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need help with rescued ficus

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by bjorn S on November 22, 2004 06:50 PM

We recently rescued a fairly large ficus that had been put out on the street. Most of the leaves had fallen and it doesn't seem too healthy in general. Here is a picture of it's condition:  - . There seems to be some minor infection that looks like Mealy Bugs (white fuzzy balls) so we have been spraying with a mixture of a tiny amount of rubbing alcohol with water as suggested by some web sites. Also, we had been watering with plant food, but have since stopped as I read something about not fertilizing sick trees. Unfortunately, the leaves continue to drop and the health does not seem to be improving.

The pot is about 14" in diameter and roughly 16" deep. The roots seem very dense and have filled-up the pot (if one were to lift the tree by the trunk, the entire pot of soil would come up in one large clump with the roots).

The tree has plenty of light and is directly underneath a large sky-light.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to bring this plant back to life? Should we change the soil? give it a bigger pot?

any help is greatly appreciated.

all the best,
by attennis on November 23, 2004 11:50 PM
I'd leave everything how it is until you can handle the Mealy Bug infestation. Also, in the picture, it seems that you have other plants near your ficus. I'd keep your plant in solitary confinement to keep your other plants Mealy Bug free until you know the situation is under control.
by bjorn S on November 24, 2004 03:40 AM

thanks for your reply. The mealy bug infestation seems very minor. There are only a very few small fuzzy patches to be found and we are working to kill those off. However, I don't know very much about mealy bugs... do they get into the soil? Someone had recommended putting a very small amount of alcohol into the bucket with water before watering the plant.
Is this standard practice?

Also is it possible that the mealy bug is the primary cause of illness with this tree?

thanks again,
by Jiffymouse on November 26, 2004 01:26 AM
i don't know a lot about mealy bugs, but know that they can be eradicated. but i will tell you about your ficus... trim any of the dead limbs back, it will thank you for it and look better too! to tell if the limb is dead, inspect the end closely to check for new growth, then snip a little way down and check under the bark for green and/or sap. work your way back to the joint of the limb at the trunk of the tree, taking care to shape the tree as you go!
by Nako on November 26, 2004 10:00 PM
Here's a lil more information for understanding the picky ficus ^.^

Ficus have this thing with their leaves. The leaves that are on there right now are used to a certain strength of light, brightness, water, temperature and a buncha other stuff. As soon as something changes in the environment, it'll drop those leaves, and grow new ones that are used to the current atmosphere of the room.

I'd definately prune that thing too o.O Don't repot it until you see new growth and other signs of it being more healthy too. *thinks* That's about it for what i know ^.^ Good luck!!


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by Newt on November 27, 2004 01:52 AM
I am not in agreement with the majority here. If the tree is rootbound and needs to be able to take up more water and nutrients, then repot it as soon as you can. Try and tease out the outer roots so they can spread into the new soil. Use a pot that is 2" larger then the one you now have.

I would wait to prune until I knew which limbs were dead. If you are an experienced plant person, then go ahead and start looking for live branches.

As already stated, ficus drop their leaves when they are moved, repotted, watering schedule is changed, when they get a draft, when they are sick and generally when they feel like it. They also slow down in the fall and drop leaves then too. So I would wait to prune. You can do that later. I would treat the mealy bugs as you have, repot, water (NO fertilizer now) and give it time to recover.

You might find this helpful.

Good luck,

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When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

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