wayward-brizzy
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ficus retusa- brown, curling leaves

I bought a ficus retusa at my local grocery store about two days ago. When I bought it it was in great health, I am new to bonsais but not to gardening. The leaves are browning now though and curling at an alarming rate. I currently have it beside my fish tank for the humidity. The soil is moist but not wet, I use the chop stick water method for all my plants. After doing a good amount of research it has become apparent that I need a larger pot once spring hits, I'd do it now but its too cold and its condition is not the greatest. I am not sure where to put it exactly due to it being winter and I have no east or west facing windows. I have checked it for bugs, and fungus on the leaves and there is no signs, I am apprehensive about pulling it out of the pot to check the roots as it is cold here and I do not want to cause any additional stress to the plant.

What would cause my leaves to brown and curl that quickly, and is there anything more I can do to help it? I really don't want to lose it.

tomc
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Re: ficus retusa- brown, curling leaves

Figs shed leaves when light levels or humidity change.

More than protect its humidity level, get it in strong light and let it settle in.

It will grow a new set of leaves.

Learn how to water by chop-stick method, its in the learning forum here.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: ficus retusa- brown, curling leaves

You said you already do water by the chopstick method.

Tom is right that ficus is famous for easily dropping its leaves when conditions change. But since I have a full sized ficus, which did some of that this fall when it was brought indoors, I can say that they just fall. They may be green when they fall or they may yellow some, but they aren't brown and aren't curled. I think browning and curling is something else.

It sounds diseased. And since you say you only had this tree for two days, it sounds like it was already diseased when you bought it, just not as obvious yet.

I did find this:

In root rot, leaves may turn brown-to-black and curl up, eventually falling off.
https://homeguides.sfgate.com/fiddleleaf ... 92765.html

Are your leaves curling up or curling under? that can be diagnostic.

Root rot is a fungal disease, that occurs when the soil stays too moist. You say you are watering by the chopstick method. If you are doing that correctly, the soil will not stay moist all the time, it will be allowed to dry out some in between. But having only had it two days, you don't know how it was treated before. At this point, I think I would pull it out of the pot to check. As long as it is not wired in, you can do it gently. But if your tree might really have root rot, you need to know this.

If there is root rot, the affected roots will smell rotten and be brown and mushy:

There is no effective chemical treatment for these diseases. Discovery of fungal infection and root rot should be treated immediately, whatever time of year it is found. Trees should be lifted from their pots and ALL affected roots and woody growth should be removed back to healthy wood. Hopefully enough live tissue will remain for the live roots to regenerate and for the tree to survive. All infected soil should be burnt or binned along with any infected growth that is removed. The tree's pot must be sterilised with a disinfectant before repotting to avoid re-infection. Use of a very free-draining open soil mix (preferably with no organic matter) will make conditions for any remaining fungal spores very difficult.
https://www.bonsai4me.com/AdvTech/ATRootRot.html

What is the soil like that your tree came with? Cheap bonsai are often in regular potting soil or even field dirt. As this notes real bonsai soil is very mineral and very loose and free draining. If you take it out of the pot, you will need to have some bonsai soil to repot it with.

As tom noted we have a whole bonsai learning section here: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/bonsai/ with article on watering, soil, etc.

You said you realize you need a larger pot. Perhaps, I don't know anything about the size of your tree or your pot, but the art of bonsai is about maintaining trees in very tiny pots. I don't think the pot size is the difficulty here, although it may be that the tree has been in that pot a long time and needs root pruning to stay in it. The pot could be too crowded with roots, which leaves little room for soil, water, etc.

For future reference, a grocery store is not a good place to buy bonsai. They would rarely have appropriate conditions for maintaining them and they certainly would not have any people who know how to care for them. I also discourage people from buying bonsai from street vendors and pop up stands in malls that will not be there when you go back. If you don't want to be disappointed with a tree that dies, go to a bonsai dealer who has some reputation to maintain and will be there when you go back. It will cost more, but compared to having a tree that is dead in two days, it is worth it.

PS welcome to the Forum! Glad you found us. If you continue posting, please do put it in your profile where you are located. That is important for almost any gardening question, even indoors.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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applestar
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Re: ficus retusa- brown, curling leaves

I have no experience with this species, but quick search show it to be a tropical plant. So I think the key is to keep it above 60°F while indoors, away from any cold drafts if the season is heading into winter where you are.

If they didn't get superchilled (could that have happened on the way home from the store?), they will keep growing for a while indoors so suitably sufficient light is critical, and you already know to supply humidity. I treat my container plants spending the fall-spring indoors to thorough misting with filtered water every morning to simulate morning dew.

I situate my plants in the microclimate of the house to best suited winter temp as much as I can -- floor level, counter level, ceiling height of first floor vs. second floor... And light levels from different windows and supplemental lights. When you say you don't have west or east facing window, do you have south facing window? Winter sun is weaker so east/west preferring plants will do well in south window, especially when taking into account the lower sun angle, short days, shadows cast by trees and buildings, insect screen, condensation on windows, and window treatments. If all you have is north facing window, then supplemental light -- look in seed starting forum for some suggestions.

As we head into winter, depending on the species, I place them where cooler to cold temp will put them in dormant state and subject them to lower lights and less water.
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wayward-brizzy
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Re: ficus retusa- brown, curling leaves

rainbowgardener wrote:You said you already do water by the chopstick method.

Tom is right that ficus is famous for easily dropping its leaves when conditions change. But since I have a full sized ficus, which did some of that this fall when it was brought indoors, I can say that they just fall. They may be green when they fall or they may yellow some, but they aren't brown and aren't curled. I think browning and curling is something else.

It sounds diseased. And since you say you only had this tree for two days, it sounds like it was already diseased when you bought it, just not as obvious yet.

I did find this:

In root rot, leaves may turn brown-to-black and curl up, eventually falling off.
https://homeguides.sfgate.com/fiddleleaf ... 92765.html

Are your leaves curling up or curling under? that can be diagnostic.

Root rot is a fungal disease, that occurs when the soil stays too moist. You say you are watering by the chopstick method. If you are doing that correctly, the soil will not stay moist all the time, it will be allowed to dry out some in between. But having only had it two days, you don't know how it was treated before. At this point, I think I would pull it out of the pot to check. As long as it is not wired in, you can do it gently. But if your tree might really have root rot, you need to know this.

If there is root rot, the affected roots will smell rotten and be brown and mushy:

There is no effective chemical treatment for these diseases. Discovery of fungal infection and root rot should be treated immediately, whatever time of year it is found. Trees should be lifted from their pots and ALL affected roots and woody growth should be removed back to healthy wood. Hopefully enough live tissue will remain for the live roots to regenerate and for the tree to survive. All infected soil should be burnt or binned along with any infected growth that is removed. The tree's pot must be sterilised with a disinfectant before repotting to avoid re-infection. Use of a very free-draining open soil mix (preferably with no organic matter) will make conditions for any remaining fungal spores very difficult.
https://www.bonsai4me.com/AdvTech/ATRootRot.html

What is the soil like that your tree came with? Cheap bonsai are often in regular potting soil or even field dirt. As this notes real bonsai soil is very mineral and very loose and free draining. If you take it out of the pot, you will need to have some bonsai soil to repot it with.

As tom noted we have a whole bonsai learning section here: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/bonsai/ with article on watering, soil, etc.

You said you realize you need a larger pot. Perhaps, I don't know anything about the size of your tree or your pot, but the art of bonsai is about maintaining trees in very tiny pots. I don't think the pot size is the difficulty here, although it may be that the tree has been in that pot a long time and needs root pruning to stay in it. The pot could be too crowded with roots, which leaves little room for soil, water, etc.

For future reference, a grocery store is not a good place to buy bonsai. They would rarely have appropriate conditions for maintaining them and they certainly would not have any people who know how to care for them. I also discourage people from buying bonsai from street vendors and pop up stands in malls that will not be there when you go back. If you don't want to be disappointed with a tree that dies, go to a bonsai dealer who has some reputation to maintain and will be there when you go back. It will cost more, but compared to having a tree that is dead in two days, it is worth it.

PS welcome to the Forum! Glad you found us. If you continue posting, please do put it in your profile where you are located. That is important for almost any gardening question, even indoors.
Thank you.

Would it make a difference if the leaves are just falling off, or if they are just browning and curling? This morning is the first time there were any actual leaves dropped, two of them, a larger leaf and a smaller one slightly larger than a new sprout. The leaves are curling up and in. I normally will buy nothing other then cactus from a store, but I loved the plant when I saw it and pitied it.

In regards to pot size, I am not new to gardening. The current pot is a 4in x 4in x 3in or approximately 10cm x 10cm x 7cm, the tree itself is 6-8in or 15-20cm. Most plants even bonsai will require about 2in or 5cm between the plant or tree and the edge of the pot. I would change pots now, but its too cold outside and I lack proper potting soil to do so. The other concern I have is there is no drainage hole at the bottom of the pot, which makes me concerned on whether or not the roots are in good health. I might check out for a new pot with drainage, but its still can be repotted till warmer weather.

I live in Colorado, United States and its currently about 30-35F at most as its snowing. Would bringing it out side, wrapped in a bag and scarf to the car and then after inside to my apartment cause this? Up till yesterday it was perfectly fine. I've never seen a plant do this so quickly before. I do have a grow light that I use for my aloe vera I'm going to move it over there with a tray of water next to it.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: ficus retusa- brown, curling leaves

No drainage hole is killer and you have to get it out of that, regardless of the season. Even if you are checking the top part of the soil, the bottom is probably staying / has certainly stayed before you got it, too wet. And air can't circulate through it. In an ordinary pot that water flows through, it pulls air down through the soil with it. Without a drain hole, unoxygenated water just sits there. That will definitely cause root rot.

Get some bonsai soil and a new pot with drainage hole now. If you don't have a local bonsai store, they can be ordered on line.


PS RE "Would it make a difference if the leaves are just falling off, or if they are just browning and curling" Yes, that was my main point. Ficus do normally drop leaves when they are moved / conditions change. But they just drop them. The dropped leaves may be yellow, but they are not brown or curling. Brown and curling indicates some kind of problem - pest or disease process.
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wayward-brizzy
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Re: ficus retusa- brown, curling leaves

rainbowgardener wrote:No drainage hole is killer and you have to get it out of that, regardless of the season. Even if you are checking the top part of the soil, the bottom is probably staying / has certainly stayed before you got it, too wet. And air can't circulate through it. In an ordinary pot that water flows through, it pulls air down through the soil with it. Without a drain hole, unoxygenated water just sits there. That will definitely cause root rot.

Get some bonsai soil and a new pot with drainage hole now. If you don't have a local bonsai store, they can be ordered on line.


PS RE "Would it make a difference if the leaves are just falling off, or if they are just browning and curling" Yes, that was my main point. Ficus do normally drop leaves when they are moved / conditions change. But they just drop them. The dropped leaves may be yellow, but they are not brown or curling. Brown and curling indicates some kind of problem - pest or disease process.

I'll have to take a look when me and my fiance are out, as far as I know I've never seen one. Is is possible to make your own potting soil if I cannot find any at a store?

Most of the leaves have fallen off and are now replaced with small green leaf buds with some minor new growth. I have been misting instead of watering and placed it under a grow light near but not next to my heater to keep it about 72-75F.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: ficus retusa- brown, curling leaves

If it is putting out new leaves, that is a good sign. But if your pot really doesn't have any drainage, you still need to get the tree out of there. (Someone wrote in here not too long ago saying her bonsai pot had no drainage hole and then wrote back a little later saying oh, oops, yes it does.)

You can make your own bonsai soil and here is a nice article about it:

https://www.bonsailearningcenter.com/IMA ... /Soils.pdf

But you will find that the ingredients aren't a whole lot easier to come by than the ready mixed soil. They are things like very coarse sand, small gravel, crushed granite, poultry grit, turface, pine bark.

Are you in the US? Really this stuff is easy to find on line.
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tomc
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Re: ficus retusa- brown, curling leaves

Soil for one tree can be accomodated with cactus soil from your local big-box store.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: ficus retusa- brown, curling leaves

any updates? Did you get your tree out of the no-drainage pot? How is it doing now?
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration



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