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Help my fiddle leaf fig

Posted by rsittema 7 (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 8, 13 at 17:05

Help!

I bought my fiddle leaf fig about a year ago and, without researching, immediately repotted it in MiracleGro :/. I moved it onto our covered front porch last summer and played the water game - varying from overwatering to underwatering. Needless to say, by Fall my little fig was struggling, and there was no new growth in the past year. Most of the leaves browned and fell off. I moved it inside for the winter and just let it be. A couple of months ago I moved it to a different location and watered it more regularly. There is FINALLY some new growth occurring on the tips of the branches that still have leaves, however some of the other branches are dry and brittle (dead I would assume).

What do I do now? Repot? Leave it be? Prune the branches or roots? Fertilize? Move it back to covered front porch?

Thanks for any help!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

i would hold off on fertillizer until it gets in steady growth. Can you show a photo, i can help you with pruning tips if you do. the best tips i can give you is to keep on watering when dry. Give it bright but indirect light. Chect the roots for rots. trim the leafless stems to a point where there is live wood of peferrably to a healthy leaf. in time it will hopefully heal


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

Here is a picture. Thanks for your help!


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

You may feel more comfortable with your plant if you read some of the discussions about it here. You'll see the first 2 entries are discussions hosted by Al, a definite Ficus-o-phile.

The branches on your plant with no leaves at the top may not still be alive. If you nick them with a fingernail, are they brown or green inside? Usually when I look at a plant I have definite ideas about how I would prune it, if necessary. But I hope someone else comes along on this one, I'm stumped (pun intended.) Aside from trimming what may be some dead branches, I just don't know...


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I usually would reccomend severe prunung but the plant looks like it wouldnt grow back. maybe you can air layer the healthy stems and throw the rest away


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 9, 13 at 14:51

When a plant appears to be circling the drain, it does little good to worry about what 1 thing might have been limiting the plant and causing decline. If your plant has an insect infestation, it can be cured with pesticides, but it might have had the infestation because it was weakened by poor light or impaired root function. It's the ONE thing you don't know about or haven't figured out that is limiting your plant. Fix that, and the next most serious negative influence is what is limiting the plant and causing decline. In order to be good growers, we need to take a more holistic approach and cover all the spheres of influence.

It's not hard at all, but it takes some effort. You need good light, a favorable temperature range, the right ratio of air and water in the soil at all times, and a favorable nutritional supplementation program. The most difficult, and most important is getting the air:water ratio in the soil right. An unhappy root system is behind at least 90% of the problems that bring people to the forums for help - including some you might not associate with an unhappy root system - insect infestation - disease - spoiled foliage - slow growth.

I just answered a post on a thread about schefflera, but the reply is so applicable to your situation that I'll copy/paste it for you to consider:

maybe all isn't lost. What's most important is that you understand some basic wants & needs of the scheff. MOST important, it wants a soil you can water properly; that is to say a soil that you can flush when you water without having to worry about root rot. We can sort of work around that item for now, but if you want to make growing healthy plants easy, you should put learning more about how important soils are on your list of things to do.
If there is any hope that the plant is still viable, you need to fall back on basic good care. First, the plant abhors a wet or soggy soil. Let's pull the plant out of the soil it's in and wash ALL the old soil from the roots, making sure to keep the roots wet all the while you're working on them. You'll prune all the dead roots away with sharp scissors, then repot the plant in a soil that is DAMP - not wet or soggy. Plants don't drink or sip water. Water absorption is an energy driven process that takers place in the presence of oxygen. Roots absorb water a molecule at a time from the microscopically thin coating of water on soil particles and from water vapor in the air spaces between larger soil particles.

After you've trimmed off any rotten roots and repotted - put the plant in very bright light but not direct sunlight. Be patient. Mist the soil surface (but not the plant) to keep the soil barely moist, and be patient.

I'm going to link you to a thread about basic care that will help you avoid almost all the pitfalls that bring growers here looking for help - if you follow the advice. Once your plant shows signs of pushing new growth, we can talk about fertilizing and how to deal with a soil that holds more water than what would be ideal. For now, the bright light and damp soil are key. try to keep the soil temperature between 65-75*, too. That would be very helpful in stimulating new root growth.

Best luck. Let me know if you think there is anything else I can help you with ...........

Al

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


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

Hi All,

I'm new to the website but I am in dire need of help with my dying fiddle leaf fig. When it was given to me in May of 2014, it was a beautiful 9ft thriving tree. I moved it in a u-haul and placed it in a corner by the sliding glass door. I know now that it was too confined in that space. I moved it twice (to water) and it fell down both times. I then watered it too little and the soil dried out. To overcompensate, I then watered/misted it too much.... long story short it is totally dying. I have been to nurseries and home depot for advice but nothing is working. One of the stems lost all of its leaves completely... and while I believe I have it on a decent watering schedule now, the leaves still continue to brown and fall off.. HELP!

The first photo was in May hen I got it. Second photo was this morning.


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This was when I first got it in May 2014..... big difference!


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 3, 14 at 18:11

You didn't say anything about fertilizing. If you did fertilize, what did you use? how much? how often? NPK % from the container?

If the root system is compromised to the degree it's unable to keep the top supplied with adequate volumes of water, the plant will shed foliage until the volume or roots:shoots is something the root system can handle. Unfortunately, the fix doesn't involve providing the plant with extra water. The root system functions best when the entire soil mass is well-aerated and the soil damp/moist, not wet. If the air spaces in the lower parts of the soil are entirely filled with (perched) water, the roots growing in that area will be compromised in their ability to absorb water and move it to the rest of the plant.

Where you live affects what you can/should do at some point, so how about sharing that info? Can you depot the plant and take a look at the roots? There should be lots of plump white or tan roots near the edges of the root/soil mass. If the roots don't smell like fresh earth or there are conspicuous dead roots that are dark and decaying, you should do some trimming back to sound tissue and get the plant into a soil that has appropriate drainage and aeration.

How about reporting on what you find when you inspect the roots before we go deeper into what options you have?

Al


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

Thank you Al!

I have been using Schultz 10-15-10 Plant Food Plus but I just started using it in July. I now use it every Sunday, it is liquid so I mix in in water that I store under the sink for 6 days. I also use it in my mist.

I live in Los Angeles and while it is in front of a large window, my apartments are very tall and that window doesn't get any direct sunlight.

I will check the soil tomorrow and report back on what I find. I will try to provide photos. I never thought it would be the soil because it was very healthy when given to me. I assumed it was my inexperience or lack of proper lighting (or that it just freaked out from its move or the positioning). However, I do have two other fiddle leaf figs. A small potted store bought plant that does well but hasn't grown much and a 5ft. Standard that seems to be doing well. It grew one new branch with 4 leaves since I've had it (also given to me in May).

This post was edited by FigFigFig on Sat, Oct 4, 14 at 10:37


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 4, 14 at 11:08

I should have mentioned the light factor as a possible cause of the leaf loss. It isn't the cause of the necrotic leaf margins, though. More on that after you let us know/see what you find.

You would rarely get a plant in a soil that would be rated by soil critics as wholly inappropriate. Most often you'll receive a plant in a soil that might be appropriate in the setting where the plant was developing, but inappropriate in a home setting. The plant that retained enough water to support a plant for 2-3 days in a nursery setting might support a plant in a home setting for a week. When you combine that consideration with a plant that's losing leaves and perhaps a grower who tends to water more often than prudent, the result can't be expected to be anything other than a compromised root system.

There are ways to deal with excess water retention, but the best plan is to use a soil that eliminates excess water retention as a consideration entirely.

Your 10-15-10 (a 2:3:2 ratio) provides almost 4X as much Phosphorous as your plant can/will use, which only has a down side. It gets a very large fraction of it's N from urea, which tends to produce leggy plants with coarse foliage, and it lacks the essential nutrients: Calcium, Magnesium, Sulfur, Boron, Cobalt, Copper, Molybdenum. I suggest you buy a bottle of Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 and use that as your 'go to' fertilizer. It has none of the negatives noted.

Al


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

My photo may not post but i depotted it and I wasn't sure how far it was to dig but i found a bunch of small dry long thin roots. I didn't find many thick root system's but it found one that was thick and black. If looks like the plant was potted up with new fresh soil that was moist, but the core soil was very light and dry. I forgot to mention that the plant was given to me by someone who had it in their home for a number of years.


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 4, 14 at 16:27

If you can manage, pictures would be helpful.

Al


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

This is the very bottom of the plant.


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

This is the very bottom of the plant.


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

This is the very bottom of the plant.


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

This is show the difference in the soil around the perimeter and the soil at the root.


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This was as far as I could get. The rest was too compacted (soil) and tangled (roots).

The plant also lost about 8 leaves in the process. I hope that it doesn't go into shock and completely die.


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Close up


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Another


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Another


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Another


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

The 5ft standard. I did the same just to see what it looked like. It seemed to have different soil and was less compacted.


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 5, 14 at 11:58

I'm pretty concerned about what effect the steps you took will have on the plant. I thought we were on an exploratory mission to determine if the roots were rotted or there might be another reason for the crispy foliage. I'm not all that concerned about the timing (as it relates to where the plant is in its growth cycle), but I'm concerned about the fact that it looks like you were working on the roots in a dry environment. During a repot or while the roots are exposed, they should be kept moist at all times. Even a couple of minutes w/o a moisture supply is enough to kill fine roots.

After the standard recovers from the repot, the roots will be easy to work on. I'm thinking you should be planning on using 2015 to ret the plant into a position where you can get the root issues taken care of.

The other planting looks daunting, but after you saw off the bottom 1/3 of the roots and start clipping away the large roots at the perimeter of the root mass, you'll be able to remove almost all the soil and prune the problem roots.

I can't tell by the picture - was the old soil in the center of the root mass hard/ dry/ compacted or muddy? Both plants have a lot of healthy roots, which makes me think you were under-watering or there is a high level of salts in the soil as causal of the necrotic leaf margins.

Where do you stand now? Everything all back in it's pot with fresh soil? I think you're going to lose some more leaves. I Know that's disconcerting if you place a high value on the day to day appearance of the plant, but if your focus is on the plant's future over the long run, it's just a minor bump in the road.

It will take some time to restore the plant's appearance, but if you stay focused on working toward restoring the plants vitality, and particularly its root health, the appearance will take care of itself. Pruning, above and below the soil line should become a tool you use regularly to bring the plant around to what you reasonably envision it appearing in the near future. To a tree, the near future the next 2-25 years.

I think you should eliminate the possible effects of a high level of salts having accumulated in the soil, and get the plant started on a good nutritional supplementation program. If you like, we can work out a plan that suits the amount of effort you'd like to put into maintaining your trees & any other indoor (or outdoor for that matter) plants you keep by starting at the basics.

Al


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

I had a feeling that I was going too far with the depot. I am an extreme beginner but something didn't feel right. Thank you for letting me know that the plant will probably lose more leaves. I did most of the digging on in dry conditions. I misted it at the very end.

I repotted the plant but I did not cut much of the dead roots as I was not exactly sure how to do that. Should I go back in to cut the roots? The soil near the root mass was very dry and compacted. How much should I cut?

Is it possible that it will die all together due to my over ambitious mission?

If the plants survive I would like a plan to help maintain their overall health.


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

Also, should I prune the top of the tree?

This post was edited by FigFigFig on Sun, Oct 5, 14 at 16:55


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 5, 14 at 17:27

Maybe we got our wires crossed on depot vs repot. Depot just means take the plant out of the pot, in this case to inspect the roots.

I'm not too worried about the plant dying, they have a pretty strong constitution. It might not start looking like you want it to until the middle of next summer, though.

I get a LOT of email from GW members. Here's part of an exchange from one of today's messages that had a number of questions in it - from a really nice lady:

"If and when you have time, I'd love to hear more about that last question. You must be sick of talking about GM (GM is a type of soil) LOL...but that one has always been on my mind." I struggled for many years putting all this soil stuff together in my mind. As I look back, I know my efforts could have been condensed into a small fraction of the time I actually expended if I had someone to point the way. I really enjoy feeling like I’m making a positive difference in someone’s growing experience, because I can see that knowledge opens doors to personal rewards that extend from our intercourse with plants, rewards we can’t really appreciate until we get there. I’m convinced that there is a big hump we need to get over before we can start a serious progression to those rewards, and the hump is our lack of understanding of how to keep a root system happy. Though I don’t limit myself to talking only about soils, I do tend to direct my focus to where I think I can do the most good - getting people over the hump.

Basically, once you understand how to keep the roots of your plant happy, everything else is a lot easier. I think your plan should be to first understand what your motivation is for putting a plan in place. Then, if you're enthusiasm holds, learning how water behaves in soils is probably the most significant milestone to get behind you. Once you understand that, the whole root health issue becomes much clearer.

The link below has a lot of information that will help you avoid all the common pitfalls new growers and old growers stuck in their ways are most likely to encounter. If you're not up for it, that's ok, but you'll need to be the biggest part of your progression. I can put the info in front of you, but it's you, in the end, who'll have to be up for putting in the lion's share of the effort.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Click me to see what he was talking about.


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

My main goal is to have beautiful plants in my home. To accomplish that I would have to learn to keep them healthy and then enjoy their appearance. I have a daughter with asthma. After I placed plants around our home (peace lilies in her room), I've noticed that she breathes better. The fiddle leaf figs were given to me, so I naturally grew to love them but they proved to me how little I know about keeping a plant alive. I am willing to learn the different elements of what it takes to keep them healthy and I truly appreciate people like you who are willing to offer the education.

I can wait until next summer for the plant to regrow it's leaves. Should I expect it to drop all of the leaves? Should I prune the top down, or will that additional shock harm it even more.? Also, I didn't prune back the roots, should I water better and then go back in and prune next summer? Should I get it all done now? And in regards to the salt, I read that I should let the water sit for a week or so to let the chemicals dissolve, should it sit longer? Should I use filtered water??

I have sooooo many questions. Lol.


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 5, 14 at 21:34

If your goal is beautiful plants, nearly synonymous with healthy plants, the longest route there is to rely on your accumulative/accumulating experience as your source of advancement. Trial and error is a painfully slow way to learn how to grow proficiently. The fastest is to learn all you can, and use your experience as a form of validating what you learn.

In answer to your questions - it's hard to get a sense of what will happen between now and summer as far as leaf loss goes. Your plant will shed what it can't support, then stabilize and stay relatively quiet (quiescent) until days night length is shorter than day length (vernal equinox). Then it will start pushing growth.

If left to its own devices, the plant will shed the parts that are net users of energy or parts it can't keep hydrated. There would be some value in pruning back the top if the shedding part wasn't already so advanced. Before leaves are shed, an abscission layer forms where the leaf attaches to stems/branches. That's not a reversible process, so pruning, at this point, probably isn't going to make much difference. Pruning the top back wouldn't "shock" the plant, but if there is green foliage at the top it's not in the plant's best interest to remove it now. Leaves are the factories that make a plant's food - sugar/carbohydrate, so the more leaves you leave on the tree the better the plant will fare. As long as you stay interested, you'll learn how to work WITH the plants natural rhythms when planning ahead for repotting and heavy pruning. If the plant does well, you might repot in late Jun and prune in July. Until then, keep it moist but not wet. If you have to water in small sips to do that, we'll have you flush the soil a couple of times between now & next summer so you don't have salt issues. Letting the water sit won't help. Most water systems use a form of chlorine that's not volatile, fluorine isn't volatile at all, and the dissolved solids in your water only become more concentrated as the water you allow to stand evaporates. If you have access to reverse osmosis water, use that. Air conditioner or dehumidifier condensate are good as well. Bottled water or spring water may or may not be high in dissolved solids - there is no way to tell, so that's not a good choice. Distilled water is also good, but an expense.

I think that learning how to keep roots healthy and giving some consideration to what you'll be using for soil when you repot are pretty important to your goals. That should give you something to think about.

Al


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

Although it can be a pain in the neck to bother with,I go to the extra effort to collect rainwater. City water here is so full of stuff that you can actually smell it. No way I'd water with that!


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

Thank you. So I basically destroyed a 9ft column by lack of proper watering? This all helps and I am committed to learning more and I can hopefully salvage what is left of the tree.


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

Thank you. So I basically destroyed a 9ft column by lack of proper watering? This all helps and I am committed to learning more and I can hopefully salvage what is left of the tree.


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

Fig,

Just a small piece of advice: don't go to HD for advice about plant care.

Linda


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

Thanks Linda.


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

Asleep in the garden. I live in LA. We're in a drought. It hasn't rained 1 day since I've owned the plant. Today's forecast is high 80's and it's October.

But thank you for the idea, I will collect rain water every chance I get.


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RE: Help my fiddle leaf fig

Wow Fig,..that's a bit of a hurdle!
Here in minnesota,seems like near everyone has a basement...and in their basement a dehumidifier. Although I live in an apartment without a basement,the landlord keeps one here in an effort to control mold from growing. At times when rain wasn't available,the water collected by that thing has been a lifesaver.

Good luck. :)


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Losing more leaves...


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