House Plants/Ficus Benjamina dying?
I was recently given a small Ficus Benjamina straight from the shop. It was full of bright green leaves. The leaves dropped some shortly after it arrived which I was told to expect. Some leaves went yellow. It was repotted on arrival to a ceramic pot slightly larger. A month later, Now it is almost bare, there is some green leaves but most of the leaves are brown and dried out. It is still alive, I have checked ( green under the bark) though some small branches show no life. Watering. I was told to water fully until moist but allow to dry out somewhat between watering, in the beginning I thought it was overwatering as some of the leaves turned yellow but then even green leaves fell. I monitored the soil to ensure I was not killing it. I am not sure what to do now as it looks like it is dying but I have heard that Ficus is a temperamental plant that can come back once it has adjusted to its new environment and gets proper care. Light, next to window, moved to higher position for more light , initially was situated lower on floor. Been told I might have to "flush" the plant but the soil is still moist. Am checking all resources for clues to what I have done wrong or something to enlighten my lack of knowledge. Environment where I live in September 7th 2013 night 21C 60 % humidity/ 33C Day. Any help to save this plant will be truly grateful. What can I do or have I killed the plant?
It is never a good idea to repot a newly acquired plant that is already under some stress due to the change in environment. I have no details on the repotting, but there is a good chance that it was not done correctly and is now in a pot that is too large.
Remove all loose soil from the surface of the rootball that was added during the repotting. Then, allow the top inch of the rootball to dry before watering. This should happen approximately once every 7-10 days. If it takes longer than that to dry out, then the pot is too large, the soil too heavy and root rot may be occurring.
Even when correctly potted, change in light is the most common reason for Ficus leaf drop. Ficus tree leaves are very light sensitive and tend to drop whenever the plant is relocated. It will do best and adapt faster directly in front of you sunniest window where it can get direct sunlight for most of the day. It often take several months for Ficus trees to get through their adjustment period, so patience is required. Look for healthy new leaves as a sign that it is adapting to the light. If new leaf growth is discolored or distorted, then root rot is the problem.
There is no reason to flush the soil unless you have reason to believe the soil is contaminated or you have been using hard water to irrigate it. Temperature and humidity are not causing the leaf drop. Focus on the light and watering. Make sure the pot has a drain hole.
I have written detailed articles on repotting and on Ficus care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at wcreed@HorticulturalHelp.com. 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, Interior Landscaper
Horticultural Help, NYC
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