Common Ficus Tree Problems and How to Solve Them
If you have ever lived in a dorm or worked in an office, chances are you have seen 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 problems can perplex their 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!
What Are Some Problems With Ficus Trees?
Most people experience problems with growing plants. Sometimes we are more worried than we need to be. There are 4 problems that many ficus owners experience. It's helpful to know this information prior to buying a ficus.
4 Common Problems With Ficus Trees and How to Solve Them
- 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.
How to solve it: The ficus tree likes a constant temperature and humidity level. 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: These are 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.
How to solve it: Apply sulfur sprays or copper-based fungicides weekly at first sign of disease to prevent its spread. These organic fungicides will not kill leaf spot, but prevent the spores from germinating.
- Anthracnose: This shows up as rusty-looking spots on stems and leaves. The plant may also ooze from these spots. Remove the diseased leaves.
How to solve it: Practicing good sanitation. Picking up and disposing of all diseased plant parts, providing proper light, water, and fertilizer will strengthen the plant’s ability to ward off a fungus attack. Chemical treatment is rarely used.
- Ficus oozing sap: This condition is caused by sucking pests, usually caused mealybugs and/or scale. Mealybugs look like small cottony clusters and scale look like bumpy white or black spots on the stems and body of the tree.
How to solve it: 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.
Common Types of Ficus
The following are the common types of ficus trees that you'll find at a nursery or gardening center:
- F. benjamina (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!
What Kind of Habitat Does a Ficus Tree Need?
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.
3 Ficus Tree Pests
All trees have pest problems. Some are better equipped at dealing with pests themselves, and others need more help. Before buying a ficus, it's important that you study up on what pest problems are common to these beautiful trees.
3 Common Ficus Pests and How to Deal With Them
- 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.
How to solve the problem: First, spray the plant with a fine horticultural oil where the bugs are present, then 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. Finally, use a 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.
How to solve the problem: 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 whitish bumps on stems and the trunk of plants (see photo).
How to solve the problem: They can be treated in the same way as mealy bugs.
Ficus Tree PestsClick thumbnail to view full-size
More Kinds of Ficus Tree
Where Do They Grow?
What the ficus needs
Cost (for a small one)
Native to India
Neutral pH soil, kept in temperatures above 60 F. (16 C.) Fertilize seasonally. The Audrey Ficus won’t grow nearly as tall or wide indoors.
Native to India
Appreciates bright, indirect light. Fertilize seasonally to make sure the soil is pH neutral and has a healthy amount of nitrogen. Water must reach a few inches down. They grow to massive sizes in the wild.
Ficus Alii, or Ficus maclellandii
Originally grown in Hawaii
pH neutral soil. Watering approximately once every week and giving it bright, filtered light.
The Weeping Fig, or Ficus benjamina
Native to Asia, but also to Australia
Watering about once a week when the soil is dry a few inches down and giving it plenty of bright, indirect light.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.