Q: Every time I grow ficus trees in pots, they eventually start dropping leaves and die. What I can do to save them? — Thelma Wilder, Wellton, AZ
A: Changes in light and temperature can cause ficus to drop their leaves. When this happens, people often worry and water more, essentially drowning the plants. It’s normal for them to lose some leaves (about 20 percent) at the start of fall and produce new leaves in the spring and summer.
Overfertilizing can also cause leaves to drop. An east-facing window is best; filtered light from a south- or west-facing window is also good. Don’t expose plants to drafts from air vents or doors.
Finally, check for insects, especially on the underside of leaves. If you see webbing, you probably have spider mites. If this is the case, take the plant outside (or into the bathtub) and spray both sides of each leaf with water. You may have to do this a few times to completely get rid of the spider mites. — Meleah Maynard, garden writer and master gardener