Houseplants forum: Is my Ficus in danger?

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Greece (Zone 10b)
Houseplants Foliage Fan Cactus and Succulents Tropicals Aroids Bromeliad
Orchids Region: Europe Garden Art Enjoys or suffers hot summers Dog Lover Cat Lover
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Faridat
Nov 12, 2017 11:22 AM CST
First of all sorry for the A4 post, but I'm so worried. I got this Ficus about two months ago and is really one of my favorite plants. When I got him he already had some brown edges on his bottom leaves, but I got him besides that, since I don't find the variegated one often in nurseries over here.
Since I brought him home he has lost two of his bottom leaves. One a couple of weeks ago and one today. Showing you the one that fell off today.
He stays in indirect bright light and sometimes I put him closer to the window to get some morning light. I have put him on pebbles that I hold moist but his roots do not touch them, I have read that he needs some moisture, so I spray the leaves from time to time, but not leave him in the sun when I do (not to get sunburns). But WHY are these leaves dying?

Thumb of 2017-11-12/Faridat/0556b2

My Ficus has more leaves with have the same signs, browning at the edges of leaves, not at the tips, the edges. I was very alarmed when the leaf fell and got him out of the pot to check his roots. That's how it looks, I can see no obvious rot, but I guess I don't have the experience and may not recognize it?

Thumb of 2017-11-12/Faridat/34783a

This are two other bottom leaves that show similar signs, browning at the edges.

Thumb of 2017-11-12/Faridat/dcc984

Thumb of 2017-11-12/Faridat/0fe1a6

Here is the whole of the plant. I still have him at the nursery's pot, since it has many holes and I figured I could wait until spring to repot, better drainage.

Thumb of 2017-11-12/Faridat/45628a

That is the soil:
Thumb of 2017-11-12/Faridat/7264cf

The healthy top with four healthy leaves andthe new growth.

Thumb of 2017-11-12/Faridat/97d84f

Thumb of 2017-11-12/Faridat/00bc49

In some Native languages the term for plants translates to "those who take care of us."
Robin Wall Kimmerer
[Last edited by Faridat - Nov 12, 2017 11:24 AM (+)]
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Greece (Zone 10b)
Houseplants Foliage Fan Cactus and Succulents Tropicals Aroids Bromeliad
Orchids Region: Europe Garden Art Enjoys or suffers hot summers Dog Lover Cat Lover
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Faridat
Nov 12, 2017 2:14 PM CST
I'm trying to ease my worry. I've read that as new leaves are growing, Ficus plants tend to lose their old leaves. So perhaps this is the case. On the other hand, so many leaves having the same problem, makes me think it was something done wrong while the plant was still at the nursery. Omg, of all plants, it had to be my Ficus elastica....Why are we reading that those are hardy plants anyway? I have read this in so many gardening advice posts, I think they are finicky.
In some Native languages the term for plants translates to "those who take care of us."
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Name: Carter Mayer
Houston, TX (Zone 9b)
Tropicals Adeniums Plant Identifier
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Carter
Nov 13, 2017 9:12 PM CST
I think it may be 2 moisture related things: 1st, I think it may be a humidity issue (lack of). These guys do like humid air. Some can do ok with dry air, but better with humidity. 2nd, (and this may be the bigger issue) the soil looks pretty dry. These type of ficus like moisture - not just in the air, but they also like moist soil. Not wet, though, just let it dry slightly between waterings (like dry down to the top inch or so of soil).
Greece (Zone 10b)
Houseplants Foliage Fan Cactus and Succulents Tropicals Aroids Bromeliad
Orchids Region: Europe Garden Art Enjoys or suffers hot summers Dog Lover Cat Lover
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Faridat
Nov 14, 2017 12:07 AM CST
Thank you @Carter for responding! I think it's actually getting worse. I'm expecting the bottom leaves to entirely fall, as these brown edges are progressing into the interior of the leave. I have the hope in my mind that it will stop to these leaves. I tried my best to not overwater and wait for the top soil to get dry, I tried to improve the moisture by putting the pot on a pebble tray, not letting the bottom to touch the water, spraying it from time to time, etc. I do my best, hope it survives. I was thinking that I got this plant in a season that wasn't suitable for adjustment, so if this plant dies eventually, which I hope he doesn't, I will give any other new I get a springtime, to adjust until the next winter comes. As for the watering issue, I admit I don't have a confident hand, being afraid to overwater as I've read most plants die from over than underwatering.
In some Native languages the term for plants translates to "those who take care of us."
Robin Wall Kimmerer
[Last edited by Faridat - Nov 14, 2017 12:09 AM (+)]
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Name: Laurie b
Western Washington (Zone 7b)
Houseplants Region: Pacific Northwest Sedums Orchids Tropicals Region: Mexico
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lauriebasler
Nov 14, 2017 1:17 AM CST
I love reading Carters advice, He has an excellent eye for this. Faridat, Have you tried using a wooden dowel for testing soil moisture. Get them at a hardware store. If you find some the size of a pencil, you can sharpen it with a pencil sharpener. You put the dowel in, and wait a couple seconds and remove it. If it comes out clean it's time to water. If it's not quite clean but not got wet soil on it, either touch it to your cheek and you will know if there is moisture or not. Unfinished chop stick are great too. I do not like bamboo as well, too slick.


Good luck
Greece (Zone 10b)
Houseplants Foliage Fan Cactus and Succulents Tropicals Aroids Bromeliad
Orchids Region: Europe Garden Art Enjoys or suffers hot summers Dog Lover Cat Lover
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Faridat
Nov 14, 2017 1:22 AM CST
Yes @lauriebasler, I am doing the thing with the wooden sticks, I have bought a pack of them and always check like that. It has moisture still underneath the surface, but I watered it still, following Carter's advice. You are so kind, thank you, the tip with the sharpening is a good one!
In some Native languages the term for plants translates to "those who take care of us."
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Nov 14, 2017 11:31 AM CST
The problem is definitely under watering, no doubt caused by your fear of overwatering. Most potted plant overwatering occurs as a result of putting plants in pots that are too large. As long as you keep yours in its nursery pot, over watering is unlikely to be a problem unless you water it every day.

Ficus Elastica is not finicky as Ficus benjamina is. Watering yours is pretty straightforward. As soon as the surface of the soil feels dry to the touch (no need to probe below the surface), then water thoroughly until a small amount of water trickles through the drain holes. Watering thoroughly is important because partial watering can create mineral "hot spots" that may cause leaf burn.

Provide as much bright indirect light as possible. A few hours of direct sun is fine. It should not be more than a few feet away from a sunny window.

Ficus elastica does just fine in dry air, although high humidity does no harm. Misting is not an effective way to raise humidity and is largely a waste of time. The pebble tray is fine, but also unnecessary. Neither is a substitute for proper watering.

Your plant will not need a larger pot until the rootball is completely surrounded with roots. It is a non-seasonal plant, so it should be repotted when needed without regard for the time of year.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Greece (Zone 10b)
Houseplants Foliage Fan Cactus and Succulents Tropicals Aroids Bromeliad
Orchids Region: Europe Garden Art Enjoys or suffers hot summers Dog Lover Cat Lover
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Faridat
Nov 14, 2017 11:43 AM CST
WillC, I'm grateful for your help and thorough information! Much appreciated! Smiling I will follow the advice given.
In some Native languages the term for plants translates to "those who take care of us."
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Name: Carter Mayer
Houston, TX (Zone 9b)
Tropicals Adeniums Plant Identifier
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Carter
Nov 14, 2017 8:18 PM CST
lauriebasler said:I love reading Carters advice, He has an excellent eye for this.


Thank you! I've been growing plants for about a hundred years, so I have a lot of trial and a lot more error to draw on for advice. Whistling nodding

This is one thing I love about this place, though - I'm still learning something new all the time!
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
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purpleinopp
Nov 15, 2017 1:40 PM CST
The soil looks muddy to me in the one pic, like it has a predominance of small particles like silt, clay, or peat. Although there is more than enough soil in regard to the amount of roots, it looks like there is very little air within the root/soil ball. Whenever you decide it's time to repot, look for a more chunky soil that can have more air in it. Adding a lot of perlite can be an option that many report works well to keep soil from being devoid of air (oxygen) &/or orchid bark. Roots need oxygen & moisture at the same time to function. Using an unglazed clay pot can also help because there is air/moisture exchange all around the surface of the pot. The color, and touching the outside of the pot can also be indications of whether or not there is still significant moisture present. If you see the pot turn lighter in color, things have gotten quite dry, more dry than most non-succulent/cactus plants would prefer.

Also agree that wild fluctuations between very moist and very dry soil can be very stressful for most potted plants. When soil is chunky and airy enough, it can be kept moist without worrying about roots suffocating/rotting because there is lots of moisture but no oxygen. I look for a texture that allows water to run out of the drain hole as fast as I am pouring it onto the surface (evenly, so all parts get moistened.)

In addition to considering the roots-to-soil ration when evaluating the size of pot that a plant might need, its' overall stability (avoiding being top-heavy,) and your schedule are also factors. When a plant is drying too quickly for me to be able to water often enough, I find a bigger pot. Also, various materials used in "potting soil" or similar can be organic in nature and decompose over time into smaller particles. Outdoor plants are also susceptible to accumulating grit and sand when the wind blows. When these things happen, these small particles find their way downward and start to cause the lower part of the soil in a pot to be much more retentive of moisture than when the plant was first installed in that pot. When I notice a plant is becoming unreasonably heavy after being watered, it's usually because the soil has turned muddy. Worm poo can also contribute to this. Very fertile, but causes roots to suffocate.
👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
The less I interfere, the more balance mother nature provides.
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☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.
Greece (Zone 10b)
Houseplants Foliage Fan Cactus and Succulents Tropicals Aroids Bromeliad
Orchids Region: Europe Garden Art Enjoys or suffers hot summers Dog Lover Cat Lover
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Faridat
Nov 15, 2017 1:56 PM CST
Thank you for all the useful information @purpleinopp! So much to learn. From now on my most important and primary rule is to buy the best quality of soil as I can find! And probably mix it with cactus, palm, to make it lighter even. I have read people that add vermiculite, is it better than perlite?
In some Native languages the term for plants translates to "those who take care of us."
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
Tropicals Butterflies Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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purpleinopp
Nov 15, 2017 3:05 PM CST
Happy to share info that has helped me stop killing plants. ;)

Nooo, please don't use vermiculite in long-term plantings. It collapses under the slightest pressure when wet. Good for sprouting seeds, but not much else.
👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
The less I interfere, the more balance mother nature provides.
👒🎄👣🏡🍃🍂🌾🌿🍁❦❧ 🍃🍁🍂🌾🌻🌸🌼🌹🌽❀☀🌺
☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.
Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Region: Arizona Cactus and Succulents Greenhouse Sempervivums Bromeliad
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plantmanager
Nov 15, 2017 3:10 PM CST
I agree that perlite would be better than vermiculite. It's a pretty plant, Faridat!
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Nov 16, 2017 1:47 PM CST
Tiffany - When I look at the photo that shows the soil, it looks like very gritty volcanic cinder, not fine particles. Photos can be deceptive.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
Tropicals Butterflies Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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purpleinopp
Nov 16, 2017 3:47 PM CST
Absolutely, pics of soil. This is why I put so much detail in my post, and said that it looks muddy instead of just that it is muddy. And of course there's the unwritten law that says one must almost always water a plant right before taking any pics of it. ;)
👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
The less I interfere, the more balance mother nature provides.
👒🎄👣🏡🍃🍂🌾🌿🍁❦❧ 🍃🍁🍂🌾🌻🌸🌼🌹🌽❀☀🌺
☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.

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