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Fiddle Leaf Fig Emergency (Ficus Lyrata)

Posted by candyspan 6 (My Page) on
Sat, Jul 26, 14 at 19:45

Ok, so I know everyone seems to have one of these emergencies, so please forgive me for the dramatic subject. As a favor to a friend who doesn't have a great green thumb I'm posting to get opinions on a plan of action to save his big ficus.

He's had the tree in question for 9 months, and it was doing well until we realized the place from where he bought it planted it with no drainage, etc, and it was sitting in water. We realized it because it started to droop and get brown tips, and from my education on the forum I diagnosed it, and when we investigated it was literally sitting in this make shift container they created within the planting medium was swimming in water. We took it out of the water, didn't replant but wanted it to have a chance to dry out. That was about 6wks ago.

Fast forward to today, and the tree looks better. It dropped a bunch leaves but it's definitely perking up, and now growing some new buds along the trunk, and even a few higher in the branches. Nevertheless, the branches are fairly bare now, but they have good leaves. I'm attaching some pictures to get some advice as to what should be our plan of action. Should we snip off the new growth low on the trunk, prune it back and root out cuttings, cut into it to try to force some back budding on the existing branches? When should we try to repot it. I know the recommended potting mix well from reading on the site. Also, is terra cotta a good pot for the fig?

I'll keep it there for now, I'm looking forward to all of the great advice from you peeps!

As always any and all advice is greatly appreciated!

http://flic.kr/p/ovoXJp
http://flic.kr/p/otr8cG
http://flic.kr/p/otr8o3
http://flic.kr/p/oc9uqY
http://flic.kr/p/otD8Ti
http://flic.kr/p/oc9k31
http://flic.kr/p/oc9vE1


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Fiddle Leaf Fig Emergency (Ficus Lyrata)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 27, 14 at 11:52

I'm attaching some pictures to get some advice as to what should be our plan of action. Should we snip off the new growth low on the trunk, prune it back and root out cuttings, cut into it to try to force some back budding on the existing branches? The new growth produced by back-budding can be removed at any time. I'd leave it for now because it could eventually become a welcome part of the composition. I would take the opportunity to bring the top of the plant back under control. The plant would look better if the top was more dense and compact. If you decide you want to do that, we can talk about how to go about it so the tree begins progressing toward something that looks attractive and natural - a tree that will attract the eye because it is balanced and looks nice instead of something that jars the eye because the subconscious recognizes something is 'wrong' with the composition. There's no judgment in that statement - just pointing out that having a plan is almost a prerequisite to having an attractive tree. It's better to remove some of the 'growth for growth's sake' growth early on than later when it would take a more radical approach to reclaim the tree's eye appeal. When should we try to repot it. Now or next June, around Father's day. I wouldn't repot it any later than the second week of Aug, and earlier is better. The tree needs summer warmth and long bright days to recover from a repot and put away a little energy for winter. Pot up at any time, though potting up while the tree is in it's winter quiescence isn't the best of plans unless it's to alleviate roots that are REALLY tight, and you only pot up slightly. I only rarely pot up, choosing instead to repot. The occasional up potting I might do would be on a badly root-bound plant that I just couldn't find the time to repot. Even then it's a temporary measure taken to get the plant through until a time where repotting is appropriate. I know the recommended potting mix well from reading on the site. If you limit your soil choice to a soil you can water freely (to beyond complete saturation) at any time of year w/o having to worry about impaired root function or dead roots due to a soil soggy for extended periods, you're golden. Also, is terra cotta a good pot for the fig? Yes - very good. Pots that allow evaporation through pot walls are healthy choices for plants - not always the most attractive or lightest, but plants definitely like them.

Al


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RE: Fiddle Leaf Fig Emergency (Ficus Lyrata)

Thanks so much Al, I was hoping to hear from you. Again, your help is very appreciated.

Yes, please let me know how we should bring the top of the tree back to make it look bushier. Next, after looking at the pot liner in which the tree is planted I know for a fact that it's root bound, should we just pot up since it's kind of late in the game, and concentrate on the plan for up top?

Soil: (if we do repot) if the tree is quite large, how do you handle emptying the drainage container after you water the tree? Since it's a large indoor tree, lifting it up to access the overflow water isn't really an option. Do you put a bit more "soil" in the mixture, or have some other plan of attack?

Thanks!

This post was edited by candyspan on Sun, Jul 27, 14 at 17:48


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RE: Fiddle Leaf Fig Emergency (Ficus Lyrata)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 28, 14 at 21:17

You need a large collection saucer and some supports to keep the bottom of the pot above any water that collects in the saucer. You don't want the salts in the effluent finding their way back into the soil. If the water in the collection saucer doesn't evaporate between waterings, you can remove all or most of it immediately after watering with a turkey baster or something similar. The water that evaporates won't have a big impact on humidity levels, but it should almost always be a small help.

Al

This post was edited by tapla on Mon, Jul 28, 14 at 21:50


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RE: Fiddle Leaf Fig Emergency (Ficus Lyrata)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 28, 14 at 22:16

Got your message. Sorry for leaving you hanging. The leaves are hiding where the branches connect to the main trunk. Are they all sort of emanating from close to the same point on the trunks?

You can pot up or leave the plant until next spring to repot. Tight roots limit growth and extension, but the plant tolerates them reasonably well. I wouldn't think it's an emergency unless the plant is actively shedding interior foliage. Potting up slightly after making deep vertical cuts in the root mass every few inches and sawing off the bottom few inches of roots and soil will produce what most perceive as a growth spurt, but what will really be nothing more than a plant regaining a little of the potential it was genetically endowed with. IOW, the plant WANTS to exhibit more of the vigor it was given, but can't because of current limitations.

Al


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RE: Fiddle Leaf Fig Emergency (Ficus Lyrata)

Hi Al,

So are you saying we shouldn't do any pruning, until we can repot and trim roots, and instead pot up and let it try to gain it's vigor on its own. My friend did tell me today that some unhealthy leaves do drop off at least one a day. The growth on the trunk is coming from the same location.

Thanks, learning so much!


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RE: Fiddle Leaf Fig Emergency (Ficus Lyrata)

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jul 29, 14 at 21:17

When you posted earlier, you said the tree was "[looking] better. It dropped a bunch leaves but it's definitely perking up, and now growing some new buds along the trunk, and even a few higher in the branches. Nevertheless, the branches are fairly bare now, but they have good leaves."

I took that to mean the tree was pushing new growth, which says the roots are ok. If they're really not ok, then you should probably address the root issue as soon as you can by way of repotting. If you repot now, I wouldn't do any pruning, other than perhaps some minor tip pruning after new growth resumes, subsequent to the repot. If the tree/roots are indeed healthy, you could prune and pot up, but I wouldn't prune hard and repot this year.

The reason for that is, the leaves are the plant's food factories. Plants make their own food, so the more leaves they have, the more food they make, and the faster they would recover from root work.

Ideally, you would repot in mid-Jun and cut the plant back after growth resumes subsequent to the repot - usually 2-3 weeks after the repot. You can also reverse the order and prune first, wait 2 weeks for the back-budding to kick in, and then do the root work. When you do it in that order, you get many more new apices forming (growing branch tips), which increases auxin production which stimulates root growth and root division.

I prefer the repot first and pruning after.

Have you checked the roots for damage/fungal infection? Forgive me if you already mentioned you have. I have a lot of conversations going on and off forum about tropical trees (mostly Ficus) and it's hard to keep all the conversations straight in my mind. ;-)

Al


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