Help! Massive leaf loss in 10 ft Alii Ficus

green_claws(7, 8)August 30, 2014

A month ago, I bought a 10 ft tall huge beautiful ficus alii from pike. Since the day it came home, its been steadily losing leaves. I have another much smaller ficus alii that I've had for 6 months and its never lost leaves. I put the new tree right next to my old one, in my sunroom where it gets bright indirect light. The leaf loss was mostly seen as leaves that had brown streaks coming from the center vein. Leaves on the trees also developed dry brown tips but those doesn't fall off.

I read that streaks from the center vein mean too much water and that the cells are essentially rupturing. However, I read that brown tips are a drought response. I watered once a week but every time I watered (room temp water) I noticed the next day there were tons of new dropped leaves, mostly with brown streaks.

Three days ago, I pulled the tree from the pot and saw that the entire root ball was basically one giant white mold colony. I spent an hour washing the very compact and paper-like soil away from the very very dense roots. I had to take a knife and make some vertical cuts through the root ball to get to the center. There was mold growth all the way through! I repotted with a 30% pine bark, 30% soil conditioner (ingredients say >90% tree bark, looks almost identical to the pine bark), 40% perlite soil mix. I mixed in a handful of Osmocote all purpose plant food pellets. Watered until water ran out the bottom, and put the tree back in its spot in the sunroom.

The next day, I only noticed one leaf on the ground! I thought I had solved my problem. However, its not three days later and the leaf drop rate is back to what it was before. The dead leaf appearance has changed though. Before, it was mostly large mature leaves that dropped. Now, its a 50/50 mix of big leaves and smaller leaves. Also, some leaves show the same brown streaking from the center, but now there are leaves with brown streaking on the edges.

My original, smaller, ficus alii is right next to this tree and still doing great. For that tree, I just transplanted the whole root ball into a larger pot and filled in with miracle grow moisture control potting soil.

What can I do? This large tree was $400 and I don't want to lose it. Aside from the price, its literally my dream tree and its very special to me and the centerpiece of my sunroom! Including the pot, it almost touches the 12 ft ceiling!

Attached is a pic of dropped leaves and how the tree looks. You can't tell, but its already dropped half its leaves. Note some are crinkled while others drop in their healthy shape.

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It's likely stress from a change in environment. Different light levels, humidity, and watering practices can create stress, often shown by leaf drop. Just try to be careful watering and give it some light fertilizer, new growth should be pushing out soon.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 4:53AM
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Ditto what Ampersand posted.

Just a few other thoughts:
Did you find out just why the root ball was filled with white mold?
Were the roots rotten?
Was there a mealy-bug infestation at the roots?
Washing off mold from dead roots will not solve your problems.
Was the tree root-bound?
Did you re-plant the tree into the same size container, or did you do an up-potting?
Was the root ball loaded with white, healthy feeder roots, or full of dead/dying, brown roots?

Drastic changes in cultural conditions can cause leaves to shed at an alarming rate. If the compromised roots can't support any new growth, your tree will continue to drop leaves. If half your roots are dead from a moldy condition, then your tree will have to grow a new root system....and your tree will shed leaves until new roots can support new leaves. A tree will not push out leaves that the roots can't support.

Interior light levels, even in a "sun room" can never approach the light levels, and spectrum-quality found under an open sky. Plants "see" light differently than the human eye. Even "bright" interiors are usually far too dark, and unless you are growing in a greenhouse, plants will slowly suffer. If your sun-room is dark, your tree will shed leaves. If your other Ficus a. is doing "great", then growing both trees with the same culture, your newer Ficus a. tree will also do well....maybe. Is your original tree thriving...or, just doing well enough not to die? There's a difference. The canopy of the smaller tree might also be getting far more light than the canopy of your taller, tree. Leaves growing a few feet away from the dark ceiling of your sun room may be getting very little light, and far too much dry heat. Heat rises, and will 'cook' leaves. Cooked leaves = leaf drop.

Check culture carefully. Just some thoughts, and I hope this may help.


This post was edited by BronxFigs on Tue, Sep 2, 14 at 14:09

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 7:20AM
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