A Question For The GroupMind

Along the back wall of our yard we planted a row of trees in order to give us some privacy from the neighbors, and vice versa. I think they’re some sort of ficus tree, but I’m obviously no expert on plants.

Nor am I an expert (or even very good) at keeping plants alive – I have a powerful “black thumb” when it comes to the care and feeding of foliage. But despite that, these trees had thrived and were bushy and full, to the point where high on my yardwork to-do list was to tie up some of the branches for support because they were bowing down into the yard instead of growing upward. Just before we went to Indiana at the beginning of this month that was starting to be an issue.

Then we got back from Indiana.

File Sep 14, 20 37 46 small

About half of the leaves were gone, all on the ground, with whole branch systems on all of the trees being stripped. It was extremely noticeable, as in the first time I glanced out in the backyard after we got home there was a “WTF!!” moment. Now, a week later, probably 90% of the leaves are gone.

Does anyone have any experience with this sort of thing? Does anyone know what might be going on? Are these plants goners all of a sudden, or is there something I should be doing?

When they were first planted, probably ten years ago or more, there was a hard freeze one winter night. All of the leaves turned black and fell off over the next couple of weeks and I figured they were dead. But they all came back strong and have grown like crazy since then.

Nothing changed in their watering or other environment, other than a real hot spell that hit while we were in Indiana, temps above 100°F for several days. But that’s not so unusual around here, it happens a couple of times a year and it’s never been a problem before.

I don’t see how it could be something in the soil or water, since all of the other plants and trees in the area are still doing fine. In addition, there are three more of these same trees over on the other side of the yard (planted at the same time, also thriving) which are showing the same symptoms, although not quite as severely. The other trees have probably lost a third of their leaves so far, but they’re going down the same path as these.

The information I’ve found online talks mainly about indoor ficus trees, and says this sort of thing happens with under watering, over watering, or changes in the interior environment. I don’t see anything about the outdoor use of these trees, or if they’re a separate breed of plant.

My one thought was that it could be a disease or insects, but I don’t see any sign of that. Plus, again, none of the other plants (of other species) nearby show any problems. The leaves aren’t shriveled or changing color, they’re just falling off while looking perfectly healthy.

I thought it might be critters (raccoons, deer, short giraffes) but none of the leaves appear to be eaten.

So, I’m stumped. Maybe it’s just “a thing” and they’ll all grow back and be healthy if I just leave them alone. Maybe I need to find a saw and cut them down now to avoid the rush later. Maybe they’ve been poisoned by something in the soil or water that only affects them.

Any suggestions or wisdom to share?


Filed under Castle Willett, Paul

3 responses to “A Question For The GroupMind

  1. Jemima Pett

    Well, I’m no expert on ficus trees in California. I do have a ficus in my house, which is on the cool side of ideal, but it seems happy enough, although drops leaves occasionally especially when over-watered, like now. Under-watered too, for that matter. It may need feeding/repotting/ a warmer house 😉

    I suspect it may be the age of the bushes plus the watering stress. They’ll either recover or they won’t. I’m not sure what the expected age of the ficus trees might be, but we often expect plants to last longer than they would in the wild.

    I’d give them a chance to recover. You could trim half of them (alternate bushes) to half their height or to the healthiest shoots, to see if that helps them recover. If it doesn’t, you’ve only hacked half of them.

    Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Are the trees on the other side of the yard on the same fence line? If I were guessing, and if those other trees are on the same fence line or on the same neighbor’s side or a street side (where they might be sprayed by workers), I’d say they were sprayed with poison. This isn’t a cure all way to figure out, but if you scrape the bark and it’s green and wet looking, the leaves are probably dropping because of environmental reasons like climate or over-watering/lack of humidity/over-dry environment. If it’s dry and yellowish it’s because the tree is unhealthy likely due to poison/insecticide or parasites.

    Liked by 1 person

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