My weeping fig is diseased. Its leaves are turning yellow and falling off. They will drop off if touched. There is a white, waxy substance at the base of each leaf. What should I do?
Weeping Fig, or Ficus benjamina, are notoriously sensitive house plants. Any changes in light, temperature or moisture conditions can cause their leaves to become yellow (chlorotic) and for their leaves to drop (abscission). They also loose their leaves seasonally, at the onset of winter due to diminishing light conditions. They don’t like drafts, hot or cold , so should be placed in an area of bright, indirect light, away from heating vents and air conditioners. They live in moist tropical jungles as understorey trees, so don’t like direct sunlight, but love occasional misting to mimic a humid environment. If your leaves are dusty, gently polish with a clean cloth after misting. This allows the plant to breathe through its leaves.
Over watering is the most likely cause of your problem. Ficus like to dry out slightly in between watering. They need a well drained soil and should be watered with tepid water, preferably distilled or water that has sat overnight in a bucket to allow the chemicals to dissipate. (They are sensitive to chlorine, fluoride and salt)
From spring until fall fertilize with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half. Cut back watering in the winter and don’t fertilize until spring. If you place your plant in a favorable position and only water when necessary it should sprout new leaves and regain its vigour.
Regarding the waxy, white substance at the leaf bases: This is not a disease. Ficus benjamina have small glands at the base of the leaf blade and small amounts of rubbery white fluid can chrystallize here. They are in the rubber family. This substance is poisonous and can cause dermatitis and eye irritation, although symptoms are usually minor and go away within a few minutes.