Episode 11: What's Wrong With My Ficus?


About This Episode

In this episode of Ask Grumpy, Steve Bender, also known as the Grumpy Gardener, helps areader handle an aging ficus tree, and reasons he thinks SunPatiens should shine in every garden.

Question: I have a 43-year-old ficus tree that I infested with scale by bringing home dicey plants from a home center. I sprayed with insecticidal soap and treated it once with a systemic insecticide. But the floors stay sticky with dripping sap. Can I cure this old girl? She is older than my son.

Grumpy Gardener Answer: When you bring home a houseplant from the garden center, the first thing you need to do before you bring it indoors where you have other houseplants is spray that thing down with your horticultural oil or insecticidal soap, because it may have insects on it, or it may have insect's eggs on it, which will hatch. And when they do, they've got a perfect place with all your other plants there to spread to. So you've got to make sure you're not bringing home any hitchhikers. Now, when it comes to the fig tree, I think you're doing the right thing. I don't know what the conditions are but I will let you know that one application is not going to do the job. When you're using a spray, let's say insecticidal soap, you have to let every single plant surface. That means the tops of leaves, the bottoms of leaves, the stem, the trunk, because there could be babies that you can't see. So you're going to have to do it more than once. I would probably do it every couple of weeks. The sap that's dripping all over the floor is because these are aphids, which are sucking insects, and what they do is they suck the sap, and then they release this sticky honey dew. And it falls on the floor, and then it's all sticky and yucky.

Plant Of The Week

Grumpy Loves SunPatiens

It's one of my favorite flowers to plant around my house. If you all remember the old-fashioned impatiens that became so popular because they were one of the few things that you could plant in the shade and would bloom continuously from spring to fall. But if you put them in the sun, they burn to a crisp. Well, now they've done improvements on these plants, so they call them the SunPatiens because you can put them in full sun. Get it? SunPatiens. What do I love about these plants? Like their predecessors, they bloom continuously, from spring to fall. They have very pretty flowers, and they're larger than the original impatiens. I'd say the flowers are probably almost as big as a silver dollar. They come in many colors, they bloom continuously, they like moist soil, but it's not hard to keep them alive. Just when you start to see them wilt, give them a drink of water, and they're good. And then maybe give them some liquid fertilizer every three weeks or something like that. That keeps 'em going. They're very compact plants. You don't have to be trimming 'em all the time. And they're also really, really great in containers.

About Ask Grumpy

Introducing Ask Grumpy, a new podcast featuring Steve Bender, also known as Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardener. For more than 20 years, Grumpy has been sharing advice on what to grow, when to plant, and how to manage just about anything in your garden. Tune in for short episodes every Wednesday and Saturday as Grumpy answers reader questions, solves seasonal conundrums, and provides need-to-know advice for gardeners with his very Grumpy sense of humor. Be sure to follow Ask Grumpy on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen so you don't miss an episode.

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript does not go through our standard editorial process and may contain inaccuracies and grammatical errors.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles