Why do Leaves suddenly fall off indoor Plants?

Why do leaves suddenly fall off indoor plants? Weeping Fig

It happened almost overnight. The tree was had been growing beautifully for three years since I planted it in a new favourite ceramic floor pot. But recently the growth had slowed down. A few perfectly green leaves had fallen off, which was odd. I gave the tree a good shake. Then, almost every single leaf dropped to the floor. In “Why do leaves suddenly fall off” we try to explain some of the reasons why your indoor plant sometimes seems to die…and what happened to this tree eventually.

After two good shakes, the tree held on to just a handful of leaves. Some of the tiny naked branches did look rather dry, I thought. But still, how strange to think the leaves weren’t really attached at all. The tree literally went from that to this (below) in seconds….

Before and after…

Not being an expert, I thought one of the reasons the leaves decided to drop to the floor might be the change of soil. A week or so earlier, I’d changed the soil because the tree was not growing as it had in the past. It had doubled in height since I bought it, but now it looked green, yet dormant.

So I lay the plant on the floor on top of a dust sheet to avoid soil all over the room. Slowly I dug out the tree with its roots and the soil attached.

With a gloved hand I pulled the tree and soil from the glazed floor pot

The soil was dry and the roots twisted in a tight ball. The roots had also more than doubled in size and length since I bought the plant. With gloved hands I pulled the tree and soil out of the pot and picked off the soil from the long roots.

I poured from a new bag of fresh, all purposed and nourished soil into the pot, blending in the roots. Once filled and the tree was firmly back in place I gave it a bit of water and waited…

The tree just stood there: why do leaves suddenly fall off?

Nothing happened. The tree just stood there, stark naked, for a couple of weeks, doing nothing. So I added some “all purposed, continuous release plant food” to kick start it back into life. The tiny balls of plant food are easily mistaken for candy – white and peach coloured – which are supposed to be “fast acting and long lasting”.

Still nothing happened and I thought it was only a question of time before I’d have to replace it. But what a cop-out that would be….fast plants like fast fashion. A plant is a living creature and should last more than a short season. So why do leaves suddenly fall off but two leaves hang on for dear life? Perhaps the tree wasn’t completely dead. So I added a bit of water and cut off some of the tiny branches which looked dead. A few weeks earlier they had been covered in green leaves.

Still, nothing happening, even though it said on the plant food bottle that we’d see results within a few days. But then one day the tips of some of the tiny branches appeared to look a little greener than they used to. Perhaps there was hope…

“It’s probably just in shock!” the assistant gardener said.

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed I haven’t yet mentioned what tree it is… That’s because, as a starter amateur indoor gardener, I had no idea until this afternoon. I decided to pop up to the famous Chelsea farmers’ market just off the Kings Road with a picture and talk to one of the assistants. Why do leaves suddenly fall off this tree, I asked showing her a picture on my phone.

Indeed, they did. “It’s a Weeping Fig,” said the friendly assistant at the Chelsea Gardener. “It’s probably just in shock! Did you re-pot it?” Well, yes. I told her the entire story about re-soiling and potting and shaking it. Hmmm…

She said I should water and give it plant feed, which I have, and that I should leave it because it would probably bounce back, which it also has…

Having plants is almost like having pets. They need water, light and attention

On top of that, at the Chelsea Gardener I spotted on their rack of house plant seeds the exact picture of my tree, so snapped up two sachets. On the back it says: “Weeping Figs dislike being moved and tend to shed their leaves if repositioned.”

Leaves are growing back…slowly

Well, if only I’d made a note of the name of the plant when I bought it I could have saved myself a lot of worry. Having plants is almost like having pets…. They have their little quirks, reacting to light and water and needing attention. So letting them die and chucking them out seems such a betrayal. Read also our post on how to arrange indoor plants stylishly here.

Like they say about animals, plants are not just for Christmas. They are living creatures who need feeding. And even if they don’t have a heartbeat, what is the point of having a plant if only to neglect it and replacing it with another?

How long before my Weeping Fig is back to normal?

So now that I have two sachets I’ll try and sow and grow my own Weeping Fig from scratch. The seeds are tiny and I’m not sure I have quite the right soil. There are so many different soils on the market it’s hard to tell. But let’s see. Fingers crossed, we’ll get there.

Just two days after spotting a bit of green at the end of the naked branches, it is now clear my Weeping Fig is really making a comeback. Buds are taking shape and one has even turned into a perfect new pastel green baby leaf. Phew! But I wonder how long it will take before I’ve got my tree back to looking its former self.

Check out the Chelsea Gardener here.

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