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Posted:  03 Jun 2013 17:56  
Hi everyone
Hoping this finds all well.Also hoping for some experience with ficus trees.
Large account, very large trees , Ficus Benjamina. These tree have been on this account for 15 years and the last two years tend to drop more leaves than ever. New growth. Have done soil tests and followed recommendations, added soil, summing up  done everything we know to do but they keep dropping. Has anyone any experience with how long these trees can stay on account before needing to be replaced. High light atrium, 25' tall trees.
Help would be appreciated
becky
Posted:  03 Jun 2013 23:34  
What is the nature of the planters?  Are they direct-planted in beds, and if so, what depth and are the drainage systems working?  If in individual planters sitting on the floor, what diameter/depth and what's at the bottom?  Is there a drainage layer, soil separator and sight tube through which you can monitor levels of drainage water in the bottom of the planter and, if necessary, siphon it out before you get "sour" soil (i.e., anaerobic conditions)?

Have they recently gone through an infestation of scale insects or other pests, such as mites?  Have they been treated with pesticides?  What is your fertilization schedule and what are you feeding them?  Do you prune the trees regularly, and if so, do you simply tip-prune to control height, or do you do rigorous renewal pruning regularly to open up the canopy and allow light to penetrate into the center of the foliage?

Most importantly, what are the measured light levels the trees receive, measured in footcandles with a meter?  Give an average reading for winter/summer, early/late day vs. midday.  Any skylights or transparent/translucent roof?  How close to the ceiling are the tops of the trees?

You say you added soil...how much?  Ficus can tolerate some topping with soil, but large trees in general do not appreciate any significant change in grade (that is, adding several inches of soil above their roots, which interferes with gas exchange and can damage or kill roots).  What is the condition of the existing soil in the beds or containers?  If the soil has not been significantly improved/changed in 15 years, chances are soil compaction is adversely affecting the soil aeration and that will damage the root system.

Older trees also tend not to be as vigorous and quick to recover from stress as younger ones, so yes, you are correct to imply that they may have a definite useful life span limit in an interiorscape. 

There...you have your homework assignment.  Get back to us with your info and we'll brainstorm some strategies to solve your problem.
Posted:  09 Feb 2014 22:36  
I have many large ficus trees in many malls and offices, I have found that they need transplanted every 5 yrs. or so. I pull them out of their containers and root prune about 1/3 of the roots off and slice down the root ball and replant with fresh soil putting them either back in the same container or a larger one. I find they just smile and start growing and stop loosing leaves
Posted:  11 Feb 2014 05:55  
People often neglect the fact that a large specimen plant or tree confined to a container needs renovation periodically.  It can be a big, time-consuming job, which is off-putting to companies that work on thin margins (hence the need to price realistically), but essential to the needs of a healthy plant. 

Once we had a request from one of our clients to replace two very old Ficus trees in containers and re-locate them to another lobby on a different floor.  This was in mid-November in New Jersey, and it was actually snowing on the day we did the work.  Because of the size of the trees (16 ft. plus), we had to unpot them and carry them outdoors with their rootballs wrapped in plastic tarps, around to the lower lobby of the building and back inside for repotting there.  The two new trees have done well, but the two transplants have done even better.  We potted them into CWI subirrigation containers and they immediately leafed out vigorously, even though it was approaching the shortest daylength of the year.  They are still doing well years later, but soon will need repotting and root/top pruning to revitalize them again.  It's a big job, but worth it.
Posted:  25 Feb 2014 08:44   Last Edited By: jhoncarter247 
Pull them out of their containers and root prune about 1/3 of the roots off and slice down the root ball and replant with fresh soil putting them either back in the same container or a larger one.
Landscape Gardner Coventry

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