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Repotted Ficus Benjamina into gritty mix - leaves yellow and dropping!

thepleiades (Z8b-9A: San Antonio, TX)
7 years ago
last modified: 7 years ago

Hi all,

I recently undertook the project of making the gritty mix using Turface, Reptibark, and Poultry Grit. Screened it under the 1/16 screen to keep only Turface and grit bigger than that, and screened Reptibark through a 1/4 screen to keep only pieces smaller than 1/4 in. I repotted my cacti and a pothos into the mix and they've done really well!

However, I got a potted ficus benjamina from my in-laws a few weeks ago. It was in their backyard and the mix it was in wasn't even potting mix anymore - it was more like pure MUD! Yet somehow it was completely green and healthy looking. I drove it from Houston to San Antonio in my car, put it out on my shaded but west-facing balcony, and let it get accustomed to its new home for a week and a half before undertaking repotting. I'll summarize my repotting process below, but my questions are:

Is it normal for this many leaves to be yellowing and dropping after a repot? It has been 6 days since repotting. I know the tree really needs to be pruned, especially since I took off so many roots during the repot. However, I read here on the forums that you should wait to prune branches until a couple of weeks after repotting to facilitate the plant's recovery, as the leaves receiving more light would allow more energy to be produced. I've also read that it's normal for leaves to die after cutting off so many roots, and that the energy is being focused on growing new roots in the pot. But I just wanted to post here and make sure that the tree isn't doing anything abnormal.

Also, since it has been almost a week since I repotted it (at which time I gave it a good amount of water that quickly drained out), when can I start watering it? The soil feels completely dry only 6 days after the repot. I live in hot, sunny San Antonio so outdoor plants dry out quickly.


Unfortunately, I didn't take any pics of the repotting process, but this is basically how I did it:

- It was in a 9 inch wide, 9 inch tall plastic pot (you can see it in the background of the first pic) and the roots were growing out of the bottom holes. I repotted it into a 13 inch wide, 13.5 inch tall terra cotta pot.

- After pulling the roots/compacted soil out of the pot, I soaked it in a bucket multiple times and tried to get the mud off of all of the roots.

- I used a large serrated knife to saw off the bottom third of the soil/root mass.

- I finally uncovered the root ball and used a pruner to prune off many of the roots. Used the tips and pics Tapla has posted about bare rooting and pruning to guide myself during the process. I kept the roots very wet throughout the process as it did it all in my sink.

- Then I filled the pot almost halfway with the gritty mix, placed the roots on it, and covered the roots with the rest of the grit. I used a chopstick to get the mix into any air pockets.

- I waited until the next morning to water the tree thoroughly until water drained out a lot. I'm not sure if doing that was a good idea or not.

I'd appreciate any help!

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