Finicky Ficus?

Find out why your ficus may be losing its leaves.

Q: My ficus drops its leaves all the time. What's wrong with it?

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A: Ficus benjamina, or weeping fig, is notorious for dropping its leaves, and it's typically easy to grow--until you move it. Ficus prefers to stay put. In fact, the seemingly simple and harmless act of moving it from one corner of the room to the next, or even a few feet for that matter, may cause it to lose its leaves.

So give the plant a permanent spot in your home, ideally one that receives moderate to bright light. Water only when the soil begins to dry out. Mist often, every day if possible. Wipe the dust from the leaves once a month with a damp rag.

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Like so many other tropical plants, ficus, like this variegated selection, prefers to be potbound, so repot it only when its roots occupy over three-fourths of the pot space. Repot only in spring, stepping up to a container no more than two inches in diameter larger than the previous pot.

Overwatering and drafts from heating and cooling vents and poorly insulated windows and doors may result in leaf drop. And actually, a natural gas leak can also be the cause. Ficus benjamina is like a canary in a coal mine, so if it sheds its leaves and you smell gas, call the gas company.

Those issues aside however, the ficus makes a fine houseplant and enjoys spending time outdoors from late spring to early fall. The bad news is that it tends to lose its leaves, but the good news is that they tend to quickly grow back.

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