Meg’s Guide to Gardening: How to Water a Ficus

We recently turned our spare bedroom into an office, and a friend of mine got me a ficus to celebrate my new work space. And, nice gesture though it may be, this ficus is the most temperamental plant ever. A few days after its arrival, it dropped its leaves. Then it just started to look vaguely sick and unhappy. So I turned to the internet for help. According to information provided by The University of Vermont and the University of Florida, I was over-watering my poor plants. Here’s the right way to water a ficus if you’re not sure how.

Let the Soil Dry Out
Ficus plants like fairly dry soil conditions. If you keep the soil too moist, your ficus may drop its leaves or begin to grow mold or develop other problems that thrive in moist conditions. Until you get to know just how long it takes for your ficus to use up the water in its pot, ditch the watering schedule. Instead feel around in the soil and it will tell you when it’s ready for water.

Test the Moisture Level
Once every day or so, stick a wooden dowel into the soil and to the bottom of the pot. Leave it to sit for one minute, then take it out. Look at the moisture on the stick. When the top third of the stick remains relatively dry, it is time to water the ficus.

Ficus plants like their soil dry until they need a drink. When you water, spread the water all over the soil’s surface. Water slowly. If water puddles on the soil, wait for it to absorb and then start watering again. Avoid getting the trunk wet as best as you can. Keep watering until water drips out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the ficus’ pot. This will make sure water gets to the very bottom roots. Twenty minutes after you water, soak up the water in the planting tray beneath the pot with a sponge or towel.

Once you have a good idea of how much water your ficus needs you can stop relying on the dowel test. But check again periodically to make sure your watering schedule is suitable. Your ficus will need more water in the summer when it’s hot outside. If you notice the time between drinks getting shorter and shorter, it might be time to move the ficus to a bigger pot.

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