Garden Care

Outdoor Ficus Tree Problems And Their Treatments

Ficus trees have long been a decorative indoor plant in many households. But what if you grow them outside? There are some outdoor ficus tree problems to be aware of.

We, who have many years of experience in the field of ficus tree care outdoors, hope our presence today might help someone who is struggling to solve those diseases in their gardens.

If you’re in the same boat with them, don’t hesitate to accompany us.

What Are Outdoor Ficus Tree Problems? Ficus Tree Diseases Treatment 

outdoor ficus tree problems

When grown outdoors, it’s easy for  your ficus trees to experience leaf drop, anthracnose, fungi leaf spot, botrytis blight, oozing sap, foliar nematode, cold injury, branch dieback, and crown gall.

Below are the details of these ficus tree diseases and some tips to treat them.

Leaf Drop

This belongs to one of the common issues gardeners planting ficus trees face. The problem is normally triggered by some temperature variations.

If your ficus tree is moved from the indoors to a patio, or vice versa, it isn’t hard for you to notice its leaf drop.

This also happens in the autumn or in cooler regions when I start heating my house leading to sudden temperature changes.

How to address it

This plant prefers a constant humidity and temperature level. If there is some change, even around 5°C to 10°C (40-50°F), will push the ficus tree leaf to fall.

The only solution to save the tree from this problem when this occurs is to keep a stable temperature for it and water it frequently, as well as fertilize it monthly.

If you finish all these steps, your tree will recover quickly.

Anthracnose

This disease is featured by some necrotic spots/ marks on the surface of ficus tree leaves. Under wet conditions, these problematic spots get dark brown gradually, and the leaf might drop.

The disease is in favor of humid conditions when the plant’s cuttings are struck root under mist in the hot seasons.

In addition, this disease often happens after the abuse of pesticides, whose materials can trigger tissue damage.

How to address it: 

Minimize exposure to direct rainfall and overhead irrigation. Also, you should keep good sanitation.

Don’t forget to pick up and remove all diseased tree parts and offer proper water, fertilizer, and light, strengthening the tree’s ability to keep it from a fungus attack.

And you should not use chemical treatment very often.

Fungal/bacterial Leaf Spot

This disease is also called Cercospora and is characterized by some tiny black dots on the leaf’s backs of the plant. These leaves might turn yellow, then drop. 

If you are a seasoned gardener, this is no stranger as it also causes black spots on pepper leaves.

How to address it:

Let the diseased leaf fall.

Spray copper-based fungicides or sulfur every week when the initial symptoms manifest to limit its spread. These specific fungicides won’t kill leaf dots yet will ward the spores off germinating.

Keep in mind that don’t mist the leaves with water since moisture fosters the growth of the fungi.

Botrytis Blight

When this occurs, there are some signs on young stems and leaves, turning black to brown, with mycelia (brown fuzz) growing on the infected tissue.

Once the problem progresses, big parts of foliage will collapse as well as get covered with fuzz.

This disease is more likely to attack your plant during damp, cool periods of the year, especially on the plant’s cuttings.

How to address it: 

Turning the greenhouse heaters on to raise the temperature and dry the air. Get rid of infected leaves as soon as possible as spores turn airborne at ease, quickly spreading the sickness.

Oozing Sap

This disease is triggered by sucking garden pests, normally scale or/ and mealybugs.

Scales look like black or bumpy white spots on the body and stems of the plant, which are different from white spots on green bean leaves.

Mealybugs appear like mini cottony clusters.

How to address it

This issue might be solved with a specific mix of horticultural oil, 3rd Schultz’s Fungicide, or a soapy solution mix of a tbsp of soap into one liter of water.

If the sick Ficus is not treated timely, it is quite hard to develop properly, and your tree even dies.

Foliar Nematode

This problem occurs when Aphelenchoides – small parasites – creep into your Ficus leaves and steal nutrition from them.

If this disease has infected your tree, its leaves start displaying some yellow, white, and black spots, forming random patches and spreading till these leaves die.

How to address it: 

There is a truth that most trees carry Foliar nematodes right from the nursery. Therefore, don’t forget to check the plant’s leaves before buying it.

If your ficus tree is heavily affected, you must separate it from others in your garden and throw it away.

When the situation has only just started, I usually utilize hot water on the affected host material, given that the plant goes dormant.

After removing dead leaves, I soak the dormant tree in 120 -140°F water for about ten minutes. This way can kill Foliar Nematodes on your plant’s leaves.

Cold Injury 

Triggered by changing temperatures suddenly from hot to cold below 10°C (50°F), this injury results in the shock to the tree’s leaf.

Young green leaves will turn brown and distorted. Old leaves will start to show brown blotches.

How to address it:

One of the most popular and effective solutions to keep the sickness from your tree is controlling its condition.

Put your Ficus tree far from air conditioners, cold spaces, or draughts, which tend to cause sudden temperature changes. You should keep it above 10°C or 50°F.

Branch Dieback

This disease in the Ficus tree, caused by the Phomopsis fungus, belongs to one of the prevalent situations where it grows in wet or humid soil.

The leaves will start silting, turning brown, and then die off. Then their branches turn black gradually and die.

How to address it: 

To keep branch dieback away from your Ficus tree, you should not let your plant stay in bad-draining condition or overwatering it. As soon as they start to discolor, prune off branches.

By and large, proper outdoor ficus tree care, including pruning, watering, periodic fertilization, regularly checking, and controlling foliar pathogens is the best practice to prevent this.

Crown Gall

Galls might exhibit on the inner stems, the surface of stems, or even on Ficus roots, which causes swollen, large parts.

After infecting the plant in some initial weeks, this swelling becomes a spherical form and turns green or tan.

Then, the gall starts to have some weird shape and gets black or dark brown as plant cell

s die on the surface of the plant’s gall.

When the gall opens wider, it brokes the tissue (xylem) and prevents water from moving to the plant’s foliage.

How to address it

There haven’t yet found any effective bactericides against the disease. A stern sanitation practice is the best way to control the situation. Use clean stock plants to sow.

In propagation, as well as pruning, don’t forget to sterilize cutting utensils between every cut.

If you want to reuse trays and pots from contaminated Ficus plants, you need to scrub them carefully to remove all of the adhering soil.

After that, you soak them in a specific disinfectant to discard any remaining dust or bacteria. When detaching galls from trees, it would be better if you cut a few inches below the plant’s gall tissue.

Some Other Common Ficus Tree Pests

ficus tree disease pictures

Scale Insects

These insects are pretty small and drain nutrients from your plant, which is difficult to find. They are brown and might leave some sticky honeydew on the plant’s leaves.

The infection’s initial indicator is the leaf’s curling and yellowing, which rapidly dies. If the condition does not receive prompt proper treatment, it can trigger the death of this plant.

The most popular and easiest method to get rid of these insects is to carefully wash the tree under the faucet to wash down all these insects.

You should wash every leaf to remove the infestation and might redo this process several times.

Mealybugs

They are small insects that move slowly, mostly infecting young Ficus trees. Their body is long covered in wax compared to the cotton type. 

These bugs are prone to stick together into teams under the lower surface of a leaf, so it isn’t hard to find them.

To eliminate mealybug infestation, put your tree under a shower or tap water to wash these bugs off it. You should clean each leaf and repeat the process a few times.

For more severe infestations, you need to apply insecticidal soap on your tree. This step can kill these bugs without affecting or damaging the plant.

Thrips

They are small, black, with fringed wings, and difficult to eliminate. They often appear in hot seasons or warm climates. Their larvae are light yellow and prone to gather together on the underside of a leaf.

You can notice this type of infestation by checking the leaves. If you find some tear in a leaf with a certain silvery sheen, there is a chance of infestation.

Check the leaves’ underside to make sure. You can apply some narrow-range oil to lessen this infestation.

Whitefly

They are small and white in color, which drains moisture from the tree’s healthy foliage. When these ficus pests attack your plant, you can find leaves that turn wilted and yellow.

Also, a thick cloud of flies will fly out when you shake the tree.

To remove whitefly from your tree, utilize a hand-held vacuum on the infected leaves. In addition, you can spray insecticides to control the situation.

Final Thoughts

sick ficus

Outdoor ficus tree problems are inevitable since your plants are more vulnerable to temperature changes and exposed to harmful pests, bacteria, or fungi.

Each has different signs, so you should put more consideration on the tree, especially underneath the leaves to find some initial symptoms as soon as possible.

Samuel Mark

Hello I am Samuel. Samuel's Garden is a garden blog where I share my experiences in garden caring and tree growth. Hope you enjoy it!

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12 Comments

  1. Southern California had massive heavy rainstorms for weeks on end from November through February, on top of colder than normal temperatures extending into mid-June. Our outdoor mature nearly 100 foot ficus tree lost all its leaves. Only in the last few weeks are we starting to see new leaves sprouting throughout the tree. However, all the new leaf growth is very pale ivory, light yellow color. The tree was lush and green before the rains. Does it need fertilizer or some organic soil enriched with nutrients?

    1. Hi Veronica,

      Sure, balanced fertilizer or organic soil (make sure to control the soil nutrient and PH levels) can help you get rid of problems. In addition, in my experience to get the best result, you can try on other things such as well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility, add a layer of organic mulch around and a resonable watering schedule.
      Hope it helps!

      1. Hi Samuel. I have a similar problem, but the white-ish yellow leaves are pretty much at the top of the tree, while the lower portions are normal green. This aggressive ficus dominates my front yard, and it has to be trimmed heavily about every 8 months. After the weather conditions noted above (this is in Hawthorne CA), the tree came back rather slowly after a February trim and presents as I state. I would love to send you a few pictures. I have heard that overwatering can cause yellowness, as well as inadequate fertilizers. I did one round of just MiracleGrow to no effect. I NEVER have to feed this tree. It gets 10 minutes of sprinkler 3 times a week currently at midnight. We did have a lot of water this winter. Is there a way to send photos?

  2. Help !!
    Both my large Ficus Natida trees need help. Leaves are turning brown and falling off rapidly. My biggest tree is almost bare. I water regularly. They are usually full and beautiful all year. It’s hot here in Phoenix but hasn’t bothered them before.
    Janet- Phoenix AZ

  3. Hi Samuel,
    Re: Fiscus Leaf drop
    I have a big outdoor tree in my care since 05/01 in Yuma,Az with leaves turning black from tip to stem then falling. I watered once a week, now 3 times a week x30 min each. 70% Leaf loss present. Is this from underwatering or scorch? Thank you!

    1. Hi Jackie,

      As your described, my first thought is sun scorch (turning black). Because Yuma temp is a bit higher than others, so it is a possible cause. However, there are many other reasons which can lead to this phenomenon. If possible, you can send your photos of damaged leaves or areas. I want to see them.

  4. Hi Sam,

    We have [had] two most beautiful Ficus Benjamina trees about 10 years old and 6 metres high, in our backyard in Sydney, Australia. They provide us amazing privacy from neighbours and are just stunning and lush. We fertilize, trim and water them regularly.
    In April [early Autumn in Australia, temperatures between 12 and 28 degrees Celcius] the larger one started to loose leaves from the top.
    Within 2 weeks the tree lost all its leaves literally from top to bottom. Its still there as we are waiting for Spring, as we are hoping it might come back, but it does not look good.

    One other user described the same thing: the leaves started to get brown blotches and fall off, new growth started but then dried out and died.
    Some leaves, but not all, also have small white spots which would indicate Mites or any other sab loving bug but no webbing or any other signs of Mites or other pests.

    1 week ago [now winter in Australia with temperatures from 7 to 20 degrees Celsius] the other tree started in the exact same way with leaves dropping, starting from the top and lost already 50% of leaves. Prior to that the tree was very lush and healthy.
    Leaves dropping are about 50% green and brown with the brown damage starting from the middle of the leaf.
    We sprayed Neem Oil and I also purchased a Cooper Fungicide [have not used it yet].

    Please help, we would really love to save our trees!
    I have also emailed you and hope to be able to send you photos.

    Thanks so much,
    Rafaela

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