Ficus Tree Problems
The Ficus Tree
If you have ever lived in a dorm or worked in an office, chances are you have witnessed some ficus trees, as well as a few ficus tree problems. These trees are virtually maintenance free when cared for properly. However, there are a few problems that affect these trees. From a mass dropping of leaves to bugs rising out of the soil when watered, these are a few of the problems perplexing to ficus owners. The majority of problems are easy to fix, and only a few simple gardening tools or pesticides are needed. Read on to learn how to care for these attractive plants, both in the home and on the patio!
Potted Ficus Tree
Common Types of Ficus
Types of Ficus Trees The following are the common types of ficus trees that you'll find at a nursery or gardening center:
- F. benjamina - also known as the weeping fig
- F. lyrata - the fiddle-leaf fig
- F. sagittata - creeping fig
These trees will provide years of enjoyment when cared for properly. Older trees may grow fruit, but it shouldn't be eaten. These plants can live for decades, and may occasionally outlive their owners!
Ficus Tree Habitat
Many ficus tree problems occur as a result of a poor habitat. Before you bring a ficus tree home, consider the following needs of this particular plant:
- A brightly lit room - these plants prefer bright, indirect sunlight
- A humid room - it doesn't have to be like a rainforest, but an air-conditioned room, for example, is not the best type of environment for your ficus tree
- Fertilizer - the ficus tree does well if it is fed monthly with a houseplant fertilizer
- Water - this plant doesn't need to be kept constantly moist - allow to dry-out slightly between waterings. Test the soil with your finger near the base of the tree for moisture, not the edge of the pot.
Common Ficus Tree Pests
Mealy bugs - these small white cottony-looking clusters are sucking insects (see photo). They may appear after you water the plants, when they crawl to the surface of the soil. They can also be seen in the areas of the plant where the branches meet the main stem.
Plants can be treated for mealy bugs in several ways:
- Spray the plant with a fine horticultural oil where the bugs are present
- Treat the plant with a systemic chemical in the soil - it is taken up through the roots and will poison the sucking pests on the plant, such as Orthene, Di-Syston or Safer.
- Soap treatment - spray the plant with a soap solution of 1 tablespoon of soap per pint of water
Centipedes - they are brown colored, long-bodied with lots of legs (see photo). If your plant has these, the soil probably wasn't sterilized before the tree was planted. The best way to deal with this problem is to take your plant outdoors, dump the soil out, rinse off any soil from the root system and re-plant the tree in new, sterilized soil (it can be bought at a nursery or garden center). The pot should be scrubbed out as well. While this is an extreme measure, it is the only way to make sure you've gotten rid of these pests.
Scale - they look like small black or whiteish bumps on stems and the trunk of plants (see photo). They can be treated in the same way as mealy bugs.
Ficus Tree PestsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Other Ficus Tree Problems
Leaf Drop - this is the most common problem people experience with their ficus tree. This is usually caused by a change in temperature. If you have a ficus tree that you move from a patio to the indoors, or vice versa, you may have noticed leaf drop. It can also occur in the fall in cooler areas when people begin heating their homes again. The ficus tree likes a constant temperature and humidity - a change in these two factors, even within 5-10 degrees in temperature, will cause the leaves to drop.
The only way to care for a plant when this happens is to stabilize their environment and continue to water regularly and fertilize monthly. The tree should recover.
Leaf Spot Fungus - also known as cercospora spp. This looks like tiny black dots on the backs of the leaves of the tree. The leaves may turn yellow and fall off. Remove the diseased leaves and spray with Benlate (follow the instructions exactly). Do not mist the leaves.
Anthracnose - shows up as rusty-looking spots on stems and leaves. The plant may also ooze from these spots. Remove the diseased leaves and spray with Benlate (follow the instructions exactly). Do not mist the leaves.
Ficus oozing sap - this is a condition caused by sucking pests. This is usually caused by mealy bugs and/or scale. Mealy bugs look like small cottony clusters and scale looks like bumpy white or black spots on the stems and body of the tree. (See photos with the pest section above). This problem can be treated with Schultz's Fungicide 3, horticultural oil or a soapy solution of 1 tablespoon of soap to 1 pint of water. If the tree isn't treated, it will probably die.