Problem with indoor ficus

I have an indoor ficus that seems to be dying or starting the process of "swirling down the drain." I've had this plant for three years now and although they don't do very well in the winter, this winter all the leaves have drooped, something I've never seen out of these plants. I put 2 pics up at:
http://www.brandylion.com/images/ficus/index.html
It's in an 18" pot, the same pot for 3 years so I'm not sure if it's root bound or needs to be upgraded to a 20" pot. The soil is moist so I'm afraid of juicing it with some Miracle Grow. When I juiced my Rosemary with Miracle Grow it only made things worse. I did have this plant in a rather cold area of the house. This winter I closed that area off even more to save heat so it might have gotten in the 40s or 50s up there for a few cold days. I have since moved it downstairs and in a sunny room hoping that it will survive.
Can anyone think of what else I can do? Trim it perhaps? I really don't want to lose this plant. The leaves look a lot more healthy in the pictures. They feel very thin and papery to the touch.
BTW: I'm in Zone 5 Chicago to give an idea of the light cycles going on here.
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They don't call Ficus benjamina the "weeping fig" for nothing, Babe!!!

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Mark Anderson wrote:

The cold prolly caused the leaf drop unless it was over watered. Fertilizer is the last thing it needs. I believe they are native in India that should give you a clue as to what they need as far as sun and temperature.
--

Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8b
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Travis wrote:

All that, and they get a little cranky when they're moved around too.
Jean Zone 5 OH Go Tribe!
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On Wed, 16 Feb 2005 23:27:03 GMT, "Travis"

It would be a great clue if you were growing it in India. But growing it as a houseplant, India may as well be on the other side of the world. ;-)
The plant has survived three years under the present care so I would suspect critters of some sort has attacked the plant. Check for stickiness on the floor or on the dropped leaves. Are there little bumps on the leaves and stems that look like WWII battle helments? Or little white oval shaped things about the size of a tobacco ash? Or white things that look like tiny bits of cotton? Does any critters that act like gnats fly up when you water?
zhan
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I've grown many F. Benjamen over the years and have not had this problem, not even a little leaf drop which rather surprised me. However, I summer my trees out doors in a bright area on my patio, but without direct sun. They winter indoors in the basement light garden,
My basement stays rather cool (60*f.) during the winter, I do cut way back on watering, allowing the soil to become dry to the touch between water applications.
Your tree's problem is in having kept it too cool. They do not do well in temperatures below 55 degrees, remember this IS a tropical plant.
You've already moved it to a warmer location and this will help, if it isn't too late. DO NOT WATER the plant until it shows new growth, unless the potting mix becomes completely dried out. Keeping it too wet in it's current state would be a death sentence for sure. And definitely DO NOT fertilize it. In fact, NEVER fertilize an ailing plant. Period.
I am currently down to two "Weeping Figs" that were potted together in a 14 inch pot several years ago. They have doubled in size in the last four years, and that would be more if I didn't keep them pruned. The last two of my bigger trees had to be given away because they just got too tall for the space I had for them during the winter months and pruning them down to size would have ruined them.
I have grown several different tropical trees for years by being able to put them out doors during the growing months (June to September in my zone), I have one Tropical Hibiscus that is 20 years old and still going strong. It was started from a semi-hardwood cutting and stands 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide and I maintain this size through careful pruning every Spring.
All of my "house trees" get the same winter treatment in that they all must go into the basement light garden and grown cool (but not cold) and somewhat dry.
I would not re-pot the ailing ficus at this time. If it recovers, I strongly suggest you do some judicious pruning to get it back into a pleasing shape. Many of the smaller twigs will die back and there could be some die back on the larger branches; once the tree is well on it's way to recovery (usually within a couple of weeks) you can start removing the dead areas. When the tree have fully recovered you can re-pot it to the next larger size pot. Although what you will probably find is that the plant suffered serious root loss from being kept too cold. In this case I suggest doing some careful root pruning and returning the plant to the same size pot.
Hemmaholic
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In article snipped-for-privacy@cfl.rr.com says...

I didn't see any critters or any kind of disease. This was in a rather cool/cold area where bugs typically don't survive. The plant survived in this area last winter but I did let that area get heat. I think I really need to start a log book and keep track of what I do from year to year.
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Mark,
Move the plant to a warm sunny location. If you are in Chicago, I doubt you could find too much sun anywhere in your house this time of year, btw.
Perhaps the leaf-droop was due to too much or too little watering, doesn't matter now. But, you need to not keep watering it like you usually do if the soil is moist and is staying moist. Don't water it "on a schedule." Check it every day and wait for the top of the soil to dry out. In fact, if it is really wet and has been really wet for a few days, take it out of the pot and let the rootball air-dry for a few hours. If you have it sitting in a drip catching pan, make sure it does not sit in any water. In the summer, I let mine sit in the water on purpose, but not if you are trying to dry it out...raise it up with a grate or brick or something..
And definately look for bugs like the other poster suggested. I got a weird little black bug this year that makes the leaves fold up in half lengthwise. Talk about ugly!
hth, John in Houston, where my Ficus are on the back porch and have braved 31F this winter and 100F last summer (in afternoon shade of course...but full morning sun) with no leaf drop

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In article snipped-for-privacy@logontexas.com says...

Thanks for the tips. A few weeks ago I saw the droopy leaves and instead of analyzing the situation, I panicked and watered it thinking it was wilting from lack of water. I hadn't been up there to visit in a couple of weeks so I assumed the plants needed water. I did find out though, that the other plants were still moist even after a couple of weeks of not watering. So the cold really makes these plants use less water than during warmer periods.
As for repotting, my repotting station is outside and all the soil is frozen. :-) I am letting the plant dry out now in a warm sunny (relatively speaking) area.
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