Ask a Question forum: Yellow/Brown spots on ficus

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sgoldener
Nov 30, 2015 10:40 PM CST
I have had this ficus for about 20 years. All of a sudden all of the leaves now have these yellow and brown spots. Any ideas what this is and how to fix this? I don't see any insects under the leaves.
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Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
Image
drdawg
Dec 1, 2015 5:13 PM CST
There are hundreds of ficus varieties, so I don't know what you have. Is this the "common" Benjamina variety?
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Dec 1, 2015 5:38 PM CST
Welcome to ATP!

Unfortunately, I have more questions than suggestions!

1
Are most of the leaves developing those yellow and brown spots, or just the few in the foreground of the photo?

If it were only a few leaves, and I had no idea what was causing the problem, I would cut off all the affected leaves and burn them or throw them away ... just in case insects or some plant disease are taking hold.

But it looks like many leaves have at least some kind of mottling.

2.
Just to make sure: those spots do have dead brown crumbling tissue in the centers, right? They are not just yellowed (chlorosis), they are dead in the center (necrotic).

3.
Can you guess at any relevant changes that occurred in t he last few months? Like increased watering, any fertilizer or water or pH change, dry air, a draft, less sunlight ... ?

4.
Over 20 years, have you root-pruned it and re-potted it (not just "potting up", but real root-pruning-repotting with total replacement of the soilless mix? How often or how recently? Most container plants need periodic root pruning and soil replacement; I assume ficus does also.

If your necrotic leaves have been getting gradually worse for months or years, that seems a likely candidate.

Or, perhaps, insufficient root pruning led to being somewhat root-bound for a long time, but the plants managed to stay superficially healthy until some new, minor stress occurred that broke the camel's back.

Perhaps only a draft or dry, warmer air, or a slight change in watering scheduling.


Dubious speculation:

Excess lime can make iron immobile which could cause chlorosis ... but I would expect everything to turn lighter green before any leaves died. Younger leaves would yellow first, and turn yellow between-the-veins first.

No fertilizer at all for a long time might have a similar effect - but would not make just SOME leaf spots die and leave most of the plant dark green.

If the pot just "stopped draining", or was now being over-watered, the soil mix might have salted up or become chronically water-logged. Either of those could make a plant very unhappy but I would expect more uniform leaf damage, not just specific spots.

I'm guessing. I hope someone who knows your variety of ficus chimes in.

You have the biggest, woodiest, tree-iest ficus I ever saw and knew that it was a ficus. I used to think they were just "little potted plants", not trees!
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
Image
drdawg
Dec 1, 2015 8:06 PM CST
Without knowing the plant, without knowing the growing conditions, and without knowing whether there has been some sort of change in location/temperature/growing, we'll never be any closer to the solution than we are now.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.

sgoldener
Dec 1, 2015 9:58 PM CST
I am not sure what variety of ficus. Someone tossed it to the curb 20 years ago and I adopted it. I did repot it in January of this year from a 10" pot to a 14" pot. I knocked all the old soil off the roots and repotted it with new soil. I did not trim the roots. Twice a year I put Jobes fertilizer spikes in the soil, like I have always done.

It is all of the leaves that have developed these spots. Yes, the brown spots in the center of the spots are dead spots. The tree has been in the same spot of my home for many years. My watering schedule hasn't changed. I water 3 weeks, then let it dry out for one week. I am afraid he has got some sort of bacterial infection that might not be curable.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
Image
drdawg
Dec 2, 2015 7:02 AM CST
Thanks for the updated information. Since you have grown this plant the same way for many years, and been successful doing so, I would rule out growing conditions as being a cause. I don't quite understand the watering schedule though. I water all my ficus plants when the soil appears dry, not before. I usually have to water my 25+ old "mother" fiddle leaf ficus every week year 'round. But as I said, watering probably is not the issue here.

Here are two guesses as to your problem.

1. You could have a buildup of fertilizer minerals in the soil and that buildup is literally poisoning your plant. I have never used those fertilizer stakes for indoor plants and thus don't know about the constant fertilizing they impart to the soil.

2. Every plant has a life-span and it may be that yours has simply reached that plateau. Your plant is over 20 years old, and for some ficus (such as the Benjamina), this is approaching their life-span. Since you saved it from certain death on that curb (and don't know how old it was then), your plant could be much older than 20 years.

Do you trim your plant back every year? Ficus are stimulated to produce more growth and healthier growth when they are trimmed.

If your problem is mineral toxicity, you should remove all those spikes and flush the soil with clear water when the soil looks dry. I would aggressively trim back all the branches (but not the main "trunk". Alternatively, replace the soil completely, trimming the roots and branches extensively, and repot with fresh potting soil (one without fertilizer).

Good luck, Julie.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Dec 2, 2015 1:27 PM CST
Thanks for the detailed answer! I hope it can be healed.

If it is "just old", and you really want to keep it going, maybe you could start some cuttings when/if you trim it back. I don't know whether a cutting "rejuvenates" an old plant into a young cutting, but maybe.

I hope you'll let us know how it goes.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
Image
drdawg
Dec 2, 2015 2:34 PM CST
I don't know that either, Rick. I haven't grown the Benjamina for at least thirty years. The one I had was at least 15' tall and it was growing inside the house. The ceiling in that great room was 24'. I hated that plant for the fifteen years I grew it. It was leggy and dropped leaves constantly, even though it never changed position in all those years and got lots of bright light and regular watering. My lyrata (Fiddle Leaf) and maclellandii 'Alli' (Narrow Leaf) Ficus plants are not finicky and just don't drop leaves.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Dec 2, 2015 4:59 PM CST
>> I hated that plant for the fifteen years I grew it.

You're very patient and forgiving!
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
Image
drdawg
Dec 2, 2015 5:01 PM CST
Don't tell my wife that. She'll just say I'm slow and forgetful. Whistling
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Dec 2, 2015 6:24 PM CST
>> Don't tell my wife that. She'll just say I'm slow and forgetful.

Margaret Thatcher said that if her political enemies saw her walking on water, the headlines would read:

Margaret Thatcher can't swim!

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