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How to Care for Outdoor Potted Ficus Trees

Potted ficus trees are usually grown as houseplants but they can be moved outdoors during the summer months. In frost free areas they can be grown in pots outdoors all year long in a protected location. Ficus trees are native to the tropics and will not survive freezing weather, Their small, many-branched canopy of leaves makes a good backdrop on a patio or terrace, as long as it is sheltered from direct sun most of the day.

Put your potted ficus tree outdoors in a sheltered location, away from strong wind that can topple it over. They prefer dappled sunlight, such as beneath a large deciduous shade tree. They can stand a little more sun during the winter months when the sun is at a lower angle in the sky.

Water more frequently and more thoroughly during the hot summer months and less frequently during slow the growth period of the winter months. Water when the top ½ inch of the soil in the pot feels dry. Do not allow the root ball to dry out completely.

Fertilize weekly during the growing season--from early spring through late fall--with water soluble houseplant food mixed at half the manufacturer's recommended strength.

Top dress the pot with new soil every two to three years. Remove soil from the pot to a depth of 6 to 8 inches, without ripping or tearing the roots. Replace with fresh indoor potting soil. This will rejuvenate the plant and postpone the need for repotting. When you do repot, move the plant into a pot that is only 1- to 2-inches in diameter larger than the one in which it is currently growing.

Prune potted ficus only as needed to remove dead or diseased branches. It can also be pruned to keep it to a specific size or shape. The best time to prune ficus is in early spring when they begin their spring growth spurt.

Check the leaf axes and small twigs often for signs of scale. They show up as white or cream colored bumps on the leaves and branches, especially young and tender growth. Scale is an insect that attaches itself to ficus trees, sucking out the sap and leaving transparent spots on the leaves. Treat by spraying the entire tree with rubbing alcohol or horticultural oil. Another option is to purchase a large quantity of lady bugs and release them in the area around your ficus tree. Lady bugs eat scale insects and can eradicate them in just a few weeks.

Tip

Ficus trees naturally drop their leaves during the dry season or when they experience a change in their growing environment. They will soon recover and begin active growth.

Live lady bugs are available to order from online and mail-order nurseries, garden supply centers and seed companies.

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