Variegated Ficus Benjamina Leaf Color Change

SerSwanky

Yamadori
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I bought this f.benj back in January of this year. I read that it needs bright, indirect sunlight. However where it sits it gets two or three morning hours of direct sun before getting its indirect sunlight for the rest of the day.

When I first purchased it, it’s leaves were a stark white around the edges with the rest of the leaf a dark green.

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In the last few months, the white part of about a quarter of the leaves turned a light green/yellow color while the rest remain white. And the original dark green isn’t as dark as it was

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On about twelve leaves, little brown spots have appeared. Some of them look like tiny burn marks like a miniature cigarette or the tips of the leaves have it.

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Is it just too much direct sunlight or is it nutrient deficiency? Or is that normal for a variegated plant?
 

Colorado

Omono
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Don’t think it is too much sun. I have a different, but similar, cultivar of f. Benjamina. I give it full sun in the summer, outdoors, at 5000+ elevation. These can take a lot of sun. 3 hours of sun filtered through a window shouldn’t be too much, even for variegated. I was actually going to suggest it may be too little light for this plant to thrive.

More likely a root related issue.
 

MHBonsai

Shohin
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Can we see the soil condition? Did it come from inside a greenhouse before you bought it? Watering plan?
 

SerSwanky

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I bought it from an indoor plant shop, the “walls” were all glass so it had some access to indirect light at best. They admitted on the downlow that they basically just buy soil in bulk from Lowes across the street when I asked what I should pot it in (prior to researching soil mixtures used for bonsai).
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I had repotted it in outdoor soil mix from beginning of February until the end of March. I did not touch the foliage but I did trim the outside roots, nothing drastic.

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I repotted it again in the end of March when I learned about correct soil as well as cutting out two feeder roots but this time into lava / calcined clay / fir bark / pumice mix.

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Watering schedule was simpler when it was soil, I could tell when it was drying easier. I was watering it every 2-4 days, depending. I watered it when it was on the verge of going dry (moisture meter).

With the inorganic mix it’s a lot harder to tell. I’ve been watering it until water runs out the bottom every 1-3 days. It’s in a trainer pot so it’s got two 1 inch diameter holes at the base. I have also been adding 1-1-1 organic fertilizer every couple of days (instructions says every other watering).

I was also misting the leaves in the morning and evening. It was supposed filtered water but maybe the water wasn’t as filtered as I assumed and it had some minerals or something? I did that for about a month and recently stopped when I read that it doesn't actually do that much. I switched to a humidity tray instead.
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SerSwanky

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Looking through old photos from when I first got the plant, I noticed some of the leaves already had a slight browning to it. So it’s possible it was already like that and has just gotten worst

photo taken 1/12/22

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taken 2/12/22

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Taken 3/23/22
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SerSwanky

Yamadori
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Lastly, I’ve seen only two very small leaves near the trunk line shrivel and die. But that may be because I moved it from my apartment when I put it in new soil on 3/23/22 and carried it outside in the freezing weather to my car to take it to my office. I know cold breezes from doors opening and closing can cause leaves to fall off
 

MHBonsai

Shohin
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Great info, thanks for telling the whole story. It sounds like what you are seeing is regular distress from a lot of work. You've done a lot of moving the tree around, repotting, etc and these take time to recover. Ficus are programmed to lose their leaves completely in heavy tropical storms, and grow a brand new batch almost seasonally. And old leaves are discarded once they have 'worn out'. I wouldn't stress at all what you are seeing here.

That being said, if you want it to thrive, get it outside this summer. Once lows are above 50f, give it full sun. They need tons of light. Water daily and never let it get dry in that soil you have. Fertilize as you prefer. I'm not picky and neither are ficus on fertilizer.

Your tree just needs time to recover and rebound from the work you've done. Eventually it will get equalized to it's new environment and start pushing new growth. That's what you need to be on the look for. Don't overwork it and it'll be fine.
 

MHBonsai

Shohin
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Screenshot 2022-04-13 152638.png

These are what you need to watch. Petioles are what they are called. Benjamias only grow new leaves readily from these. Keep an eye on them, they should be bright green. If you get it right, they'll explode with new leaves once the tree has settled.
 

SerSwanky

Yamadori
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Great info, thanks for telling the whole story. It sounds like what you are seeing is regular distress from a lot of work. You've done a lot of moving the tree around, repotting, etc and these take time to recover. Ficus are programmed to lose their leaves completely in heavy tropical storms, and grow a brand new batch almost seasonally. And old leaves are discarded once they have 'worn out'. I wouldn't stress at all what you are seeing here.

That being said, if you want it to thrive, get it outside this summer. Once lows are above 50f, give it full sun. They need tons of light. Water daily and never let it get dry in that soil you have. Fertilize as you prefer. I'm not picky and neither are ficus on fertilizer.

Your tree just needs time to recover and rebound from the work you've done. Eventually it will get equalized to it's new environment and start pushing new growth. That's what you need to be on the look for. Don't overwork it and it'll be fine.

Okay, that would make sense. January feels a long time ago but looking at a calendar three months is a pretty short window to repot it twice I realize. I'll take it home later in May when it warms up here to put in full sun and see how it goes!
 

SerSwanky

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View attachment 430104

These are what you need to watch. Petioles are what they are called. Benjamias only grow new leaves readily from these. Keep an eye on them, they should be bright green. If you get it right, they'll explode with new leaves once the tree has settled.
Prior to posting, I had read online it might be a disease so I panicked and cut off the 6-12 leaves that were "damaged" (leaving the petioles, thanks for giving them a name I can reference now). So now it's really going to need to recover.
 

SerSwanky

Yamadori
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Great info, thanks for telling the whole story. It sounds like what you are seeing is regular distress from a lot of work. You've done a lot of moving the tree around, repotting, etc and these take time to recover. Ficus are programmed to lose their leaves completely in heavy tropical storms, and grow a brand new batch almost seasonally. And old leaves are discarded once they have 'worn out'. I wouldn't stress at all what you are seeing here.

That being said, if you want it to thrive, get it outside this summer. Once lows are above 50f, give it full sun. They need tons of light. Water daily and never let it get dry in that soil you have. Fertilize as you prefer. I'm not picky and neither are ficus on fertilizer.

Your tree just needs time to recover and rebound from the work you've done. Eventually it will get equalized to it's new environment and start pushing new growth. That's what you need to be on the look for. Don't overwork it and it'll be fine.
Would I need to acclimate it before putting it outside? Leave it outside for a few hours a day until finally leaving it outdoors full time when its 50+ at the lowest?
 

MHBonsai

Shohin
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Would I need to acclimate it before putting it outside? Leave it outside for a few hours a day until finally leaving it outdoors full time when its 50+ at the lowest?

Not exactly. I transfer right outside full time. I think one move like that is better. But I'd transition a week in shade, then a week with half day sun, and then good to go.
 

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