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Posted:  20 Jan 2012 23:39  
I have a 12' ficus at one of my clients that   started losing alot of its leaves about 2mos. ago. The top growth is doing fine, it's near a skylight however the bottom leaves are all falling out. There is a light source on the bottom which illuminates most of the bottom. I've been taking care of it for about a year now, and never had any problems with it. I thought possibly it had been exposed to chemical fumes, but the maintenance people deny this. Anyhow, does anyone know why this is happening and what can be done to correct the problem. The dying leaves are not bright yellow but more greenish yellow. Any thoughts would be apprecitated. Thanks
Posted:  21 Jan 2012 00:03  
It's quite possible that the top growth that is doing so well in the skylight is shading out the lower branches and leaves and starving them for light.  Unless your supplemental light source is (1) fluorescent or high-pressure grow lighting and (2) close enough to the foliage to provide it with the intensity of light it needs to thrive, it's a waste of electricity. 

Tell us what sort of lighting this is, what wattage the bulbs are, and how far from the foliage they are. 

Also, your pruning practices may be at fault.  If you are pruning the top in such a way as to keep it from growing up into the skylight, you are probably encouraging a lot of wild new growth up there that is shading the lower portions of the tree.  I had a tree at a client's house that sounded just like yours, and it did just what yours is doing.  They thought putting a couple of 75-watt incandescent fixtures on the floor ten feet below the lower branches would help.  It may have helped the power company's bottom line, but it did nothing for that tree.

Posted:  21 Jan 2012 00:49   Last Edited By: nicki43 
Thanks for your response Clem. I have not pruned it in about a year. It hasn't needed it. Should I suggest placing some grown lights in there?
Posted:  21 Jan 2012 02:47   Last Edited By: Clem 
Without seeing the tree in place, it's hard to say whether that would be necessary or even desirable.  If the tree is getting the majority of its light from the skylight and not from windows surrounding it, installing grow lights might help, but only if done properly.  High-pressure sodium or metal halide lamps are great for plant growth, but they are somewhat expensive fixtures and lamps and use quite a lot of electricity.  They also generate considerable heat, and must be placed carefully in order to vent that heat and prevent it from damaging the plant's foliage.  Fluorescent lamps are cooler and safer, but they don't generate enough light intensity if located further than 18" or so from the tree, and the fixtures as well as their light can be unsightly in a residential setting.

Give us a bit more info on the location and conditions where the tree is growing and we can comment further.

Also, maybe the tree "hasn't needed it" in terms of pruning to control the size of the tree, but it might benefit from having its canopy opened up to permit light to penetrate further down into the tree so the lower and inner growth can receive sufficient light to support healthy foliage down there.

Posted:  25 Jan 2012 22:44  
Thanks for the info. Clem.

The plant is located in an atrium. Nothing out of the ordinary. As i mentioned, there is a skylight where the plant growth is great, however the bottom leaves are deteriorating. What amount of wattage would you suggest, to enhance the bottom growth if this is the problem?Thanks for all your help!
Posted:  26 Jan 2012 02:21  
A 1000 watt metal halide fixture would probably be sufficient, but if the light is obstructed by the plant's foliage, parts of the tree will not receive the benefit of the increased light intensity.

Open up the canopy of the tree by doing some structural pruning to allow more light to penetrate the canopy from the skylight.  If that doesn't help by mid-summer, you may need to consider adding light fixtures strategically placed to illuminate the rest of the canopy.

Wish I had better news, but without seeing photos of the situation, that's about the best advice I can give you.

Posted:  31 Jan 2012 02:23  
Looks like this?


They put some spotlights shining on them which will increase the over all light in the area but I doubt they will do this for the duration of the plants.

And what with all this energy saving stuff going around why not use a plant better suited for the lighting? Instead of trying to keep a plant unsuited for the location on life support.
Posted:  31 Jan 2012 16:18  
Ouch.  I'll bet Mother Nature never intended a Ficus to look like that.


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