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indierock82
12-03-2006, 11:49 AM
I bought a fikus a few months ago, the reasoning being it would liven up my room. Great - it did just that. But now it's dying.
I water it quite often and the soil is moist but the leaves are falling off at an alarming rate. The problem? Lack of sunlight. Since it's december and me living in sthlm means that we don't get that much sun light. If I'm lucky I can expose the plant to about 15 minutes of sunlight every other day (I tend to forget). If it continues at this rate, all of the leaves will have fallen off within a few months.
My question is whether the plant will actually live through the winter if I keep on watering it and exposing it to a little sunlight every other day? Can the plant perform photosynthesis without the leaves? If it can't then I might as well through the damn plant away. :smack:

Q.E.D.
12-03-2006, 11:58 AM
You might actually be overwatering it. Ficus don't generally like direct sunlight, and they don't like too much water; about once every two weeks is sufficient for most plants. When you do water, you want to thoroughly saturate the soil, so that water begins to drain from the bottom.

Don't fight the hypothetical
12-03-2006, 12:01 PM
It is quite common for them to drop leaves as you indicate when moved to a new location. It doesn't mean it's dying. And as Q.E.D. pointed out, don't overwater.

The Scrivener
12-03-2006, 01:17 PM
My casual understanding of this is that the vast majority of ficus trees and such sold as "indoor plants" were actually grown in vast outdoor nurseries and greenhouses with little or no shade -- and the chances are very good that yours may have come from Florida, where there's some large commercial growers of ficuses. Any ficus which grew up (fast, cheap, and out of control) under such conditions will go into shock after being brought indoors. If it's healthy enough, it will do its best to adapt to its new conditions and sprout a new, smaller set of noticably thinner leaves -- which will probably also fall off, eventually, if it doesn't start getting a lot more light. It doesn't have to be sunlight, either, but it needs a fair amount of strong light.

As for the previous comment that ficuses don't like direct sun, well, you could've fooled me. Ficuses thrive like weeds in Miami (where I grew up), where they get plenty of direct sun and lots of rain. But the soil there is very sandy, so these outdoor ficuses have excellent drainage along with all that moisture. Make sure your ficus isn't sitting in stagnant water and has good drainage, and aim a halogen spotlight at it, and it might pull through.

Q.E.D.
12-03-2006, 01:24 PM
Yeah, I probably should have said they don't need direct sunlight.

indierock82
12-03-2006, 02:38 PM
Yeah, when I water it I make sure that the soil gets saturated, and not just the top layer of the soil... And I'm certain that it isn't sitting in stagnant water either.
Your theories about it being in "shock" from the environmental change sounds plausible. I'll have to keep at it to see if it's true. It just seems strange that when I bought it from Ikea it was the definition of a healthy/thriving plant, and now, well it's a skeleton of what it used to be.

tygerbryght
12-03-2006, 04:44 PM
Yeah, when I water it I make sure that the soil gets saturated, and not just the top layer of the soil... And I'm certain that it isn't sitting in stagnant water either.
Your theories about it being in "shock" from the environmental change sounds plausible. I'll have to keep at it to see if it's true. It just seems strange that when I bought it from Ikea it was the definition of a healthy/thriving plant, and now, well it's a skeleton of what it used to be.
Twenty years ago, I was living in a basement apartment down in the heart of Detroit. I had been living in a house just before that, and wanted some live stuff besides me & my dog. The building was ancient, with thick walls, which gave me deep window wells. I put the plants there, but my windows were on a narrow courtyard that got no direct sunlight. I got a friend's husband to mount some fluorescent fixtures over the windows, and grew some of the happiest plants in town, including some that were supposed to be hard to grow.

Those were the days before halogen lights, or at best, they were new and (very) expensive. Fluorescents are still cheaper, but The Scrivener gave you some great advice. You can get a halogen spot pretty cheaply, I think, if you shop around. Mount it on the wall, or on the ceiling, whichever is easier, and just leave it on. Your ficus will love it. And, as others have said, be sure you aren't overwatering.

If you can't mount anything in your place, then get a floor lamp and put a fluorescent bulb in it. Fluorescent bulbs are pretty cheap now, and you won't even notice the difference in your electric bill from having that on 24 hours a day. With the halogen, you may want a timer. Someone else might comment on the economics of it; I don't know that much about halogen lights.

indierock82
12-03-2006, 05:13 PM
This will have Al Gore shitting bricks, but I live in a dorm and don't pay for electricity, so leaving on a halogen lamp won't be a problem :)
I'll have to look into those options. Thanks for the info, guys!

levdrakon
12-03-2006, 05:37 PM
Are we talking Ficus benjamina (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficus_benjamina)? Is it variegated? That is, does it have white or cream color to its leaves or are the leaves (what's left of them) solid green?

The standard form is a bit hardier but if it's variegated it's liable to be even more tempermental.

At any rate it sounds like you're over watering. The poor thing is trying to go dormant.

How warm is it in your room? If the temp is cool, you may hardly need to water it at all until spring.

You really need to get it more light though. What does "15 minutes of sunlight" mean? 15 minutes of direct sunlight but eight hours of indirect sunlight, or 23 hours and 45 minutes of total curtains-closed darkness with 15 minutes of the curtains pulled back?

jayjay
12-03-2006, 05:56 PM
What levdrakon asked. Is it benjamina or elastica or some other species? Benjamina are notorious for dropping leaves if you so much as look at them cross-eyed, so don't feel TOO bad about this. I'd try to let the soil dry out (at least on top) before I water again, though.

Chefguy
12-03-2006, 06:07 PM
My casual understanding of this is that the vast majority of ficus trees and such sold as "indoor plants" were actually grown in vast outdoor nurseries and greenhouses with little or no shade -- and the chances are very good that yours may have come from Florida, where there's some large commercial growers of ficuses. Any ficus which grew up (fast, cheap, and out of control) under such conditions will go into shock after being brought indoors. If it's healthy enough, it will do its best to adapt to its new conditions and sprout a new, smaller set of noticably thinner leaves -- which will probably also fall off, eventually, if it doesn't start getting a lot more light. It doesn't have to be sunlight, either, but it needs a fair amount of strong light.

As for the previous comment that ficuses don't like direct sun, well, you could've fooled me. Ficuses thrive like weeds in Miami (where I grew up), where they get plenty of direct sun and lots of rain. But the soil there is very sandy, so these outdoor ficuses have excellent drainage along with all that moisture. Make sure your ficus isn't sitting in stagnant water and has good drainage, and aim a halogen spotlight at it, and it might pull through.

Right on the money. The same ficus that swoons when you look at it indoors will eat your lunch in its natural habitat. First thing I noticed when we moved into our houses in Bamako, Mali and Kampala, Uganda were the eight-foot high ficus trees in the yard and the gigantic philodendrens (along with a wild profusion of others). These are generally tropical plants that struggle to survive in artificial conditions.

Jackmannii
12-03-2006, 10:47 PM
Ficus benjamina does not need direct sun to be happy; bright indirect light is fine for an indoor specimen. I have one I bought cheaply in the discount rack at Lowe's a couple years ago, and it's about four feet high and doing well under my office's four-tube fluorescent fixture.

Plants that look great in the store (especially a furniture store or some other place that's not dedicated to plants) may have been abused during shipping, badly treated in storage before going out on the shelves, or though poor care by non-plant people in the store. It may have just been going into decline when you bought it.

Check that it's not sitting in a saucer of water, let the soil surface dry out, and make sure that it's not soggy a few inches down in the pot before you water again. Then only water when the surface has gotten dry again. Other reasons for sogginess include pots without drainage holes, or heavy soil mix that holds water too long. Other causes for Ficus dropping leaves include cold drafts and letting the plant dry out excessively.

Also, resist the temptation to fertilize it now. It's a waste and potentially harmful to fertilize a plant that's not in active growth.

indierock82
12-04-2006, 12:26 AM
The leaves on my plant look like the ones on the wikipedia page of the fikus benjamina. But it must be added that it's a relatively small sized fikus. About 18 inches high. I forgot to write this earlier (d'oh...) but it's not just leaves dropping off, it's leaves drying out on the branches and then dropping off as well. That would be consistent with too little water right? But then again there are leaves that are green that have also fallen off. I'm scared to move it to get a closer look as any movement of the pot results in a fair portion of the remaining leaves to fall off...

tygerbryght
12-04-2006, 01:34 AM
ISTM that the main thing right now is for indierock82 to get some light on that sucker; the plant has about decided that it's in a cave, or the sun has gone out, and <sob> what's the use of living?

And (s)he's already decided to take care of that, based on earlier recommendations. If by some chance there has been too much water, getting photosynthesis going again full tilt will help with that; the plant will be taking more in and sending it back out via the leaves.

indierock82, you said it's in a dorm room? What kind of heating is there in your building? Unless the building has steam heat, it's hard to imagine the indoor air not being desert-dry in the wintertime. There usually aren't humidifiers on building HVACs of that kind (which is stupid; it helps reduce sinus infections, etc., among students living there, if the air's not dry).

Colophon
12-04-2006, 05:21 AM
I'll add to the chorus of people saying STOP WATERING! My parents have a benjamina that has thrived from being a sumpy little stick with hardly any leaves left (my mum inherited it from a neighbour who thought it was dead) to a bushy 5ft tree with glossy leaves. It's in a drak corner of a room that gets very little light, and it's fine.

Her prescribed watering regime? "A pint of water whenever I remember". It's in a bigger pot than yours, I imagine, so I'd amend that to "a cup of water whenever you remember" - maybe every couple of weeks, tops. Let the soil get totally dry and shrink away from the edge of the pot before you even think about watering it again.

indierock82
12-04-2006, 09:34 AM
[QUOTE=tygerbryght]

indierock82, you said it's in a dorm room? What kind of heating is there in your building? Unless the building has steam heat, it's hard to imagine the indoor air not being desert-dry in the wintertime. There usually aren't humidifiers on building HVACs of that kind (which is stupid; it helps reduce sinus infections, etc., among students living there, if the air's not dry).QUOTE]

No steam heat here. We have radiators under the windows and even when on full blast they hardly heat up the rooms. That's alright for me though since I hardly ever feel cold, but this brings up the well-being of the plant. Do temperature differences make a HUGE difference? Obviously freezing and boiling temperatures are out of the question, but for reference sake let's say it varies between 19C-24C, depending on a host of factors.

List of things I'm gonna try and do to try and resurrect this sob-plant:
1) Stop the regular watering
2) More light (natural or artificial)
3) start singing to it...

anything else?

tygerbryght
12-07-2006, 03:42 PM
indierock82, you said it's in a dorm room? What kind of heating is there in your building? Unless the building has steam heat, it's hard to imagine the indoor air not being desert-dry in the wintertime. There usually aren't humidifiers on building HVACs of that kind (which is stupid; it helps reduce sinus infections, etc., among students living there, if the air's not dry).

No steam heat here. We have radiators under the windows and even when on full blast they hardly heat up the rooms. That's alright for me though since I hardly ever feel cold, but this brings up the well-being of the plant. Do temperature differences make a HUGE difference? Obviously freezing and boiling temperatures are out of the question, but for reference sake let's say it varies between 19C-24C, depending on a host of factors.

List of things I'm gonna try and do to try and resurrect this sob-plant:
1) Stop the regular watering
2) More light (natural or artificial)
3) start singing to it...

anything else?
Hmmmmm. Can you borrow a thermometer (one that will register ambient temps; medical is useless for this) somewhere, and find out the temperature in the room? I suppose that could also be a factor, if the plant thinks it's wintertime, and is trying to go dormant. Remember, this is a tropical plant. How is it doing now?

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