The Q&A Archives: Dead or Shock?

Question: Our house plants were transported via moving truck during November from Aurora,IL to Keokuk, IA. We would like to know if our Ficus tree and Fortune plant are dead or shock from the transport. The leaves from the ficus tree are crispy and falls out from the branches easily so as the fortune plants leaves are soft and withered. Can they be saved? Thanks.

Answer: The ficus can withstand temperatures down into the 30's although damage can occur in the mid 40's. So depending on how cold the truck was and for how long a time and how healthy it was to begin with, it may just be in shock. Ficus are notorious for being difficult to move and will often defoliate in response to a change from one room to another. Since it is winter with short days and lower light levels, it may just sit until February or so -- assuming it is alive. Keep it in bright indirect light, water lightly, keep the humidity up, and hope for the best. You can check if it is dead or alive by looking at the branch tips. Start at the tips and work your way down the plant. Live wood is supple with green inside, dead wood will be brittle, off color, dry, and snap off in your hand. If necessary, trim it back to live wood. These trees can handle pruning very well so even a hard cutting back will not kill it. The pruning will actually help it stay dense and help control the overall size.

The fortune plant is probably a dracaena and would be much more sensitive to cold. If the stem is soft or mushy, it is probably not going to come back for you. If the stem is still firm, it may releaf for you. Remove the damaged leaves and treat it the same as the ficus, with bright indirect light and high humidity. If it is in water, change the water often but do not fertilize it. If it is in soil, take care not to over water it while it is leafless. Best of luck with your plants!

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