The Q&A Archives: Ficus Benjamina Dying

Question: We have about 35 Ficus Benjamina tree's being used to create a border. A couple of the trees have recently developed brown leaves and appear to be dying. The trunks of the trees around the soil level show signs that the bark has been eaten or is missing. What could my problem be?

Thanks for your assistance.

Answer: The damaged bark may or may not indicate what's really going on with your Ficus. String-trimmers can damage tree bark, as can rodents. This kind of damage is usually self-limiting and healthy trees can repair the damage over time. Decorative bark and organic mulches placed too close to tree trunks can hold excess moisture and cause rotting of the bark, too. Ficus likes moist, but well-draining soil. If the soil is too wet, crown rot can occur, and damage can be seen at the soil level, where bark sloughs off and the wood becomes mushy. Check the exposed wood for softness - if it's mushy, the problem is likely crown rot and the trees cannot be saved. If you decide to replace them with healthy new trees, be sure to remove the soil and replace it with fresh top soil. Amend as necessary so it drains well and your new trees won't suffer the same fate.

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