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Joined: Mon Aug 24, 2009 1:45 pm
Location: Austin, TX

Novice: Help me Save my Ficus

I got a ficus a few months ago and it has been dropping leaves ever since. I've had ficuses before and I know ficuses are tempermental and drop leaves when they're disturbed, but it's really bad and it's not let up. My other ficus flourished after a month dropping its leaves. This reminds me of Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree. So I made some changes and I wondering if there's anything else I can do to save her. These are the things I did yesterday.

1) I moved her to directly in front of a window.

2) There weren't holes in the bottom of her planter (I know, rookie mistake), so took her out and there was a ton of sloshing water in the dirt. So I drilled some holes, took out some of the soppy soil and put in some new dry, nice topsoil, put her back in and let it drain (TONS of water came out into the tray over the course of 24-hours so I'm assuming there had been WAY too much water sitting in there)

3) When I first got her, someone had advised me to put rocks in the bottom to help with drainage, etc. I did that, but later found out that you should avoid limestone because it's acidic. So I took those out yesterday.

4) I added some fertilizer and some fresh bagged topsoil that the lady at the nursery said had all sorts of yummy plant vitamins in it.

5) I trimmed all the branches that felt dead... the ones that snapped very easily and didn't have any color in the center when I cut them... although I don't' know if I was supposed to do this or if I did it right so any thoughts on this would be great.

What do you think? Is there anything else I can do? Is she beyond my help? When I pulled her out, she came out in one big plug so it looked like the roots weren't growing out. What can I do about that? There are still some green leaves, but very few... like 25. So I'm thinking it's not too late, but maybe I'm in denial. I really like this tree... :(

I'm a total novice and brown thumb, but if you can help, that would be so great.


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Mod Emeritus
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Joined: Tue Jun 24, 2008 1:04 am
Location: Oregon

Hi, Michelle! Welcome to the Helpful Gardener forum! I'm glad you found us:)

It may be too late for the plant to recover. Unless you exaggerated the amount of water you found in the soil, the roots may be too rotted to recover. When you repotted the plant, did the roots seem mushy and smell bad?

All of the changes you made were correct, but if the roots are badly rotted, they won't be able to supply water and nutrients to the stems and leaves. Sometimes, the rotten portion of the roots can be cut off, the plant repotted in a smaller container, and the top pruned back. Even all that can't always save a plant though.

A picture of your plant would help. Could you post one for us? That way we might be able to advise you whether you could prune the top somewhat, to match the smaller root system.

If your plant dies, don't despair. We've all had that happen. Just consider it a lesson learned, get another plant and continue to garden. ;)

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Greener Thumb
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Joined: Fri Feb 09, 2007 8:54 pm
Location: Earth

It may be a good idea to hold off on the fertilizer for now. Injured roots can be killed more easily by the salts in the fertilizer.

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