Why do Ficus lose leaves?

Almost everyone that has ever purchased a Ficus tree (benjamina that is) has had to drag out the rake, broom or whatever to clean up the leaves that have dropped.

Generally, when you ask an interior plant professional “Why do Ficus lose leaves?” you’ll usually receive a short but simple answer – “It’s acclimating”. This is true, but a more complete answer will help you understand what is happening.

Acclimating in the world of plants is normally pigeon holed as a matter of going from high light to lower light or vice-versa. With Ficus as you learned yesterday comes from an area which experiences seasonal changes.

It sheds its leaves and reduces the amount of foliage to survive because it will not have enough water to support them during the dry season. When the rains return, new growth comes out and the canopy returns.

Ficus Benjamina AcclimatedLeaf drop is the survival mechanism for Ficus benjamina. They are truly a creature of habit. Ficus just don’t like changes.

Here’s the Technical Stuff…

“What really happens is that ficus’ generate internal ethylene when exposed to moisture stress. The plants think the dry season is coming, and leaves are shed. Exposure to ethylene causes leaf loss, as does low-level exposure to mercury from paints. Moisture-stressed ficus’ tend to drop yellow leaves, whereas green leaves are shed when exposed to ethylene, low-light stress, or mercury.”

-Tropical Growers Guide

Once you have decided where you are going to place your Ficus (the more light the better), give it the same lighting, same amount of water and stay on the same schedule.

Consistency – is the best key to keeping leaves on the tree and your plant looking good.


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