Hello everyone my name is lisa, I have 2 Benjamina ficus trees. I have questions about one of them. But i am not sure this is the right site? Can someone out there please let me know? Thanks a bunch LISA
Lisa go ahead and post your questions this is a friendly forum and I'm sure some one will reply who has experience with ficus Benjamina
The Ficus.carica IS the one most fig discussed here.
But there are hundreds/thousands of other figs (Ficus.x)
that belong to this "fig" forum. I know at least one
general-ficus "expert" member (not me!) that will be
very happy to anwser/help with your question(s)...
sooo, go ahead and do not be shy...
Ficus benjamina is well represented in the tropical fraction of my bonsai collection. I've maintained 15-20 of that species alone, for more than 20 years, and often lead workshops or give demos with benjamina as the subject material, so I can generally answer most questions that relate to their care/culture/problems. What are your questions?
Thank you very much for the replys. About a month ago i bought 2 ficus b. They are both in my kitchen where they get the west sun. I do understand that they drop their leaves. If i read correctly, yellow means they are underwatered and green leaves mean they are overwatered. I have a habit when i first get a plant, i tend to overwater. My son told me its better to underwater than to over water. I was afraid to overwater them. So i would just give them a little water,and spritz twice a day. The braided one is doing pretty good, but the other started getting olive green looking leaves.They would droop then turn darkishish brown,but they didnt fall off. After they started looking dry,i finally pulled them all off. Now one whole side of the tree is only dried branches. Iam not sure if they are dead,but when i bent a few they just broke right off. My questions are: Why do you think this happened?(i have a list of troublrshooting questions). What do i do about the dry branches? Do you think it will stay bald on one side? What should i do? Thank you Lisa
Benjaminas commonly shed foliage as a response to photo-intensity or photo-period decreasing abruptly, or as a drought response, which can be caused by a high level of soluble salts in the soil, under-watering, or over-watering. The tree being extremely root bound would also cause shedding of foliage, primarily from the proximal part of the branches (close to the trunk - interior foliage). It's not unusual, when roots are extremely tight, for entire branches to die back as the roots primarily responsible for supporting those branches die. If you bent them & they broke off, they're dead. Often, the bark on an entire side of the tree will die, so branches can't grow on that side, but branches still have a way of reaching for the light & filling in from the opposite side.
We can go as far as you'd like to go insofar as my helping you to provide the cultural conditions necessary to get your trees back on track - just let me know what you would like to do. A very high % (I'd guess at least 90%) of common problems center around the condition of the roots and the soil you're using, if they're not light related.
Benjamina is well-equipped to handle most interior humidity levels, so please hold on the misting. It's more likely to cause problems than alleviate them.
Your trees are genetically very vigorous, so they'll respond well once we figure out what's causing the decline. Odds are it's in your watering technique. Best is to water the soil thoroughly & completely & then wait until the soil is nearly dry before watering again. I use Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 on all my trees. It's an excellent and complete fertilizer, but MG or Peter's 24-8-16 or MG 12-4-8 liquid are close substitutes.
I'll wait for your questions/comments/input.
Thank you for such a quick reply. Now i am really worried about this ficus. I did put it in a larger container,but i never loosened up the root ball. Is it too late for me to do this now so i dont cause more death to my tree? The container is big enough so it has along time to grow in circumferance. But the bottum of the rootball is sitting on the bottom of the container. There is quite a big bare spot on one side where it is dead. Will this also travel to the trunk as well? And should i cut or prune out that dead wood? And how far to the trunk should i prune it? I will wait for your reply before i do anything. Lisa
Any chance you could post pictures or email them to me, Lisa? How congested were the roots? Tell me about your watering habits - were you allowing the soil to dry down before you watered?
Al, I am really new to the internet,not even a month. And just recently when i started getting my plants did i start to learn about my camara. In fact while waiting for you to reply, i was going over my camara instructions. I do have pictures of it what it looked like when i first bought it up until now. But i havent gotten that far along in my camera skiils or my internet skills. The rootball is very tightly bound. And as for my watering habits they have not been good since i was afraid to overwater it. So i bought one of those moisture meters to help me out. But with this weather being into the 100s i still did not give it a good drink of water. Lisa
OK - I'm assuming you're pretty new to plants, but correct me if I'm wrong. Your plant is still in the most robust part of its growth cycle, even if it's faltering. If you're willing to do some homework and a little effort, ("With faith, all things are possible" - not necessarily easy) ;o) I'm sure we can get your plant back to a state of good vitality. Only time will tell what it will eventually look like, but I promise that even if your plant ends up not looking perfect within a few months, the things you'll learn should help you take a very large step forward in your abilities.
The soil is the foundation of every conventional container planting, so we would be concentrating on making sure your plant is in an appropriate soil. Once it is, things will be much easier for you and the plant. At the same time we would change the soil, we would be bare-rooting the plant and root pruning. If you're willing to go that far, I'd say you'll be putting yourself over the hump.
Let me know.
In the meanwhile - the concept explained in the link below is very important for container growers to understand. Familiarity with how water moves/is retained in soils, and why, is an important key to mastering container growing.
Here is a link that might be useful: I'll show you what he's talking about if you click me
Hello it is me again. I think i have learned a little bit about you by reading through most of your posts. Boy am i glad that you answered my very first post on this forum. I would like you to know something about me. Wll about 9 yrs ago i was diagnosed bipolar, and ive had and still have major depression. Ive been on medication for about 9 yrs now. In these past years ive done nothing but lose years of my life trying different medications without success. In this past year i can say i havent felt too much depression with the pills i am on now. I am going to be 45 next month and after all these years of not being interested in life i am doing and trying to get more motivated,with the help, of these meds. A couple of months ago my son who lives with me and my husband, came home with some tomato plants. When i saw the interest he had began to take up, it reminded me of when i was around 20 and had plants. So I went out and got some i new a little about incase i wasnt too interested I could still keep them alive. I have had a ficus when i was in my 20s. I didnt know a thing about it, all i new,it was always dropping leaves. so i would move it all over hoping it would stop dropping leaves. I think i eventually gave up on it. I desided to go to home depot and look for some more plants but on a budget. I saw this hanging plant with flowers on it and they were only 5.00 So i got one it had no name tag. A day or so later my husband and my self went to a nursery near by, and i saw that same exact plant there. So the lady told me it was a fuchsia. Thats all i new. So when i got home I asked my husband to find out about it on the internet. I be came determined to make it live though it was starting to dry up. Thats when my husband show me how to use the computer a little and i realized how i could research my plants So when i see a problem with one of my new plants i go on th internet for hours.I founnd the fig forum because there is a fuchsia forum om the garden web also. I am interested in watching my plant grow and after all these years i have finnally realized what my husband was trying to tell me about the internet. You asked if i am willing to learn about my ficus. But first off the soil. I read your post on soil and water. but to tell you the truth i was not good in science. You have made me realize that the soil plays a key role in the plants(container)life. With my science background i better stick to buying the soil lol. What i would like to do is check out the rootball. And do some pruning on it if you think this will help? But you would also nedd to tell me how to prune a potbound root? Thats if you dont mind? Lisa
I'm moved, touched by your story, Lisa, and by the fact you're so forthright about it. I'm sure anyone reading this thread wishes you the best, and I'll do everything I can to help you, starting with lots of encouragement. Let's see if we can't improve your effort:rewards quotient & eliminate some of the frustration of things not growing as well as they might. Nurturing plants is great therapy (for me, anyway). ;o)
How large are your plants - about how many gallons would you guess the root mass(es) to be? What large city are you near?
Here's the deal - the window for when it's prudent for doing major work on your trees will be closing soon (mainly due to light). When would you say your nights start dropping consistently below 55*. How attached to these plants are you? Are you fiercely determined to get them straightened out, or kind of 'eh' about it? I'm asking that because I want to gauge how much risk we can take. I won't tell you do do something foolish, but I don't want you to end up with a broken heart because of risk-taking, either. How much foliage is on them now? If there's any way you can figure out a way to get a picture of the plants to me - please do. If not, we'll work around it.
Don't worry - I'm not stalling. We'll be getting to the work pretty quickly. ;o)
Good morning Al, just finished reading your reply. I would say the problemed ficus has about a half gallon rootball. Im not sure but i do think that the closest large city would be Los Angeles,Ca. Thats about an hour away from Riverside Ca. Which is 20 minutes from Redlands. Well the nights here lately have been in their 70s. I dont think we will see 55* until about Nov. The leaves on the ficus have been falling off on the other side too. Mostly green, but a few brown. Al, i really wish i could send some pics. I am home by myself all day and most of the Evening. So ive got time to learn, and am willing to. But with my husband working,school and a brother in the hospital just recently, he doesnt have the time for me. So ive got to fend for myself. I dont think my ficus can wait for me learn. But just so you know that will be the next thing i will learn about. As for my attachment to my plants, i dont want to kill any of them and i do try to help each one and i wont toss them in the dumpster. When i feel like i just dont know it does upset me to know that i failed the plant. I dont have the heart to toss them out. So i have made a big spot underneath a tree in my backyard To plant any really sick plants just to give them one more chance. And so far i have my 2 fuchsias that i just wouldnt give up on planted underneath that tree I worried about them so much and did alot of research on them.As of today they are just fine. So to get back to your question, I am determined, but worried about the outcome. But im ready to get to work and learn something new and exciting. Lisa
I too am touched by your story. Like Al, Nurturing plants is a great therapy for me.. And I hope it will be for you.
They are my escape and bring me so much pleasure.
Your in the right place for the help you need. :)
I would like to see if I can help you to get Al a photo. I just sent you an email. If you don't see one, check your junk folder. I know they end up there sometimes when sent through garden web.
We'll see what we can do and get you on your way to posting photos. :)
Jojo, thank you soo much for your reply,and your e-mail. My camera is a kodak easy share md41. I dont know how to download pics. I know there is some software. But my husband doesnt know where the cable to it is. I definitly dont know what kind of computer it is. I am very very thankfull to you for wanting to help me out. But i cant do anything with the computer unless my husband okays it. That way if i mess something up he will know how to fix it. My brother inlaw is going to be here tonight from the hospital to sty here so i know my husband my be around alittle. So the first thing i am going to ask him to do is to set up my laptop for me so i can do my own thing and he wont blame me if i mess up his computer. I would like for you to help me if you are still willing when i get my laptop set up? lisa
I'd Love to Lisa!
see if you can find your cable. You will need it to charge the camera too.
We have the same camera. I just got mine in Dec. and love it!
Just let me know when you are ready. :)
My husband would rather I wait till he gets home to try new things on the puter.. but I dont.. he he..
he hasn't had too many messes to straighten out. LOL!!
Have a great day.
I can send you some soil for your plant, Lisa (tomorrow, if you get back to me right away). I won't charge you anything for it. If that sounds ok - send me your address, but don't post it on the forum. Send it in an email by clicking on "My Page" next to my user name near the top of this post. Once you have the soil, we can go to work on the roots.
If you'd rather use bagged soil, (Ohhhhh - feeling ill at the thought) ;o) that's ok, but I would suggest you also get a bag of perlite .... and we'll work around the soil.
It's really nice of you to volunteer to help, JJ. ;o) I hope you guys figure out the picture thing, but don't fret about it.
Take Al up on his offer. :) You and your plants will be very happy you did! ;)
I've started using his mixes this season, and will never go back to a bagged mix.
I hope we can figure it out too. Me having the same camera will help.
You know how frustrated I was when i first got it.. so I know how lisa feels. :)
Talk to you guys soon!
joJo, just thought id let you know i am going to try Al's soil. Also I got my camera in dec. also i want to know the cable that i use to keep my camera charged,is this the one that goes to the computer also? If so all i need is my husband to set up my laptop and we are ready to go...
I e-mailed Al Yesterday, asking him to send me his e-mail address. My son downloaded pictures of my ficus onto his computer. This way Al can see some pics. As soon as i get his address we can begin to work on my plant yeehee... Lisa
That's been attended to. Watch your mail, Lisa. You should receive a package Sat or Mon.
I am so sorry I couldn't write last night. My computer was acting up and freezing up.
I'm glad you did get some help though! :)
Sounds like your on your way!!!!!!
So good to see!!
I almost got one of these plants last week at lowes, and will probably go back sat. and get it. ;)
Have a great day!
I recieved the soil and was very excited about it. I realized after looking at the container that i didnt give you the right size, i went back to home depot to see what size the container was that i bought it in, its close to 2 gallons then i potted up.So i measured the container and its about 14inces high and around 15inches across. I feel so bad, i know it is probably not cheap. What should i do?
Al i recieved my package today. My math is worse than my science. I didnt figure in the container size. Which is 14inches tall and about 15inches across. I feel so bad. I know its prbably kind of expensive to ship. I dont know what to do now? Hope to hear from you soon.
No problem, Lisa. We'll do a root reduction & all will be well. I'll show you a series of pictures that shows root work on a Ficus benjamina 'Too Little' I did a few weeks ago. You won't be doing any pruning of the top, yet - just the roots. You'll need a pruning saw that you can use to cut the bottom 1/3 of the old root mass off to start.
I'll kind of narrate what I was thinking and describe what I did. I probably won't get done posting before dinner (I have marinated flank steak in the smoker - oink), so if you'll hold your questions or comments until I'm done with the pics, it will be less confusing for anyone else following along.
Three or four years ago, I conducted a workshop with Ficus b 'Too Little' as the subject material. This tree was exceptionally ugly, and no one wanted it, so I took it home & set it on the grow bench. I probably cut it back hard to establish some sort of future canopy shape. I know I repotted it because it's in the gritty mix, but I didn't remember anything in particular about the tree because I only looked at the roots once & regarded it as pre-bonsai material.
The pots are by Sarah Rayner, and I intended to put the plant in one of them after the work, but it took more than I thought it would to straighten out the root nightmare, so I wanted a larger pot with a greater soil volume to allow the plant a year to recover. As you'll see, I ended up putting it in an 8" Tokoname training pot.
The tree before starting:
My root mass was smaller than yours, so even though this isn't a ficus, you'll cut the bottom 1/3 of the roots of like this:
You can see I took much more than 1/3, but the plant I was working on was very robust & able to handle the massive reduction. We'll play it a little more safely with your tree.
OK - back to ficus work now. This is how the roots looked after I had removed a small amount of soil from the perimeter:
A closer look, confirming that this tree was a mess under the soil that needed some work:
It's unlikely your tree will be in such bad shape, but any tangled roots, roots that wrap around/girdle the trunk should be corrected.
This doesn't really tell you much, other than there were a lot of healthy roots:
I bare root Ficus completely. As I work, I submerge the tree in a tub like this, or I use a spritzer if the tree is too large for that kind of treatment. You can take as long as you like to do the work, but it's important you don't allow the roots to dry out. Fine roots die within minutes on sunny/windy days. Work in the shade out of the sun & keep roots wet. You'll probably want to use a hose to help you remove the soil. I sent you a root pick I made to help you tease the soil from the roots. I hope you found it in the box.
Sorry for the detour. I snapped this because it was close to where I was working and thought you might like it:
The roots are still a mess, but you can see that I really whacked them hard. I didn't leave much in the way of roots. Normally, I don't cut the top back at the same time I work on roots, but the tree had so much foliage that the remaining roots could never support it. This means that the tree would have shed weak branches that might be important to the end composition. By cutting the tree back hard, it should prevent random die-back because I selected the branches to be 'shed'. Treatment this harsh should only be undertaken on healthy trees with plenty of reserve energy.
You can see how large some of the roots I removed were. Notice that I removed more than 90% of the roots. The tree was extremely healthy & tolerated this procedure well. Trees not quite so healthy can't be treated so aggressively. We'll remove less than 50% of your tree's roots, but ALL of the soil:
The pot, prepared with a screen & a wick to facilitate drainage until the plant is well established & roots have colonized the entire soil mass:
After potting. I'll cover the scar with waterproof wood glue to keep the cambium from drying & dying back:
After the repotting work:
After the top is cut back hard and the tree secured to the container. I often prefer this method of securing pre-bonsai instead of wiring them into the pot. It IS important though, to secure the tree so it can't move in relation to the pot. Jostling the tree or wind breaks many tiny roots and greatly extends recovery time. The wound has been dressed. The tree actually looks much better than the picture shows because you can't get any perspective on how the branches are positioned. Branching looks messy in the photo, but it doesn't when you're in front of the tree. A few days in the shade & then back on the bench until night temps start dropping below 50*. It comes inside at that time after a couple of applications of neem oil about 2 weeks apart.
That's about it - can't think of anything else at the moment. I hope it was helpful and hope even more that it bolstered your courage. ;o) Questions?
Wow!!! Al, I am sooo... impressed with your work. I am really really excited about doing this. Right now it is 6:15pm. and still in the upper 90s. I am going to wait until the am. to start. Ive got a pot though it is not nearly as cute as yours. The one thing i dont have is any wick. Here are my questions: How much water do i add to the mix? Do I add some mix to the bottom of the pot then set the rootball in? Will i be putting mix around the sides too, to fill in the gaps? So far the pics show alot. The pic with the clean healthy roots is so nice. I will take some pics of before and after. I am going to study this post several times bfore the morning. I am excited and nervous... I dont want to disappoint you after you have helped me soo much!!! Look forward to hearing back from you tonight about my ?s I hope your dinner was great!!! Lisa
Don't worry about disappointing me, Lisa. The only way I'll be disappointed is if you are.
Make sure you have everything ready to go. You don't add water to the soil until after you're done repotting. I'll try to list the steps:
1) Get everything together. A sharp set of pruners, a hose & nozzle with a sharp jet, your new pot, the root pick I sent, a tub, a screen to cover the drain hole, an old shoelace or something not made of cotton for the wick.
2) Depot your plant and saw of the bottom 1/3 of the roots and soil.
3) Bare-root the plant, using the hose & root pick. Dip the plant in the tub frequently as you work with the root pick to keep roots moist & to rinse away the soil you've loosened with the pick.
4) Correct crossing, girdling, encircling roots. Try to clear the area directly under the trunk of small roots. No roots should grow toward the center, Try to trim all of those off so you're left with only outward growing roots.
5) Prepare the pot & partially fill with soil. Make sure you'll have enough soil to do the job. Mixing peat or other soil into it will greatly reduce its effectiveness.
6) Set the plant on top of the bed of soil. Slowly fill the pot with soil, a scoop at a time. Use the root pick to fill all the voids in the root mass with soil. Cover only to the flare where the trunk divides into roots. The very top of the main roots will be exposed.
7) Tap the pot with the heal of your hand or a rubber mallet to settle the soil & top off again.
8) Set the pot in a tub of water & slowly fill it to about 1/4" lower than the soil line. Leave it there for about 15-30 minutes.
9) Remove & let it drain.
Secure the plant to the pot (see picture above) like I did or devise something similar.
Site the plant in shade & out of wind until new growth starts to break, then move to sun. Shade the container to keep soil temperatures under 90*
You can use the root pick to test to see if the plant needs watering. If the root pick comes out wet or damp - don't water. If it comes out dry, water.
I'll be around if you have questions. Don't fertilize yet, but find one of these 3 fertilizers, listed in order of preference: Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 (best), Miracle-Gro 24-8-16 granular soluble (box), Miracle-Gro 12-4-8 liquid (yellow jug). These fertilizers are excellent choices for anything you grow in containers - including your houseplants.
Good luck, Lisa. If I think of anything I missed, I'll let you know.
Al Well i did it!! It took me a half hour. I had things prepared ahead of time. There are some pics my son sent to your email. We didnt know how to put them on fig forum. I thought that getting down to the bare root was very exciting once you get all that dirt off! I am ready to do my other ficus(braided) also. It is starting to look sick also. I would like info on the soil, so i am going to email as soon as i finish with this. I followed all your instructions and i feel really positive about it. I have one more question. What do i do about the top?
That's great to hear! I need to work on one exactly like Al shows in the pics. LOL!
I'll get with you a little later about how to post pics here. :)
Strong work, Lisa! I saw the pictures & everything looks great. For now, remove anything that is obviously crispy dead. If you're in doubt, leave it on the plant for a couple of weeks. Hold on the fertilizer until you see it's pushing new growth, then apply a 3:1:2 RATIO fertilizer. Miracle-Gro makes 24-8-16 and 12-4-8. Both are 3:1:2 ratios and excellent for your containerized figs, as well as any other trees, but my favorite is Dyna-Gro's Foliage-Pro 9-3-6, a little more difficult to find, but worth the effort.
Let me know if there's anything else I can do, or if you have other questions you think I might be able to answer.
Jojo, What kind of a plant are you working on. Als instructions for cutting down the root ball were so clear. It was alot of fun! When ever you have the time to show me how to download to the forum is fine there is no rush. Al since i have 2 ficus bs. Do you have an easy way to prune them? When the bald one gets better i would like to know how to keep it in shape. My braided ficus looked like an umbrella when i first got it. now the bottom leaves are long and its lost its shape. I always wanted to learn how to prune correctly..
While you're waiting for your tree to recover & get back on track, I would suggest you get a book on pruning that discusses not just how to prune, but WHY we prune, and what happens when we DO prune. It will discuss the relationship between the growth hormones (cytokinin and auxin) and how they affect the way your trees grow. You have to have an understanding of what happens when you prune and why, in order to be proficient at pruning. I'm sure there are also online resources that discuss pruning in depth.
Be careful not to over-nurture. Water only when the tree actually needs it; and remember there is a difference between tree time and people time. Tree time never moves as quickly as you want it to - unless you have too many trees - then, it moves faster than you want it to. In other words - be patient.
Do enough research on your own that you can ask specific questions. I see you're over on the container forum. I hang around there much more than at this forum, so you know where to find me if you need help.
Lol - it looks like you've really caught fire. Good for you. Hang in there & keep studying. LEARN TO MAKE YOUR OWN SOIL. I can't emphasize strongly enough what a difference a good soil can make in how much satisfaction you end up with as a return for your efforts.
Looking for a book online that i can order,or looking on the internet for in depth info is a really great idea. Now why didnt i think of that?lol
I also tend to over do it on all plants that i just get But im learning slowly....
All my lfe ive never been good at being patient. I think gardening is going to teach me how.... Well i will be hoping to hear from you in container gardening
Lol - if you seek an exercise in patience ..... try bonsai.
So true Al~
If the garden doesn't teach you to be patient, bonsai will! LOL!
I'll be trying the bonsai soon. ;)