turning yellow.

Tyler


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 17, 10 at 17:20

Actually, Al, it was in reading your linked article... back when it was quite a bit younger... that I had an eye opening and life changing moment. I left behind all the nonsense of green thumbs and other fairy tales, and dove headlong into the actual science of how plants grow and what we need to do to successfully emulate Mother Nature... but in a container environment, where things are all controlled by us, the growers.

Yes, I had rotting Hippeastrum bulbs, and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. I listened to so many people... too many, apparently... and it wan't until I read Al's simplified science that it all clicked. The article contained factual information, and a lot of common sense. I don't why some of it never occurred to me!

There's no such thing as a green thumb... it's all knowledge. And it doesn't have to be complicated, either... as Al's articles prove.

I think part of the problem is that the retail gardening industry doesn't want us to be successful, because if we are, we're not buying gobs of mucky soils and all the accoutrements they try to push. And at the other end of the spectrum, we have so many gardening fallacies passed around, or opinions that aren't based in fact, but only in what has worked for one person at one time.

What we need are facts. We need to know the cliff notes on plant science, and I think Al's articles give us those cliff notes... and quite beautifully, if I may say so.

Anyway... if Al had steered me wrong, I certainly wouldn't be singing his praises. I believe very strongly in being honest, in sharing the truth, in spreading the good word... you don't have to be a Master Gardener or have a college degree to grow healthy, lush plants. You just need a little knowledge.

Happy Gardening!


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Al, rubber plant

I hope you can see them. They werent blurry in my doc, but in photobucket they look blurry.Thanks for any help you can provide.

Photobucket

Photobucket


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Tyler, yes I was being facetious...lol..you said 30" above..the aim of your picture, street/building, if one quickly glances at the pic it looks like it's growing off the ledge..that'd be one big stake..lol.

I'll check GHW..it's under F. triangularis. He's usually good with names, even though, both are closely related, besides the fact they're both Ficus.

Tyler, is it still outside? Maybe it's too cold or soil is staying wet for prolonged periods? Toni


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by ttkidd Toronto ON (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 17, 10 at 18:19

Toni - It's not outside at all. I wish I had some outdoor space to myself, but I gave that up for my current location. The condo has a large rooftop patio with a few BBQs, so disregarding the fact that I have no personal outdoor space for plants, I don't feel I'm missing too much. The plant is just sitting on the window sill. When night time temperatures drop more I'll have to pull it back, but for now the temperatures its getting should be comfortable for it.

I'm hoping the defoliation is just transportation stress and the fact that it's growing in a completely different environment that where it was previously.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Tyler, looks like it's outside.. And what a view! Guess I can scroll up to see if you mentioned this before, but what floor are you on? If you don't mind me asking. Looks way up there..lol

Did you move this year? Any idea how cold your patio gets in winter? It's a nice growing area.

Your Ficus needs a longer stake, unless you have other plans.
I wish my bushy Rubber tree would grow upright/tree-shaped. I'm thinking about cutting all but one trunk, staking, and see what happens.
I went to GHW's, saw the Triangalaris; it doesnt' look like your Ficus. It's a standard Triangle. Plus, he's getting variegated soon.
I want a Ficus like yours. It's so different. Toni


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by ttkidd Toronto ON (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 17, 10 at 20:18

Yeah...it's a great view :) I moved here from a very dark apartment where I was only able to grow plants with artificial lighting. Such a huge change.

Been here just over a year now. I'm up on the top floor (31st), so it's a quick trip to the patio. They close it down in winter because it gets so cold and windy down on the waterfront. In summer it's great because while the rest of the city is baking I'm getting a nice breeze off the lake, but in winter I pay for it when I have to suffer through bone numbing, wet and frigid gale force winds off the lake :) I nearly got blown over a couple times last winter while trying to exit the street-car in front of the building.

In all though, it's a great place to live, and I've been able to buy a lot more plants since I moved here.

Hopefully I can get the ficus to a point where it no longer needs a stake, but until then I will be working on getting something longer. This is just what I had on hand while I was potting the plant.

Maybe I can email GHW and ask them what they sent me. I'm not very hopeful though, as they weren't all that communicative through the whole process of getting this order.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 17, 10 at 20:21

Tyler - I actually meant to address the question you're asking about movement in the trunk, when I said there was a 'couple' of ways to go about working your tree, but only mentioned one, that being lopping it off at 2/3 of the height and letting the canopy fill in for the other 1/3.

The other way to approach a more bonsai-like appearance is the trunk chop. If you're diligent about providing very favorable cultural conditions, the tree should gain energy quickly come early summer. This will allow you to prune the main stem back to 2 healthy leaves, which will force back-budding lower on the stem. You can then wire or otherwise train an emerging branch to the vertical so it becomes the new leader. If the tree happens to be growing extremely robustly, you can actually simply cut the top off and leave a stub of a trunk, which will back-bud very quickly. Timing is important for this procedure, with summer providing approximately a 2 month window for the best results and fastest/surest recovery.

If you look at this Radermachera sinica (China Doll),
Photobucket
you can see the movement in the trunk where I chopped the tree back the first time. The trunk is straight, then it moves to the right. (The little tree on the left is a Ficus benjamina - note how the leaves have reduced in size from their normal size. The other little tree is a Peruvian myrtle.)

I'll be able to control the direction of the top after the next chop
Photobucket
by what branch I choose as the next leader.

Here is another tree already being prepped for a chop. The trunk will be chopped back to just above where the wire crosses the trunk in the spring. The branch coming off the trunk and moving to the left is going to be the new leader. I even have the next leader after that, chosen and wired into place. See how that works?
Photobucket
It looks like it will be very ugly after the chop, but in a year's time, the new leader will be half as big as the trunk, so I'll chop that off and do the same thing with the third leader. See how this builds a tapered trunk. Tapered trunks help give the illusion of great age in bonsai and eliminate the stick-like appearance of young trees.

Concentrate now on getting your watering down pat. Read what I'll say to Cyn, below. The watering technique and comments about soils apply to you, too.

Jodi - thanks so much again. I can always count on you to offer a positive word and brighten a thread. Your observations are usually spot on.

Cyn - your spots could easily be oedema. Be very careful about how you water. Your tree should go until your finger tells you it's dry at the drain hole, or a sharpened wood stick pushed deep into the soil comes out clean and dry. At that point, you should water thoroughly - enough so at least 10-15% of the total volume of water applied exits the drain hole(s). If you can't do that w/o risking root rot, you may wish to consider moving your plant to another soil next summer. Inappropriately slow soils reduce growth and vitality by impeding root function/metabolism, and as already noted they increase the possibility of any of many fungal infections that cause root rot and problems with the lower stem. If you want to start a conversation about what you can do culturally, or want some tips on how to deal with water-retentive soils, just ask.

Take care.

Al


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RE: Winter

How do "house plants" know it is winter? LOL!!!

(Sorry, couldn't help myself :))

This original thread (about trimming/propagating rubber tree) was what brought me to GW originally. Now my rubber trees can bounce back from just about anything!!! I even learned to propagate and grow cuttings directly into our terrific soil (sand). Some did perish due to our time below 30 F this past winter. Thanks to my newly found appreciation of soil science and teacher (Al), most of my plants are happy and now I am able to pass on some knowledge to other family members as well... My little one loves to water and with the "crack" soil I have learned to create, they (most of my potted plants) can even withstand a good flushing. =D

I do recall getting myself into some "trouble" by trying to help someone root cuttings (of a different type of plant)in our summertime. Our summer is the plant's winter apparently. I was told not to fuss with a plant during its wintertime. A leaf fell off one of my plants onto a sandyish patio and decided to root itself. I think it was confused!

We all live in different places and so do most of our containerized plants, so of course not every single variable can be accounted for. BUT: The Laws of Physics are the same everywhere (at least as far as we know now).

Tyler: Lovely view in Toronto!!!
Toni: What is the reddish plant between the ficus and the jack o lantern in your pic above? All three of which are quite nifty btw...

PS Please do not let my newly started tomatoes know that winter is coming!!!!!!!!! PLEASE! :)


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 17, 10 at 23:51

Lol - that's right, Shanie! I remember our talks about soil & stuff, but then you disappeared for the longest time! More than a year - yes? Really good to see you back. ;o) I remember you calling the gritty mix 'crack for plants', too. Wasn't your DH always stealing it from you .... or something like that?

Plants have their own internal clocks that are very difficult to fool, which is how they know when to flower/fruit/go dormant or quiescent ..... and when winter is coming. You can learn more by using the search words endogenous Circadian rhythm. E.g., the plants I have under lights are grown under 18 hrs of light and 6 hrs of dark. There is only one window in the basement that is completely obscured by winter clothing, allowing in virtually no light, but still the plants respond to day length in normal fashion, slowing down until about Christmas (winter solstice), then picking up speed slowly until the vernal equinox, after which they pick up a little more speed and start growing more earnestly. The plants get almost exactly the same amount of light all winter, yet there is a considerable and steady variance in growth rates from week to week/month to month, clearly indicating there is more than light at play insofar as factors relating to growth rates.

Take good care!

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Tyler..a step up, well in your case, 31 floors, 'can't imagine the number of actual steps,' up, lol.
I once lived in what we call a Garden Apartment..it's basically a basement a step or two above ground level.
The LR had 3 large, north-facing windows, but way too dark for my taste.
Brightness is not only good for plants, but people, too. Especially those of us who dislike 20 hours of dark.

Be careful exiting street cars in winter. Lakefront winds are strong. Last time I went downtown, 'Chicago' I thought the wind would lift me off my feet, carry me across town. Freezing cold plus harsh winds equal frost bite.

That's too bad your patio is locked in winter. They should have enclosed it, using quality insulation. In winter, you could have placed plants that don't mind cooler temps, set up a place to sit, and looked out the window during snow showers. Or a good mystery.

Brighter light should thicken your Ficus trunk. But for the time, get a larger stake and attach with ties. Especially the top. You don't want it growing crooked.

Thanks, but don't worry about notifying GHWs..especially since you dwelt with someone with a 'tude. Who needs that? You should have received an email and invoice with names of plants.
Do you know the length of time shipping took?

Shan...the plant with red leaves is Pelargonium 'Vancouver Centennial.' It's basically a Fancy Leaf Geranium.

How do plants know winter's coming? Shorter days is the main reason.
Think about native trees. As daylight decreases, leaves fall. Colder/cooler temps play a key role, too. The world is still, on hold.
As for house plants, some go completely dormant, some semi-dormant, yet others come to life.

Shorther days promote Poinsettias, many Kalanchoes, Christmas/Thanksgiving Cactus, Cyclamen, Amaryllis, and most likely many other types to flower. Several succulents bloom in winter.
Your secret is mine, lol..Too bad it wasn't corn, you could cover its 'ears, lol' I know, dumb joke. Toni


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Al - Thanks again. I think this is the approach I'm going to take. I can live with a few years (or more) of ugly to get what I want in the end :). I have a number of jades I can practice pruning on until the ficus is ready to be cut.

On the topic of potting soils, I know your general feeling about commercial potting mixes but it's what I have at the moment and finding a lot of the ingredients for your gritty mix is proving difficult around here. As well as the potting soil, I also have on hand a large bag of Hydroton (LECA) that I use for my orchids, and a large bag of perlite. Can one or both of these be used as an amendment to improve soil conditions, and if so, in what proportions?

Toni - Shipping as in the amount of time it took to get from them to me, or the amount of time it took from placing the order until I got the plants?

I placed the order on August 17th and they shipped it out on Oct 7th. The package arrived late last week. The final invoice in the box was printed according to my initial order, minus the one plant they were out of.

Tyler


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 18, 10 at 8:46

"I can live with a few years (or more) of ugly to get what I want in the end." Spoken like a true bonsai aficionado. ;o)

You can change the amount of water a soil holds by adding things like perlite or hydroton, but you can't change it's drainage characteristics or the ht of the perched water table until the sum of the larger particles exceeded about 60%. To envision this, ask yourself how much perlite it would take to amend pudding so it drained well and was well-aerated. You can see that when you add large particles to small the small particles surround the large and nothing changes, other than the total volume of water in the soil. Reducing the o/a water content can be a plus, but it's not as conducive to maximizing root health as it would be if the water retention was reduced through superior aeration/drainage. IOW - reducing the amount of water in the soil by adding fillers like perlite is not as beneficial as starting with large particles and building aeration into the soil.

You can pot up anytime with little in the way of issues, but repots and the accompanying root work should be limited to the summer months, when the tree has lots of reserve energy and the most robust portion of the growth period ahead of it to ensure quick recovery.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Toni: I thought it might be related to a "strawberry begonia" I used to have, also some fancy geranium apparently... Good guess :)! I think all plants have 'ears', not just corn, so I always try to speak to them nicely lol!

Down here, most container plants enjoy the "summer" after September... I do believe the lower air pressure (and relative humidity) as well as the less intense rays of the sun trick the plants! I was just being silly about the whole winter "house plant" thing. At one point someone told me that there is no such thing as a “house plant” =D! I know our house remains quite stable as far as humidity, light and temp most of the year (artificially of course).

Tyler: I know nothing about your specific ficus. When you chop, could you just reroot the top? Obviously, you are not coming into the proper time of year to try such a thing but could it be something else to think of? I was spoiled when I started my e’s: I was given a truck bed full of cuttings that were almost all over at least 4 feet long… An aside: how did your other plants (succulents) work out from the mail order?

Yes, Al, my DH has now officially stolen all of MY “premixed” potting mix. That's ok though cause now I make the mix different for each plant. I am scared about my turface stash though. I may have taught him too much about it recently LOL!!! He has done very well with his own experimenting so, you did teach me well. I should probably send you some pics... He's also stealing my plants before I can even pot them!

Have a great day!
Shannon


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Tyler, wonder why they took so long to ship.. Especially since your package had a long hike. Hmm.
Soon, they'll hold orders back until spring. Perhaps it's their busy time, trying to get last orders out? Maybe that's the reason for your delay.

Shannon..Strawberry Begonias are very pretty..I have a green w/red, but thinking about getting golden and variegated.

Yep, plants have ears, eyes and feelings. They even respond to music..talking helps. Makes them happy. lol.

There really isn't such a thing as a house plant,...but everything has a name..therefore, plants grown in a house are coined house plants. lol

I envy you living in Fl. Most plants can stay outdoors year round. Perfect climate for tropicals. Sunshine and humidity. What more can you ask for?

Your winter and mine are totally opposite. Although last year, Fl got hit with cold, most likely a temporary occurrence.
One thing I'm waiting for is the citrus ban to end. I won't buy citrus from any state other than Fl. It's been a long time..5-6 yrs? Hope it ends soon. Toni


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Al,

I didn't say i completely disagree with what you may or may not say in regards to Deana's issue, Nor did you need to respond to my comment that was in meant for her. But that is your way.

My reasoning however, in regards to 'flushing' the soil. These trees aren't bonsai. I don't know how large your largest ficus tree is but the bigger the tree, the less 'bonsai rules and regulations' apply. It's a different playing field. And telling someone to continuously flush a large specimen could cause a lot of problems... You can't expect weakened fertilizer to make up for lack of good potting medium and quality water.

You may be well versed in the land of Ficus trees and their culture however, some of the things you advise may actually cause more harm then good. Especially in Deanna's case. The variegated Benjamina's are not as hardy as the plain greens. Especially in more northern climates. and flooding a tree that size repeatedly will not do any good. You're looking at root rot (regardless of potting soil) Bug infestations, Fugus issues deep in the root ball, Leaf drop, and eventually complete loss of the tree all together.

Unlike a bonsai that drains quickly the larger ficus you have the longer it takes it to dry out. You also gave some information about cutting roots. There is no reason for that either. Rough up the root ball, ensure the roots are healthy and pot up. This is a tree. Not a small tree that will accept root prune or come back as quick as a miniature. Chopping the roots of a tree like hers with the height it has, and the water regimen you advised... might as well tell her to put it outside in the snow...

If there are problems with the salts in the soil i understand unearthing the root ball and re potting. I agree with you on that, However! Why flush the root ball with the same water that's causing the added salt issue that you think is the main problem here? That doesn't make any sense.

My watering information doesn't need any additional information tagged onto it. Use distilled water, and or purified water when watering your ficus tree. Plain and simple. If you believe there is a problem with your water source. Fix it, don't flush the root ball with the same water that gave it the problem in the first place...

In regards to your fertilizing after flushing out soils i highly disagree. Because i disagree completely with flushing the soil in the first place. I take care of trees that are over two stories tall. Over twenty feet tall and just as wide. They're in huge pots. I know what i'm talking about in regards to ficus as indoor trees. Fertilizer is great yes, however it can also crystallize around roots and ruin tree's of Deanna's size. Please remember... you cannot treat a Ficus tree the same as you do a Ficus Bonsai. They may be the same cultivar but they definitely need different care.

Many people here treat you like a God. That you know all. That your advice is best and without it they are doomed. No one can even post anything on these threads that even somewhat differs from your opinion without you replying to what they have to say... and scolding them for it.

I used to love coming here and reading up on peoples problems, giving my two cents and gaining some great friends/cuttings from our communications. I don't even want to come around anymore because whats the point? Your cyber bullying and know all isn't worth trying to give someone else another suggestion.

I give you credit on your knowledge, but you're not always right, and i hope that you understand that i'm not the only person around these threads that feels that way. If it's one thing i can leave you with personally, it's to be humbled... and not so pompous when someone has an opinion that differs from your own, they're not wrong. And there is no reason you should comment to their comment informing them of the differences they say or the agreeing with you. Just because someone agrees with you doesn't mean you're right, and doesn't mean you're wrong. Let other people say there piece and leave it at that. Quit undermining other peoples advice, its rude and inconsiderate.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Hi.i don not put comments here very often but I had to say something.i have been reading this thread for days and to me it seems like some are trying to undermine the very beneficial information started by Al and other places.
grrr,you were doing good with your writings in some way as Al acknowledged in some respects, until you starting chastising him for only trying to help others out..In no way do i see him or others intentionaly trying to hurt others or chastising except for your last post. quite clearly I saw this with words like,"many treat you like a God", "you know it all", "he is cyberbulling", "pompous", "rude and inconsiderate". Isnt this the kind of behavior that Gw sends warnings for and the very reason great threads are spoiled.
Let he who thinks he is without fault cast the first stone first..I have seen gang up against Al, so no one should be pointing fingers here.
Now I am sorry, but i am not taking sides. if Al had ever done this to anyone here, i would of notifyed him of how disappointed i was, but he has not..It seems there is a team against him, it seems apparent throughout, and not just here. many here also see this..Please stick to helping the poster out instead of repremanding a good man for trying to help others here or consider sending him a private message and do not spoil a good thing with hurtful words


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RE: oh, iforgotRubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Prun

i forgot to say that i read als memebr page, and i highly believe that this man knows what he is taliking about.


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 18, 10 at 18:00

Trees in containers are trees in containers. Bonsai culture is simply container culture, taken to the extreme, and to suggest that the same principles that apply to bonsai don't apply to other containerized trees is unsupportable. Growing trees in small containers and in small volumes of soil is much more difficult than growing in the containers houseplants are typically grown in. Your skill set HAS to be more finely honed to be successful at bonsai than it does to grow in larger containers. That's much like suggesting an auto mechanic can't work on bicycles because the rules don't apply. Besides, most of the advice I give has nothing to do with bonsai. It just happened that one of the posters on this thread inquired directly about bonsai techniques.

All but a few people with an ax to grind DO treat me very well, I'll gladly admit, but that is probably because I have a very long history of going far out of my way to help others with well-reasoned and horticulturally sound advice that works (literally thousands of testimonials over the years). Not that it matters, but I've also sent hundreds of plants and hard to find materials like fertilizers and supplements, as well as soils to forum members - at my expense entirely. You have only to read the hundreds of threads on GW to see this is true and not an exaggeration. I don't just talk the talk when I say I truly enjoy helping people, I walk the walk.

When someone comes to a thread I started and flat out says I'm wrong or contradicts something I've said, it is only fair that they should offer their reasoning for their correction. If I correct someone or offer a dissenting opinion, I always offer a thorough explanation of how I arrived at my conclusions, so whoever I'm talking to can decide what is the most logical and reasonable way to move forward in trying to solve their problems. I never just pull something out of the sky I can't support and treat it as fact.

I don't decide whose advice is best - others decide that. I make sure what I say is factual and scientifically supportable, and I don't operate at beyond the limits of my knowledge, something I think is a wonderful idea for anyone, and too frequently ignored. I'm guessing that because my advice is so often sought after, that a majority holds it to be valuable. I know some find it distasteful because it doesn't agree with theirs, but I often wonder why, instead of attacking me, their effort isn't channeled toward supporting or explaining why they choose to offer directly dissenting advice. I think virtually everyone would like to know how someone arrived at their conclusions, especially when advice differs - human nature. It's a great way for the forum to learn.

I don't undermine any one's advice, but if I think it has the potential to detract from someone else's growing experience, I'll offer a dissenting opinion with an explanation. What you look at as undermining someone else's advice is not that at all - it is simply me supporting my own advice against contradictions to something I've said. Lol - perhaps trying to keep my own advice from being undermined.

I'm not here to hold hands with people who constantly go out of their way to disagree with me and who try to diminish me personally, along with the things I say. I'm here to help the people who need it and to see they have the information they need to make informed decisions. I'm very good at that and I've been doing it a long time.

People aren't stupid. They can see who knows what they're talking about and who deserves credibility. Anyone can tell people they know what they're talking about, and most do. You gain credibility by consistently illustrating you have a command of the information you share. Just making statements and proceeding as though they are fact doesn't give credibility. If you really believe my advice was wrong in any way, let's talk about it. Pick my most egregious error and tell the forum why you feel it was wrong. I'll state my case, and let the chips fall where they may. I'll remain civil and completely on topic.

It really does look to me like there are a few, discontented by the fact that I'm able to maintain my credibility by virtue of how I share my knowledge and experience. I don't agree that people treat me like a god - at all, but even if they did - why should that upset anyone? I don't get it. How people treat me is their choice, and doesn't diminish anyone else. Am I just fooling these people? Are they that foolish?

I paid my dues, and learned the plant sciences and how plants work. I also know how people work, and I can't give you or anyone else additional credibility by changing myself. Anyone can gain credibility the same way I did it - by being positive in the way you help others, and making sure you know what you're talking about before you direct someone or contradict another poster. Just to be clear, there is a difference between an opinion and a contradiction. Contradictions are fine, but you destroy your own credibility when you contradict and don't have the goods to back it up, and that can't be laid at the feet of someone else. If you want to start an argument with someone who knows what they are talking about, sometimes you're going to lose. If you don't like losing - best to avoid the argument or be sure you have the goods to withstand.

Now, I've replied in a very civil, well-reasoned, unaccusatory manner. In most cases, but not all, you can consider my use of the word 'you' to mean the collective 'you', because it was a handy pronoun that best allowed me to express myself. I'm just a matter of fact guy that enjoys helping where he can. I hope that if you find reason to continue, that you can set your personal distaste for me and the personal commentary aside.

Al



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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Jane,
your incredulous tone isn't very kind or becoming of you.
I will answer the question happ'ly, though, regardless of the thinly-veiled hostility. You wrote:

"Are you stating that the fertilizer and flushing diminished the need for good light? Wow...

Truly amazing!"

The light was the same - the plant was in the same location as years prior.
With the same light, but without flushing, vinegar, or fertilizer, the plant simply
didn't grow over the winter. I thought that was normal...when, in fact, the plant was
simply under-nourished.

With the same light, plus a hint of fertilizer after flushing, my plant grew several
leaves over the winter. Clearly, light was not the limiting factor. If I am misunderstanding
the concept of limiting factors, I hope that someone kind will kindly correct me.


Josh


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by ttkidd Toronto ON (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 18, 10 at 20:35

Al - Thanks for the tips on the soils. I'll keep photos and records of my progress and hopefully post some of them in time. I also want to say that I'm very appreciative of your advice, and hope that you'll continue to give it despite the objections of some others.

Shannon - If the tip is large enough, I will absolutely try to root it. It's always better to have a backup plant in case something goes wrong with the original :)

All the other plants, with the exception of one, that I got from GHW arrived without incident. Four different types of jades and two different types of Portulacaria afra. The plant that didn't do so well was a Pereskia aculeata, which were unrooted cuttings when shipped, but which unfortunately also ended up as defoliated cuttings by the time they arrived. I understand the plant is deciduous and the bark is still green, so hopefully they'll still root for me. I'm not giving up until they're dried up and brown.

Toni - I think the main reason it took so long was they had to get a government official down from another town to write up the phytosanitary certificate. They warned when I placed the order that it could take a few weeks, so I went in knowing what I was getting into. I have no issue with them other than an occasional difficulty in getting a response to emails. Unfortunately international orders aren't so straight forward.

Tyler


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 18, 10 at 22:01

Thanks, Tyler. I appreciate the encouragement.

Thanks, Sissy. ;o) We don't see you enough, but it's always good to see you.

Thanks, Josh - I'm sorry you're catching flack just because you often agree with me.

I've recently complained to GW about the obviously organized effort to discredit me (not just on this thread, but on many others - and by only a couple of members trying to fly just under the radar) and to bait me into doing/saying something that will get me banned from posting. This is nothing new. It's been going on for more than a year. Hopefully, others are able, or will become more able to see how the game works and get tired of the discord being intentionally sown.

The thought has crossed my mind more than once, that people expert enough they feel inclined to follow me from thread to thread to contradict me and tell me how wrong I am over and over, expecting me to not respond, really would be fulfilling a much more positive role if they offered their knowledge and experience to the forum, as I have. They could easily start a thread designed to help people learn and broaden their growing horizons, and put themselves on the line - a great way to build credibility. Why not choose an area where they shine and have a go at it? I've started at least 50 threads, posted specifically to help those that want to learn, to learn. Why is it that that irks some people so badly? Why are those threads suddenly, many after hundreds of harmonious posts, magnets for discontent? I'm certainly not sabotaging my own threads.

I debate fairly. I don't follow people around so I can argue with them, I don't get personal, and I use facts and science, sometimes pointing to errors in reasoning or logic to make a point. Even during debate, my replies are always worded so whoever is reading along has the chance to learn something. If I wax philosophical, like now, I'm still trying to show my real heart, and to offer the open-minded a way to look at things from a reasonable perspective w/o the malice - to give you something to think about. An example might be someone mistaking self-assurance for arrogance. They're certainly close enough that someone highly biased might mistake one for the other.

I'd be happy as a clam if we could just get back to the business of helping people deal with their trees. If we disagree on a point, just state your best case. Tearing me down doesn't elevate anyone.

Al



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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Deanna,
I'm sure in no time you will have your tree growing strong!
You have been given some good advice.
It would be nice if you could post and share it's progress.

Tyler~ I hope to see your progress too! I like the attitude you have for your tree. :)

>>I also want to say that I'm very appreciative of your advice, and hope that you'll continue to give it despite the objections of some others.<<

I know many of us here feel the same as you do on this. I too appreciate the time Al gives so freely and from the heart.
Even with all the negative in this thread, I continue to read knowing I will get something out of it... and have. :)

Sissy~ Hello! Always good to see you! You need to join us more often. :)

Josh~ Hello!
I remember when you got the foliage pro. It's always great to hear that someone's plants have improved and how.
You and a few others here have been a huge influence in me changing how I do things, and I couldn't be happier!
I can proudly say your an awsome friend, and mentor! and Jodi, and Mike.. and Al as the root of it all. :)

Al~
It's always a shame to see such muck in a thread... But as I sort through it, I learn and I hope many others can say the same.

I will never yank another dead leaf off a tree again, before checking the branch for life! Thanks! :)

What's the best thing to do with a leaf that is brown from the tip half way in?
Cut off the brown or remove the whole thing.?

I have some on some tree's due to sun damage. My poor fig for one.

JJ


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 19, 10 at 4:21

Hi, JJ. Thank YOU for the encouraging words, too. I don't know if Deanna is still following the thread, but we've exchanged emails since she stopped participating. We didn't discuss why she decided to change, and I wouldn't feel comfortable speculating on her reasons; but I had nothing to do with her decision, other than whatever confidence she might have had in me based on what I had said both before and after she came to the thread.

"What's the best thing to do with a leaf that is brown from the tip half way in?
Cut off the brown or remove the whole thing.?"

From an energy management perspective, the best thing to do is leave it. Either the partially damaged leaf is making more energy than it's using and the tree will retain it; or, if the opposite occurs, the tree will recognize it as a liability and shed it. During the shedding process, the tree will salvage nutrients and other biocompounds from the leaf and translocate them to other tree organs. It can even mobilize some of those nutrients normally considered immobile in the plant. Removing the leaf before this process is complete, deprives the tree of these nutrients.

If you just can't stand to look at it, how important this might be to the plant depends on the tree's state of vitality. It's probably an insignificant loss to a robust tree in the middle of summer - to remove a handful of blighted leaves; but greater consideration should be given a tree a just hanging on to life and perhaps going into winter. Once you understand the concept, it becomes mostly a common sense thing.

I'm guessing your tree might be Ficus carica, the edible fig? If so, mother nature will be removing the leaves soon enough anyway. ;o)

BTW - whenever you remove a damaged leaf from any tree, please use a scissors to cut through the petiole (leaf stem) instead of pulling it from the tree. The act of pulling leaves off very often damages axillary buds (buds lying dormant in leaf axils, aka crotches), which can prevent a leaf or branch from emerging to replace the old.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Good Morning!
Thanks Al!
I'm not crazy about the brown parts of the leaves, but if the tree is better off if I leave them alone, I can live with that. :)
Yes, It's my eidble fig. The apricot too, but I think that was from it not getting watered enough for a few days (my son was helping, or should I say forgetting..lol)

I'll leave them as is.

I've heard many times over the years a dead leaf/twigs take energy from the tree and to remove it. Wives tales I guess. :)

I promise I'll never yank another leaf again. ;) That's great to know!!
That might explain why one of my lemons looks awful! If a leaf turned brown, I yanked it. :(

Well, that's one of the things I got from this thread!
Thanks Al~
For all you do for those of us here to learn!
JJ


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Hi Al, I have a Ficus (Elastica?) that I've had for many years and hadn't really paid any attention to, except a few months ago, when I kept it in a location with medium to low light mistakenly thinking that's what was needed.

A week ago I put it in a south facing window. It has multiple stems that all have very few leaves, and most of the leaves are at the tip. Most of the leaves are also new growth (another sign of stress?) I cut off two of the stems a week ago - I was cautious because of the time of year and because it's not flourishing. Otherwise I'd have been more aggressive in pruning.

I will flush the pot later today. I also read that you suggest cutting back the tip and the newest leaf of any stem/branch that has more than 3/4 leaves. I will do that as well.

What else would you suggest to improve the looks and vitality of this plant?

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thanks!
deburn


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 19, 10 at 11:29

Hi, JJ - the information you referred to has often been promulgated on this forum in particular, but others as well. I don't know if it's reached the status of 'old wife's tale' or not, but dead leaves and branches really don't/can't act as energy sinks - they're dead ...... and no energy flows to or from them. If they are not dead, they are either producing energy for the tree, or sending 'heads-up' chemical messages to the tree that they need to be shed after the tree salvages what it can. I've explained the physiological process before, but if there is interest, I'll go through it again.

Deburn - The tree has the look of one that is extremely root bound. This is not to say there are not other issues, but trees that show tufts of foliage at the ends of branches and exhibit very little branch extension usually have tight roots and/or impaired roots (circling, girdling, etc.) The problem is, now is a poor time to correct the root issues. It is pretty universally accepted in the nursery trade that the growth of plants begins to me impaired at about the time the root/soil mass can be lifted from the container intact, but your tree is stressed and an out of season repot (not to be confused with potting up) isn't a good choice.

I would flush the soil and remove a couple of inches of the soil mass from the bottom, cut some deep vertical slits in the root ball with a sharp utility knife, then pot up a size. After thoroughly flushing the soil, it's a good idea to replace the lost nutrients with a half strength dose of a soluble 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer. If you're confused about fertilizer ratios vs the NPK %s, just ask & I'll clarify.

If you are concerned that potting up might lead to root issues due to a heavy soil that remains wet for an extended period and threatens the specter of root rot, I can offer some tips that will help you deal with the excess water retention.

It's fine to remove the growing tip of each branch, and I usually suggest that you remove the last leaf (to have emerged) along with it to be sure you actually remove the apical meristem (growing tip), but with your tree, if you think you can get just the tips, I would do that. More photosynthesizing surfaces (leaves) means more energy for your tree.

If you give the tree the best light you can, keep it between 65-75*, and work at your watering practice, the tree will respond. Slowly, during the winter, but favorably.

Next summer, maybe we can get after a full repotting and getting the tree into a soil that will make things easier for both you and the tree. We can probably chase the foliage back far enough that you'll have the makings of an attractive clump planting by summer's end.

Best luck. ;o)

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Al, thanks for the detailed response, as always.

I flushed the pot this morning and fed it MG All Purpose Plant Food, 3-1-2, at about half strength, which is what I think you meant. I didn't realize till I started reading your posts that pots need to be flushed on a regular basis. Once I did, I assumed this particular pot could not be flushed till I realized that there's a plastic piece on the bottom that pops off.

BTW, I haven't fertilized this plant (and actually all my plants) very much.

I will remove all the apical meristems this evening. It already has the best "seat" in the house, but keeping it between 65-75* will be difficult because I generally keep the house cool in the winter, especially at night.

With the potting up that you suggest, I'm assuming that I would use your Gritty Mix. Please let me know if having two different soil types is an issue


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 19, 10 at 17:49

Ahhhhh - what a trouble maker that little piece is! ;o) Even if you haven't fertilized, you can see that all the dissolved solids (salts) in your tap water must be building up in the pot. Let's be clear, that the frequency with which it's a good idea to flush your pots depends on a lot of variables. Primary, is your soil. If you're using a fast (draining) soil that you can apply water to copiously every time you water, you'll be preventing salt accumulation by virtue of your watering habits. On the other hand, if you're watering in sips so all the salt in your tap water and fertilizer accumulates, you should flush more frequently.

A very large % of the problems hobby growers bring to the forums centers around the relationship between their soil choice and watering habits. The more water retentive the soil, the more difficult it is to squeeze good growth and vitality out of the plant, and the narrower the margin for grower error in the area of over-watering and accumulating salts.

You should probably wait, if you intend to switch to the gritty mix. It's not a good plan to have two soils so dissimilar in the same container. Suggestions:

* Pot up, using a soil very similar to the one your plant is in now.
* Cut off the bottom and slit the sides, as mentioned
* insert a wick through the drain hole before you pot up. Ideally, you would melt another hole through the bottom near the side and insert the wick there.
* After you water, tilt the container at a 45* angle with the wick down. The wick should dangle 2-3" below the container, and not touch the effluent (drained water). This will remove MUCH more water from the soil, and allow you to water copiously and flush the soil each time you water. You'll be flushing the fertilizer out of the soil, along with any accumulating salts, so plan on fertilizing with a half strength dose of 24-8-16 or 12-4-8 (both 3:1:2 ratios) about every 3-4 times you water. Don't worry - there is no danger of over-fertilizing if you can follow this plan. It's a very healthy way to approach nutrition management. It assures a low concentration of nutrients in the right ratio at all times, which is actually a very admirable goal for your nutritional plan no matter where your plants are in their growth cycle.
* Keep your watering under control. Only water on an 'as needed' basis. Wait until the wick feels dry, or the soil is dry when you test it at the drain hole, or a sharpened dowel or skewer comes out clean and dry after you insert it deep into the roots.

You should see steady but slow improvement until early summer, then much faster improvement.

Take care .... and thanks for the confidence, Deburn.

Al


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Ficus Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Problems

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 19, 10 at 17:57

I should have mentioned, that it's common for root rot to be an issue when there is no drain hole. Sometimes, the fungal infection even affects the lower trunks/stems. Did you check the roots over to see if there were black, slimy, or sour-smelling portions of roots and remove if discovered?

Al


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For AL! How to save/rejuvenate ficus benjamina

Hi Al,
I just acquired two ficus trees. They have been grown outside and the trunks are amazing. About 4-5" in diameter (each tree is about 5-6' tall) with knarled roots at the surface of the pot....a bonsai lovers dream. Problem is they were neglected have no leaves in the center of the tree....all of the branches are thick between 1-2" but bare. One tree is lopsided with leaves at the tips of one side and nothing but bare dead looking branches on the other side. I started to prune that one down to where I found live green wood and sap but started getting afraid to keep cutting.....and now it is even more lopsided because I am afraid to cut ALL the leaves off to balance the shape of the tree. The other one I have not touched yet. They both are pot bound and have not been repotted in 5 years. How should I proceed with these two trees....prune like crazy or be conservative. What about repotting? I do want to bring them inside because it freezes where I live and I think the awesome trunks will look amazing in the house. But what should I do at this point? Winter temps can get down to 25 degrees....but more than that I really got the trees to have inside. Since they already have super strong trunks, would they be ok inside in a super bright window that gets afternoon sun? I can get photos of them in the next few days

Tammy


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 19, 10 at 19:48

Hi, Tammy - I think I noted not far upthread, that one of the first signs of a root bound tree is the lack of branch extension and loss of interior foliage. The 'tufted' look is so characteristic, that I eliminated a tree the owner expected to win the 'expert class' in a bonsai show I judged this summer, because I could tell the roots were very constricted, just by looking at the tree. When the condition is allowed to get particularly severe, roots wrapped around other roots can completely cut off the flow of water and nutrients to the upper parts of the tree. Trees are somewhat different from species to species in how tightly they adhere to the arrangement that root A feeds branch A, root B feeds branch B, and so on, so that when root A dies, branch A dies. All trees follow this connection to some degree, so it's normal for individual branches originally fed by roots that were later compromised by tight conditions to be shed for lack of the tree's ability to move water and nutrients through the compromised conductive roots.

Ideally, we would correct the root issues during a full repot. The problem with that scenario is your tree sounds severely stressed and unlikely to be able to recover from such a drastic procedure for two reasons, the stressed and weakened condition being one, and the the other being that the timing is bad with the tree just going into winter.

If you can be patient, I'm not at all concerned about the trees being lopsided. We can build a tree from whatever remains viable for the long term. My focus would remain fixed on getting the tree to a state of vitality that will allow us to start serious work on the tree w/o killing it.

Because you just acquired the trees, there is probably no way for you to determine how badly the soluble salts situation is - how much is in the soil. Safest is to assume the salt level is higher than it should be and the soil should be flushed. This is pretty much a standard suggestion for struggling trees. It sort of 'resets' the level of nutritional reserves in the soil, flushing out all the excess soluble that we can't even guess at the concentrations of, and replacing them with a low dose of fertilizer. This ensures that the nutrients are available at a low level that won't interfere with water uptake.

Let me know if you're good with:
* Flushing the soil very thoroughly. Flush 5-10 times with room or ambient temperature water, using at least the volume of the container for each flush.
* Cutting off the bottom 2-3 inches of the root mass and making deep vertical slits in the root mass at 3-4" intervals with a utility knife.
* Potting up, using a soil very similar to the one your plant is in now, for now. (We can work around this if you'd rather not invest in such large pots. Let me know.)
* Inserting a wick through the drain hole before you pot up. Ideally, you would melt another hole through the bottom near the side and insert the wick there.
* After you water, tilt the container at a 45* angle with the wick down. The wick should dangle 2-3" below the container, and not touch the effluent (drained water). This will remove MUCH more water from the soil, and allow you to water copiously and flush the soil each time you water. You'll be flushing the fertilizer out of the soil, along with any accumulating salts, so plan on fertilizing with a half strength dose of 24-8-16 or 12-4-8 (both 3:1:2 ratios) about every 3-4 times you water. Don't worry - there is no danger of over-fertilizing if you can follow this plan. It's a very healthy way to approach nutrition management. It assures a low concentration of nutrients in the right ratio at all times, which is actually a very admirable goal for your nutritional plan no matter where your plants are in their growth cycle.
* Keep your watering under control. Only water on an 'as needed' basis. Wait until the wick feels dry, or the soil is dry when you test it at the drain hole, or a sharpened dowel or skewer comes out clean and dry after you insert it deep into the roots.
* Keep the plants in the best light you can provide, and try to keep soil temperatures above 65*, up to 80.
* Guard against sunburn. If you think/know the trees were in low light, acclimate them to high light levels gradually - over a period of a week or two.

You can read through this thread & see if you spot anything I might have missed, based on similar advice to others. To be honest, I've been talking to so many people about their Ficus trees over the last month or so (not just those from GW) that it's hard to remember everything. Be sure to raise any questions or concerns, and ask for clarification where/if needed.

Take good care.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Hi Al,

Ok, so don't prune any further..??..what about the obviously dead branches?? I was able to cut the ones on the "dead" side of one tree to fresh healthy wood....is it better to do that or just leave it....I am worried that any new growth will just continue on the tips if I don't do some pruning. One tree is getting soaked right now in our rain store....and the other is under the patio. Should I move the one getting wet to under that patio or the one under the patio into the rain? I can do the flushing this weekend. There does not appear to be much soil at all, just roots but they do look thick and healthy. I did buy nice pots for them as what they are in is plastic and got pretty busted up in moving them. But the pots are TOO big and like I said, ideally I would like the trees in the house. So if they were outside, in the weather and sun for the past 10 or more years (the guy told me)....then should I bring them inside now before any new growth starts on them or just leave them outside until it gets close to freezing....where there were was on the coast and it did not freeze, now they are inland with temp range between 25ish up to 117 degrees but at least the heat is over for now.

Thanks for your help.
Tammy


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Hi Al, I potted up before I saw your post, so I did mix the previous soil with 'my' version of the gritty mix! I didn't have Turface, so I just used uncomposted fir bark and the grower size gran i grit!

The roots were not slimy, though there was a big piece that was lying in the pot, so that may have been due to rot. I tried to make the vertical cuts, but just succeeded in dislodging more soil. The base of the stems are darker than the upper portions - is that a concern?

Here are pics of what the root ball looked like and the plant as it looks now. I didn't add water because the gritty mix was damp from having rinsed the gran i grit. Should I water and fertilize now or do it in the morning?

IMG_0004.JPG

IMG_0002.JPG

IMG_0003.JPG

IMG_0025.JPG

IMG_0027.JPG

IMG_0029.JPG

thanks!
deburn

PS: I got quite excited doing all of this and so I decided to pot up an aloe, as well as some cuttings!


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 19, 10 at 21:55

Tammy - It's ok to prune back to live foliage or viable buds. If in doubt, prune in short cuts until you hit living tissue, then stop. Don't pull dead leaves off - cut through leaf petioles (stems) with a scissors. The petiole stub will shed on its own.

I realize you'd like to chase the foliage back closer the the trunk, but that is best done with hard cuts when the tree is high in energy reserves, and to some degree, as reserves build, the tree will back-bud on its own. Working trees is a back and forth thing ..... build energy reserves - do the work - let the tree recover and build reserves - repeat. For the time being, your tree needs all the foliage it can put on.

BTW - pictures here or via email would be very helpful.

You'll need to make a judgement call about the rain. If you think the soil is heavy enough that it will remain wet long enough that you feel cause to worry about the roots rotting, you need either to take steps to reduce the amount of water the soil can hold, or get the tree out of the rain.

You should bring them inside now. The tropical Ficus doesn't carry on photosynthesis well at temperatures below 55*. Essentially, at low temperatures the tree stops photosynthesizing and goes on 'battery power', calling on its stored energy reserves. You should avoid those low temps. Additionally, the tree's ability to return to normal photosynthesis doesn't bounce back with the return to favorable temperatures. There is a lag after exposure to chill, with the return to the normal photosynthesizing ability often measured in days instead of hours.

I'm not sure how much foliage is on the trees now, but it's likely it will all shed within a few weeks after you bring the trees in, so don't be surprised. Let's hope the tree currently has enough energy in reserve to push a new flush of growth, because that's what its viability hinges on.

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 19, 10 at 22:02

Deburn - We'll have to see how things go. There really wasn't much there in the way of roots, but with the faster soil and better aeration, things should go well - just as long as your planting wasn't already beyond the point .....

The entire root mass should be damp or moist. You did flush the soil - yes? Wait until it's time to water next to fertilize - half strength.

Love your enthusiasm!

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

Thanks Al! I flushed the soil this morning. Forgot to mention that I did cut the largest root by about 2-3 inches. It was pretty thick. I have a utility knife with a small blade so it wasnt a clean cut unfortunately.

So, generally speaking, how frequently would I expect to need to water, given this hybrid soil mix? deburn


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Ficus Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 19, 10 at 22:38

When the wick is dry. You remembered the wick, right? Or, when the wooden dowel/skewer comes out dry. A review of what is offered upthread will find it covered in more detail.

Good job!

Al


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RE: Rubber Tree, Ficus b. - Culture, Propagation, Pruning, Proble

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 19, 10 at 23:02

You will find the continuation of this thread by following the link below.

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


 o Post a Follow-Up

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