Dying Ficus?

Asked December 25, 2016, 2:15 PM EST

We acquired a large (8 ft tall) ficus over 10 years ago and have been through annual cycles when it drops a lot of leaves and we sit it outside in large bucket of water for 2-3 days to soak the roots. That has always brought it back to robust health. This time 90% of the leaves are dry, shriveled and falling off, even though we did the annual soak this summer, and the soil in the pot seems damp to the touch. There is one small branch at the very base that seems perfectly healthy. We have seen a few earwigs in the soil (and have quite a few outside the house. We moved here in March 2015. Can the earwigs be the problem? Is there anything we can do? Thanks so much

Clark County Washington

1 Response

Thanks for your question. I'm amazed it has lived 10 years! In general, putting a plant in water for an extended period of time eliminates air in the soil (which is needed by the plants) and encourages a perfect environment for microbes (especially fungi, which eventually can cause root rot.)

Insofar as the watering techniques is concerned, here's a link to a short article that discusses care of your ficus benjamina. As the article explains, insect infestations (including earwigs) are symptomatic of a lack of plant health (insects go after the most vulnerable plants.) Before you conclude that that is the insect eating (primarily dead) plant tissue, you might want to read this Pennsylvania State article about them, to make sure they're properly identified. I would be rather surprised that this is actually the insect inhabiting your plant's soil, but without a photo, I can only speculate.

Hope this is helpful. Good luck!