Ask a Question forum: Ficus Tree Help

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San Anselmo, CA
Apr 13, 2018 7:24 PM CST
We have a potted indoor Ficus that is about ten years old that we are wondering how to revive.

It seems that it has been looking the exact same for years, neither particularly unhappy nor particularly thriving. So we are worried to upset it by taking any action, but it also does not quite look like it has reached its potential...

We live in moderate climate near San Francisco/ the coast. It sits by big (well insulated) windows with tons of light, but no direct sun light, nowhere near a heating vent, room temperature is about 21-23C during the day and 18-21C during the night (when we crack a sliding door about 6 feet away from it; no wind or draft from that). Humidity is about 40% typically. We moved it once in its life, about three years ago, which did not seem to bother it.

It looses a couple of leaves here and there, but no major dropping. We water it about once a week (when the top soil is dry), and fertilize once a month April to October.

There are no big roots growing out of the pot. There are a bunch of branches without leaves (that look sort of dead?), but others are full of leaves, making it quite lopsided. It's gotten quite dusty, but we are scared to spray it down.

What should we do to make it happy?

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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Apr 13, 2018 9:16 PM CST

That is a really nice looking plant. I love how variegated it is. Lovey dubby I think all it needs is some cleaning up. Start by cutting all the dead stuff out. Then, take it outside and wash it thoughly. I would use Insecticidal Soap because that will get rid of the dust and also any insects hiding out. Then rinse and let it dry.

Your tree will never be a fast grower because of the variegation. Photosynthesis only takes place in the green part of each leaf. There is a lot of tree to support on a small amount of chlorophyll.

If you give it a quarter turn every time you water, it will grow more evenly. Ficus take well to pruning so if there is a branch that gets too long, trim it.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Name: Mindi Hammerstone
Tracy, CA (Zone 9b)
Dog Lover Dragonflies
Apr 13, 2018 10:41 PM CST
I used to have a focus tree inside a chameleon cage. I had to mist it every day. Sometimes twice for the lizard to drink. It flourished in there. It was under grow light though so that might have had something to do with it.

Good luck!!🍀

Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Region: Arizona Cactus and Succulents Plays in the sandbox Greenhouse Sempervivums
Bromeliad Adeniums Avid Green Pages Reviewer Brugmansias Garden Ideas: Level 1 Tropicals
Apr 13, 2018 11:06 PM CST
I have one of these variegated ones. Mine was in great light and had good care, but it really never grew much taller or larger. It pretty much stayed the same for about 10 years. I finally got a greenhouse, and moved it into the greenhouse. It's now almost up to the ceiling, and a very wide plant! It gets a bit more light, but I think the main reason it's growing so well is the added humidity and warmth. I've been taking cuttings, and the cuttings root easily.
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Name: Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
Orchid Judge
Region: United States of America Critters Allowed Dahlias Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan
Butterflies Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Orchids Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
Apr 14, 2018 3:00 AM CST
To be very honest, we try to grow things as house plants that are not meant as such. These things in a sub-tropical climate grow like weeds!
Down there they plant them as individuals or as privacy hedges!!
Now as a hedge they grow thick, tall and lush in full sun. Rainy season, dry season makes no difference.
To have one inside for ten years is great. They are susceptible to false spider mites indoors and dry humidity. It is the low humidity and low light that produces less than optimal growth.
If it were mine I would prune it and re- pot it since fresh soil might help. Fertilizer won't help much because in Florida, they get very little yet achieve great growth!
"Our children are the messages we send to a time that we will never see."
Name: Will Creed
Professional indoor plant consultan
Apr 14, 2018 6:26 AM CST
The number of leaves a Ficus can support is directly related to the intensity and quantity of the light it receives. Variegated Ficus require a bit more light than their all-green counterparts. Yours is receiving enough light for it to have stabilized, adding some new leaves while dropping some older ones, but overall staying in balance. Repotting, fertilizer, warmer temps, and increased humidity are not going to change that dynamic. If there is a way for you to increase the light, it will produce more leaves.

However, there are some other things you can do to improves its appearance. Start by pruning off all dead, brittle stems. Then, prune back some of the longest stems and those that are the leggiest with only a few leaves at the tip ends. New growth will emerge on an any pruned stems just below where you make the pruning cuts. Pruning is a way to promote growth in the center portion of the tree.

Pruning does no harm to a Ficus. It will alter its appearance, but not affect its health. How much you prune depends on how you want it to look. In general, I recommend pruning as much as you can stand!

Your overall care seems to be fine, so no reason to change any of that.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

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