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Ficus Care

Why does my Ficus have brown leaves and how to solve it? 

by Plants for all Seasons 02 Mar 2022 0 Comments

The Ficus is an easy to look after tropical houseplant that is a wonderful choice for both beginner and expert houseplant owners. However, like all plants, they do have some specific growth requirements.

Unlike other houseplants, the Ficus is great at telling you when something is wrong. One of the ways you can tell that something is wrong with your Ficus is by checking the leaves regularly. If the leaves of your Ficus begin to brown and drop it is a sign that something is wrong. In this guide, we will take you through the most common reasons why your leaves are turning brown and how to solve them.

Watering problems

The Ficus is a plant that is sensitive to water conditions. The main reason for brown foliage in a Ficus is under or overwatering. When the plant receives too little water the leaves will begin to brown and drop but will do so slowly and all over the plant at once. If your Ficus plant is overwatered the leaves will begin to brown from the bottom up and will fall off quickly. Both of these issues have easy fixes: If the plant is underwatered you should water it immediately, and if overwatered you should leave the soil to dry out before watering again. If the overwatering is extreme then you may need to repot your ficus.

Draughts

Ficus plants are a tropical houseplant species and have adapted to warmer, humid conditions. When the plant comes in contact with cold draughts from windows and doors the leaves will begin to dry out and brown. The easiest step to fixing this is to move your plant away from any draughty area. However, when doing this you should make sure not to put your plant too close to radiators and heat sources as this may also dry the leaves. However, if moving your Ficus is not possible you should consider investing in draught excluders to stop the flow of air.

Root problems

The Ficus is a fast-growing houseplant that can easily outgrow its pot. You should repot your ficus into a larger pot every two years. When your Ficus has outgrown its pot the roots will become crowded. This stops them from absorbing nutrients and water efficiently which can starve the leaves of the things they need to grow properly. When this happens the leaves will begin to brown from the tips and fall off.

The only way to fix a root-bound Ficus is to repot the plant. Repotting a Ficus is easy, first, make sure your new pot is about an inch bigger in diameter than your existing one. Place new soil in the bottom third of the pot. Remove your Ficus from the pot and gently loosen the soil and roots. Try to avoid ripping any of the roots as this will cause your ficus plant to go into repotting shock. Place your plant and its roots into the new soil and fill the rest of the pot up with new soil, pressing it down carefully. Water the plant well to help the plant establish itself for the first few days. You may notice the leaves droop a little at first as the plant gets used to its new environment, but it will recover quickly.

Too much fertilizer

The Ficus is a fast-growing houseplant that benefits from regular feeding with fertilizer during the growing period. Ideally, you should fertilize your Ficus once a fortnight in the spring and summer by diluting a liquid fertilizer into the water you use to water the plant. If you fertilize more than this you will find that the Ficus cannot absorb the nutrients quick enough which leave a buildup in the soil. This build-up can end up hurting the roots which will cut off the supply of nutrition to the leaves. If you are using a nitrogen-rich fertilizer on your Ficus you need to be even more careful as too much nitrogen can end up burning the cells of the leaves from the inside, making them discolour and fall off.

Fixing an over-fertilized Ficus is easy if caught early. The first thing you should do is stop fertilizing your plant for a few watering cycles. This will both dilute the fertilizer further and wash any buildup of root damaging chemicals out of the soil. If the plant has been left in the soil for too long then your only option is to repot the plant in completely new soil.

To repot a root damaged Ficus, choose a new container and fill the bottom of it with new soil, building a small cone in the middle. Remove the Ficus from its pot and take off as much soil as possible from the roots. Trim any damaged roots and place the plant and roots on top of your cone with the roots draping down the sides. Fill the pot with new soil, pressing it down to secure the plant. Water well to help your Ficus adapt to its new conditions. You may find that your plant begins to wilt for the first few days after repotting as it gets used to its new conditions.

Insects

The Ficus is susceptible to some insect infestations like whitefly, spider mites or scale bugs. These bugs feed on the carbohydrates and nutrients in the leaves themselves which will cause them to shrivel up and brown quickly. Most insects will then lay eggs on the underside of the leaves which will speed up the rate of leaves dying.

You can easily identify an insect infestation on your plant by carefully checking the undersides of the leaves for bugs and eggs. As soon as you notice anything you should wipe down the leaves with soapy water. This will break down the outer shell of the eggs and deter the bugs from returning. If the infestation is bad enough you will need to apply this treatment regularly for a few days. If you find that this doesn’t work you will need to apply a horticultural insecticide.

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