Ficus benjamina 'White Spot' Problem

frank737December 11, 2007


i have a (rather large) Ficus benjamina and for the last 2 weeks it has started to drop leafs. Some were yellow/brown but now it even starts to drop green leafs.

As i picked up the leafs i noticed that they all had exactly one white spot at the backside base of leaf (where the stem turns into the leaf).

The spot is 3 dimensional sort of white opaque and wax like. It can be removed quite easily by a slight touch. I am very certain that it is not a cocoon of any kind (no web/silk like substance).

What is peculiar (as i mentioned before) is that there is always exactly one spot in exactly the same place on the affected leafs. These spots are not located anywhere else on the leaf or any other part of the plant.

Since the problem started i also notice that the plant uses much less water, normally i have to use a full can every 2-3 days, but now it has been 4 days it has used almost nothing so i am really worried here. (it is one of those lime pebble pots with water indicator)

I searched on this forum and elsewhere on the web but the only thing i saw on one forum was that this might be a plant secretion used to 'cool down' the plant/leaf when it is too warm. This sort of seems reasonable since i have turned up the heat since i felt sort of sick, but i don't think the room temperature is ever above 85 F. The air however is very dry (no humidifier).

Also (should it matter), every 2 weeks a use a bit (1 tee spoon to 1 can of water which is about 1/3 of a gallon) of universal mineral fertilizer (Magnesium and Sulfur). Could it be that as well, i mean maybe i shouldn't fertilizer in winter or maybe it is too much? I mean i have not seen the typical signs for 'too much fertilizer' but maybe it is a contributing factor to this problem?

I just want to be sure i am doing the right thing since i really like this plant.

Thanks for any info/help.

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

where are you ..

leaf fall in late fall .. can be a function of ..

as you suspect.. your furnace.. or your humidifier [or lack of one] .. especially if you are in the cold north ....

your latitude... which translates into weak sunlight versus summer ... anything change here.. like new windows.. new placement of the plant further from the window?

over watering done to offset suspected dryness ... to the point of damage ...

was it outdoors during the summer ....??

i usually do not fertilize indoor plants ... until late winter .... if ever

how pot bound is the plant.. when is the last time you repotted?

i have no clue regarding the globs ... an already weakened plant can be a bug magnet ....

good luck


    Bookmark   December 11, 2007 at 8:25AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The white, waxy deposit is a perfectly normal and typical phenomenon for certain ficus. It's not an indication of a pest, disease, or other problem. The 'cool down' situation is something else, entirely. If you look at ficus at the garden centers, you are likely to find the same waxy glob, in exactly the same location. ;-)

Leaf drop in also normal for this plant at this time of year. A decline in sunlight and the decrease in humidity almost always cause leaf drop in ficus.

I see no reason for you to be incorporating magnesium and sulfur supplementation at that frequency.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2007 at 10:15AM
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Hello. The good news is that I have an indoor, 15 year old, 17' Ficus that has exactly the same symptoms. It does this every year but by the middle of summer it has replaced all of the leaves it drops, and more. I suspect there is actually a problem of some kind but the plant has always been able to recover. I believe the Ficus is casting off unhealthy leaves. The white waxy material is dried sap that is the result of the wound (brown spot) weeping. You may notice that even healthy, green leaves have a dark spot at the base of the leaf but it is covered by skin, and that there may be some of the white substance as well. Of course the bad news is I can't really tell you what the problem is. I agree that light and humidity are factors but I suspect something else is injuring the leaves that the tree is casting off. I'd be interested in anything you might learn. I suspect your tree will be fine with continued good care.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2008 at 4:32PM
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frank737, I am almost convinced that water is the problem. Here is why I think so. About four weeks ago I noticed that two spp. (Ficus and Spathiphyllum) started to use less water. It was dramatic. One week they were in need of watering and two weeks later it was as if they had not used any of the water previously applied. Since then there has been marked reduction of watering needs of most the interior plants I visit regularly. I always probe the soil to the full depth of the pot and water according to how the soil samples feel. I give Ficus trees a brisk shake so that all 'loose' leaves will fall. They are comparatively few (less than a dozen) and invariably yellow or brown. Occasionally some green leaves also fall and I take it seriously as an indication that something bad is occuring at the roots. Reducing or witholding water usually (but not always) has righted the condition. I do not fertilize indoor plants nor do I recommend it. The reasons are that there is an optimum size (and shape) for an indoor plant in its location and after that it is a program of maintenance. Secondly, there is the probability that residual salts will accumulate and give rise to problems which will require serious work to rectify.
I hope that you can use this information to help your Ficus out of its present condition.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2008 at 6:51AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

This odd 'waxy' deposit is unique. If they exist on a ficus, they will be found precisely at the base of the leaf, not quite but almost part of the petiole. They are not an indication of a pest problem, nor do I think that they appear in association with a cultural issue of some kind. (But I really don't know that for sure.)

There will be only one of these per leaf, and always in the same location on the back of the leaf. I have seen perfectly healthy looking trees with one of these tiny globs on every leaf. 'Waxy' is a good word, but not perfect. It wipes off easily, is not sticky or gummy.

At one time, I found an article about this on the Internet, but can't locate any information at this time.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 8:17AM
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I'm kind of shocked to read the posts regarding the "whit spot" problem on Ficus Benjamina. No on has mentioned the insect :scale" the can and will suck the life out of your ficus!! These descriptions are exact to that of the destructive infestation of the insect scale. Scale can best be removed/killed with an oil solution of All Seasons oil spray, Fungicide 3 from Schultz Co., there's another one similar from Garden Safe. It will kill all stages of the scale growth. This will eliminate the need to re-treat in a few weeks as eggs develop into adults. The usual removal method is wiping each leaf with the insect with alcohol or spraying with an alcohol and detergent mixture and spraying the underside of all leaves, the branches and trunk. the problem is that it will not kill the eggs which will hatch and appear in a few weeks after the initial treatment. You can also hose off with a decent amount of pressure selection on the hose nozzle like "flat" or "vertical" spray pattern. Again repeat in a few weeks as adults appear. I have a 15' out door Ficus Benjamina that my Dad gave me when my Mom passed away. I just gave it a treatment with the All Seasons oil sprayer that I attached to my garden hose as it produces the proper diluted solution. The label states it is for all stages of scale growth. I will post again in a few weeks if the scale re-appears.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 1:56AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Lol, I'm kind of shocked that this old post has been dredged up! Rosie, if you read the description from the original post, you will surely see that scale insects are not the problem. That is, unless you know of a scale species that will sit in that exact location at the base of the insect per leaf. Always in that same location and never more than one.

No one participating in this thread has described anything close to scale insects.

As I said earlier, it's a perfectly normal secretion of phenolic compounds fron that wax gland located at the base of the leaf...just above the petiole.

Thank you for your useful input about scale, but it doesn't apply to this situation.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 2:39PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

As Dorie mentioned - a normal part of the anatomy, the purpose of which is not fully understood. It used to be referred to as a wax gland, and occurs in a high % of the plants in the Moraceae family, including mulberry. Newer literature refers to the gland as a phenolic gland, because of the heavy deposits of phenolic compounds in the glandular region. Any exudates that originate in the near vicinity of the gland are probably latex and not related to the gland itself.

Ficus often have other regularly spaced white dots inside and along leaf margins that are often misidentified as pests or glands. They are lithocysts that contain crystals of calcium carbonate or calcium oxylate called cystoliths


    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 9:11PM
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