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i keep my tree outside during spring and summer bringing it in when nightime temp drops. This year the treeis dropping new and old leaves from the stem, not turning brown or yellow. I do see onthe branch a wispy looking dust like form on the branches. I sprayed the plant drenching it before bringimg in to kill scale or mites.It was beautiful. it is in bright indirect lite. it is growing new leaves, i water it once a week. it is so disheartening. can you help. my Jade plant is doing the same thing as well as my scheffelera. I did re-pot all plants this summer. They are not root bound. My fica is 12 years old. my Jade is 12 years old my scheffelera or umbrella plant is 15 years old. please help they are my pride and joys. Sue

Answer
Hi Sue,

There are a number of issues here for your plants. One is adjustment to the change in light. A second is possible exposure to temps that were too cold. Third, the effects of unnecessary repotting may now be starting to show.

I know folks like to move their indoor plants outside in warm weather because they generally thrive outdoors. However, I do not usually recommend doing so because it forces a difficult adjustment for those plants twice every year. In nature, plants put down roots and stay put throughout their lives. It is quite unnatural and difficult to make a plant adjust to major changes in light.

Ficus trees are particularly sensitive to even small changes in light intensity. When moved indoors, Ficus trees should be located right in front of a very sunny window where they can get lots of DIRECT sunlight. Give your tree a vigorous shake weekly to help it shed older leaves that no longer getting enough light. Prune off any branches that have lost all their leaves or are dry and brittle. In fact, now is a good time to prune your Ficus back by about a third. Pruning will help trigger new growth as it removes older foliage that will gradually die back any way.

The "wispy looking dust" could be spider mites, but I cannot be sure what you are seeing. Ficus trees often have a slightly whitish film on their leaves and that is normal and does not require treatment. If you suspect spider mites, let me know and I will explain how to treat the mites.

Older plants should not be repotted. They do best when kept moderately root bound. Unnecessary repotting often damages fragile roots and the addition of ew soil means the soil does not dry out properly, causing root rot and eventual death. This is not an inevitable result of repotting, but it is a substantial risk. You now have to be very careful not to over water because the added soil retains water much longer and the reduced indoor light slows plant growth and the plants then use less water. Keep your plants as dry as possible now.

If nighttime temps fell below 55 degrees F. for your Schefflera, 45 for your Ficus or below 40 for your Jade that may be contributing to their problems.

Finally, your Jade and Schefflera should also be in direct indoor sunlight.

There are a lot of considerations here, but I am most concerned about the light and repotting.

I have written detailed articles on repotting, indoor plant pests, pruning and on Ficus, Jade and Schefflera 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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Regards,
Will Creed, Interior Landscaper
Horticultural Help, NYC

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Will Creed

Expertise

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.

Experience

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.

Education/Credentials
BA, Amherst College

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