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Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Posted by erich60660 60660 (My Page) on
Thu, Jan 17, 08 at 10:50

Hi everyone! I have a 5 foot tall healthy, indoor ficus lyrata (fiddle leaf fig), single trunk with no growth until the very top. Needless to say, it is very top heavy, and the single trunk is too thin to support the top and new leaves/growth sprouting. It is starting to bend with each new growth spurt. My question is how can I prune this tree to support split branching and thicken up the trunk? If I cut the tree off at say the 3 foot mark (where no leaves are present), would the tree sprout new growth? What time of year is best to attempt pruning?

Thanks for your help!

Erich


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RE: Pruning Ficus lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 17, 08 at 17:30

Hmmm - if it's 5' tall with foliage only at the top, and the stem is unable to support the weight of the foliage, it's not healthy.

If your tree was growing in the tropics, it would exhibit several growth spurts each year. Yours has one. The typical annual growth cycle for your tree would be something like this: In spring, the tree begins to grow in earnest. It uses any stored energy it has remaining after the winters rest, and the new energy it is capturing from the increased sun exposure to grow new leaves & extend branches. This extension & increase in foliage will continue until the summer solstice. At that time, the leaf production and branch extension slows markedly and the tree begins to store energy, laying down cells in cambial tissues and generally increasing girth of stems/branches. How much the stem (trunk) increases in size/strength is governed by direct relation to how much photosynthesizing surface the tree has. So, if you prune it, the trunk will thicken more slowly - the opposite of what you need to happen. Fortunately though, there is a fix for the problem. By mid-Sep growth will have slowed to a crawl & as winter approaches it will stall so that you think it's not growing at all - but it is.

The best time to undertake radical reductions in a (tropical) plant's mass is when it's strong & about to enter the peak of the growth cycle. For you (CHI, right?), that would be in mid Jun - early Jul.

You asked if the tree would produce new growth if you just chopped it at the 3' mark. There are too many variables to give a generalized answer that covers all (F lyrata) trees. Trees growing in FL will react quite differently to that kind of treatment than trees in CHI. Timing is important, too. If you reduced the tree when energy reserves are at their lowest, it may not have enough left to push a new flush of growth, so it could die. If you did it in Aug, it almost surely would have the energy reserves, but light levels are waning quickly, so why risk it?

A plan: Move the tree outdoors as soon as night temps are consistently above 50* (after Memorial Day), and let the tree gain some strength. You can tip-prune at this time, which will force some back-budding. After the tree has gained some expendable energy, we can take a look at the branching & decide how to proceed with reducing the trunk height. The trunk may not really get any stronger, but it will seem like it when it's shorter. (A short stick seems stiffer and harder to bend than a long one of the same diameter, even though their strength is actually equal.)

What I just described is a common practice among bonsai enthusiasts, and it's how we build taper into tree trunks, giving them the illusion of great age. There are always variable considerations though, when deciding on something radical. I think the primary two, are making sure the tree has the vitality to withstand the procedure, and that the conditions of the roots and soil are conducive to a rapid recovery. If you think you can insure these conditions, your tree could be much shorter and all spiffed up by fall. ;o)

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

erich60660, I wanted a rubber plant, Ficus elastica, to branch half way up its four-foot tall single stem. I carefully nicked the bark just above two leaves, pointing in the desirable directions, at the chosen height. The two shoots sprouted as did a couple of others. I had to remove those quickly so as not to cause objectionable scarring. The selected shoots grew nicely but a few leaves in the 'zone' died. Apparently when the bark is nicked, the (lateral) bud below is fooled into thinking that the terminal bud has been removed or otherwise died and this is its own signal to develop and 'take over'. This is why hedges 'bush out' when pruned and in a converse manner, when a plant starts to sideshoot for no apparent reason, it can indicate that the terminal bud may be dying.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

i waited till early aug to do what ronalawn suggested and it worked beautifully. i made a nick above an existing dormant bud about mid-trunk and it sprouted in a week! after that i cut off the branch. also now, 3 months later i see sev buds that formed at the tip of cut branch.
on the other branch - 3 buds appeared and sprouted within 3 weeks - they all have sev leaves now. from the 4 cuttings that 1 took only 2 rooted so far: 1 in water after sev weeks, second with rooting hormone in soil (after sitting in water doing nothing for 3 weeks). i did feed the tree with superthrive and also bound the multiple trunks with plastic coated wire about a year ago to give it some shape. i noticed recently that there are more buds around 'the wire constriction' - may be it is working similar to bark nicking? but there is no trunk thickening yet. i am planning to remove the wires when the trunks merge. i had to bind them since the tree was getting top heavy and branches were going too wide. i braid/bind my other ficus benjamina too. but i never saw bound/ braided ficus lyrata, but i decided to try anyway. it seems to like being more stable too.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Tapla -
I got my Ficus Lyrata a few months back and has showed no new signs of growth until now (Mid November and snow is a fallin)
Is this just a case of "plant jet-lag" or do you think I may continue to see growth through the winter? If my fiddle leaf is growing in the winter is it still a bad idea to prune at this time? Wondering because one of the five stems is very bare compared to the rest so I wanted to prune now vs. having un-symetrical plant

Thanks

ces797


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 17, 08 at 20:36

Ficus, scheffs, china doll ..... and other trees commonly grown as houseplants don't cease growth in winter, but they do slow growth markedly. How much growth you should expect depends primarily on the amount of light and soil temperatures the tree enjoys. I couldn't offer a guess as to why the plant was sulking prior to now unless I had a little more history.

It's very difficult to offer advice w/o seeing a picture of your tree. See, it's not just a pruning issue, but an energy management issue as well. E.g.: If symmetry is your goal, it may be more appropriate to prune parts of the other 4 trees and let the slow one catch up. I would base pruning decisions on the height, diameter, and comparative volumes of foliage on each of the trees, but I can say that it is unlikely that I would do anything but some minor tip pruning at this time. Your plant needs all its photosynthesizing machinery to help it through the winter unless you're able to provide very good cultural conditions - light, temperature, and to some degree, humidity.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Ask and ye shall receive!
So here is my Fiddle Leaf
Still a small guy. While I was taking a picture I realized there are actually two stems that are more bare at the top than the other three. You can see these in the picture below ...one is right in the middle and the other is in the upper left hand side. When I brought the plant home all of the tips where new growth should emerge were rather dark and dry looking (as if nothing had emerged in quite some time) The nursery from where it came had a good greenhouse setup. I repotted the plant a few weeks after I had it only because there were roots coming up from the soil (not air roots)

Photobucket

Here is stem 1 (not distance from last leaf to top...I know new leaf is emerging at tip but it's a good 6 inches from the last leaf compared to the 1/2 inch leaf to leaf seperation on the other stems)
Photobucket

Here is stem 2

Photobucket

And while I have you (sorry to bother you but you know so much!) I am wondering about these darn centipedes I can't seem to get rid of. They obviously arrived with my plant when I purchased from the nursery. I read somewhere that they feed on the organic matter in the soil...which makes sense because most of the top layer of soil is dried compost I got from an organic store. They are usually always at the top of the soil UNTIL the soil becomes dry at which point they will craw over the pot into the bottom of the cachepot and I routinely pull the pot out of the cachepot and dump the ones that made their way there out. I have some dry systemic but I guess I'm just a bit worried to use it and harm the plant after I just got it

Photobucket


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 18, 08 at 20:37

I think I would just be patient for now. I would prune only the very tip of the longest stem right now to stop extension of just that one. Many of the leaves have oriented themselves toward the window, so you prolly haven't turned the plant in a while. I would rotate it 90* now, and again in another 2-3 weeks so the weakest branch is in the best light. This makes sense (at least for now) because the taller branches will still receive their share of light because they'll be only partially shaded by the weak branch, whereas the weak branch will be almost totally shaded as it is now situated.

Are you IDing the 2-4 ivory colored worm-like creatures as centipedes? They don't look like centipedes to me, but perhaps the flash from the camera is playing color or shadow tricks. If they ARE centipedes, they are a beneficial & nothing to worry about. They are primarily carnivores & feed mostly on the insects you SHOULD be concerned about. ;o)

There are plenty of effective insecticides that will rid the soil of them, but I'd be reluctant to use them for something unless I knew it to be causing irreparable harm/damage. The whole IPM thing ...... A sprinkling of diatomaceous earth atop the soil, and then watering carefully so as not to wet it after applying will do them in nicely.

Good luck. ;o)

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Thanks so much Tapla
Great information as usual
I actually do turn the plant regularly I just needed to get the two stems in question in the shot so that is why it is turned that way. I don't know if those worm things are centipes or not either but they do have ALOT of legs so that's why I thought that....If they are not causing harm I will leave them be as long as they don't start multiplying rapdily and decide to leave their home in the soil! ha
I think I'll just leave the two stems as is for now


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi Tapla...can I bug you again?
The two stems that were in question (pictured above) both had a new leaf coming at the tip
Both unraveled and within just a few days they turned brown and fell off. (note I did not cut them)


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

I'm excited to have found the internet's fiddle leaf fig expert! Here is my question: how do I encourage branching on a potted, indoor fiddle leaf? it's about 4 feet tall with a woody stem for the first foot and softer/green stem from there on up. it very happily keeps producing leaves -- sometimes two at a time, sometimes just one -- from the tip... i'm timid about pruning, but will try it if it'll encourage more horizontal growth. if i have to lop off a foot or two, can i turn that cutting into a new plant? Also, is it normal for the bottom-most leaves (small ones) to be yellowing and dropping off? I think it has lost one so far, but a second one is looking sort of anemic these days. thanks!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 6, 09 at 9:20

Encouraging back-budding (horizontal branching):

This is a question/answer from a recent post - it helps explain ..... "Typically when you tip prune on ficus does it usually produce one single new branch or several? How far down will the dormant buds be activated?"

It sort of depends on two things that usually, but not always, go hand in hand - the time of the year, and the tree's vitality/energy level. If you were to prune in Jul-Aug, at the peak of vitality, likely all the latent axillary buds would be activated on that branch behind the pruning cut, and in some cases, it can even stimulate additional bud activation on other branches - especially if you tip prune several branches @ once. If you prune when energy levels are low, the tree is more likely to back-bud with less proliferation. It may even send up/out only one or two weak branches/branch until cultural conditions improve, or at least until energy levels are increased.

If you have more questions about this, please ask.

Falling or shedding leaves are usually something cultural, rather than nutritional. In the end, we can trace the cause back to a decrease or stoppage of the flow of a particular growth regulator/hormone (auxin) across a special zone (abscission zone) that causes a separation of the leaf from the plant and its eventual fall. It often occurs from diminished light, especially quick changes from bright to less bright, too little water, or too much water. In short: decreased light reduces auxin flow. Auxin flow is required to keep an abscission layer from forming. No light - no auxin flow - abscission layer - leaf falls.

It also occurs from too little water. No water - no photosynthesis - no auxin flow - abscission layer - leaves fall.

In the case of too much water, the reason is a little more obscure. Too much water - roots rot or function/metabolism is compromised - not enough water to canopy - tree 'thinks' it is dying of thirst - no photosynthesis - no auxin flow - abscission layer - leaves fall.

If I had to guess, I would say it is a light issue - perhaps something as simple as the upper leaves shading out the lower leaves, or possibly turning the tree so the side that faced the brightest light is no facing the room's interior. Look at the three likely reasons above & the explanations, and you should be able to take an educated guess as to the cause. The question then turns to whether or not you can provide the cultural conditions to correct.

Take care, and thanks for the kind words.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi there,

I received a Fiddle Leaf Fig in 2005 when my Grandmother passed away. The poor thing lived through a bit of neglect and three moves, and has somehow managed to survive. I've been reading a bit over the last few months about how when the leaves turn brown it's because of too much water (which I'm guilty of), and when they're yellow and fall off its too dry.

It was in its original plastic pot until today, when we repotted it with fresh soil, drainage, etc. The roots were wound up pretty tightly, so we did our best to gently loosen and get out the old soil. It had definitely had too much water.

There are two long stalks growing in a Y-shape from the main trunk. They are probably 2-3 feet in length once they split off. One has nine nice leaves at the very end, and the other is (as of today) bare. It lost its one and only in the course of repotting.

There is, however, some encouraging new growth at the very bottom, three new stalks with probably ten leaves in total. My question is this: Can I trim those two tall skinny stalks off of the top in hopes that it will thicken up from the bottom? If so, when should I do it? I get the feeling the dormant stage is over, as these new stalks at the bottom have come up in the last few weeks (I live in Atlanta).

Thank you so much for your help!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 28, 09 at 17:12

Let me see if I have it straight. You have a plant that looks like a slingshot. The trunk is the handle. You have branching off the handle? or from the soil around the handle? Then, one side of the Y is bare, but the other is growing reasonably well. Right?

Also, what is your plan for the plant - do you want a single stemmed specimen or a multi-stemmed bush?

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi,

Yes, it looks like a slingshot, with the Y portion starting about 2.5 feet from the soil. Each side of the top is about another 2.5 long (and only one has leaves. I'm pretty certain the other is dead as it is starting to shrivel a bit).

The new growth is sprouting from down by the soil; there are three new little branches within about eight inches, each with a few leaves.

I'd love for it to be more of the bush variety, as long as it grows sort of tall. It just looks so sickly with the skinny trunk and big leaves!

Thanks!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 19, 09 at 10:38

You can prune the co-dominant leader (the dead-looking side of the 'Y') with no ill effects to the plant because it is not making any food and will be a net USER of the tree's energy until it grows mature foliage (if it's not dead). Then, prune off the growing tip and the last leaf (the leaf right behind it) from every branch except the ones emerging low on the trunk (when those get 2/3 of the height you want the planting to be, tip-prune those, too). Tip-pruning like this will temporarily eliminate the tree's tendency to grow it's branches long (apical dominance) instead of bushy, and the tree will then direct energy into extending the lower branches that have NOT been shortened. After the young branches on the tree are well-established, you can simply remove the original trunk by severing it just above the last branch you wish to keep. Got all that? ;o)

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Help! Your last pruning post about the sling-shot tree closely mirrors my situation! Except I have 5 branches off my 2.5 ft. trunk instead of 2. The problem is they are all very leggy. new growth at the ends (and they're each 1.5-2.5 ft. long) with lots of old, dry leaf "sprouts" where leaves used to be along the limbs. This was a full, mostly symmetrically pruned tree when I bought it a couple of years ago.

I made the mistake one season (1.5 yrs ago) of placing the tree too near a ceiling vent and many of the original leaves "burned" and/or got much too dry around their edges.

I've carefully pruned since then and moved the tree to a safer location, with sun but out of drafts. I just pruned the tips of all 5 branches with their last leaves, and got rid of some really unattractive dry leaves as well.

Is this good work to try to force some growth back towards the middle of the tree? Will any new growth happen along any of these five branches? How can I include photos to show you what I'm describing?
Thanks!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Apr 23, 09 at 14:09

It sounds like you did the right thing. If the soil is draining well & the tree isn't badly root-bound, it should bud-back within a few weeks. You might want to gently pinch out any new growth that occurs in axils of the existing leaves as soon as it appears - to force back-budding closer to the stem.

Pictures would help. If you can't post, just send me a note & I'll reply. That way you'll have my addy & can send photos.

Take care.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Let's go talk to Taba about how to post pictures. Click me!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

I recently received my first fig tree and I've never taken care of a tree before. There is meaning behind this tree and I would like to not kill it. How do I prune this tree? (I dont know exactly what it means to prune, but I have an idea) It has two trunks and 4 or 5 twigs growing off the base of these trunks. Each twig has a few small lightly colored leaves. Do I need to cut down the twigs for the trunks to grow strong? If so, when would be the time to do it concidering that I live in the midwest and we are approaching September? It has also lost a few leaves since I received it. I do believe this was due to over watering and not enough sun. Thanks for the help.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 12, 09 at 8:58

Lyrata likes to get very dry between waterings, very bright light, but not direct sun. When you water, soak the soil thoroughly so a good portion of the water you apply eventually exits the drain hole. If you can't water this way without risking root rot, let me know & I'll help you with other strategies. For now, you should hold off pruning until the tree is stable, which means you won't have a REAL pruning opportunity until the coming early summer. You can, however, remove the growing tip from any all branches with 3 or more leaves on them to force back-budding & to help keep your plant full & compact.

Any 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer is best, like MG 24-8-16 or 12-4-8. Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 is a VERY good choice, but you'll probably only find it at a hydroponics shop or online. HOW you should fertilize depends on your soil and your watering habits.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Thank you Al, I appreciate your quick response and helpful advice. I am unfamiliar with your fertilizer types (MG 24-8-16?) I bought Miracle Grow food drops that I just add to the water. Will this be sufficient for now? I went to Earl May but the gentleman was not much help.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Aug 13, 09 at 9:42

You can buy small packages (8 0z?) of MG 24-8-16 at most big box stores. It's inexpensive (likely to be on clearance now, too) and will be labeled "All-Purpose" fertilizer. Somewhere on the package, probably in fine print, it will say 24-8-16, so confirm that when you buy it. I don't want to confuse you, but MG also makes a liquid in 12-4-8, which is also a 3:1:2 ratio. It's just 24-8-16 (half-strength) in a water solution.

I don't want to go into a lengthy explanation about fertilizer %s here, but if you're really interested in learning more about fertilizing plants in containers, you can follow the link below.

Take care

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: More about fertilizer


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Thanks for the clarification. I'm going to be transplanting this weekend and when I took a look at the fake moss surrounding the plants base I noticed a lot of bugs that looked similar to fruit flies. Could you recommend a pesticide?


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Aug 15, 09 at 18:05

No ...... prolly fungus gnats, & all you need to be rid of them is a lighter hand on the watering can. A more porous soil that drains freely would be a help, too .... along with getting rid of the moss. Let me know if you want more info on appropriate soils.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

I was just going to use a Miracle Grow potting soil, will this be ok. I've also never anything transplanted before. Is there anything special I will need to know?


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Dry brown tips and edges

Just a questio, I received a very healthy looking Fiddlelead a couple of months ago and it had started to get some dark brown and brittle patches on some of the leaves. The soil is well drained and it is in a good area with a lot of indirect light so I am not sure what the problem is. Could you please make a suggestion?

thanks


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Scott, why not start a new thread and post a photo of the plant. You will get more responses with a new post. Your growing zone and growing conditions will also help.

Jane


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 24, 11 at 11:18

There are several possibilities. Since it occurred so soon after you brought it home the two things that jump to mind as grower error are over-e=watering or a high level of salts in the soil, which can occur from from either over-watering or a gradual accumulation of salts. Either condition impairs root function and inhibits the plant's ability to move water to the canopy faster than it's lost to the air. The result often shows up as dead patches on foliage - especially on leaf tips and margins.

Another distinct possibility is the fact that plants care often fertilized to the max in nursery/greenhouse settings where cultural conditions are ideal. When you bring the plant home into conditions that don't allow robust growth, it leaves the plant unable to tolerate the high levels of fertility (soluble salts) in the soil. The result can be fertilizer burn, which sounds as though it MIGHT be consistent with the symptoms you're describing, but there's no way to tell w/o the plant in hand or a way to test the level of salts in the soil, which is probably not going to happen.

The only real suggestions I could offer, based on what you've told us so far is to start checking soil moisture levels with a sharpened wood dowel or skewer. Insert it deep into the soil. It should come out clean, and dry, not damp and cool if you touch it to the inside of your wrist. As a precautionary measure, you might wish to flush the soil thoroughly in case your issue IS related to a high level of soluble salts.

If you find that the dowel method of testing your soil indicates you can go longer than a week between waterings, you need to do something to address your soils water-retention. It's probably not appropriate to repot now (wrong time of year), but I can make some suggestions re things you can do to give your plant's roots a break if it IS the water-retentive soil causing the issue.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: More about Ficus in containers


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

I recently purchased a Fiddle Leaf Fig but do not find it (my plant) to be particularly stunning. I am trying to determine if there are different varieties of Fiddle Leaf's? My Fiddle Leaf seems to have relatively small leaves compared to many pictures. I also note that it is VERY root bound. Will the leaves increase in size if I repot the plant, or conversly will there just be more small leaves. I have posted a picture of both my plant (pictured w ith a foot) a tall beautiful tree like version (what I am going for) and a short bushy version (what I am afraid of getting). Is there hope for my plant to look like the tree version some day given the pruning it has already experienced? (That is if I could figure out how to add a picture!)

Okay, so my plant looks roughly like picture #5 at http://www.plantworksinc.com/Silk.php

I am particularly fond of the 9ft. tall Fiddle Leaf found at this link (you have to scroll down some)
http://www.justforfancy.com/YardSale/

And, I am very much afraid of my plant maturing and looking live this (except I realize that mine has a bare stem below)The picture is 23 of 60, the fiddle leaf bush).
http://www.amherstgreenhouses.com/tropical-plants.php

Any advice is much appreciated! Thank you!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 24, 11 at 22:23

Plant #5 is artificial and looks much more like alii than lyrata.

Congested roots have a reducing effect on leaf size, as does very bright light. Almost all trees in the Moraceae family (fig/mulberry) exhibit an increase in leaf size as branches extend. That is to say as each new leaf emerges, it will be larger than the last to have emerged. If you root-prune and repot, you can expect the leaf size to increase dramatically.

You don't mention where you live, but in most parts of the country, July is a very good month to undertake root reductions, which is something I would urge you to do asap, as not regularly pruning roots and correcting associated problems ensures a steady, gradual decline.

You'll find more help at the link below.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Click me and I'll take you right to what he was talking about.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Dear Fellow Gardeners,

I've been reading all of your posts and still feel unsure as to what is exactly causing the leaves of my Ficus to turn brown. I'm a relatively new gardener (about 1 year) and I have managed to kill very few plants. Can't seem to pinpoint the issue with this beautiful tree!

I purchased the Ficus from a plant shop here in NYC in May this year and as was expected, it dropped some leaves for a while after we brought it home. Since we brought it home in May I didn't want to prune and repot and decided to wait until next year. The problem now is that the tree keeps getting brown spots on the leaves and the latest brown spots have shown up on the inside of a leaf as supposed to the edges.

As per Al's great advice, I flushed the soil about 2 weeks ago and still I keep getting more brown/dry spots on the leaves.

I water it about every week on average and have followed the advice of using a wooden stick to feel the level of moisture in the soil.

Now I'm starting to wonder if the issue is perhaps too much sun? Or not enough? Perhaps a very invisible pest? The soil?

I would like to prune and repot but from what I read Fall is not an ideal time to do it.

Please help this very anxious Lyrata lover! I posted the link below with several photos that illustrate the problem.

Thanks,
Vanessa

Here is a link that might be useful: Ficus Lyrata problems


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 6, 11 at 13:16

Quite a bit of the damage looks like it could be mechanical injury. Was the plant outdoors in the wind for the summer? How were you fertilizing? with what? Did you add anything nutritional over & above your fertilizing? Is there a pattern to the damaged foliage? older leaves? lower leaves? interior leaves? How badly root bound is it? Do you have an ion exchange water softening system? You're reasonably certain you're not over-watering?

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Dear Al,

Thank you very much for your prompt reply.

In response to your questions:
1. The tree has always been indoors, even at the plant store where I bought it.
2. I fertilize every few weeks during the early summer but thruthfully, I have not fertilized it since July. I used MG 8-7-6. Per your suggestion, I just purchased MG 24-8-16. Do you recommend fertilizing during Fall and Winter?
3. I have not added anything besides the fertilizer.
4. The pattern of the damage foliage used to be mainly bottom leaves but now it seems like it is slowly creeping upwards interior leaves included.
5. It seems to be pretty root bound. I have not taken it out of its container but as you can see on the linked photo, the roots are protruding from the soil. Also. when inserting the wooden stick for moisture, there is quite a bit of resistance. Do you recommend perhaps repotting without pruning?
6. We don't have an ion exchange water softening system. To be honest, never really heard of it until today.
7. I have spent quite a bit of time, trying to figuring out if I overwater or not. I came to the conclusion that if anything it is maybe underwatering. I probably water the Lyrata about every 10 to 13 days and up until this week it does get a nice amount of sun from a southern window for about 4 hours a day. When I water I use about 3 quarts of water and towards the end, a little water seeps out of the pot.

Thank you again!
Vanessa

Here is a link that might be useful: Ficus Roots


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 13, 11 at 16:29

Hi, Vanessa. I saw your email, but my mail has been really backed up lately. I'll try to answer here.

There are a couple of things to consider here. The first is when you're working with trees, you're on tree time, not people time, and things happen much more slowly than we would like them to. Nothing snarky in the way I offered that observation. ;-)

The second is that trees are 'generating' organisms, not 'regenerating', like animals. They cannot regenerate cells in the same spatial positions, so cannot heal themselves. This is applicable not only to the damaged foliage, which is just a symptom, but possibly to the underlying cause of the symptom.

What that means is if the tree is going through a physiological process of either shedding the foliage or extracting mobile nutrients and other biocompounds for reuse in other organs, it's likely that process or the physiological process that caused the symptoms is not correctable. As an example - if symptoms were being manifest resultant of the tree's initiation of the shedding process as a drought response, there would be an abscission layer formed or forming at the base of leaf petioles which is not reversible. Since it's not reversible, nutrient/water flow in, and photosynthate flow out of the leaves would be impaired. Even if the cultural conditions causing the drought response are corrected, the physiological response continues due the the lack of the organism's regenerative ability. The same applies to any possible damage by a previously high level of soluble salts in the soil (solution).

The short answer is, many processes, once begun, are not reversible and can only move forward to completion.

From reading your enumerated notes:

2) If you haven't fertilized in a while, especially not since you flushed the soil, your plant needs it. How often you fertilize and whether you can/should fertilize through the winter depends on your soil choice and watering habits. If you're watering so 10-20% of the water you apply exits the drain when you water, you SHOULD fertilize through the entire growth period. More fertilizer would be required if you have good light than if you have poor light. If you are watering in sips, you cannot fertilize as regularly, and it's likely the ratio of nutrients in the soil will become rather skewed, to accompany the accumulation of soluble salts.

5) If the plant is badly root bound, I'd saw off the bottom 1/4 of the roots, make some deep vertical cuts in the root mass with a sharp utility knife, and pot-up a size. Use a soil similar to what you have now and use a wick to help drain the soil after watering so 10-20% of the water applied exits the drain hole. Move the plant outdoors into open or dappled shade as soon as temperatures allow, and do a full repot around Father's Day.

It's not a photo-exposure or photo-intensity issue, unless it's a manifestation of the shedding process due to inadequate light.

The best you can do is to have faith your tree will respond to favorable cultural conditions & then set about to provide them. I think you already have a good start on what it will take to get things turned around.

I'll post this reply on the thread over at 'Container Gardening', too.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hello,
I inherited a Ficus lyrata last March. It went through the readjustment stages and now I am wondering what I need to do to keep it an indoor plant. Its very tall, approx 9' and looks healthy. Can I prune the top to keep it from getting taller? It is about 12" from the ceiling.
Thank you!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Feb 5, 12 at 10:48

Sure - you can prune it if you wish. There are a few things you should know about maintaining trees in containers over the long term. For best health and growth, light, soil choice, root maintenance, watering habits, and nutritional supplementation are the most important essentials, in no particular order.

I'm going to suggest you read 2 threads that will go a long way toward getting you on the right track.

This one is aimed specifically at those maintaining Ficus trees in containers, and covers most of the plant's cultural needs.

The second, offers a guide to help you keep your plants looking good.

Keep in mind that of all the decisions you have much control over, soil choice is probably going to be the one that holds greatest sway over what you get back for your efforts.

Timing of the operations you undertake, like repotting (as opposed to potting up) and root pruning, or hard pruning of the top, is also important; so if you don't get a clear sense of how to best work WITH the trees ebb and flow of energy states (not as complicated as it sounds), please ask.

Al

willow-leaf Ficus (F. nerifolia/salicifolia)
Photobucket


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

I am new to this site, but it looks wonderful.I have a Fiddle leaf fig for 7 years and it is now 10 foot (actually 3 trunks in one pot) Our current house has 16 foot ceiling and it is happily gettting taller. We will be moving about September. Suggestions for pruning and moving. Karen Meyer


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 28, 12 at 15:10

Hi, Karen - Welcome!

The best pruning suggestion I can offer is to be thinking about repotting and root pruning. In almost all cases, people with 7 year old plants don't realize that steady decline is unavoidable unless you get into the original root mass and correct problems. This is true of any plant in a container, whether it's considered a houseplant or it's plant material whose destiny will play out in the landscape.

If you can provide some pics, some top pruning advice might be offered. ;-)

Good luck.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi Al!

House plants have been a growing passion of mine for the past 2 years. I saw a FiddleLeaf Ficus recently and couldn't help myself since i had seen one as a fairly large tree in another blog I follow. It's about 3.5 ft tall, healthy since I got it (only 2 weeks ago). There are two trunks together. It was fairly root bound so I repotted it with well draining soil. It's happy as far as I know. My question is: do I have to prune it a certain way to get it to grow more like a tree instead of a bush? I'd love to have it be 10ft someday ( the pictures I've seen of the fiddle leafs as trees only have leaves near the top not all the way up the trunk) but I don't know if I should be plucking off leaeves from the bottom or if it will do it naturally.? Thank you so much. We all appreciate your knowledge!

Rachel


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, May 7, 12 at 8:05

Because the tree is so apically dominant, which means it is genetically predisposed to channeling most of its energy into elongation (instead of back-budding like bushy plants) and particularly those branches/stems growing vertically) it's natural tendency is to quickly shed the lower foliage and eventually the lower branches; that is, unless you manage the trees energy by restraining the top through selective pruning to force the tree to allocate more of its energy to lower branches. Their is a problem inexperienced bonsai artists often encounter - they end up with trees having very heavy branches near the top of the tree and weak branches near the bottom that the tree annoyingly wants to shed and ruin the look of your tree.

It's best to leave the lower branches on for now, and remove them as they die back, but at some point you should think about starting to restrain the top. If, for example, you want your tree to top out at 9', you would want the lower 1/3 of the trunk to not have branches, so you would start to restrain the top before any branches at about the 3' ht are beginning to weaken.

Also, your tree will look best if the tree with the thinner trunk is shorter than the one with the thicker trunk, A two-trunk arrangement like that in bonsai is referred to as a mother/daughter style and the mother tree is often trained to slightly overhang the daughter tree in a protective manner - something to consider down the road.

For now, I would suggest not pruning the leaders, but pruning all branches back to 2 leaves as soon as they have 4-5 leaves each. This will help keep your tree bushy & compact.

The link below might be helpful, too.

Best always.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: More about Ficus in containers if you click me ....


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi - I just recently bought a Lyrata in May and was scared of overwatering but I feel I may have underwatered out of that fear. There are brown spots everywhere and now it is unsightly. It has lost all of its bottom leaves. I want to repot it but think I may kill it. I'm a novice at best and really love this plant and want to save it and make it beautiful. My desire is for it to have those really bushy leaves at the top but I'm afraid it's not going to live even for me to try to prune it. It lives in a west facing window. Help!
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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 15, 12 at 10:21

This is the time of year when your efforts produce the greatest results, so try again with the pictures & we'll see if we can help. In the meanwhile, you may find the thread I'm linking to below to be helpful to your cause.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: More info if you click me .....


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

I have had this ficus lyrata for 4 to 5 years.
https://picasaweb.google.com/116308591038199506824/FicusLyrata#5769091096635729842

It gets lots of indirect eastern light, I keep it out of drafts, and I only water it when the soil starts to dry out. It is currently sprouting leaves since it is the growing season, and even sprouted some leaves back on the branch where some had fallen off some time ago. Leaves look green and healthy, though I do need to dust them.

However, I have never pruned, repotted, or fertilized it. It has gotten very leggy and I would like to make it more of a bushy, tree-like shape. It is in a 14-15" pot. From reading this forum, it seems that if I prune or repot I should do it ASAP while it is in the growing season. I'm just not sure how much to prune off. I saw recommendations to only cut back to the last leaf on the branches, and cut by the leaf node.

The main branch is snaking out to the side now. I had to stake the ficus a couple years ago after my cat knocked it over. The stake is still there - I'm not sure how much the ficus needs it but the big branch does make it seem top-heavy.

From the advice I'm reading here I think I can handle the repotting, though I'm not sure how big a pot I should move up to. Also, any specific advice on fertilizer would be great. I'm mainly concerned about the pruning. Ficus has done well under my benign neglect but I feel like I need to take action. Thanks in advance for your advice!

Here is a link that might be useful: Ficus lyrata photos


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 25, 12 at 14:34

No question that if your plant has been in the same pot for 5 years it needs a repot and root work, and that your plant will benefit from the rejuvenating effects. I also think it very wise to look at your plants with an eye toward preventive maintenance. In general, options aren't many when it comes to repotting - you can wait & watch the plant decline to the point where you're forced to do the work or make compost - you can pot up, which really only allows the plant to take a couple of temporary and feeble steps toward it's full potential, or you can bite the bullet and repot, which makes the most sense, by far. The plus side is you get a fully rejuvenated plant that much better potential in the health/appearance department ....... and it's never going to be easier to repot than it is today. ;-)

I would start with a full repot, with only enough pruning of the canopy to ensure the plant doesn't want to topple. After a few weeks, when the plant has its feet back under it, you can prune as hard as you want, but I'd try to make it a goal to be done with everything by no later than mid-Aug, unless you live south of Mason/Dixon, in which case you have a little more time (if the plant is outdoors during the post repot period). I'm sure the plant will go back into the pot it's in, if you're up for following some suggestions.

I REALLY like Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 fertilizer. Unlike most soluble fertilizers, it has all essential nutrients in a ratio almost exactly that of the average at which plants use nutrients, which makes it hard to go too far wrong. A second choice, would be Miracle-Gro 24-8-16 or 9-3-6 - all 3 ferts mentioned are 3:1:2 ratios. We can talk more about fertilizers if you want to pursue making sure your tree isn't on the declining path.

As long as I can piece together the photos so I can get an idea of the tree in 3-D, pruning should be easy.

What say you?

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Al - many thanks for your prompt and detailed response. I, and I'm sure many others on the GW threads, are fortunate to have the benefit of your expertise!

I plan to repot this weekend and since I'm above the Mason-Dixon line in Brooklyn, NY, I will prune by mid August. Following your advice, I will repot (and not pot up.) I've only had time for a cursory scan of some other threads (Ficus Trees in Containers) in which you discuss repotting. Am I correct in thinking that I should remove 2/3 of the roots and repot in a gritty soil mixture? Should I do the wick as well?

I'm really relieved to finally have a plan for the ficus - thanks again!
Caroline


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jul 28, 12 at 13:11

I would:

Use a sharp pruning saw to remove the bottom 1/3 of the root mass.

Bare root the plant, keeping the roots wet during the entire procedure, start to finish.

Remove all offensive roots (which would be roots growing toward the middle of the root mass and encircling/girdling, j-hooked roots), and any larger roots growing straight up or straight down.

If, in your estimation you have removed less than 2/3 of the original root mass, remove some of the larger roots, concentrating on those immediately under the trunk. Make your root cuts just ahead of a conspicuous fine root that points in a favorable direction, leaving the fine root to develop.

Repot into a fast-draining soil and secure the plant so it can't move in relation to the pot. This hastens reestablishment.

After 2 weeks, or when you start seeing new growth appear, fertilize with a solution of full recommended strength fertilizer in a 3:1:2 ratio. I prefer Foliage-Pro 9-3-6, because it has all the essential elements in a favorable ratio (to each other), including Ca/Mg, often lacking in other soluble fertilizers. Other commonly available fertilizers in a 3:1:2 ratio are a number of manufacturers that make 24-8-16, or Miracle-Gro 9-3-6.

That's about it. You should be very pleased with your efforts.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

I have repotted per your instructions and will use the Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. Thanks again for the advice - I'll let you know how it goes.

Caroline


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jul 31, 12 at 4:49

You're welcome - I'm happy to have been able to offer a little guidance ..... and thank you for the kind words a little upthread.

Please do keep us updated on your post-repot observations. Repotting vs potting-up comparisons, or the effects of allowing a plant to languish in the same pot for years w/o root work are issues barely touched on or avoided altogether in the houseplant books most hobby growers count on for guidance. Since these are very important consideration in our long term plan for maintaining plants in good health, they are getting badly short-changed. Root congestion can quickly become severely limiting, and as such is responsible for an untold number of problems, complications, and general decline in vitality. I've been extolling the virtues of regular root maintenance, beyond a quick trim and up-pot for years, often as a lonely voice in a cacophony of nays - though that is finally becoming the exception as the number of growers adding the practice to their regular care increases and they report their findings. Joined voices have a much greater chance of being noticed, which brings us full circle to why your observations would be important to others.

Take good care - and Good Luck!

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi there,

I found this thread through Googling, as I have questions about my ficus lyrata. This seems to be the place with the most and best information on the web! I hope this is the right place to post my question, sorry if it is not.

I got given this plant in the spring as a gift and really love it (picture attached, I hope). However, I am particularly interested in the plants of this type that are pruned into trees, and this one is three individual stalks coming out of the soil, each growing straight up with no branches. The tree-shaped ones have one bare stem or trunk and then branch out after a few feet. I thought about having a go at pruning mine when I got it but after reading about how sensitive these plants can be, I thought I should let it settle first. I've had it for a number of months now and it seems to be happy, it has grown a fair amount from the tops and has lots of green leaves. You can see in the picture there are a few brown patches at the tips of some leaves, but these appeared when I was on holiday for two weeks and it perhaps was over-watered by my friend or did not have enough light, as the blinds were drawn. Before/after my holiday it has seemed to thrive.

So I have two main questions about pruning. The first is, if I want it to be in a tree shape I need to separate the three stalks, is that even possible or do you think it is one root mass? If it is possible, I will probably leave two as a bush, as it is now, and prune one to be a tree, in case that goes horribly wrong! I do love this plant and would rather not try to separate the three stalks if that is a death sentence for it. It looks quite nice as it is. So, if it is possible, how would you recommend doing the pruning to make it branch?

The second question is, from reading the comments here and on other threads it seems quite likely my large plant is root bound and needs the roots trimmed and to be re-potted (perhaps in better soil, I'm not sure this soil drains that well). Obviously if I am going to try to separate the plants, I should do this at the same time - am I right in thinking that August, when it is warm, is the right time to do all this or should I wait to do something so dramatic?

Thanks so much in advance.

Clare


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Aug 19, 12 at 16:42

... if I want it to be in a tree shape I need to separate the three stalks, is that even possible or do you think it is one root mass? If it is possible, I will probably leave two as a bush, as it is now, and prune one to be a tree, in case that goes horribly wrong! I do love this plant and would rather not try to separate the three stalks if that is a death sentence for it. It looks quite nice as it is. So, if it is possible, how would you recommend doing the pruning to make it branch?

There are 3 cuttings started in a single planting. Sometimes the plants can be easily separated, but often the roots of ficus actually become fused together. This doesn't mean the plants are no longer separable, only that to do so requires the cutting of some fused roots.

You should probably forgo any serious work on the roots until next summer; though, if the plant is very root bound, you can pot up after removing the bottom few inches of roots off the root mass and cutting some vertical slits in the root ball. More on that later if you decide on that as an option.

It's sometimes hard to give up what the grower wants for what's best for or easiest on the plant. A mid-late June repot would ensure the fastest recovery and best results, and that requires that you put yourself on tree time instead of people time. IOW, be patient. ;-)

You're options for ending up with a single specimen from what you have are 2. 1) Separate the trees, or 2) lop off the two trees you value least at the soil line so they die ..... or you could start an air layer now that you should be able to separate next summer ...... so that's sort of 3 options, I suppose. ;-)

If you want the trees to 'branch', you need only remove the growing tip of the stem or branch. This will force back-budding and branches will occur in leaf axils behind the pruning cut. You can get best back-budding response by pruning healthy trees in early August, when energy reserves should be higher than at any other point in the growth cycle, but you need to decide what path you want your trees on and you might need to get a look at the roots at repot time to help with that decision. You'll need to do a little contemplating on what path you want to choose, then I can guide you better.

The second question is, ... it seems quite likely my large plant is root bound and needs the roots trimmed and to be re-potted (perhaps in better soil, I'm not sure this soil drains that well). Obviously if I am going to try to separate the plants, I should do this at the same time - am I right in thinking that August, when it is warm, is the right time to do all this or should I wait to do something so dramatic?

You're likely to get lots of opinions on what you CAN do, and you CAN do whatever you wish, because it's your plant. I can tell you what you SHOULD do, base on what's best for the plant, you can decide if your time table is flexible enough to work WITH the plant's energy flow instead of against it.

The best months for your plant to build energy and recover from serious work are Jun, Jul, Aug. May and Sep are 'eh' months. The rest of the time the plant will be largely coasting or even declining slightly and are poor choices during which to do serious work, like full-repots with root pruning or hard pruning of the top.

If you JUST repotted now, you would probably be sort of ok, and your tree would probably do fairly well over the winter and wake up raring to go in late May, but I would still suggest a mid-Jun repotting and any hard pruning just before mid-Jul of next summer.

FWIW, I've been helping quite a few growers learn to manage their (ficus and other) trees here on the forums, and even more by email or phone, and I think everyone is pretty pleased with the results, not only as how the information relates to their trees, but probably more importantly just because of the realization that there IS such a thing as utilizing a plan that allows you to use timing in a way that actually has you working WITH your plants and how they WANT to respond, instead of ignoring the timing and going at things in a way that leaves the likelihood of the most favorable outcome to chance instead of planning.

In either case, I can help you get the best results from working with your schedule if that's how you'd like to move ahead, or you can start putting together a plan that has you doing the bulk of the work at the beginning of next summer. What say you, Clare?

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi Al,

Thank you so much for this thoughtful response (sorry for my delay, I didn't realise you had responded as it didn't email me - think I need to change my settings). I will do as you suggest and wait until next year to do anything with the roots, the plant looks great as it is anyway. I guess until June I should just water it occasionally and make sure it is getting enough light and stays happy?

The only other thing is that the little brown patches that appeared on some leaves when I was on holiday seem to be spreading (on those leaves, not new leaves I believe), is that just those leaves dying off because the process had started or does it indicate that there is an ongoing problem with the plant? As I said above, I assumed these appeared because the plant was too wet or did not have enough light while I was away for two weeks. It is still growing happily from the top, at quite a startling rate. I could put it outside as you suggested to someone else above as it is quite warm in England right now, although it does rain a lot and also I have read that moving the plant around can stress it out.

I really appreciate your help and advice, especially as this isn't a very common plant in the UK and no one seems to know anything about it (some of my friends are quite frightened of it, commenting that it looks like it is from Little Shop of Horrors!).

All the best,

Clare


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Aug 23, 12 at 7:47

To receive responses to this thread, check the box below the text box that says "Click here if you wish to receive notifications for this message."

Do the spots in question have a lighter 'halo' around the dead spots?

It's so late in the growing season, I think I'd probably not move the plant outdoors until next summer when nights are reliably above 55*. Just continue to water and fertilize occasionally. Try to flush the soil thoroughly at least every 6 weeks. If you need help with that, so as to avoid complications with the roots due to a soil too wet too long, just ask & I'll go over it with you.

... glad to hear it seems to be doing well, other than the spots. A nice close-up shot of the spots would be nice.

All the best .....

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi Al,

I actually did check that box but don't seem to be getting responses by email - strange.

I have taken two photos of the brown spots, which are definitely spreading (although I still think they are only spreading on the leaves they had started on, not coming on new leaves). It is definitely worse than I realised when I returned from holiday, but I still think it must be that (not enough light/possibly too damp for those two weeks), as it was thriving before I went away and I had had it for a number of months. I am really not sure what to do with it now or if there is anything I can do. The brown patches are on quite a few leaves, starting at the tips and spreading backwards towards the trunk.

The pictures I have included show one leaf with a little brown patch at the end, this is how most of the leaves affected are. The other includes some leaves where it has spread and is now very brown.

We have been trying to only water the plant when it is dry (checked with finger/stick, equates to every couple of weeks) as you state higher up on this thread, and when we do water, we flush it (I think - we water it plentifully so water comes out the bottom). The reason I think it may have been too damp while I was away is that my partner watered it the morning we left and left it on a towel so the water wouldn't damage the floor. I hadn't realised he had done this and think it might have been a bad idea as it likely may have kept the plant too damp and encouraged mould.

Anyway I will take your advice and try to keep it as it is, just watering occasionally and fertilising, but these brown patches are certainly getting worse now, so if you have any advice I would appreciate it. Should I just leave them? Cut off the browning leaves to stop it spreading elsewhere?

Thanks again for all your help, I really appreciate it.

Clare


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Here is the second picture


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Aug 31, 12 at 11:47

You need to go to your user page and allow yourself to be sent emails if you want GW to automatically help you follow threads. ;-) My bad for not mentioning that. Scroll down to the green box below and select Member Pages, then select Edit your membership details. After that, enable the box toward the bottom that says Allow other users to send you email via forms at our site.

What I'm seeing in the picture looks cultural, not fungal/bacterial/viral, so there is probably no harm in leaving the leaves on the plant. If there are a high % of leaves involved, removing them will slow the plant down, but it would be helpful just in case there is something bacterial (leaf spot) affecting the foliage. The cause probably originates in some combination of soil compaction/over-watering/suppressed root function, and of course the damaged leaves can't heal themselves. If no recently emerged foliage is affected, count that as a positive.

Did I give you potting up instructions and did you pot up? I'll wait to hear what you have to say .....

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi there,

Ah Ok thank you, I have done that now.

I have taken off the worst of the brown leaves, actually one that was very brown fell off so I guess this is where the others were/are going anyway. The leaves at the top seem to be OK so hopefully that is a good sign. The ones at the bottom are also good, strangely, the worst damage is all in the middle.

I did not pot up because I thought you suggested that doing anything like this was best left til June of next year. Was that just doing a major re-pot, versus more simply potting up? The weather is still mild here but definitely headed for fall.

As I said before, this is a big plant, three in one pot and I assume this means it is root-bound, so perhaps that is part of the problem as you suggest.

Thanks again for all your help, I do hope this plant isn't done for, it's very upsetting to see it go from happy to so unhappy so quickly!

Best wishes for the weekend,

Clare


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Sep 7, 12 at 12:50

If the plant is indeed severely root bound like you suspect, I think you should pot up, but there are a few things you can do to help the tree get more from just potting up, until it's a more appropriate time to repot.

If the plant is severely root bound, there will be roots circling around the outside of the container. Any that you find in a circling mass at the bottom should be pulled or cut off. Then, use a utility knife to make vertical scores in the remaining root mass at 3-4" intervals. Then, pot up into a soil that approximates the soil you have now, into a pot that allows an inch or two of fresh soil at the bottom and about an inch around the perimeter of the existing root/soil mass. If you think (excess) water retention is going to be a significant issue. Read the link I'll leave - it will offer a number of tips to help you deal with that specter until you can repot into a suitable soil.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: If you have a soggy soil .....


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Ok, I am going to pot up at the weekend, following your advice. I'll be able to get a better idea of whether the roots are the problem that way at least. The plant is definitely unhappy now, it has dropped more leaves and more seem brown. I guess I haven't got anything to lose at this point!

Thanks again for your help, there is so much wonderful information on this site! Do you work with plants for your job?

Clare


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Sep 11, 12 at 18:01

Lol - I love working with plants and with people who work with plants ..... doesn't make much difference to me, they're both equally rewarding. The closest I get to plants being part of a 'paying' job are the small fees I receive for addressing various clubs & groups of growers. Most often I'll refuse payment other than expenses for travel or occasional lodging, but the clubs will still usually always put some sort of payment in a form that's difficult to refuse - like a gift or gift certificate. I suppose that's a good way to keep yourself in demand - work for free.

Good luck this weekend. Keep us posted, please.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

I've been diggin' all the conversation on ficus lyrata, and Al's discussions on soil and repotting. Clare, I can say pretty confidently that the brown spots on your leaves are caused by soil staying too wet. It will help you alot to investigate the soil moisture before you water, rather than just "watering occasionally." Lyratas like to be almost dry before they get watered again; a moisture meter could be helpful to get down into the soil, or a soil probe if they are available where you live, or get a wooden dowel and carve a point on the end, and a couple of notches 2" and 4" from the pointed end. This will allow you to get down to the bottom of the pot. When you pull up the probe, it should feel almost dry, as should the soil sticking in the notches. When you water, water thoroughly so you get water through the drain holes, around 1/2" deep in the liner. Don't worry about pouring it out. If you start to get yellowing of the older leaves, that's telling you that the plant is too dry, so just increase your watering a tad.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Sep 14, 12 at 2:31

The reason we are wisely instructed to flush the soil when we water so a significant fraction of the total volume of water applied when we irrigate exits the drain hole are two. One is to help ensure the entire soil volume is moistened, but equally or even more important is the fact that this practice purges the soil of accumulating solubles (salts) that make water/nutrient absorption increasingly difficult as the TDS/EC levels (salt levels) become more concentrated. At best, too high concentrations of solubles in the soil solution spoil the appearance of foliage, usually first becoming manifest in burned root tips and leaf tips/margins, at worst in the collapse of the plant. We need to note though, that the soil the plant is in needs to be able to support this type of watering w/o the grower having to be concerned about extended periods of impaired root function due to soggy conditions, or worse, root rot getting a hold because of the same concern.

Isotonicity is the process by which the level of dissolved solids in the effluent in a collection saucer will quickly balance or equalize itself to/with the level of dissolved solids in the soil solution. When there is a 'connection' between the effluent in the collection saucer and the water in the soil that results from a wick dangling in the effluent or the fact that a part of the soil is in contact with the effluent, all the solubles in the collection saucer will find their way back into the soil solution until the level of solubles in the effluent is equal to the level of solubles in the soil solution.

If you take a new sponge that is saturated with fresh water and stand it on end in 1/2" of salted water or fertilizer solution, using an inexpensive moisture meter you can measure the increase in electrical conductivity at the top of the sponge within a very short time - seconds - a clear indication of isotonicity at work, of the fact that salts in the effluent will quickly reach a balance with the salts in the soil solution.

So, not removing the water from the collection saucer ensures all the salts flushed from the soil can make their way back into the soil unless the connection between the soil and the effluent is broken. Best would be to water over a sink if plants are small enough & return the plant to the collection saucer after the pot has stopped draining, or for larger plants to set the pot up on 'feet' or blocks that are inside the saucer, the object of which is to effectively lift the soil above the effluent in the saucer, high enough to ensure the connection between the effluent and soil or any wick you might be using is broken.

Changing gears to the yellowing of older foliage ..... this can occur for a number of reasons other than lack of water - too much water, e.g. Four very common causes of yellowing of older foliage are: natural senescence (aging); nutrient deficiencies, primarily nitrogen but others, too; and low light levels. It takes a certain amount of auxin flowing across the abscission zone to prevent an abscission layer from forming and the plant from harvesting the mobile nutrients and biocompounds in the leaves about to be shed, for translocation to other organs - repurposing, so to say. Low light levels slow metabolism which reduces auxin flow which sets the shedding/yellowing process in motion, manifest in older/interior foliage, foliage receiving a reduced photo-load first. Finally, over-watering and soil compaction can cause chlorosis. Lack of oxygen in the root zone can lead to the same shedding mechanism just described, which results in yellowing of foliage at onset; or it can cause a physiological inability to absorb certain nutrients. Fe++ and Fe+++ accumulate in oldest leaves under normal conditions, but saturated soils particularly block the uptake and accumulation of Fe, which of course causes chlorosis in older foliage.

Just some thoughts to consider.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

I am looking for some advice in an attempt to save my fiddle leaf fig. I have a brown thumb and all of the limbs on my tree are now dead. I thought I had lost the tree completely but there is new growth at the bottom and one other sprout starting to pop out. I have no idea how to cut the dead limbs. Do I cut the limbs only and leave the main tree trunk as is? Any advice is much appreciated.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 18, 12 at 22:14

We can fix the brown thumb easy enough if you're willing to put a little effort into it, but let's see about the plant. How about a picture or two?

What do you suspect the cause of the decline to be - any thoughts? Tell us about it - how long you've had it, how you water/fertilize, the light it gets, soil it's in ..... anything you can think of that might be helpful.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Here is the picture....pretty sad. I have had it for 5 months. I originally put it beside a window with indirect light but decided to move it when it started losing some leaves. There was a vent in front of the window so thought I should get it away from that. (This is a return rather than a vent that you see in the photo.). Since i moved it, it's been by a floor to ceiling window that gets indirect light most of the day. I think at one point I may have overwatered it although i was trying hard not to and at times the soil was extremely dry which probably is what led me to watering it more. I'd like to save it but I know it needs some tlc. Thanks for any advice!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Here is the picture....pretty sad. I have had it for 5 months. I originally put it beside a window with indirect light but decided to move it when it started losing some leaves. There was a vent in front of the window so thought I should get it away from that. (This is a return rather than a vent that you see in the photo.). Since i moved it, it's been by a floor to ceiling window that gets indirect light most of the day. I think at one point I may have overwatered it although i was trying hard not to and at times the soil was extremely dry which probably is what led me to watering it more. I'd like to save it but I know it needs some tlc. Thanks for any advice!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Here is my the photo of my poor tree!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Oh dear! That green shoot lower down looks promising tho. Cutting or air layer? What we reckon guys?


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 20, 12 at 13:28

Neither would be appropriate until/unless some vitality is restored to the plant.

First, is the pot we can see the pot the plant is growing in or a cache pot? If you're worried about over-watering, removing the top-dressing would be helpful - would cut down on the gnats, too - if there are any. The 'vent' in the picture looks like a cold air return?, which wouldn't be as great a problem as if it was a heat/AC vent, but I don't think the damage is related at all to the vent. The symptoms are classically those of severe over-watering or over-fertilizing, and most likely over-watering or the little low sprout probably wouldn't be around to serve as a little ray of hope.

Appearances are saying that if you're determined to save the plant, the greatest probability of realizing that centers around the little shoot. Normally, my almost automatic response would be to check the roots for rot and address that issue, but with the little sprout possibly being the tendril separating viable from unviable, disturbing the roots might not be a good idea.

Let's see how important the little shoot really is first. Start pruning the top branches back a little at a time. The object is to start removing the most distal parts of the plant until you've pruned back to live tissue. If you get all the way back to the main trunk, or even have to remove part of that before you find viable tissue, you know your hope lies with the shoot.

What you find sort of determines how to best move ahead, and maybe even whether or not you think the plant is worth the effort it will take to try to save it. What say you?

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

To be honest the part above that little shoot looks like its toast. How about chopping it to that point? Then take it out of the pot, examine the soil and roots. Im guessing thats where the trouble lies!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 20, 12 at 14:47

If you must be in a hurry, then let it be according to the old adage, and hasten slowly. ~Saint Vincent de Paul


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

In a hurry? Im just saying what it looks like, a gradually dying tree! It needs attention!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 20, 12 at 18:35

Mmhmm - we agree it's in dire straits, and that it needs attention, but cuttings and air layers wouldn't be in the grower's or plant's best interest. Chopping the plant back is a viable option, but certainly not a necessity that needs to be implemented post-haste in order to save the plant. In fact, it would have little if any impact on whether the plant lives or dies, only how big it is (or isn't) if part of the plant above the shoot is still viable and it survives. Also, it probably isn't a good idea to lift the plant with the idea you're going to start carving up the root mass if rot is found. If that's NOT the idea, why bother looking? The logical first step is to decide if the plant is worth saving (grower's decision). Second is to determine what fraction of the plant is viable. The greater the living mass, the more energy the plant will have to put toward root regeneration if root pruning is required. If the small shoot is the plant's last gasp, it's not going to survive any root work, so the point is moot.

Going about turning a plant around isn't a flip a coin sort of venture - at least not for me, and especially not when it's someone else's plant. To MINIMIZE the guessing part you mentioned above, there are things that need to be taken into consideration that can only be learned via additional input from the plant's owner ...... so yes, you're being hasty IMO.

The quote by St Vincent de Paul is simply my way of suggesting we should gather as much information as possible so we can offer well-reasoned options or suggestions instead of a SWAG.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Well its difficult when its someone elses plant but if it were mine I would do a stem scraping on the upper section, looking for green. My guess is that it would be brown most of the way down to above that first wilting green stem.
And the first place to examine on a sick plant is the roots.
But it looks a big plant, so would need an extra set of hands.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi there,

Just an update on my plant(s). I did pot up as you suggested. I was wrong about it being root bound though, the roots were not wrapped around or filling the container particularly. I couldn't see anything wrong with the roots, I don't know if there would be any tell tale signs if there was some sort of mould, or indeed if there is anything I could do about it if there was. The three plants were pretty distinct root-wise, so I separated one and potted it alone, and potted the other two together. I haven't noticed any difference yet - all three plants are in bad shape really, they have dropped most of their leaves and most remaining leaves have brown patches on them (this happened before the potting up mostly, although they have continued to look sad). Since I have had these plants I have been watering rarely (ever two weeks or less) and have been checking the soil is dry a fair way down before I have watered. Lately, sometimes the newer leaves at the top actually look like they are wilting from lack of water before I water the plant, so I am really not sure it is overwatering that is causing the decline of the plant. I am trying to use the wick technique now though, to get more water out, so perhaps that will help.

Thanks for your help.

Clare


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 28, 12 at 18:51

For future reference, the advice to go ahead and pot up was predicated on the information that your plant was "severely root bound". Since we were headed in the direction of your plant's woes being a cultural thing, and more specifically an over-watering ~ possibly a high salts issue, potting up would only be appropriate if the plant was indeed severely root bound and you could minimize the effects of what we suspected to be over-watering and a high level of salts in the soil.

So, even though the potting up was probably unnecessary, it's not the world's end. It's just more important at this point to make sure you don't over-water. Do we want to address that issue specifically; or are you good there?

Plants start to physically react to changes in their environment almost immediately. Unfortunately, the evidence that they are making a turn around often lags the fact by a considerable amount of time. Example: Let's say that unwittingly you were watering in a way that allowed a lot of salts to remain in the soil, salts that affected water uptake and the plant's appearance. You root pruned in June & changed the plant's soil to one that was well aerated and fast draining, plus, you followed some good advice & put together a watering/fertilizing regimen that really favored the plant. 2 months later, you're wondering why it didn't work, because the leaves seem to be getting worse.

In a drought response that occurs from a high level of salts in the soil or over-watering, the plant prepares to shed the leaves to reduce transpirational water loss. It's a defensive mechanism to help the plant survive. This preparation to shed foliage includes the formation of an abscission layer at the base of the leaf, which effectively and progressively severs water and nutrient movement in and out of the leaf. This CAN occur even in foliage that seemed unaffected when you completed your course reversal.

We don't need to talk about it now, but there are things you can do after your tree gets healthy to speed up the process of getting your plant to look spiffy again. For now, look primarily to the new foliage as the indicator of the tree's present state of vitality. It might be difficult, but essentially you need to trust that if you're able to provide favorable conditions, the plant will respond favorably, but if you're not, it won't. Plants are strictly reactive organisms, and as such are forced to react favorably to favorable conditions. Be confident that in the end it's not going to be a gimmick or a secret formula fertilizer or tonic that will save the day; it's adhering to sound basics that are going to make the difference. If you have a good soil, practice good watering habits, and can provide good light & temps, your plant will eventually decide to show you how much it appreciates your efforts.

One thing though - since it's almost winter and you live in the not always sunny UK, your plant is going to be moving forward in its lowest gear, so it's going to take a lot more time to see improvement, which I think tends to magnify its displeasure still evident in its foliage as a result of its previous struggle with things cultural.

Take good care, Clare.

Al



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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi there,

Yes, I know that was the reason for the pot up advice, but I thought seeing as I had taken it out of the pot to look at it, it wouldn't do too much harm to re-pot the plants. I put one of them back into the original pot with some extra soil to pad it out, and the others in a new pot.

I am watering rarely, and when I do I have been trying to flush the soil, as you suggested, making sure water is running out of the bottom. I am trying the wick technique to make sure they drain well. I am not sure if there is more I can do to make sure I am not 'over-watering'?

Otherwise, yes I agree, I think a wait and see approach is all I can do and hope it doesn't die.

FYI: I didn't root prune or change the soil in June, you advised it was too late in the season to do these things and to wait until next year, which is what I was going to do. I repotted recently as advised because the plant had deteriorated so severely and I thought the roots might be the problem. I know now from looking at the roots that these didn't really need pruning anyway.

The newer foliage at the top is for the most part what is left, but as I said recently that looks sort of wilted when I don't water for a long time, so now I am a bit worried I am underwatering!

It's definitely cold, rainy and grey here at the moment, so the plant is not getting optimal light I'm sure. I guess I should just hope it survives the winter!

One last question for you - we have the heating on in the house now as it is getting cold. The plant is not directly next to a radiator, but do you have any advice or warnings about heating and these plants? Presumably they like the warmer conditions in the house, but the soil will of course dry out quicker now the house is heated and this may affect how often it needs water, etc.?

Thanks again,

Clare


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Yea here in the UK its getting dark by 4pm!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

The great thing about commonly grown house plants, and the reason they are "common," is that they pretty much like the same environment that we do. As long as there's no hot (or cold) air blowing directly on them, they should be ok. An easy test is to stand where the plant is for awhile; if the air flow is comfortable for you, it's comfortable for the plant.

You're quite right that a major concern indoors when the heat goes on is that the plants dry out faster. Many people worry about humidity level, but that doesn't really bother the lyrata; if you want to do something about dry air, you can always use a humidifier, or the classic tray of stones in water.

A more pressing issue is the drying of the soil - you'll need to water a little more, or a little more often. So Clare, how do you determine when to water? Do you pull up some soil with a probe or long-handled spoon, and squeeze it between you fingers? I find that to be the most informative way to determine soil moisture. I think for your plant you should not allow the soil to dry past the 80% aeration level - that is , the soil should feel soft and cool, and barely stick together when squeezed, and fall apart when you stop squeezing.

At this point, the only thing you can do is to persevere,with good watering practices, and be patient. If the lyrata can rally, it will. Unfortunately, some plants don't make it. Sometimes they come bad from the grower, or something happens before you get them. I've always said that part of having a green thumb is having a big garbage can. So don't be discouraged, and if it kicks the bucket, well, you've already gained a lot of knowledge you didn't have before, so just try again.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 29, 12 at 16:45

Hi, Clare. There are some other things you can do to help reduce the likelihood of over-watering:

Dealing with Water-Retentive Soils
A good friend recently asked me if putting a brick in the bottom of a container interferes with drainage? After reading the question, it occurred to me that there are aspects to the question that I've discussed very little here at GW. It also occurred to me that I could use her question to help those who grow in heavy (water-retentive) soils. I'm going to define those soils, but this isn't about disparaging soil types - it's about helping you try to squeeze the most plant vitality (and the water) out of them. Heavy soils are based on fine ingredients. If the soil contains more than 30-40% of any combination of peat, coir, compost, or other fine ingredients like builders sand or topsoil, it will retain appreciable amounts of 'perched water' and remain soggy after it's saturated - and this is about dealing with soggy soils.

Perched water is water that remains in the soil after the soil stops draining. If you wet a sponge & hold it by a corner until it stops draining, the water that is forced out of the sponge when you squeeze it is perched water. From the plant's perspective, perched water is unhealthy because it occupies air spaces that are needed for normal root function and metabolism. The gasses produced under anoxic (airless) conditions (CO2, sulfurous compounds, methane) are also an issue. The main issue though, is that roots deprived of sufficient oxygen begin to die within hours. You don't actually see this, but the finest, most important roots die first. The plant then has to spend stored energy or current photosynthetic (food production) to regenerate lost roots - an expensive energy outlay that would otherwise have been spent on blooms, fruit, branch extension, increasing biomass, systems maintenance ... perhaps the plant would have stored the energy for a winter's rest and the spring flush of growth instead of expending it on root regeneration.

You can see that perched water, from the plant's perspective, is not a good thing. From our own perspective, we think it's rather convenient when we only need to water our plantings every 4-5 days, but because we can't see it, there is a sacrifice in potential growth/vitality for our convenience - like driving on low tires reduces fuel economy. How we choose to resolve this issue is of no concern to me - we all arrange our priorities & few of us are willing to water plants every hour to squeeze the last wee bit of vitality from them. Growing is about compromise in more cases than not. There is no judgment passed here on soil choice.

If you don't agree that perched water is generally a bad thing in containers, there's no need to read on. If you're still interested, I'll lay a little groundwork here before I outline some things remedial you can do to combat excess water retention. Almost all out-of-the-bag soils retain a considerable amount of perched water after they have been saturated. Each individual soil formulation will retain a specific height of perched water unique to THAT soil. No matter what the shape or size of the container - height, width, round, square - the height of the PWT (perched water table) will be the same. You can fill a 1" diameter pipe with a particular soil or a 55 gallon S-shaped drum with the same soil, and both will have exactly the same PWT height.

Let's do some imagining for the purpose of illustration. Most peat or compost based soils retain in excess of 3 inches of perched water, so lets imagine a soil that retains 3 inches of perched water. Also, imagine a funnel that is 10 inches between the exit hole & the mouth and is filled with soil. Because we are imagining, the mouth is enclosed & has a drain hole in it. In your minds eye, picture the funnel filled with a soil that holds 3 inches of perched water, and the soil is saturated. If the funnel is placed so the large opening, the mouth, is down, you can see the largest possible volume of soil possible when using this container is saturated, the first 3 inches; but, turn the funnel over and what happens? We KNOW that the PWT level is constant at 3 inches, but there is a very large difference in the volume of soil in the lower 3 inches of the funnel after it is placed small end down. This means there is only a small fraction of the volume of perched water in the small-end-down application vs. the large-end-down. When you tip the funnel so the small end is down, all but a small fraction of the perched water runs out the bottom hole as the large water column seeks its 3 inch level in the small volume of soil. In a way, you have employed gravity to help you push the extra water out of the soil.

You haven't affected the DRAINAGE characteristics of the soil or its level of aeration, but you HAVE affected the o/a water retention of the container. This allows air to return to the soil much faster and greatly reduces any issues associated with excess water retention. OK - we can see that tapered containers will hold a reduced VOLUME of perched water, even when drainage characteristics, aeration, and the actual height of the PWT remain unchanged, but we don't and won't all grow in funnels, so lets see how we can apply this information PRACTICALLY to other containers.

Drainage layers don't work. The soil rests on top of drainage layers, then the water 'perches' in the soil above - just as it would if the soil was resting on the container bottom. Drainage layers simply raises the LOCATION where the PWT resides. But what if we put a brick or several bricks on the bottom of the container? Let's look at that idea, using the soil with the 3inch PWT again. Let's say the brick is 4x8x3 inches tall, and the container is a rectangle 10x12x12 inches high. The volume of soil occupied by perched water is going to be 10x12x3, or 360 cubic inches. If we add the brick to the bottom of the container so the height of the brick is 3 inches, it reduces the volume of soil that can hold perched water, so for every brick you add (4x8x3=96) you reduce the volume of soil that can hold perched water by 96 cubic inches. If you add 3 bricks, the volume of soil that holds perched water would be 360-288, or only 72 cubic inches, so you have reduced the amount of perched water in the container by 80% - quite a feat for a brick.

Your job though, is to be sure that what you add to the bottom of the container to reduce the volume of soil that can hold perched water doesn't create stress later on when the planting has matured. Be sure the container has a large enough volume of soil to produce plants free from the stress of excessive root constriction. You don't want to trade one stress for another.

How else might we 'trick' the water in the container into leaving? Let's think about the following in 2 dimensions, because it's easier to visualize. If you look at the side view of a cylindrical or rectangular container, you see a rectangle, so imagine a cylinder or rectangle 10 inches wide or 10 inches in diameter and 8" deep. Both side views are rectangles. Now, draw a horizontal line 3 inches above the bottom to represent the level of the PWT. Remember, this line will always remain horizontal and 3 inches above the bottom. Now tip the container at a 45 degree angle and notice what happens. The profile is now a triangle with an apex pointing downward and the base is of course the line of the PWT 3 inches above the bottom. Can you see there is a much lower volume of soil in the bottom 3 inches of the triangle than in the bottom 3 inches of the rectangle? The PWT line is level at 3 inches above the apex, so by simply tilting your containers after you water, you can trick a large fraction of the unwanted perched water to exit the container. Sometimes it helps to have a drain hole on the bottom outside edge of the pot, but not always. Only when the location of the hole is above the natural level of the PWT when the pot has been tilted does it affect how much additional water might have been removed.

On the forums, I've often talked about wicks, so I'll just touch on them lightly. If you push a wick through the drain hole and allow it to dangle several inches below the bottom of your container immediately after watering, the wick will 'fool' the perched water into behaving as though the container was deeper than it actually is. The water will move down the wick, seeking the bottom of the container and will then be pushed off the end of the wick by the additional water moving down behind it.

A variation of the wick, is the pot-in-pot technique, in which you place/nest one container inside another container with several inches of the same soil in the bottom and fill in around the sides. Leaving the drain hole of the top container open allows an unobstructed soil bridge between containers. Water will move downward through the soil bridge from the top container into the bottom container seeking its natural level; so all of the perched water the soil is capable of holding ends up in the bottom container, leaving you with much better aeration in your growing container.

The immediately above example employs the soil in the lower container as a wick, but you can achieve the same results by partially burying containers in the yard or garden, essentially employing the earth as a giant wick. These techniques change the physical dynamics of water movement and retention from the way water normally behaves in containers to the way water behaves in the earth. Essentially, you have turned your containers into mini raised beds, from the perspective of hydrology.

What I shared doesn't mean it's a good thing to use water retentive soils, simply because you have tricks to help you deal with them. For years, I've been using highly aerated soils and biting the 'water more often' bullet because I've seen the considerable difference these durable and highly aerated soils make when it comes to plant growth and vitality. Many others have come to the same realization and are freely sharing their thoughts and encouragement all across the forums, so I won't go into detail about soils here.

It should also be noted that roots are the heart of the plant, and it is impossible to maximize the health and vitality of above-ground parts without first maximizing the health and vitality of roots. Healthy roots also reduce the incidence of disease and insect predation by keeping metabolisms and vitality high so the plant can maximize the production of bio-compounds essential to defense.

The soil/medium is the foundation of every conventional container planting, and plantings are not unlike buildings in that you cannot build much on a weak foundation. A good soil is much easier to grow in, and offers a much wider margin for error for growers across the board, no matter their level of experience. But regardless of what soils you choose, I hope the outline here provides you with some useful strategies if you DO find yourself having to deal with a heavy soil.

I think that plants actually DON'T like the indoor conditions we prefer. If they liked them, they would grow better indoors than outdoors. That they don't, is a pretty reliable indication that at best, they tolerate indoor conditions to a degree that varies by both plant and the actual conditions. Generally speaking, out of the many thousands of tropical and subtropical perennials that might have been chosen as houseplants, it's usually those most tolerant of the indignities we heap on them by growing them indoors that are chosen by plant producers to sell to the hobby grower.

HOW a plant reacts to suddenly being moved indoors depends on the plant and the severity of the change. Certain plants might tolerate smaller or greater changes in conditions like temps/humidity/light, than others before they put on an unhappy face. The factors most often problematic are usually light and humidity levels, with soils that inhibit a plants ability to efficiently move water significantly adding to the problems caused by low humidity. Small wonder that room or whole house humidifiers and supplemental light are usually very helpful.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

I want to stimulate new growth (leaves) on the bottom portion of my fig plant without pruning. any ideas? will nicking the stem work?


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Nov 14, 12 at 22:29

Without pruning, about the best you can hope for is a little summer back-budding if you can get the plant acclimated to full outdoor sun where there is good air movement, you repot to ease root constriction, fertilize at luxury levels, and basically get the plant's cultural wants satisfied.

I'm not sure why you want to forgo the most useful of the tools available (pruning) as aids to accomplishing your goal? If your goal is to 'just grow the tree', you can probably get by for a while w/o pruning - at least until the plant grows badly out of bounds; but if your aim is produce a plant pleasing to the eye, the sooner you learn to turn pruning to your benefit, the more control you'll have over how pleasing that tree can actually be.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

I am in need of help on how to prune my fiddle leaf ficus. I saw this thread and figured I could post here for help. You will forgive that I have not read all the posts before mine, but my sense is that tapla is an encyclopedia on the subject. :-)

I noticed the problem with the ficus just two weeks ago when I moved it to put the Christmas tree in its place. I normally have the tops of the fiddle ficus held by threads from parts of the wall molding. When I removed the threads I noticed, what you will see in the pictures I am posting, that the trunks of the tree are too weak to hold the tops, and they are in desperate need of pruning. I have lots of other plants, and I prune them regularly, but I am not an expert on how to prune a tree. The tree is about 6ft tall. Where should I start? Any advise is much appreciated.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Ho-ho-ho, hope you all had a merry Christmas. It's unusual for me to be first to pitch an answer to a question, but I'll have a go. The basic thing to know about pruning a tree, without going into diagrams etc, is that you cut just past the point where a leaf sprouts from the branch, and generally you will get a new branch sprouting from the juncture of the leafstem and the branch. There are many other factors to consider, such as the season of year etc, which some others will probably mention.

Your tree looks to be quite robust, so it must be getting the kind of care it needs, but to consider pruning, you might want to be clear on the appearance you wish your tree to have. Do you want it to continue being tall and narrow? If so, you may not want to cut off alot at the top, and instead tie it to a heavy stake to hold it upright; you could prune off just a little at the top, and cut back any lateral growth that may occur to maintain the long-and-lean look.

Or, do you want it to be shorter with several stems? In that case, you could cut back the big lean-over stem so that it is 2 or 3 leaves shorter than the other short stems you already have. By the time the big stem sends out some new shoots and they grow a bit, the whole tree should look much more balanced, albeit much shorter.

Or do you want it somewhere in the middle? Just go ahead and cut the big stem at the point you'd like, or maybe a bit above; you can always stake the stem to keep it growing upright, and if you're not happy with the way it looks, cut it back a little more.

The important thing is don't be afraid to prune. Plants aren't hurt by pruning. Oh yes, you can also take the piece you have cut off and stick it back into the pot - you never can tell, it might root, it might not, but it's a fun experiment. Happy pruning.

Marlie


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 27, 12 at 18:18

Moutonwee - It looks like there is a thin branch coming off the main trunk a foot or two above the soil line - yes? I would prune the large trunk off entirely, just above the small trunk. This should leave you with a shorter tree that should start back-budding and filling out in a short while, and begin to back-bud in more earnest after the vernal equinox as days become longer than nights. It would actually be better if you waited to do this, but your plant looks healthy enough to tolerate that type of pruning easily at this point.

I do that all the time with bonsai trees.

Photobucket

The trunk of this maple will be cut off (already is) immediately above the small branch with wire on it, and the new skinny branch will just take over as the new top ..... just like nothing happened - no problem.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Marlie and Al,

Thank you very much for your comments and feedback. You have made be think about two different ideas, which I was not considering before.

First, on Marlie's response: Thank you for outlining so clearly the three options for pruning here and the proper way to do it. What is not visible from the picture I posted was that there is a second trunk which is identical to the one that is visible. I would like to keep the tree tall and lanky. It is the tallest plant I have and I like that. I think I will go with cutting a bit at the top and staking it. I also like your suggestion of cutting less and than cutting more if I feel it needs it. The staking would be the equivalent of the threads I used before. In fact, I think I have tried to use stakes in the past and they never quite held the tree in position.

On Al's response: I love your idea, but instead what I am thinking is that I will take the tiny tree (seen on the left in the picture above) and put it in a separate pot and do what you are suggesting. Do I have to do the wire, or I should I just leave it as it is?

I have another question. I have seen fiddle leaf ficus trees with much thicker trunks, how come mine are so skinny? Is it a matter of how big the pot is or something else?

Thank you both very much for your help!

Happy and healthy New Year!
Maria


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Dear Maria
I should have said this when talking about staking, but an ordinary bamboo stake won't hold your plant up, as you already found out. Try a 1" X 1", or 1 1/2" X 1 1/2" post, cut to the proper length and sharpened at one end; or maybe you can find a heavy round pole like a broom handle, only longer.

Re the size of trunks, the plants you see with heavier trunks have been grown in much brighter greenhouse, or even field, conditions. But by keeping the top pruned back, you might find your plant will be encouraged to put more of its growth efforts into trunk expansion.

Bona Fortuna,
Marlie


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

maria, see post by ronalawn in the very beginning. i posted right after it: i pruned my tree on 2 branches 2/3 way up(about 5 ' from the floor) and they both sprouted with 3-4 new branches and grew very well. i used cuttings to make new plants: first planted each separately in moist sphagnum in a tall plastic bottle (the stripped trunk about 12" sunk into the sphagnum moss), once they rooted well i transplanted them in 12" pots 2 per pot and bound them together tightly with copper wire : trunks soon merged - so the plant is much sturdier. i bound the old tree trunks (about 5) with soft wire. they did not merge, but the tree seems to like it and is producing new shoots lower on the trunk , close to bound spot. my new 'cuttings' are now over 6 feet and i am planning to repeat the procedure next aug (main hot growing season) to make a 3rd gen plant. the stem that will be below ground needs to be as long as possible to provide stability and i like to keep at least 5-6 leaves on the branch. i cut the tips often enough that most my tips do double or even triple branchings - so it's bushy. but when and if it refuses to branch i wait sev years so i can position the cut well above for new branching and at the same time obtain at least a 4' new branch for rooting.
here
here is a pic of branched cut.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

here's a pic of 2 pots with 2 trunks each that i mentioned above. one is from cutting in 2008, the 2nd from 2009. the 2 longest branches will be cut next year for a new plant. the oldest is 8' from the floor, the other 6' and both nicely branched, except for main long branch that i keep like that for cutting.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Dec 31, 12 at 11:45

How thick your trunk grows, and how well it is able to support itself, depends primarily on how much light is available, but also on nutritional supplementation and on how much movement the trunk is subjected to. Pruning your tree won't cause it to put more effort into trunk growth. In fact quite the opposite is true. If you want to encourage trunk thickening, you leave ALL foliage on the tree, The reason for this is, trunks thicken by laying down layers of energy-storing cells in the cambium. The more food the plant makes (directly related to light levels and the plant's foliage volume), the more cells get laid down in the cambium and the more the trunk thickens.

Most thickening occurs in summer, after the summer solstice, when the plant reduces the amount of energy it devotes to branch extension and producing new leaves, and starts storing energy for the approaching winter by storing more food in cambial tissues.

Wind, and anything else that causes the trunk to flex, also stimulates the production of lignin, which is the organic polymer stuff that makes plants strong and able to support themselves.

If you're interested in better understanding why I suggested pruning the main stem off just above the low branch that would then become the new leader, let me know. If you've decided to try to salvage the main stem by staking it, I wish you the best in that endeavor.

Happy New year. I hope your blessings come in bunches.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Thank you all for the wonderful information.

Al, per your post, I had speculated at times that even though my plan gets enough light to do relatively ok, it must be the lack of more light that might be preventing it from having bigger trunk and leaves. But I also thought that if a plant is producing foliage, it should be strong enough to keep itself straight. And thanks for explaining all the other stuff that goes on with the trunk.

Petrushka, thanks for your comments also and extensive example. I am now tempted to see and try how two trucks will merge. I just hope that I have enough room for all the new plants. With over 50 pots in my NYC apartment I am really pushing the limit :-)

Thanks again for your informative comments, I knew this is the right place to ask.

All the best. Maria


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi Al,

I just saw the option to post at the bottom of the page and am posting my pictures here to follow up the email that I sent you. Sorry about that. New at all this. Feel free to respond here if that is easier.

Catherine


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 23, 13 at 17:51

Catherine's questions:

I hope this is the proper way to contact you with questions. This is my first time to submit a question in this community. Welcome - very pleased to make your acquaintance. I hope you find lots of useful info here at GW. There are soo many helpful growers here!

I have a 6 year old tree and it has gotten quite leggy. I do have pictures but I am not sure how to submit those to you. You can email them after I reply to your message; or you can click the 'browse' button right below where it says "Post a Follow-Up" below the last message in the thread. It should open a window that allows you to select your photo library. Locate the picture you want to post and left click on it. It will load automatically. You can post multiple pictures by opening a web-based photo cache and storing copies of your pictures there. Under the picture you'll find a HTML address that you can copy/paste to the text box. The address will appear in the text box, but the picture appears when you click 'Preview'.

There are 3 branches in the tree and I would like the tree to grow more upright. They are probably 7 feet, 6 feet and 3 feet tall. The shorter one is growing upright currently. It was repotted about 2 years ago in a substantially larger pot so I think I am fine on that front. Let's take a look at the pictures to see what we're working with & to get a feel for how healthy the tree is. I'll watch for them.

What is the best way to prune the tree to encourage more upright growth. There are not currently any offshoots on the three branches. BTW, I am in Dallas. Also, is there a better time of year to do this type of pruning? Usually, pruning is done with future shape as the focus. It will be easier to explain after I see the pictures. When you prune depends on what your objectives are, but for most containerized tropical trees, the best time to prune is in June - later if you're repotting. Internodes are shortest when light is brightest, and extension (elongation of internodes) will be slowing after the summer solstice, so all growth after that point will be compact. Next summer, you'll prune off all the long growth that occurred during the low light period - back to last summer's growth with short internodes.

Many thanks for your time. My pleasure. Glad to see you here and looking forward to helping where I can.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Here is photo one and will load the other one after this. Let me know if this does not give you enough detail.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

And here is a close up of the branches.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 23, 13 at 21:39

OK - They look pretty good. My plan would be to first do some fairly drastic pruning on the two thickest stems. I'll try to explain how I would prune: The thickest stem needs to be the tallest - if it's not, something will look 'off', because in nature the tallest of a clump of trees is always the thickest. The next thickest stem wants to be about 2/3 the ht of the tallest, but when you cut it back, it needs to have at least 2 very healthy leaves left on it. So you need to figure out how you can make that work. After you have the ht of the tallest & second tallest, you'll cut the small tree back to 1/2 the ht of the middle tree. Make your pruning cuts about 1" above a healthy leaf. After the new branch emerges, in a year or so, you'll see a collar starting to develop around the dead stub. When that happens, prune the dead stub back flush with the collar w/o cutting into the collar.

By shortening the trees, you'll make them stiffer, so they'll be able to support their own weight, and you'll be able to eliminate the stakes.

Questions/comments?

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

All that makes perfect sense. Many thanks for your help.

One last question, you mentioned in your original post that June was the best time to prune. Should I wait until then to do the pruning you suggested?


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 24, 13 at 16:07

If you can be that patient (wait), you'll get more energetic back-budding. The best time to cut back a plant is when it has high energy reserves and long days (plenty of light) in its immediate future, which translates to late June or early July when back-budding is highly desirable. If you were to do it now, your plant would be fine, but its response sluggish; plus, most of the back-budding would occur almost immediately proximal to the pruning cut - probably at the first node.

Keep us posted!

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi all,

I've been plant sitting a lovely ficus for the last year. Since I've battled spider mites in the past, I typically give the ficus a shower bath a few times throughout the winter which I did about a month ago. In the past two weeks or so, many of her leaves started drooping. They would become shaded brown and then drop off. It seems to be getting worse in the last week, so I thought I would check with the experts. Also of note, almost all of the plants in the immediate vicinity are also drooping and/or seemingly afflicted. Here are some pictures of the fig. I'm happy to answer any and all questions that can help save this wonderful plant! thank you in advance.



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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 1, 13 at 15:50

* When last repotted or potted up? which?
* Watering habits - is the soil quite dry before you water - when you water are you watering so at least 15-20% of the water applied exits the drain hole - there IS a drain hole?
* Fertilizer - when last, with what, how often, NPK %s?
* Moved the plant recently? cold drafts? changes in light?
* Checked carefully for infestations - particularly scale & mites?

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi Al,
Thanks for your response.
I just took a very close look and wonder if it is scale? Here is a photo of a spot that looks suspicious to me.
Also here are the answers to your other questons.
*I repotted last June.
*The soil is usually quite dry - I also checked the roots today and nothing seems particularly wet. There is a drainage hole
* Haven't fertilized this winter
*There are cold drafts but I've done my best to minimize the plant's exposure.

Other things of note -
I did spray the leaves with Triple Action Plus II - a fungicide, about a month ago.

Thanks again!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Feb 2, 13 at 10:05

To me, the injury looks suspiciously like a reaction to something sprayed on the plant.

I would thoroughly flush the soil & then fertilize with a half-strength dose of a 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer the next time the plant needs water. If you decide to follow that course, I'll help you do it correctly - just ask.

The pyrethroids in your insecticide are not particularly effective against adult scale, which it appears your plant is battling. For scale, a horticultural oil that says 'light, perfect, or all-season' on the label would be my 'go to'. If I was going to choose an insecticide, it would probably be Bayer's 3-in-1 (not the product with fertilizer in it), which contains a systemic insecticide and a systemic fungicide, as well as a miticide. It's safe/approved for use on houseplants, but you shouldn't spray it indoors, so keep that in mind.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi Al,
I'd like to try flushing the soil so any help you can offer would be great. Nearly 2/3 of her leaves have dropped so I'm guessing I'm working on borrowed time.

Thanks again!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi Al,
I'd like to try flushing the soil so any help you can offer would be great. Nearly 2/3 of her leaves have dropped so I'm guessing I'm working on borrowed time.

Thanks again!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Regarding whether your plant has scale, it's hard to tell from that one pic. It's easy to tell if there's scale, though - you find something "suspicious" and try to pick it off. If you can, it's probably a scale; if you can't, it's something else - fungus, bacteria, bug damage, etc. The leaf you show with the sort of brownish shading along the vein areas makes me think of some sort of toxicity, for which the best treatment is soil leaching, or flushing, which is what you are planning to do, I guess. You just want to put the plant where you can run alot of water through it, like outside, then run at least 5 times the volume of the container, e.g. a 5 gal container would have 25 gal of water run through.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Regarding whether your plant has scale, it's hard to tell from that one pic. It's easy to tell if there's scale, though - you find something "suspicious" and try to pick it off. If you can, it's probably a scale; if you can't, it's something else - fungus, bacteria, bug damage, etc. The leaf you show with the sort of brownish shading along the vein areas makes me think of some sort of toxicity, for which the best treatment is soil leaching, or flushing, which is what you are planning to do, I guess. You just want to put the plant where you can run alot of water through it, like outside, then run at least 5 times the volume of the container, e.g. a 5 gal container would have 25 gal of water run through.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

(I hate it when that happens - double posting.) Another thing about scale, usually you will see or feel a sticky residue on the leaves, stems, pots, and/or floor.
On that pic of the leaf stems and the end of the trunk, is there a discoloration on the leaf stems where they emerge from the trunk? That would most often be an indication of fungal infection in soil and/or roots.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi everyone,

I have a pretty tall (apx. 7 feet) indoor ficus lyrata (fiddle leaf fig). I've never cared for a ficus before and am unsure about how to prune. I've seem many photos of them looking much more like trees than mine does.

As you can see in the photos, it is starting to bend to the light a bit and while I was gone over the holidays, it grew pretty tall. It is now brushing the ceiling. It gets a lot of morning light and I rotate it and keep it misted about once a week. I live in Boston, so keep the windows open beside the plant because we have radiator heat and I don't want it to get too hot. Though the plant is near the radiator, it doesn't seem to be suffering from the dry heat.

Any care tips or how I should prune would be greatly appreciated. I really love these beautiful plants and would like to have this one for a good long time!

Thanks in advance!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hey Ex - that lyrata looks real good. I'm guessing you've had it awhile, since you've seen it grow quite abit, so it looks like you have the watering down well. Watering is the first hurdle to overcome in growing indoor plants. You'll want to think about repotting after you've had it for a year, and you'll find wonderful advice on GW for soil mixtures and repotting advice.

But right now, you want to know about pruning, right? The most basic direction - just cut it. OK, I know it's a little more complicated than that, but the idea I'm trying to get across is that pruning isn't all that difficult. You cut the main stem about an inch above where a leaf is, and your new shoot(s) will emerge from the spot(s) where leaf stem grows out of main stem. The ideal time to prune would be around June, but if you don't want to wait till then, you can truly prune anytime you want. The big difference is if you wait till June you'll have a better chance of getting several new shoots, while if you cut now, most likely you'll have only one new shoot.

And where to cut? Again, not a big deal, basically any place you want. Consider how big the new leaves will be...if you cut, say 1' from the top, as soon as you get new leaves, you'll be back up to the ceiling. I think I would cut 1/3 to 1/2 of the way down the main stem. Then, for some added fun, you can stick the cut piece (remove leaves of course) into the soil to see if it will root. It might!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Feb 11, 13 at 15:29

If you're looking for some information that targets Ficus specifically, you can follow the link below for cultural recommendations.

If you decide to try cuttings, there are some considerations that will help ensure their viability/ success in rooting. Please be sure to ask for suggestions before you embark on that mission. ;-)

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Click me for more about Ficus in containers ...


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Feb 11, 13 at 16:05

Rylapink - I cant reply to your emails through GW unless you add your email address to your user page & enable that feature - or include your email addy with your correspondence.

For basic info on root pruning, follow the link below. If you have specific questions ask here, at the link I left in the post above, or at the link I'll leave below.

Sorry - I hope you see this.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: More about trees in containers.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Many thanks to both Al and the Ficus Wrangler! I'll go ahead and cut about a 1/3 since it's grazing the ceiling.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 13, 13 at 7:48

Remember please - you'll get a more enthusiastic back-budding response if you wait until late Jun or early Jul to make the cut.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Sadly, the last few weeks have not been good to my tree. I flushed the soil, and then watered the next time with fertilizer, but it was too late I think. All of the leaves have fallen off the branches except for these remaining two from the one stalk (with one little shoot in the back!) The trunks are still green underneath, so I'm hoping for a spring rebirth. My question is - what is the best way to encourage new growth in its current state? Should I cut down those stalks? Should I wait until the summer when the plant goes outside? I live in North Carolina. Thanks for any tips.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Ooooh, sorry Achass, that doesn't look good, does it. But, remember, where there's green, there's life. So all is not lost.. I think I would cut back those bare stems to about 12" above the soil, to make it easier for the plant to bud (not so far to push juice, know what I mean?) You might want to leave 1 long stem, just to see what happens. Keep the soil very slightly damp - use your probe to check all the way to the bottom of the pot - and just let it rest where it gets light but no direct sun. When all chance of temps going below 40degrees has passed, take it outside if you can, under some nice shady trees, make sure it never goes dry, and see what happens.

If your lyrata doesn't make it, please try again. As we've all learned, you don't develop a green thumb without liberal use of the garbage can.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

I would really appreciate some pruning advice for my beloved FLF.

After bringing it home last February, it lost a good 1/3 to 1/2 its leaves. This was due to me not being diligent about turning it around for equal light and under watering. Since then it has seemed pretty happy. Last summer it grew quite a bit- a good foot or two in height. I would like it to grow another 2 feet or so (to about 9 feet high) but I need it to become more bushy. I hate the thought of cutting back so much on the height but is this necessary to "fill out" the tree better?
I've attached 2 pictures. Instructions on which branches to prune and by how much would be so appreciated.

Thanks,
Leah


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

And here's a pic of her "bad side."

As an aside, I definitely plan to repot and pot up this spring. Any pruning will wait for Spring as well.

Thanks again for the help!

Leah


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

And here's a pic of her "bad side."

As an aside, I definitely plan to repot and pot up this spring. Any pruning will wait for Spring as well.

Thanks again for the help!

Leah


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hey Leah,
The answer to your question is yes...if you want more bushiness, you'll have to prune back some of those limbs. Be brave, now, you know it's gonna grow. The fact that you brought it back after an initial falter says that you've got the culture down pretty well - just be careful to test the soil moisture all the way to the bottom of the pot, don't want to get too many of those brown spots on the edges of the leaves. Your plans to repot and prune in the spring are right on also.

So, now , the question is where to make the cuts. First, stand back and look at your tree. Envision the shape you want to see, then look at what's outside that shape, and that's what you want to remove. Remember, also, that the lyrata leaves are quite large, so when they fill out, they'll take the outline of your tree 8-12 inches beyond the place where you cut the limb. I would guess that you might want to prune the 2 longest limbs, cutting just past the leaf scar, or the leaf if you're farther up the limb. If you're feeling squeemish about applying the pruner, it's ok to be conservative - you can always cut more at a later date.

Here's a little tip for you, from the professional plant tech's playbook - every time you water, rotate the plant 1/4 turn clockwise. That way you'll avoid "one sided" plants, and they'll always have a pretty face looking at you instead of out the window.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Thanks so much. I am turning it now every couple days, I have learned the hard way this trick :)

I am unsure about where to cut on 3 of the near-bare branches. From reading through the above posts, it sounds like you are supposed to cut above a leaf, leaving 2 leaves on the branch. The 3 branches that I pointed out in this picture only have leaves at the very top, so if I cut them down to encourage new growth/bushiness, there will be no leaves left on the branches. So do I still go ahead and cut further down?

The other 2 branches (the tall ones) are filled fairly well with branches (the side previously always getting sun). So do I leave these branches and let them grow taller, or do I cut them as well to encourage bushiness on other parts of the tree and on this part (or does new growth only happen below where you prune?).

And at the risk of this being a dumb question, after I have pruned and my plant has filled out more, will it then just grow in height, with the length of the trunk before branches appear staying the same? In other words, does the height at which leaves/branches begin stay the same, as branches lengthen, or does the bare trunk part grow as well, "raising" the height of the part with leaves?

Thanks again for all advice!

Leah


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi Leah,
I'll try to address your questions one by one. On the branches that have only a couple of leaves at the very ends, yes, go ahead and cut farther down, at the point where you would like to see new growth emerging. You will see that even though the branch is leafless, there are scars where the leaves once were - the new leaves will emerge from the branch just above these scars, just as they would if the leaves were still there.

Pruning a branch enables buds to emerge on that branch, but nowhere else on the plant. If you prune those 3 side branches but not the taller, leafier branches, you'll probably end up with sort of an egg-shaped tree - fuller at the bottom, thinner at the top. If that's what you're thinking of, you're on it. If you want more of an oval or umbrella -shaped tree, you should cut back at least one of the tall branches. You can cut anywhere on the branch - you can leave more than 2 leaves, you can leave as many as you like. As I said before, you can go slowly, no need to cut everything at once. Pruning in the spring will produce the most vigorous results, but the lyrata can actually be pruned any time without harm.

Your question about the growth of the trunk is not dumb at all. If you keep your tree inside, most of the growth will occur at the ends of the branches; the trunk will grow, but very slowly. If however you put your tree outside - in the shade, please - for the summer, you will probably see more growth in the trunk as well as the branches.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Thank you so much for that advice. I had to laugh at the egg comment; that is definitely not the look I am going for :) Hoping for an umbrella shape, so I will follow your advice on pruning to achieve that come Spring.
Again, thanks so much for taking the time to help.

Leah


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Just thought of another quick question- should I fertilize the tree in the meantime as I wait for Spring to do pruning? Is it a good idea to fertilize after I've made the cuts?


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 6, 13 at 16:00

Leliz - if you lived in the deep south and were pruning a very robust lyrata in mid summer, you might get by with removing all the foliage from a branch, but in more northerly climes, and especially on trees that are just sort of treading water, removing all foliage from a branch is very likely to result in the death of that branch. "Chasing foliage" back closer to the trunk is an incremental process. Yes, the plant will want to back-bud because you removed the source of the growth regulator that prevents back-budding, but when you remove all the foliage from a weak branch, the organism usually recognizes the branch as an organ that is not producing energy (no leaves - no food) and sets about shedding the part it recognizes as useless. That's what trees do. You should always leave at least 2 healthy leaves on branches you wish to keep (for lyrata and elastica). Even benjamina is iffy unless you live in the deep south and the tree is very robust and you defoliate in the summer.

Pruning a tree hard when it is growing well and has plenty of energy reserves has varying results. For instance, if you had a lyrata growing strong in the deep south, you could probably cut all the branches back to stubs, and new growth would break all along the trunk, and from the branch stubs. We do it in bonsai all the time. We often develop a trunk line while the plant is in the ground, then cut off ALL the branches (except conifers). Most trees or shrubs respond with new growth all over the trunk, and you select the branches you wish to develop. So, tip pruning 1 branch might only result in back-budding on that singular branch, but hard pruning multiple branches usually causes lots of back-budding all over the tree - so it's not a one size fits all sort of thing. Also, WHEN you do the pruning is important.

I think it's misleading to say lyrata can be pruned at any time w/o harm. There are good times to prune and bad times to prune. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best time to prune, right now is about a 1. The tree is probably at its lowest energy level of the growth cycle, so removing photosynthesizing machinery (leaves) is certain to be a much more significant setback now, than it would be after the tree builds up some energy reserves - in Jun or Jul, the best time to prune tropical Ficus.

The growth of the trunk in diameter is directly related to the amount of light the plant gets and the number and size of the leaves - to the amount of photosynthesizing surface producing food. More leaves = more food = more layers of cells in the cambium. A happy tree produces fat growth rings & grows fatter faster. Sad trees produce skinny growth rings & stay thin.

Working on weak trees is decidedly bad form and carries significantly more risk (of losing the tree or some of its parts) than working on trees that are full of energy and growing vigorously. By pruning back incrementally, you can force back-budding on branches, all the way back to the trunk without jeopardizing either the tree or its parts - as long as the branch receives adequate light. If you go ahead w/o a plan that pivots on the best interest of the plant, you end up trusting more in luck than the cogency of the plan.

A) If you tie an imaginary yellow ribbon around a young oak tree, 5 ft from the ground and come back 100 years later, the ribbon will still be in the same spacial position - 5 ft from the ground. B) Whenever you truncate (cut the end off) of a branch or the trunk, that branch or trunk can never grow longer. Instead, what happens is, a branch behind the cut takes over as the new leader. Sometimes we need to help it by temporarily guiding it into the position we like.

This little ficus had its trunk truncated where you see the scar. Some of the other branches already growing on the tree were trained upward with wire to form the beginning framework of a future bonsai. This is one of the most vigorous of all Ficus (salicifolia/nerifolia), but you can see that after I pruned it, I STILL left leaves on every branch to help ensure the viability of individual branches.
 photo bonsaipics012-1.jpg

How you should fertilize depends in great part on your watering habits and soil characteristics. W/o some knowledge of those important factors, no one can offer much in the way of meaningful advice. Your aim, in fertilizing, should be to have all the nutrients plants normally take from the soil, IN the soil at all times - in a ratio as near as possible to that at which the plant actually USES the nutrients, and at a concentration high enough to ensure no deficiencies, yet low enough that it doesn't impair the uptake of water and nutrients dissolved in the water. There are ways to grow that make it very easy to supply nutrients in the manner I just described, and ways that make it virtually impossible. The difference in how effectively you can provide nutrients to plants depends primarily on three things - your fertilizer's nutrient ratio (different than NPK %s), the physical characteristics of your soil, and your watering habits.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi Al,
I was happy to hear all of your input, very appreciated.

How would I go about pruning incrementally? The branches that need the most filling in all have leaves at the very end. If I tip prune in June, is there any chance of new growth forming lower down the branch, or is it always around where you make the cut?
Also, I have one branch that has 3 healthy leaves, all at the end. Will pruning the tip (cutting just one leaf, leaving 2) be enough to encourage back-budding?

Thanks again,
Leah


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 7, 13 at 21:06

Thanks. Leah!

Pruning hard should be a regular part of maintaining your potted trees. It's really the only way you can take control over how your tree will look. First though, you need to make sure your plant is healthy & robust. That requires that you focus on a part of the plant you can't see - the roots. Keep the roots happy and give the plant good light & nutrition. The plant will respond with good growth and good health, and plenty of reserve energy to FORCE back-budding when you do prune.

Pruning a healthy branch back to 2 leaves might only produce 2 new branches in the axils of the 2 leaves you left, but pruning all the healthy branches in the upper half of the tree (where most of the growth regulator that inhibits back-budding is manufactured - auxin) back to 2 leaves, will trigger significant back-budding in all Ficus. If the tree is in bright light and gets plenty of air movement (which also increases back-budding), like when the tree is outdoors, you'll get back-budding well behind the leaves left on the branches.

Growth is good, but growth for growth's sake is kind of missing the mark. Be willing to sacrifice some of the growth for health and appearance. I'm not saying you have to forgo the growth; rather, I'm saying that you can learn how to allow growth and subsequently MANAGE it to make your tree healthier and more attractive. Trees that grow indoors can never be trusted to grow like they do where they naturally occur. If you want a tree that's pleasing to the eye, you have to have a hand in managing its appearance.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi all,

I've had a ficus lyrata for about 2 months now, and I've got a few worries and a few plans that I would like to address with those who know more than I.

I've read tapla's thread about Ficus Trees in Containers - thanks so much for it! It's been really helpful for lot of basic info that I was sorely lacking before.

I've included a link to a set of photos of my lovely ficus at the bottom of this post- they're what I'm referring to in this post.

Details: I live in Atlanta. The amount of light in the pictures is representative of the light the tree gets about half the day - this window faces southeast, and a southwestern facing window keeps the room bright for much of the day. I rotate it whenever I water it. I water weekly, though I've grown concerned that I'm overwatering, and I'll begin checking the drain hole to figure out the best watering schedule for me. I "flushed" the soil once about a month ago. I haven't fertilized, thinking that the nursery probably fertilized it a lot, and that I'll start fertilizing when the tree hits a growth spurt. You'll see in the photos that the tree is close to an air vent, something I'm watching but I think I'm closer to overwatering than to letting things dry out too much. I love the shape of my tree, though it is so densely foliated that I even have trouble really figuring out where it branches. There are five stems after the main stem begins to split.

My issue(s): First, you'll see that about halfway up the tree a bud has formed, and it's going for broke. I noticed it less than a week ago. I want the tree to stay generally the shape it is - branched at the top with leaves only there, but I also of course want it to stay healthy. I can see plenty of scars where it was pruned before. Still, can I prune buds like this without compromising its health?

Second, what I really want is for the tree to be able to put energy into building up the main stem. It's strong, but I want to avoid letting the tree get top heavy. This is why I'm hesitant to prune any leaves - I want as much photosynthesis as possible going on in there.

Third (and related to the previous two), I was told at the nursery to expect it to drop interior leaves as the outer ones will shade them. In two months the tree has dropped two leaves, though now several of them are developing the brown dry spots at the tips. You can see it in the photos. The thing is, it's the larger outer leaves that are turning brown. Is this more likely because of the angle of the light the tree receives (which may favor the interior leaves in my case), or is it a watering/fertilizing problem? Any thoughts on the reddish areas that have shown up on the undersides of some leaves? Also, is it ever a good idea to remove leaves that seem to be undergoing abscission so that the tree doesn't have to use energy on them?

Lastly, how do these plans sound? In May I plan to repot it with some less dense soil and a larger pot. I have no idea what state the roots are in, but if they're bound I'll try to free them up. I'll start fertilizing every time I water, probably next time I water. I have 8-7-6 (0.1% chelated iron) on hand, but I'll get something else if I should. When the nights get above 50*F, I'll put it outside when possible. Though, in my circumstances I'd probably have to move it in and out every few days (I live in a small apt building with a very understanding landlord, but there's not exactly a great spot for it outdoors) - would it be better to stick indoors and one light level/temperature rather than changing it up?

There were a whole lot of questions in there! I'd really appreciate some thoughts on any of them from anyone with advice to give.

All the best and HAPPY SPRING!
-Christina

Here is a link that might be useful: Flikr set of photos of my ficus lyrata


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 21, 13 at 17:52

There is a conspiratorial relationship between over-watering and heat vents. The heat vent increases the rate of transpiration, and the over-watering inhibits the plant's ability to absorb and move water to distal parts, like leaf tips and margins.

The bud can be removed at any time without harming the tree - you just prune it off. Left to grow, the branch the bud forms will increase the number of cell files occurring below the branch, which means it will thicken the trunk below its attachment point. We often use a serious of sacrifice branches and pruning to build a tree with a heavy and tapered trunk to add the illusion of age. You can decide if it's appropriate to keep or remove the bud, based on how important appearance is today. It's a common problem for anyone that manipulates trees in containers with the goal of eventually having a beautiful specimen. You won't get reimbursed for your sacrifices today, but a few years down the road you might be happy you left the bud to grow for a while. It's all up to you. I'm always looking 5-10 years down the road whenever I look at a tree - even if it's in the landscape.

Trees get top heavy because all the bottom branches have been removed or have been shed, and because the grower might not fully understand how to manage the growth to prevent it from happening. That's not a knock - you don't even find the information re how to properly manage a tree's energy in 95% of the available bonsai books ..... and it's almost a certainty that you won't find any meaningful information on proper pruning in a houseplant book.

The dried tips & margins are more likely related to watering/soil than anything else, given that you've flushed the soil and haven't fertilized. Keep in mind that a lack of fertility causes the tree to cannibalize older parts, absorbing nutrients and whatever else it can rob from them to fuel new growth before shedding the older parts (now THAT's being self-absorbed!), so light isn't the only issue that can cause shedding. Tight roots also contribute significantly to the tree's tendency to retain only the foliage nearest apical meristems, which is the youngest growth.

If you're worried about the tree's condition or its energy reserves, and wondering about a leaf that seems to be in the process of being shed - leave it so the tree can reabsorb useful energy or bio-compounds in the leaf. When the tree is done with it, the leaf will fall on its own ..... or if it's all brown, you can cut through the petiole near where it's attached to the branch or stem - the stub will fall off on its own. If the tree is healthy, it will easily tolerate your removal of spoiled foliage. Used properly, defoliation can be used as an effective tool to increase ramification and even replace old damaged foliage with a new flush of growth. Defoliation can also be used extensively to balance the energy flow in indoor trees, which has an important impact on the trees appearance.

A late May repot sounds good. I'd bare-root it and make sure it goes into a chunky, well-aerated soil. It's not necessary to fertilize with each watering, but it can be very effective if your soil choice and watering habits fit with that plan. Your 8-7-6 has about 2.5x more P than your plant can use, but it wouldn't be the end of the world if you used it. I use a 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer (Foliage-Pro 9-3-6) on almost everything I grow for a number of reasons. Moving the plant in and out on an erratic schedule will cause some light-related issues with foliage you might not like. Once my Ficus go out in the early summer, they stay out until it gets too chilly for them.

Best luck!

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Thank you for all the wonderful information on this forum! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread.

I received a large but very overpruned ficus lyrata in January of this year. My concerns about this plant are two-fold:

1. The plant has been severely pruned at the top, with what looks like 2 large branches (1” diameter) having been completely removed. Several small branches formed just below this, but look quite unhealthy (http://www.flickr.com/photos/64133935@N06/8616938683/in/photostream). More on that in point 2. The only good foliage/branching remaining on the tree is near the base of the trunk. Long term, I would like this plant to have a tree-like appearance, with say 3+ large branches with foliage at the top. What can I do to encourage branching at the top? For the time being I am ok with the branches at the bottom staying, as this is currently the only foliage and hence photosynthetic source for the plant.

2. When I received the plant, the several small branches that formed at the top of the tree each had a couple of small but healthy green leaves. In the past couple of weeks these leaves began to yellow and drop. I decided after reading this forum that the likely cause was underwatering--I was not soaking the soil, and the soil was allowed to completely dry between waterings. I’ve since corrected this, soaking the soil completely and watering every time it dries out to the point where the soil is just moist enough to stick together when pressed between my fingers. In addition, I’ve moved the tree from a floor to ceiling north facing window to a south facing window that receives about 3 hrs of direct sunlight a day. Since changing the location and my watering habits, the top leaves have continued to drop. However, in a promising sign, new buds are forming on the lower branches for the first time since I received the plant (http://www.flickr.com/photos/64133935@N06/8616937663/in/photostream). Do you think my corrective actions are enough to restore the health of this tree?

Other cultural factors that may be of interest: we live in Portland, OR, where this time of year it is cloudy about 50% of the time (so the tree is only getting direct sunlight maybe every other day). The plant was originally shipped to me from Florida. Also, I believe the plant is probably getting poor drainage, since the soil stays wet for 7+ days. I would like to repot to fix this in early June (or sooner, if possible). The plant has not been fertilized since coming to me.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 3, 13 at 22:40

If the plant came from a grower in FL, it's probable that he was pushing the plant with heavy doses of fertilizer. When you move a plant to lower light or cooler temperatures, they won't tolerate the same level of fertility they will under better growing conditions, so that's a possible issue.

I would let the plant dry down to the point where a wood skewer or dowel stuck deep in the pot comes out clean and dry, then water thoroughly. You can remove a lot of excess water after you water by tipping the pot and/or using a wick. See B and E below, as opposed to A, to see what tipping the pot and a wick can do to help.

 photo PWTs.jpg

The only workable plan you have as far as managing foliage to end up with a standard is to decide whether to chance repotting now, which will be stressful and could cause the tree to shed the entire top above the highest of the lower branches, or you could do your best to get the basics right and hope the top survives this rough spot. If it does, the tree is programmed to put most of its energy into the upper part of the tree, so the top will take off once you get everything straightened around. If it doesn't, and the top dies back, you'll need to train one of the lower branches upward as the new leader. That's as easy as tying it to the dead top - a built-in stake.

I gave a talk to a MG group last week, and another tonight. The first was on how to make soils, tonight's was on managing your potted plants (houseplants) for the long term - how to keep growth and vitality as close to optimum as possible. Both talks focused heavily on the importance of soil choice, and tonight's went into a lot of detail & included a demo on how to maintain roots. I give another on the 11th, on succulents, and that will also focus on soil and root maintenance. A good soil and proper maintenance of the roots is critically important to the long term health of your plants.

I'll link you to a couple of threads that have enough info to make a difference in how much reward you get for your effort if you take it to heart, but I'll let you decide what value you'd like to place on the info, if any.

The first thread is about basics. It focuses on how to avoid the most common pitfalls.

The second one is specifically about tending ficus trees in containers, and should have some information you can put to use as you bring your own tree along.

You can ask any questions you might have there or here. Best luck!!

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Thank you for your help! I read through your basics and plan to make the 5:1:1 soil when I re-pot in June. On second examination, I realized my drainage issues are not as bad as I initially thought, and I think that by using a wick I can make the current soil situation work until I'm able to re-pot. I'm feeling good about the new watering + light regimen, as all of the lower branches now are experiencing good budding, and I even have some new buds (branches?) forming on the main trunk itself.

So, in your opinion, I do not need to do any additional pruning to the top (such as nicking or cutting) to get branch formation as long as the plant is healthy? Would you expect me to see new branching at the top by this summer? (Again, assuming all other conditions are good.)


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 7, 13 at 20:06

You can always take branches off, but putting them back on is a different story. Any branches growing off the trunk below where you eventually want the foliage mass to be are a plus. Removing them won't increase the energy the plant devotes to the upper 1/3 of the tree - it already devotes about 2/3 of its total food supply to the top 1/3 of the plan t. If you get a very vigorous branch that seems to want to 'take off' and grow like mad - take it off before it gets to be about 3/4 as thick as the main trunk. Prune it almost flush to the trunk. This is ok for potted trees, but poor practice for trees in the landscape because it can cause mechanical weakening - not an issue with trees in pots. With potted trees we're more concerned with the appearance of the scar and how soon the tree is able to cover it.

If the top survives, the tree will dedicate most of its resources to it automatically. If it doesn't, it will recognize the most vigorous branch near the living portion as the new leader and focus most of its energy there.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi everyone,

What a wonderful and helpful thread!

I would like a little bit of advice on my trees. I got two fiddle leaf figs a couple of months ago in CA. They were doing great for the first couple of weeks - sprouted a couple of new leaves on top, and grew about half a foot. Then the little new leaves on the top dropped off a few times, so I assumed it didn't get enough water. Watered a bit more, and the tree started to develop brown spots on the edges of the leaves, which spread and are now starting to turn dry.

I am feeling sooo bad for these beautiful plants and I am not sure what to do! After reading this thread and some care tips, I suspect I overwatered the plants but I am not sure :(

I first moved them closer to the windows assuming they didn't get enough light. They are in a fairy well-lit room with lots of indirect light and brightness throughout the day, no drafts. A tiny bit of direct sun in the morning - hoping that might help? I also had one tree closer to the window and one further away but they both seem to be equally affected with brown spots, with the sides that were facing the wall seemingly affected more (or maybe sides damaged during the drive home from the plant store since I had them laying in the car on the side?)

I attached a picture of the brown/dry spots.

1. Should I keep them close to the window? Is it okay if one tree is further away from the window if I rotate them every week or so? Is it okay for the tree to get a couple of hours of bright direct sunlight or it's a no-no? The tree that would be further away from the window would not be getting any direct sun light at all and only indirect (although fairly bright) light during the day.

2. I water them until a bit of water leaks out of the bottom, but I have them in baskets so I would prefer not to have too much of an over-leakage (the pots have drain holes). Is it possible to water these a little less but more frequently, so I don't have to remove the baskets all the time to drain the saucer?

3. Should I fertilize? (I haven't yet). If yes, with what and how often?

4. We have no drafts and sometimes it gets quite warm during the day - mid to high 70's. Is that okay for the plant?

They were doing so great when I first got them and now I am worried that I am slowly killing them :(

I would really appreciate your advice! Thank you!


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Adding another picture of the brown spots.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

And a picture of the whole tree (it's about 5ft tall)


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 20, 13 at 22:16

The spoiled foliage is consistent with what occurs when the roots have endured saturated soil for an extended period. Sometimes, if the plant is in very bright light and fertility levels very high, symptoms of fertilizer burn can become manifest if the plant is resited in a lower light setting. Usually the actual effects of high salinity resultant of the reduction in light are short, lasting until the level of solubles in the soil solution drops as a result of dilution as you water and flush the soil. Unfortunately, the damage done to the foliage is permanent because plants don't replace cells in the same spacial position as animals do.

Your best course of action would be to make sure you have the basics covered. If it was my tree, and because we're in the best month to repot, I would probably do that, even if only to guarantee the plant is in a soil that ensures the plant at least has a chance to grow close to it's potential.

Growing well can be an easy exercise if you are able to provide cultural conditions that are in the plant's sweet spot, and not at the extreme limits of what the plant is programmed to tolerate. The best advice I can give centers around making sure your plant is growing on a healthy root system, which means a soil you can water correctly, or at least manage so it's not so limiting, because a healthy root system is a prerequisite to a healthy plant.

I'll link you to some helpful advice for dealing with water-retentive soils. Maybe that, and getting your watering under control will be enough. Ideally, adopting a soil for ALL your plants that allows you to water correctly would probably represent the biggest step forward you can take as a container gardener, but I'll let you decide how much time and effort you'd like to devote getting a handle on this growing thing. ;-)

Here is a post that offers an overview of growing in containers that should help you to avoid all the common problems that bring growers to the forums seeking help. The help for water-retentive soils is below. If you want to learn more about soils and how water behaves in soils, just ask, and I'll provide a link to that thread as well.

Best luck.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Help for soggy soils ....


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi Elena-
Usually I advise against repotting new plants as soon as you get them, because the growers have them in good potting mix already. People often use the highly-advertised potting soils, mistakenly believing them to be the best for their plants, but this is not true. The "water retentive" ones are especially troublesome, because you want roots to be able to breathe, not sit in wet soil.

Al's advice is most excellent, and if you decide to go his route of extremely porous potting mixes, then certainly, go ahead and repot your lyratas into new medium. If you don't want to do this now, I suggest that you research the local garden stores until you find one that sells "soilless potting mix," which is what most growers use, and use this whenever you do need to repot. And remember if you want to use a larger pot, it should be no more than one size up.

The new leaves that sprouted at the top of your plant probably fell off because of the changes of light involved in the plants' moving from grower to store to your home.

Lyratas are not as sensitive to light changes as are their cousins the ficus benjamina, but new leaves can easily fall.

Bright indirect light is the best for indoor ficus of any type. A couple hours of direct sun a day won't hurt, but I wouldn't worry about moving the plants back and forth. Why don't you leave the one where it gets the sunlight, and see if there's any difference in the performance of the 2 plants.

Now we come to watering. The appearance of the leaves on your trees is consistent with overwatering - you are right about that. The most important thing to deal with in potted plants, even more important than having porous mixes, is to learn to evaluate the soil moisture that is existing in whatever kind of soil mix you have, and to water according to that.

The best way to do that is to test the soil, using a narrow wooden dowel or kebob skewer, Push it into the soil, as if testing a cake, all the way to the bottom of the pot. For fiddle-leaf figs, there should be a few bits of soil sticking to the wood, and when you run it between your fingers, it should feel slightly damp. Here's a link to some videos that show you more about this, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tf-8InSamYQ

Because your plants are showing signs of damage, you might want to use something called "drought therapy," which involves allowing the plant to get extra dry before watering, which on the skewer would be no moisture to be felt. This therapy has to be handled attentively, so as not to damage the plant by keeping it dry too long. Check it every day, and as soon as it reaches this level of dryness, water it. Don't do this for more than 2 cycles of wet/dry.

About watering, it's important that you always have a water runoff, to assure that you are moistening the entire root/soil mass. However, you don't have to be lifting the plants and emptying the saucers every time.

I know most of the people on this, and every other, forum and information site say you must not leave water in the saucer. But, I have been an interior landscaper for 30 years, and I've cared for thousands and thousands of plants. Watering involves watering till you get a run-off of 1/4" - 1/2" in your liner,THEN NOT WATERING AGAIN UNTIL THE SOIL REACHES THE RECOMMENDED LEVEL OF AERATION. If there is a build up of water in the liner, over 1/2" that stays for a week, you should remove it; you can use a turkey baster instead of lifting heavy dripping plants.

You can see that the critical factor is determining the soil moisture before you water. When you've become familiar with the plant and soil, you should be able to test simply by lifting the plant, but continue to physically feel the soil on occasion.

To help figure out if your watering changes are working, you should cut the damaged areas off the leaves. Be a little artistic about this, so that you maintain the shape of the leaf. If the moisture level is correct, the leaf will not show any further damage.

Regarding fertilizer, it is not medicine. Never fertilize a plant that is ailing, unless you can determine that it suffers from nutrient deficiency. A plant that is fresh from the grower is not going to have deficiency; in fact, a new plant is not going to need fertilizer for at least 6 months.

Lyratas in bright indirect light would be fertilized 3 or 4 times a year with, ideally, a 3-1-2 fertilizer. If you can't find that, a balanced fert, like 6-6-6, diluted twice the recommendations, would be best.

Watering like this, with restrained fertilization, keeps the salts from building up in the soil, although you should plan on leaching at least once a year.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Sorry, hit the wrong button, just wanted to add a bit about temperature. These plants like what you like, and don't fret about drafts. Only thing they can't take is cold - they are tropicals, and temps lower than 40degrees can damage them.

If you want to discuss any of this further, you can contact me at my email. Good luck


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

tapla, theficuswrangler,

THANK YOU SO MUCH!

I am a beginner gardener and managed to kill a few orchids (both from over- and underwatering) before figuring out the right conditions for them. So these fig trees are a bit of an ambitious project for me :)

@tapla

Thank you for the advice on repotting and soils! To be honest, repotting at this point sounds too complicated as we don't have an outdoor space (we live in an apartment). I want to try to get my watering right first, and repot only if I absolutely have to.

@theficuswrangler

Thank you for all the detailed advice! I feel so much more reassured now :) I do have a few more questions though.

1. I got a moisture stick (that shows dry/wet scale) - what should it say for watering? I assume it should say "dry" for drought therapy, and probably dry-medium for regular watering?

2. I noticed that the plant further away from the window was drying slower. So I should just water them at different times?

3. And as far as cutting off the brown spots on the leaves - that won't damage the plant? The edge where I cut will just "seal" itself, without having brown spread from the edge? Or should I cut so a little of the brown stays, as protection?

4. The leaves that were falling off were little baby leaves on the top of the tree "stalks", where the new growth comes out. Does this mean that the tree will now not grow in height, or will it sprout new baby leaves upwards when the conditions improve?

Thank you again for all your help! :)


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Elena, glad to be of assistance.
When you say "moisture stick," I'm assuming you mean an electronic moisture meter? If so, yes, it should show dry for dry, and a couple of notches up from that for normal conditions. However, please be aware that moisture meters (unless they're the hugely expensive laboratory kind) are notoriously inaccurate. First, because they're very inexpensive, they break easily, or simply cease to function after awhile.

Also, they operate on the principle of electronic conductivity of soil, wet soil being more conductive than dry, thus making the little needle jump. Problem is that salt is even more conductive than moisture. This means that if the soil has a salt build up in it, it will register as moist even though it's dry. And if you follow the meter and don't water, you've only exacerbated the problem.

If you want to use a moisture meter, always double check it by running it between your fingers when you take it out of the soil, just as you would with a wooden soil tester. That way, if it says dry but your fingers feel dampness, you know something is off.

Yes, the plant farther from the window should be drying slower. In order to simplify your life by watering them both at the same time, just water the slower one a little less. If you keep some kind of a note as to how much water you put on which plant, along with some indication of the moisture level in each when you check them (most people find it works best to water their plants on a regular schedule, like once a week) it won't take you long to figure out exactly how much water each plant needs for a week (or whatever interval you choose) to give it enough moisture to be healthy, but also allow sufficient aeration between waterings.

Cutting the brown off the leaves won't damage them at all. If the plant is healthy, the leaves will simply heal along the cut. It may take a few weeks for the plant to right itself even after you allow the soil to aerate correctly - changes in plants don't usually happen overnight - so you might want to hold off on leaf trimming for 3 or 4 weeks.

Yes, you should get some new growth from the ends of those branches, when the roots are healthy again.

Have a a great weekend, and if you have more questions, let me know.
Marlie


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Elena, glad to be of assistance.
When you say "moisture stick," I'm assuming you mean an electronic moisture meter? If so, yes, it should show dry for dry, and a couple of notches up from that for normal conditions. However, please be aware that moisture meters (unless they're the hugely expensive laboratory kind) are notoriously inaccurate. First, because they're very inexpensive, they break easily, or simply cease to function after awhile.

Also, they operate on the principle of electronic conductivity of soil, wet soil being more conductive than dry, thus making the little needle jump. Problem is that salt is even more conductive than moisture. This means that if the soil has a salt build up in it, it will register as moist even though it's dry. And if you follow the meter and don't water, you've only exacerbated the problem.

If you want to use a moisture meter, always double check it by running it between your fingers when you take it out of the soil, just as you would with a wooden soil tester. That way, if it says dry but your fingers feel dampness, you know something is off.

Yes, the plant farther from the window should be drying slower. In order to simplify your life by watering them both at the same time, just water the slower one a little less. If you keep some kind of a note as to how much water you put on which plant, along with some indication of the moisture level in each when you check them (most people find it works best to water their plants on a regular schedule, like once a week) it won't take you long to figure out exactly how much water each plant needs for a week (or whatever interval you choose) to give it enough moisture to be healthy, but also allow sufficient aeration between waterings.

Cutting the brown off the leaves won't damage them at all. If the plant is healthy, the leaves will simply heal along the cut. It may take a few weeks for the plant to right itself even after you allow the soil to aerate correctly - changes in plants don't usually happen overnight - so you might want to hold off on leaf trimming for 3 or 4 weeks.

Yes, you should get some new growth from the ends of those branches, when the roots are healthy again.

Have a a great weekend, and if you have more questions, let me know.
Marlie


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Elena, glad to be of assistance.
When you say "moisture stick," I'm assuming you mean an electronic moisture meter? If so, yes, it should show dry for dry, and a couple of notches up from that for normal conditions. However, please be aware that moisture meters (unless they're the hugely expensive laboratory kind) are notoriously inaccurate. First, because they're very inexpensive, they break easily, or simply cease to function after awhile.

Also, they operate on the principle of electronic conductivity of soil, wet soil being more conductive than dry, thus making the little needle jump. Problem is that salt is even more conductive than moisture. This means that if the soil has a salt build up in it, it will register as moist even though it's dry. And if you follow the meter and don't water, you've only exacerbated the problem.

If you want to use a moisture meter, always double check it by running it between your fingers when you take it out of the soil, just as you would with a wooden soil tester. That way, if it says dry but your fingers feel dampness, you know something is off.

Yes, the plant farther from the window should be drying slower. In order to simplify your life by watering them both at the same time, just water the slower one a little less. If you keep some kind of a note as to how much water you put on which plant, along with some indication of the moisture level in each when you check them (most people find it works best to water their plants on a regular schedule, like once a week) it won't take you long to figure out exactly how much water each plant needs for a week (or whatever interval you choose) to give it enough moisture to be healthy, but also allow sufficient aeration between waterings.

Cutting the brown off the leaves won't damage them at all. If the plant is healthy, the leaves will simply heal along the cut. It may take a few weeks for the plant to right itself even after you allow the soil to aerate correctly - changes in plants don't usually happen overnight - so you might want to hold off on leaf trimming for 3 or 4 weeks.

Yes, you should get some new growth from the ends of those branches, when the roots are healthy again.

Have a a great weekend, and if you have more questions, let me know.
Marlie


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Marlie,

You are fantastic! Thank you soo soo much!

I measured the plant soils today with the electronic moisture meter ("moisture stick"). One plant showed up as dry and its leaves were drooping so I watered it. The second plant showed as "wet" with leaves not drooping but the moisture stick was completely dry when pulled out.

I also measured yet another plant (not our figs) that showed as "medium" and the stick was a bit wet, so I assume the second fig has a high soil conductivity (???). I am not sure why this would be the case since I got them both from the same plant dealer at exactly the same time, and they look like identical twins?

So I guess I should now try to "flush out" the soil for the second plant by overwatering and then let it over-dry? I am leaving on a 2.5-week vacation this Saturday so I want to make sure I time things correctly, as I worry that figs wouldn't be that happy going without water for 2.5 weeks. I should probably water a little before leaving just to make sure they don't die?

I also trimmed a part of the leaf on one of the plants (I was too eager to get rid of ugly brown spots) and the leaf didn't fall off or turn brown. Yay! So happy since frankly the brown edges were worrying me quite a bit aesthetically :)

Elena


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hi Elena
Yes, it certainly is strange that 2 plants apparently the same age, and probably from the same grower, should have such different soil conditions. Also, it is unlikely that a plant fresh from the grower would have a salt build-up in the soil.
Wondering if both the lyratas show the same amount of damage, or if it's more or less on the one with the "salt build-up"
At any rate, it won't do any harm to leach the soil; maybe a good idea to do it on both of them. Leaching the soil is a bit more than "over-watering." It involves a copious amount of water being run through the soil, to dissolve and carry away salts and other things.
So the plant needs to be placed outside, ideally, or in the tub or sink. Then an amount of water approximately 5X the volume of soil is run through. So, if the plant is a 10" size (diam at top of pot is 10") it holds 2 -3 gal of soil, so leaching involves running 10-15 gal of water through the soil.
Then you need to allow several hours for all the extra water to drain; tip the plant at an angle to help the water exit one of the holes in the bottom.
After the water is drained, you have two things to consider: what level of aeration to reach before watering again, and when to fertilize.
Here is where you can try the "drought therapy", but don't let the plant actually wilt, especially a large-leafed plant such as the lyrata. You should check the soil moisture every day until it reaches the "dry" stage.
Please don't be shy about getting your fingers into that soil. Get in there with a spoon and dig some up and squeeze it, work it around, get to know it and how it feels. Here's a link to a video that talks about the squeeze test for determining moisture level http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBBh0RPPqu0
Besides learning about soil moisture, I believe it helps you establish a relationship with your plant.
As for fertilizer, since you've washed out all the salts (fertilizer, or nutrient minerals, is actually always in the form of salts, so talking about salt build-up or salinity level, we're talking about unused fertilizer) you will need to fertilize, either with a 3-1-2 ratio if you can find it, or with a balanced formula such as 6-6-6. You should fertilize only 3 - 4 times a year.
When you go on vacation, Just pull the lyratas back from the window area, they should be fine, especially if you leave them with completely drenched soil. I've taken care of many of these plants professionally on a 2 week schedule, they do fine. You'll probably find them still damp when you return.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Thanks so much Tapla
Great information as usual
I actually do turn the plant regularly I just needed to get the two stems in question in the shot so that is why it is turned that way.


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 3, 13 at 20:24

 photo Tipomyhat.jpg AL


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

I have a new FLF that has been growing rapidly.
http://instagram.com/p/bofbT_i1ia/

When do I trim it to make it more of an umbrella / tree shape? Do I let it grow for a couple of years and then trim? Or should I trim now while it's young?


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 14, 13 at 11:51

There was no picture to see at the addy provided. Making an umbrella shape starts when the tree is about 2/3 of the maximum ht you envision. At that point, you start encouraging the branches that appear at about that 2/2 ht to grow horizontally, or even droop below horizontal just a little. You can do this by a combination of selective pruning and a little guidance with coated wire or strings to pull pliant branches into a position that compliments your vision. As more branches occur higher on the trunk, you'll allow them to emerge at angles a little more toward vertical. The branches that emerge from the top of the tree when it's the desired ht will be almost vertical.

If you keep the tree healthy via a favorable site; a good combination of soil choice, watering habits, nutrient supplementation; and regular repotting, you will have a full tree that you can easily keep umbrella-shaped by selective pruning. YOU need to make sure the basic branch structure is conducive to an umbrella shape, but beyond that it's a matter of keeping the plant growing well and what would be termed 'pinching' if we were talking about a plant with smaller leaves & shorter internodes.

Al


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

tapla,
hoping you can help me out. i just moved to a new apartment in brooklyn. my plant isn't getting as much sun. she started to drop lower leaves, and is looking a little thin. i've had this plant for about 7 years and hoping you can help me get her back to health. it's already september, so bringing her outside isn't an option. she has not been repotted in a while and maybe that could help her out? the root system seems tight (see picture). she does still get indirect sun from a big window (see picture) but not as much as before. any advice to get her back in shape would be a great help.....she is like part of the family!
thx
charles


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

attached is the pic of her roots for post above
many thanks in advance.
c


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

Hello, thank you for great information about this tree.
After reading posts here, I made many notches to my trees to encourage side branches. One week passed and no new buds. :(
I am not sure if did notches properly. I basically made a cut in the bark above the leafs. Should i do deeper?
Thank you,
Elena


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RE: Pruning Ficus Lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Sep 22, 13 at 12:18

Charles - It looks like the soil your plant is in is very compacted, and the plant very rootbound. Given where you live, now isn't a good time to be repotting indoor trees. Father's Day to Independence Day would be ideal for your tree, with Aug 1st being about the latest I'd repot it. To determine this I weigh in my mind, what would better swerve the tree - something stopgap until the timing for a repot is better, or a repot now, knowing the tree will struggle all winter to get its feet back under it. To me it's obvious that something short of repotting, but will still improve vitality or prevent the decline that is certain if you do nothing is the best choice.

A friend of mine has used a stopgap measure to address trees that badly need repotting, but aren't in a part of their growth cycle that offers the best chance at a speedy recovery. She cuts off the bottom few inches of the root mass, cuts some deep vertical slits in the rootball, then uses a wood dowel to poker some holes in the remaining rootball. These, she fills up with fresh soil, then adds more fresh soil to the bottom of the pot and puts the plant back in the same container. I'd add enough soil to the pot to bring the soil surface up to about 1/2" from the pot rim.

Let me know what you think, or keep in touch & let us know how it plays out. You should be ready to do a full repot & root pruning next summer.

Elena - How about a picture of the notches?

The flow of the growth regulator (auxin) that inhibits back-budding is polar. That means it flows downward from shoots to roots. Notching deep enough above a leaf interrupts the downward flow of of auxin. Another growth regulator that stimulates buds (cytokinin) then becomes dominant and buds occur in the axil below the leaf.

The water and nutrients that enter leaves come from under the leaf, so don't worry about cutting too deep above the leaf. Unless you really go crazy on the size of the notch, you won't hurt the tree at all. The notch has to be deep enough to effectively upset the antagonistic balance between the 2 growth hormones I mentioned. If the wound is only superficial, it won't have an effect.

Remember too, that tree time is different than people time. Your recognizes the shorter days & is going into more of a holding pattern than a growth phase. Sometimes you have to show a lot of patient when working with trees before you see the results you're after. Best luck - you're on the right track. If you learn how to keep the tree healthy, most issues will take care of themselves. All healthy plants have a healthy root system - it can't be otherwise. A good soil that works FOR you instead of against you, the right light/ temperatures/ nutrition supplementation are the major considerations. If you can get those right, there are few plants you can't grow exceedingly well.

Al


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