Houseplants forum: Ficus needs help!

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Dec 17, 2018 8:48 AM CST
Hello all. I have a beautiful ficus which has slowly been deteriorating. I'm not sure why. Please note that I am a newbie with plants...

It is in a very large pot, with no drainage. Essentially, the leaves on branches start to brown & yellow, starting at the branch. Eventually all of them fall off and the branch looks withered and dried out at the end. Currently it's happening to one very sturdy branch AND a small cutting which was doing well & grew some nice roots...

I'm really worried I'm going to eventually lose this plant. Sad

If anyone can provide any leads, or help me out, it would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

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[Last edited by Bondtana - Dec 17, 2018 8:49 AM (+)]
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Name: Will Creed
Professional indoor plant consultan
Dec 17, 2018 2:05 PM CST
Your plant is a Dracaena reflexa, not a Ficus. It is overall still healthy, but is old and has never been pruned regularly. That is why it looks so leggy with long bare stem sections. The pot is larger than necessary and it is never a good idea to put plants in pots without drain holes. That's the background information. Here is what I suggest you do with yours.

Don't try to move it into a smaller pot as that would probably do more harm than good unless you are experienced with plants and repotting. However, you will have to make some adjustments to avoid inadvertently overwatering it in its existing pot.

Remove any loose soil from the top that is not in immediate contact with the roots below as that soil prevents oxygen from penetrating the root zone readily and makes it harder to determine when to water. Then, allow the surface of the remaining soil to feel dry about a half-inch deep before watering.

The hard part is determining how much water to add at each watering. You want the top half-inch of soil to get dry again in about a week so you will have to adjust the amount of water you add so that happens. It will take a bit of experimentation and careful monitoring on your part until you are able to make that determination of how much water it uses each week. Start by pouring a couple of cups of water over the surface and see how long it lasts.

Most of the stems still look healthy. The exception is the shriveled stem that should be cut off. I also suggest that you prune back some or all of the tallest stems to make them shorter and more manageable. Because new growth only comes in at the ENDS of each stem, pruning back long bare stems is the only way to eliminate the bare sections. The stems can be pruned back as far as you want. New growth will start to emerge on any stem just below where you make the pruning cut and grow upward from there. You may want to experiment by pruning a couple of stems so you can see what happens.

Your Relexa should be within a few feet of a moderately sunny window that is kept uncovered throughout the day. Fertilizing, misting and increasing the humidity will not help.

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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