Issue: September 20, 2003

Weeping fig loosing leaves


My weeping fig loses its leaves even though I have sprayed for insects and it gets sufficient sunshine. It also loses small new leaves. Any suggestions as to what could be wrong? This tree is 20 yrs. Old. I have had it all that time, and I hate to loose it. J. Bayless via internet


You say you sprayed for insects. Have you seen any insects on the weeping fig? Look carefully for scale insects that appear as brown bumps on the stem and underside of leaves. They may also create some sticky "honeydew" secretion that gives away their presence. These are difficult to control with insecticides. Control of scale insects on ficus was discussed in the September 6, 2003 issue of Yard and Garden (

Another possible cause of the problems you have described is salt accumulation in the pot in which the weeping fig is growing. How long has it been since you repotted it? As you water and fertilize, minerals (salts) contained in the water accumulate in the soil in the pot until they begin to damage the plant. Watering so that the soil is well moistened, then water drains from the pot and never reabsorbs into the pot, minimizes but doesn't prevent the problem. After salts have accumulated, roots begin to be damaged and salt damage symptoms develop in the foliage. Dying of young leaves could be evidence of this problem. Carefully remove the tree from its pot and look at the roots. If there are many healthy white roots, salt damage is unlikely. If only brown or black roots are seen on the edge of the rootball, then salt could be the problem. If repotting is indicated, carefully wash much of the old soil from the roots and repot with fresh potting soil. Don't over water after repotting, but also don't let the soil become completely dry. Don't begin fertilizing until after the plant has had time to develop new roots in the fresh soil.

Ponytail palm leaves turning yellow and brown


Why are the tips of the leaves of my ponytail plant turning yellow and brown? Sandra J. via internet


Even though the ponytail palm is native to the desert in Northern Mexico, it can show symptoms of excess salt accumulation in the potting soil. The symptoms suggest that it needs repotting. Use a well-drained potting soil, such as that sold for cacti.

When you water, allow water to moisten the soil. After the soil is moist, give additional water to carry dissolved minerals from the soil as it drains. Do not let that drain water be reabsorbed into the pot. This will slow the accumulation of mineral salts in the soil and delay the next repotting.

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Send your gardening questions to Yard and Garden, ATTN: Dr. Curtis Smith NMSU Cooperative Extension Service 9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112 Albuquerque, NM 87112

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.

Please join us on Southwest Yard & Garden, a weekly garden program made for gardeners in the Southwest on: KNME-TV Albuquerque at 9:30 p.m. Saturdays, KENW-TV Portales at 10 a.m. Saturdays, and KRWG-TV Las Cruces at 11:30 a.m. Saturdays (repeated at 1 p.m. Thursdays.)