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Ficus Leaf Drop

What to do when figs start dropping leaves

By: Sandy Feather 2007
Penn State Extension


Q. When I brought my houseplants in for the winter, my weeping fig dropped most, if not all, of its leaves. I just got it last spring, and it grew very happily on my porch. I am concerned that I left it out too long, but I brought it indoors in early September, long before we had a frost. The leaves seem to have grown back now, but I was afraid it was dying. Why did it lose so many leaves?

A. Weeping figs (Ficus benjamina) are famous for dropping leaves when moved from one location to another. They are the drama queens of the plant world in that regard. It does not have to be a drastic move, such as from outdoors to indoors. Moving a weeping fig across a room can have the same effect. 

ficus bonsai
Ficus Bonsai


Ficus and Cooler weather

It is true that tender houseplants can be damaged by cool weather in fall. Some can show signs of damage at 50 degrees. However, you moved your fig indoors early enough that temperature should not have been an issue.

 


Low light levels

Weeping figs are very sensitive to changing light levels, and respond with a dramatic loss of leaves. Plants actually produce different types of leaves depending on how much sun they receive. Sun leaves tend to be smaller and thicker, with a thicker cuticle to protect against excessive moisture loss. Shade leaves are thinner and tend to have a larger surface area to help capture as much light as possible.


Best location indoors for a Ficus

Indoors, weeping figs grow best in a very bright room. Placing them close to a south or west-facing window is ideal through the winter months in the Pittsburgh area. If you keep them indoors in the summer, be sure to filter south or west-facing sun with a sheer curtain, or the leaves may scorch. If you take them outdoors for the summer, be sure they receive morning sun and shade from the hot afternoon sun.

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