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House Plants/Ficus Tree Health



Hi Will,

I've read through all of your answers regarding Ficus questions.  Very informative!

My tree really does not look good - it has stayed the same size for many years and has a lot of dead spindly branches. Underneath the leaves, right where they attach to the branches, is a white sticky ball that can be squeezed - almost like Crisco shortening.  From reading through your posts, I am thinking that the plant probably has scale.  

It was also repotted into what I now know, is a too large pot, but that was years ago and I think at this point, I should just leave it in there unless you say otherwise.

I just put it outside on the deck where it will be 75 degrees and raining all week.  I thought that the rain would wash the plant and saturate the soil.  I gave it my favorite organic food and sprayed it with a homemade mixture of garlic, onion, pepper and soap. I have not cut it back but it sounds like I should.  

Other than bringing it back in, is there anything else I could do to make it grow into a healthier plant?  Should I buy that Brand X product to help kill the scale?


Hi Karen,

Your tree looks healthy, although it is a bit sparse. The more sunlight a Ficus tree receives, the more leaves it can support. Indoor light is much less intense than outdoor light so trees kept inside are naturally more sparse, but no less healthy. When you have yours indoors, keep it as close as possible to your sunniest window. Pruning will encourage new foliage growth in the center of the tree and help it fill out.

The small white globules at the base of the Ficus leaves are sap and not scale. They are not a problem and do not need to be treated or removed.

The pot is too large. That means you have to be very careful to allow the the soil to dry out more than usual if you want to avoid root rot. Remove all soil that you added on top of the original rootball when you repotted two years ago. This soil will be loose and not in direct contact with the roots. Removing it will help the soil dry sooner. It will also allow you to determine when the top inch of rootball is dry and in need of water.

So improved light and proper watering is all you need to be concerned about.

I have written an article on Ficus care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at I have also written an indoor plant care book in a PDF format that I can sell you if you contact me at my email address.

Please let me know if any of this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.

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Will Creed


I am the only expert in this category with professional hands-on experience and knowledge of all indoor plants. I can answer questions regarding light, water, fertilizer, repotting, pruning and humidity and temperature requirements. I can identify plant pests and provide information on safe, effective treatments. My answers are based on 35 years of professional experience and scientific research and are clear and easy to understand. I do NOT use search engines to find answers to your questions. If you read my previous posts here, you will get a good idea as to how thorough and professional my answers are.


I have over 35 years of professional indoor landscaping experience caring for plants in homes, offices, building lobbies, stores, restaurants, and other adverse environments. I have written extensively on the care of indoor plants, including a 260 page book. My specialties include Ficus trees, low light plants, repotting, pest control, and re-blooming holiday plants. Be sure to check my ratings and nominations to learn why I am the top-rated indoor plant expert. I am the only House Plant expert consistently ranked in the AllExperts Top 20.

BA, Amherst College

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