Common Ficus Tree Problems and How to Solve Them

Updated on April 13, 2018
Gerber Ink profile image

Charlotte formerly worked as an editor of a garden channel and has extensive knowledge of plant care.

Potted ficus tree.  Photo by Fabinus08 at Dreamstime.
Potted ficus tree. Photo by Fabinus08 at Dreamstime.

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 and How to Solve Them

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Anthracnose - 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.

  4. Ficus oozing sap: This condition is caused by sucking pests. This is usually caused by 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

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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 Pests

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Mealy Bugs.  Photo by Jeridu at Dreamstime.Scale insects and ant.  Photo by Jeridu at Dreamstime.Centipede.  Photo by Cre8tive Studios at Dreamstime
Mealy Bugs.  Photo by Jeridu at Dreamstime.
Mealy Bugs. Photo by Jeridu at Dreamstime.
Scale insects and ant.  Photo by Jeridu at Dreamstime.
Scale insects and ant. Photo by Jeridu at Dreamstime.
Centipede.  Photo by Cre8tive Studios at Dreamstime
Centipede. Photo by Cre8tive Studios at Dreamstime

More Kinds of Ficus Tree

Name
Where Do They Grow?
What the ficus needs
Cost (for a small one)
Audrey Ficus
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.
$75-$100
Ficus elastica
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.
$30
Ficus Alii, or Ficus maclellandii
Originally grown in Hawaii
pH neutral soil. Watering approximately once every week and giving it bright, filtered light.
$30
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.
$75

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • Gerber Ink profile imageAUTHOR

    Charlotte Gerber 

    5 years ago from upstate New York

    Hi oldmanmike - the leaves are probably turning black because they have burst water vessels. This is caused from over-watering the tree. Only water the tree when the soil is dry to the touch 1 inch deep into the soil. If the plant is sitting in a drain pan, be sure to empty it after 10 minutes so the plant isn't sitting in water. Place your tree in a warm, moist area (If it isn't in this type of area already) to recover.

  • profile image

    PlantLover22 

    6 years ago

    I have a beautiful 14' tall ficus tree that I have owned for 25+ years. The tree appears to be very healthy except for the following issue. I am concerned about an oval-shaped "bruise" or "sore" mark has appeared on the trunk, exposing the bare wood. The injury is about 2-1/2" long by 1-1/2" wide, and occurs about 2-feet up the trunk, from its base. We think this spot has been developing over many months time (perhaps 6-10 months). It looks like a branch was cut or removed, but there was never a branch at this spot & there's no growth-ring here. There are no other obvious signs of a problem anywhere else on the tree. Could this be a fungus? ...or infection? Any ideas on what this is and how to treat it? (I have a photo of the spot, but don't know how to post that here.)

  • profile image

    oldmanmike 

    6 years ago

    I just want know why leave r turning black on my ficus.PLEASE HELP

  • Gerber Ink profile imageAUTHOR

    Charlotte Gerber 

    6 years ago from upstate New York

    Hi Shawn, it may have turned brown due to being "disturbed" from its previous pot. They are sensitive if they are moved, but should recover soon in its new home. The best advice I can give is to keep it in one spot now that it has been re-potted, and not move it unless you absolutely have to.

  • profile image

    Shawn 

    6 years ago

    I potted a 2.5 ft tall ficus about 2 weeks ago and a few of the leaves toward the bottom have started turning brown...any idea why?

  • profile image

    Jason 

    6 years ago

    I noticed that you said the fig tree fruit on this tree should not be eaten, and was curious as to why that is? Also, are some weeping trees not capable of growing fruit?

  • profile image

    nanato3_1 

    6 years ago

    I have just purchased a fiddle leaf fig for inside my home. It was re-potted before I purchased it. Now that I have it home, I have noticed black spots on the back side of some of the leaves on one of the bushes and some of the leaves are brown around the edges. Has this been caused because of the stress of coming from a greenhouse into an indoor environment or do I have some other problem?

  • Gerber Ink profile imageAUTHOR

    Charlotte Gerber 

    6 years ago from upstate New York

    Hi Kim, No, you don't have to rinse the tree off afterwards - the solution isn't such that you'll have lots of soap suds to deal with. If it is a large tree, and you'll be spraying it a lot, you may want to place a plastic tarp around the tree to protect your floors, rugs or furniture. (You can find inexpensive plastic tarps in the paint section of your local Wal-Mart or other similar stores).

  • Gerber Ink profile imageAUTHOR

    Charlotte Gerber 

    6 years ago from upstate New York

    Hi Bob, The nurseryman was right - the roots are usually in proportion to the "canopy" or shape of the tree above ground. If you keep it trimmed small and ball shaped, the roots won't have to keep spreading out to keep it balanced.

  • Gerber Ink profile imageAUTHOR

    Charlotte Gerber 

    6 years ago from upstate New York

    Hi Karen,

    Your tree may just need more water, or be kept in a less dry environment. If you have it near a heat source(or there is air blowing on it), try moving it to a cooler area- of course, moving it may cause some leaf loss, but it would be healthier for the tree in the long run.

  • profile image

    Kim 

    6 years ago

    I have the oozy issue with my ficus. I would like to try the easiest and safest method of treating the tree with the soapy water. My question is: do I rinse the soap water off the tree afterwards ?

  • profile image

    BOB TAYLOR 

    6 years ago

    I BOUGHT A HOUSE WITH EIGHT FISCUS CLOSE BY THEY ARE ABOUT A METRE TALL AND SHAPED LIKE A BALL .BEING CONCERNED ABOUT A POTENTIOL ROOT PROBLEM I ASKED MY NURSERY MAN HE SAID THAT PROVIDING I KEEP THE THIS SHAPE AND SIZE THE ROOT SYSTYM WILL NOT BE A PROBLEM .HIS BELEIF IS THAT YOU KEEP THE CANOPY SMALL YOU KEEP THE ROOT SYSTYM SMALL?,.

  • profile image

    Karen 

    6 years ago

    I have a standard ficus that is losing its leaves and some of the leaves are drying up and curled then fall off..It is outside on the back covered area and getts morning sun,I have had it about 15mths..do you know what is going on with it?

  • Gerber Ink profile imageAUTHOR

    Charlotte Gerber 

    6 years ago from upstate New York

    Hi Michellebee - The growths sound like a fungus growth. Do you see them anywhere else on the tree? Does the tree also have yellowing leaves? Unfortunately, there aren't any fungicides approved for treating ficus trees, though a local nursery could recommend a course of action to treat the tree, especially if you are growing it outdoors in a warm climate (like FL).

    Stem or trunk galls should be removed with clean, sterilized pruning tools. Check the soil to see if there are any insects living in it - insects that chew the ficus can cause open wounds that leave them susceptible to fungal growth.

  • profile image

    Michellebee 

    6 years ago

    I've had my ficus for only six months. It seems quite happy in its spot but in the last few weeks has sprouted two yellow bulbous growths on the trunk right above the soil. They are a little smaller than a ping-pong ball. Any ideas?

  • Gerber Ink profile imageAUTHOR

    Charlotte Gerber 

    6 years ago from upstate New York

    Hi Bigby, usually any sticky substance on the ficus means it is oozing sap, and probably has some sucking insects affecting it. Try the following: Ficus oozing sap - 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 you have a large ficus, try the horticultural oil; the soapy water treatment can be messy unless you have a small tree.

  • profile image

    Bigby 

    6 years ago

    Our ficus has sticky stuff on the leaves. Otherwise it looks pretty good. Any ideas?

  • profile image

    SanFrancisco 

    7 years ago

    Thanks for the tip, Gerber Ink. Will give it a try. I did drag the tree outside and spray it with some green anti-scale lavendar oil concoction. Didn't work. Ready to give the thing away.

  • Gerber Ink profile imageAUTHOR

    Charlotte Gerber 

    7 years ago from upstate New York

    Hi SanFrancisco, Try Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub (you can find it at any gardening center. It will kill the sucking insects (aphids), and fertilize your plant as well. Follow the instructions exactly so you won't burn the roots.

  • profile image

    SanFrancisco 

    7 years ago

    I have a huge indoor ficus, 10 feet tall at least, from the mid 1980s. It has scale or aphids and I've tried spraying it with Safer a few times but the tree is so huge I'm sure I'm not getting all of the leaves and branches. I want something I can put in the soil that will do the trick but not poison my family. Ideas?

  • profile image

    Oscar 

    7 years ago

    Hey vivalady,

    There's some info on ficus as bonsai on http://www.bonsaiempire.com

    Hope it might help, you might try google as well, there's so much written about this!

    Goodluck

  • Gerber Ink profile imageAUTHOR

    Charlotte Gerber 

    8 years ago from upstate New York

    Hi vivalady, Hope you have success with your next go-round with the ficus. My experience is to find a good spot for one, then leave it there without moving it again (not always practical!). The ficus seems to be as finicky a plant as gardenias are, though they're nice plants to keep around if you have the patience.

  • profile image

    vivalady 

    8 years ago

    This might just help, mine always croak!!

  • Bard of Ely profile image

    Steve Andrews 

    9 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

    There are all sorts of Ficus trees planted in gardens and parks where I live and some like the Australian Banyan become really huge.

    I note you include centipedes as a pest - this surprised me as I always thought all centipedes were more of a gardener's friend than enemy as they are carnivores and eat small insects.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)