Help with Ficus barely hanging on

Discussion in 'Indoor and Greenhouse Plants' started by suz12, Sep 13, 2008.

  1. suz12

    suz12 Member

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    I got a Ficus tree, about 5-6ft last October. It is the first ficus that I've owned that flourished and grew beautifully the first few months. Unfortunately, the house sitter didn't water it for a few weeks over Christmas and when I returned, most of it's leaves had dropped. All that remained were the ones on the top.

    I pruned it, what I thought was quite aggressively (took off quite a few branches), but almost a year later, this is all that has regrown (pics). There are a few new branches growing lower down out of the trunk that I have left in the hopes that they will grow big.

    Should I prune off ALL branches that look dead, even the big ones off of the trunk? What if it looks dead but then when cut it was actually still living? Every now and then, what I thought was a dead branch will spring a new little leaf.

    It is in a room with lots of indirect bright sunlight. The bottom half gets direct light maybe an hour or so a day. I only turn it once every few months as I have heard ficuses don't like to be moved around.

    Help is muchly appreciated on what to prune off.
    Thanks!
     

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  2. Bluewing

    Bluewing Well-Known Member

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    It doesn't look all that bad, Iv'e seen much worse!

    If you start turning the tree "once a week" a quarter turn, or half a turn (what I do) it will fill out much better and faster.The side being without light for months at a time will not do, it will drop it's leaves and stay pretty bare until it gets light again, that is, if the branches live long enough.

    Your right, ficus don't like to be moved, but turning it weekly will not cause leaves to fall. It's still getting the light it's accustomed to. It's a "new" light source somewhere else, like being moved from outdoors to indoors, or, to another window that can cause leaf drop, NOT turning.

    If you trim the thinner branches back about an inch or two and you see any green, i'd leave it alone.
    Anything that's wrinkled and dry inside of course should be trimmed off. As long as the roots are ok, is being watered correctly and has enough light, you will see new growth.If your not sure about what to trim, leave it be for now and wait until spring, whatever is truly dead will not grow any new leaves.

    I think after you start turning the tree so all sides get light, you should see a big difference with more even growth.
    especially in the the spring, your tree should send out lots of new leaves and branches, then you can prune it better and shape it accordingly.

    Don't fertilize it now, wait until spring when it puts out the first flush of growth. Use only half strength or less and only now and then. Stop feeding fall-winter.
     
  3. togata57

    togata57 Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    Oh, my...! Well, you have 3 courses of action:

    1. Leave the plant pretty much alone and let it grow for a while.
    2. Prune back the bottom growth and make the ficus into a topiary tree.
    3. Prune back the top growth to encourage the tree to be shorter and bushier.

    In any case, YES! remove all the dead stuff. I would do this first. (If you don't have good clippers now is the time to get them! ) After this, stand back and look at the plant. With the distracting dead branches gone you should more easily be able to see its shape.

    I think that you are doing OK with what could have been a disaster. You are patient and gentle with the ficus, so perhaps method #1 would be the best for now. You are correct about ficus liking to stay put---especially true after the huge stress it had. They also like to stay evenly moist. As you found out, if they get dry they drop their leaves! The new growth looks pretty good. Pot size looks OK, and I don't see any major bug infestations. So, much like taking care of a person who's had a shock---keep the ficus in a quiet spot, give it plenty of fluids, and watch it attentively. Good luck to you both!

    And: Don't EVER hire that house sitter again!
     
  4. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

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    i agree, take off the dead stuff and let it do it's thing afterward for a bit.

    before pruning check for flexiblity of the branch - if it bends, then it's probably still living even if there are no leaves on it. check at different spots - the end may be gone yet the part right by the trunk may still be viable.

    if you're not sure, cut off an inch or so at the tip and look at the inside - if dried out, that part is gone. keep cutting in small increments until you get to healthy, living, tissue.

    whether you prune or not, i wouldn't expect too much new growth at this point - wrong time of year. just continue to give it the tlc you have been and it'll be fine.
     
  5. suz12

    suz12 Member

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    Thanks so much for your replies. Glad to see that others also believe that there's still hope!

    I guess my plan of attack will be to:

    1) Get a new pair of good sharp pruners that I'll keep just for my indoor plants
    2) Trim the branches bit by bit, getting rid of all the dead ones
    3) Turn once a week
    4) Keep well watered

    So are you really not supposed to feed throughout the fall and winter, even though the plants are pot-bound? I've been using a .5N .5K .5P liquid seaweed fertilizer once every 2-4 weeks.

    Again, thanks for the advice!
     
  6. Bluewing

    Bluewing Well-Known Member

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    Ficus like semi moist soil, a little less then that in the winter months, In fact, I let mine "almost" get almost dry in winter, too dry and the leaves will yellow, same with over-watering. In the spring/summer months it gets a little more water. In the growing warmer season, you should let the "top" inch to two inches start to feel close to dry before watering.

    Many of my plants are on the root-bound side and I don't fertilize them in the fall and winter months and they do fine. When they start actively growing again in the spring, that's will get some fertilizer then.

    I use a few different kinds of fertilizers for different plants. I have never used any liquid seaweed fertilizer, but have heard good things about it. If you really want to use it in winter, I'd use very small amounts since many plants slow down their growth, or stop growing all together.

    Ailing houseplants on the other hand, can be poor candidates for an increased nutrient supply.
     

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