THE AGRONOMIST ANSWERS ON HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR PLANTS
MY FICUS BENJAMINA LOOKS ASLEEP
QUESTION FROM GIANLUCA
I discovered you by surfing the net with the hope of finding a solution for my Ficus Benjamina, of which I am attaching photos. The plant was given to me 2 years ago by a dear friend who could no longer keep it at home and is placed in my office, a bright room with no direct light. In the room there are also other plants, a specimen of Limonera and another ficus, which are in excellent health. This one, on the other hand, seems to be "sleeping" since it arrived, has new shoots and branches in the upper part and some even begin below. About 8 months ago the plant was filled, in the lower part on one side that can be seen well in the photo, with a white snow, which I was told was the cochineal. I have performed a treatment with pesticides, and it seems there is no longer the problem.
The plant continues to completely yellow some leaves as in the other photo, which is hard to detach.
The fertilizer is of the stick type to be inserted into the earth every 2/3 months. I was thinking of repotting it on a pot diameter 45 (currently 35) so as not to have to repot it anymore.
Do I need to prune dry branches?
Is it better that you cut the tips above so that it thickens at the base? I wish it would grow in height a little more. What advice can you give me to improve the health of the plant?
When it arrived, however, it was not very thick and developed in height, let's say thin ...
THANKS and a cordial greeting.
you're right, your ficus plant is really thin when it should be thriving and prosperous.
Assuming that there are no parasites (have you checked the axilla of the leaves on the bottom page that there are no mealybugs? Look at the photos of the answer to Letizia and check) the cause of the poor growth of yourFicus it is due to an unsuitable cultivation technique.
You tell me it was given to you two years ago ... but when did the old owner repot it?
In any case, I recommend that you proceed in this way Ficus (even if this is not the best period as these operations must be done at the vegetative restart of the plant, in spring) with a good peaty soil, adding at least one part out of four of leaf soil. Throw away that plastic pot and buy a slightly larger terracotta one (45cm is fine). Repot by removing a little of the old earth (be careful not to uncover the roots) leaving its bread of earth, add only the new soil.
I will never tire of repeating it: DO NOT USE PLASTIC POTS. The earth must breathe and plastic certainly does not favor this basic activity.
Do not cut anything, leave the branches dry, you will do it in early spring, this in order not to cause excessive stress to the plant.
At this point you just need to improve your cultivation technique.
In fact, I believe that your ficus lacks nourishment, in fact the yellowing is often caused by a lack of nutrients such as nitrogen or potassium if the other cultivation conditions are optimal (light, temperature and humidity).
I'll explain something to you. The plants have an extraordinary mechanism with which, in order to survive adverse conditions, they decide to "sacrifice" parts of it (in this case the leaves) to ensure the others survive. It is a law of nature, which plants obey. In this case, leaves (usually the older ones) are sacrificed in order for the rest of the plant to survive.
Personally I do not like those sticks that are on the market (I am preparing an article that will explain to you well what to use so keep an eye on the site) so I suggest you administer a liquid fertilizer that you will give to the plant with the irrigation water.
There are many types on the market but it is a good idea to read the back label that specifies the composition.
For all green plants, that is to say for those plants that develop many leaves, it is preferable to use fertilizers that have a fairly high nitrogen content (N) which favors the development of the green parts. However, make sure that in addition to having the so-called macroelements such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) - and that among these nitrogen is in greater quantity - it also has microelements such as iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), boron (B), molybdenum (Mo), all important for a correct and balanced growth of the plant. Make a first fertilization at the second watering from repotting and then once a month for the autumn / reverse period. In spring, fertilize once every 15 days.
As for the other cultivation techniques, read the technical sheet of the ficus and follow the advice given.
At this point have patience, the Ficus it is a strong plant and although we mistreat it it is very tenacious, you will see that it will recover. It will all depend on the love and care you get by first studying its needs and then doing your best for its prosperous growth.
Keep me informed.
Dr. M. G. Davoli
P.S. I'll tell you an anecdote. In the "sacred" texts of Botany there is an entry called "acclimatization" which describes how to prepare plants for the difficult living conditions of an apartment ... I always smile when I read it ...
Thank you very much.