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Don’t Fear if the Leaves on your Ficus are Falling

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Now that the potted plants are snug as a bug in a rug inside the house for the winter, gardeners may notice that some of those plants made the transition better than others. Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) and other Ficus species are popular houseplants that are relatively easy to care for, but gardeners may notice they tend to drop a fair number of leaves when moved indoors.


Don’t worry about the falling leaves as this is just part of the moving process. It’ll take the plants four to six weeks to reacclimate to the indoor atmosphere. Gardeners will soon begin to notice a new set of lower-light leaves emerging.


To help keep the Ficus happy indoors, place it in an area that receives medium to high light. This is not a plant to be tucked away in a dark corner. Ficus are tropical to subtropical in origin, so they don’t fare well in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the plant away from exterior doorways and drafty windows. Also, keep the plant away from heating vents. Ficus like a humid environment and won’t do well with heat blowing directly on it. Gardeners who have more than one Ficus plant should consider grouping them to increase the humidity around the plants.


It's no secret how often plants need to be watered during the heat of the summer, but Ficus should be watered sparingly during the winter months. Let the pot dry down about halfway before watering it. Be sure to empty the saucer after watering so the plant doesn’t sit in a puddle of water. Don’t worry about fertilizing during the winter unless the plants are kept in a solarium.


Unfortunately, there are a few pests for which to keep an eye out. If you see black/brown dirty spotting on the leaves that is thicker than dust, this is likely sooty mold. Sooty mold is an indicator of an insect problem because the mold grows on the honeydew excreted by the insects. While the mold itself isn’t all that detrimental to the leaves, it does cover them and cuts down on photosynthesis. This can be a problem if the plant is already in a low-light situation. Clean the leaves by dipping a soft rag in soapy water and then rubbing the mold off the leaves.


Scales, spider mites and mealy bugs are some of the pests that can be causing the mold. Scales can be scraped off the leaves using your fingernail or a with a small paintbrush dipped in horticulture oil. A rag with soapy water will remove spider mites. Be sure to check the bottom side of the leaves, too. Mealy bugs can be removed by dipping a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and placing the alcohol directly on the insect.


Be sure to check the plants often to catch pests before they become too hard to control.

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