This Is Why Your Ficus Audrey Lost All Its Leaves

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Ficus Audrey are notorious for being even more finicky than fiddle leaf fig trees. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise, since they’re related to one another, though Fiddle leaf figs come from Africa whereas Ficus Audrey are native to India and Pakistan.

They both have the same go-to move when they’re feeling a touch under the weather. Where most plants may droop or little, or curl their leaves, Ficus Audrey and Ficus Lyrata LOVE to shed their leaves. Will it be one leaf? Will it be all of them? As far as I’m aware, it’s luck of the draw.

In my experience, Ficus audrey is actually a little bit more dramatic than Fiddle leaf fig, which was why I found their sudden surge of popularity in 2020 a bit weird. Did we not have enough drama in that year??

So first off, don’t worry, you’re not alone. But also, if you selected Ficus Audrey with no prior knowledge of house plants…you’ve picked a doozy. Though if you can keep Ficus Audrey happy, you’ve definitely got the gift.

There are a TONNE of reasons that your Ficus Audrey has dropped it’s leaves, and like all plant advice, a lot of it is annoyingly contrary. Overwatered? Leaf drop. Underwatered Leaf drop. It’s so frustrating it’s meme-able, but it’s also, unfortunately…very true.

Let’s crack on.

It’s overwatered

Overwatering is pretty typical in Ficuss audrey because they’re often purchased by people with no prior knowledge of house plants.

They’re incredibly popular as home decor pieces because they’re big and structural whilst also having quite a light and airy vibe due to the leaf structure (also the light filtered to Ficus audrey leaves is *chef’s kiss*.

There are actually a few different ways you can overwater house plants, but they all result in the same thing – a lack of oxygen to the roots. Plants with soil roots (as opposed to roots grown in water, which are structurally different) can’t absorb oxygen from water, so if the soil is wet, the roots can suffocate. Lack of oxygen in the soil creates an environment in which bad bacteria (that cause root rot) can thrive.

As the roots rot away, the plant won’t be able to support as many leaves, so it’ll begin to drop them, usually starting will the oldest/lowest ones first, because the newer ones get more light.

Too much water

Self explanatory I suppose.

Too much water means watering too frequently. When it is time to water, make sure the soil is thoroughly wet – any excess will drain away through the drainage holes (which you must have!) so don’t worry about giving it too much at once.

Once you’ve watered, wait until it’s dry again. I use a moisture meter to determine this. With Ficus, I tend to water when the meter reads 2.

How often you end up watering varies a lot. The soil will dry out much more quickly in summer than in winter, because in summer not only does the plant use more water (because it’s growing) but water evaporates from the soil faster.

In summer, you may be watering weekly, in winter, it might be monthly.

Too dense potting mix

The denser the potting mix, the longer it’ll stay wet for. I use a coir/leca/perlite/bark mix for my rubber plants which tye seem to like. I have a baby Ficus Audrey in ABG mix and I really don’t think she’s a fan.

They like to be watered quite frequently, so we want a mix that doesn’t retain too much water.

Too big of a pot

Too big of a pot means more soil. More soil means that more water is retained and therefore takes longer to dry out.

It’s underwatered

Underwatering is as much of an issue as overwatering because people are so worried about over watering that they underwater. Underwatering is preferable to overwatering (it’ll be slower to kill your plant) but it will hinder growth a lot and repeated underwatering will lead to leaf loss.

Like overwatering there are several things that can lead to underwatering, not just not giving it enough water.

Not watering often enough

Fairly self-explanatory. Working out whether you’re over or underwatering is something that you get better at with practice.

In the beginning, I highly recommend checking your plant’s soil every day or every couple of days. I find this especially important for Ficus because they don’t drink evenly – the soil might be wet one day and bone dry the next. After a while, you’ll be able to better tell when it’s time to water.

Try to avoid looking at the plant for signs that it needs watering. By the time it starts the show the issue it may be too late (though plants can recover even if they drop all their leaves). Always go by the soil.

Compacted soil

Compacted soil can become hydrophobic over time. Water always finds the path of least resistance, so if the soil is super compacted, the water will just run between the pot and the soil.

You can churn it up with a chop stick and see if that revives it, but it might be due a repot and some fresh soil.

Soil not water retentive enough

Sometimes soil doesn’t hold enough water – especially if you use succulent mix or add sand toy your potting mix. If this is the case, add some more coir or perlite to your potting mix

It’s not getting enough light

Ficus like a LOT of light, and not giving them enough is probably one of the leading causes of leaf loss. I keep all of my Ficus in south-facing windows (though here in the UK that isn’t as bright as it would be in, say, Arizona.

Ficus audrey are quite susceptible to shock, and one of the times they’re likely to go into shock is when you first bring them into your home. Set them up for success by giving the brightest light you can. They may burn and drop leaves, especially if you don’t acclimate them, but they’ll come back stronger.

If you live somewhere super sunny, try an east-facing window, or a few feet away from a south-facing one.

It has pests

Keep a close eye out for thrips, mealy bugs and spider mites. Prevention is better than cure, so make sure that you clean the leaves regularly.

It’s getting sunburnt

I know, I know, I told you to put it in good light.

BUT plants do get sunburnt. Plants produce SPF-type hormones as and when they’re required, so if you increase the light dramatically it won’t have time to produce more. That’s why we acclimate, i.e. increasing the amount of light gradually over a couple of weeks so the plant has chance to catch up.

It’s cold

Ficus Audrey don’t like the cold and they don’t like draughts. Try to keep them away from doors that are regularly opened ALTHOUGH they’re fine next to doors/windows that are only opened when it’s warm.

For example, mine is near the patio doors in our living room which are open a lot in summer and it’s fine. We literally never open them in winter, but if we did, I’d move it.

Final thoughts

I know that Ficus Audrey looks really good, but is it worth it? I’m currently trying to nurture a baby one and I’m down to one leaf because it’s struggling to get it’s roots established. Luckily they’ve gone down in a price a LOT so you don’t need a buy a bambino like i did unless you have masochistic tendencies.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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