Tips on Saving a Wilting Ornamental Ficus Tree (and other Office Plants)

img 0195 225x300 Tips on Saving a Wilting Ornamental Ficus Tree (and other Office Plants)

I was recently delivered a spindly, wilting office Ficus Tree from a sheepish co-worker, who was hoping for a miracle. The tree was dropping all of its leaves, and the only ones remaining were pale yellow-green, and browning on the tips. I agreed to take the tree for a time to see what I could do for it, and took it outside to check it over.

Here are basic tips for diagnosing office plants:

  1. Check the plant’s root system for symptoms of being “pot bound.” This is a big problem for office plants who may begin to “blend in with the wallpaper” after a year or two, and who don’t get the basic care that garden plants do. Make sure a plant isn’t strangling itself with its own root system.
  2. Look for bug activity in the soil and under the leaves. See if anything is sucking the life out of the tree, or the leaves causing the yellowing and browning.
  3. Ask if the plant has been fertilized within the past 6 months. Over-fertilizing, and under-fertilizing can both be a problem.
  4. Note whether the plant looks like it has been trimmed, or pruned to encourage new growth.
  5. Ask if the plant is near a regular light source of any kind.

The first week I observed the plant, it dropped almost every leaf that it had, and was dubbed “The Charlie Brown Christmas Ficus” in our office. In the case of this Ornamental Ficus Tree, the first problem was that the plant had never been pruned (since purchase), and had sent out too many branches that had not been trimmed back. As a result the tree had “diversified its assets” in a way that the small container of soil couldn’t help it maintain. After pruning all the dead, wilting, and dwindling growth, I left a few main stems that showed strong signs of life, and tackled the second problem by fertilizing the anemic plant with a product containing “minors.” Very light leaf color, followed by major leaf loss on what used to be a healthy plant, are often connected with malnutrition in a plant. The plant has been going strong now for about three weeks, with a healthy amount of leaf growth, and dark green foliage (a good sign of health!), and will be delivered back to it’s office sometime next week – unless I fake its death, and keep it for myself!

Tip: The best fertilizer for any plant is one that contains trace amounts of the “minor metals” that may have been used up in the soil by plants over time. The quickest way to recover “exhausted” soil is by applying this type of fertilizer. Look for the phrase “With Minors” on the front label of any fertilizer.

Don’t forget to take care of your office plants with once or twice a year fertilization. And for the green-thumbs out there, keeping a tiny bag of fertilizer in a common area drawer is a great idea! One way to meet new people, or network around the office, is to help people with their plants!

Your thoughts: What success stories have you had nursing wilting plants back to life? Do you have any favorite indoor/office plants?