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Why is my weeping fig dropping leaves?
Leaf drop is one of the most common problems associated with the weeping fig, Ficus benjamina, one of our favorite indoor, foliage plants. Loss of leaves often comes with sudden, significant changes in temperature and/or light. Cold drafts will also frequently cause this undesirable effect as will under watering or over watering.
Sudden changes in temperature can usually be avoided, or their effect minimized, by remembering to return your weeping fig to its indoor site before the outdoor, September nighttime temperatures fall below 55 degrees F. Conversely, your plant should not be moved outside until the springtime night temperatures consistently hold above 55 degrees. When the weeping fig is indoors, air conditioning and heating systems should operate on uniform, seasonal schedules. For example, one should expect some leaf drop when building air conditioners are shut down over weekends during the hot parts of the summer or the temperature is throttled back for conservation purposes during winter months.
Abrupt changes in the light environment, especially bright to relatively dim, will often trigger significant leaf drop. Such effects can be moderated by gradually moving the weeping fig to a new site in stages. This will give the plant time to adjust, (acclimate), to new conditions resulting from the move. For example, it is very helpful, when returning a weeping fig to its indoor quarters for the winter, to place it on a shaded porch for a week or two before completing the transfer. Such acclimatization will usually minimize leaf drop so long as other requirements for water and temperature are met.
Lastly, the weeping fig is susceptible to upsets due to allowing the root ball to become too wet, (over watering), or too dry, (under watering). To avoid leaf drop associated with either of these conditions, develop your own program for watering this plant rather than merely saying, "since it's Saturday, the fig needs water." The weeping fig should be watered generously, so that a small excess of water drains from the pot. This excess should be discarded. The plant should not be watered again until the top 2 or 3 inches of the soil ball feels dry to the touch. Then the process should be repeated. Be sure to make suitable arrangements for watering during extended vacation periods. To maintain a healthy plant, provide it with some houseplant fertilizer twice a month while in active growth. Daily misting of the foliage is recommended during the dry winter months.
Two major pests of the weeping fig are scale insects and spider mites. Growers should monitor plants on a regular basis to keep such pests in check.