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Huge 9' Fiddle Leaf Fig: Where to Put It, What's Wrong with the Leaves

L T
5 years ago
last modified: 5 years ago

I was recently gifted a huge 9' fiddle leaf fig. The plant originally lived at a retail store for two months (not near a window), so I'm not sure how the care has been for it.

It has gone through a bit—including a short move and dramatic handling in a mover's truck—so I want it to chill out for a while before I do anything dramatic. When it got to me earlier this week, I just watered it because it seemed dry.

I just have three questions about this, since I learned quite a bit from reading through other people's threads:

1. It's in a corner of the house with a big north-facing window (to the left in this picture) and an east-facing window (straight ahead in this picture). Is this placement ideal?

I've read that the tree prefers diffused light (south- and west-facing windows), but also that north- and east-facing are preferred. Conflicting info.

2. There are some brown spots (see photos below) on the edges of the leaves. Some of the leaves also appear to be yellowing. In fact, I touched two smaller leaves today, and they just fell off. I'm thinking this has to do with under- or overwatering, but I can't be sure.

Can this plant recover? The other leaves look healthy, however, there is no new growth at any of the termini of the branches/at the buds, which is weird given that it's mid-Spring, and I'm in the perfect zone for this plant (Los Angeles).

3. How would you repot something like this? Or hell, even trim its roots and place it back into the original pot? It's a gigantic tree.

Some background: I have Dyna-Gro 9-3-6 per @tapla's recommendation from a few years ago. I plan to use it on this plant once it chills out a bit from its move/relocation. I also have a moisture meter and will plan to adjust a water regime to the plant's liking. The plant is in its original plastic container but has a large vessel to collect any leftover water from watering. I think the drainage is good, but I can't really tell. The roots look very mature, possibly overgrown.

I know there are a lot of threads on this plant, but I didn't want to hijack someone else's, so I wanted to post this afresh. I started this big thread a few years ago, and I'm glad it got a ton of replies! For the record, both those plants died :( possibly due to underwatering, and I hope not to repeat that with this beautiful giant I just got.

Comments (25)

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    5 years ago

    The very condensed version of what I would do is something like this: In June, prune it back VERY hard - I'd leave 2 leaves on each of the 3 main branches. Figure out a way to secure the plant in a much smaller pot. Saw the bottom 2/3 of the root mass off. Bare root it - keeping all of the root mass wet for the duration of the work. Correct the remaining problem roots; those would be crossing roots, roots growing straight up or straight down, j-hooked roots, encircling or girdling roots, and any roots growing back toward the center of the root mass. Then, repot into an appropriate soil. You'll be doing yourself a big favor if you establish the minimum standard for your soils as being able to water to beyond the saturation point w/o having to worry the soil will remain soggy so long it significantly impacts root function and health. After the repot keep the plant warm and in very bright light.


    Al

    L T thanked tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
  • L T
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    @tapla, thank you for responding so quickly!

    I'm a little nervous to prune: Do you mean I should just cut the branches off, leaving the two last two leaves closest to the trunk on each branch?

    Here's how the roots are looking from the top of the pot.

    I think it's a tad bound, but it's hard to tell.

    Here's a question: How do I keep this plant looking this majestic? If I prune it, how long would it take to grow into this size? Should I try potting up, or am I just kicking the can down the road when I do that? And if I do pot up, if I saw off 2/3 of the root ball, would some of the leaves die as a result?

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  • Paul MI
    5 years ago

    "Do you mean I should just cut the branches off, leaving the two last two leaves closest to the trunk on each branch?"

    Yes, Al is indeed recommending your cutting the branches back so there are only two leaves left on each branch -- unless I am sorely misunderstanding him.

    "And if I do pot up, if I saw off 2/3 of the root ball, would some of the leaves die as a result?"

    The size and health of a plant's root mass determines how many leaves it can support. It is in large part because of the extensive root pruning he is recommending that he is advising you to prune back the branches so severely. In his experience (and Al does a LOT of bonsai) he obviously is quite confident that the plant should be able to support two leaves per branch while it develops a new post-pruning root system.

    I defer to Al for further addressing the rest of your Qs.

  • somegu7
    5 years ago

    what does he mean by

    "Figure out a way to secure the plant in a much smaller pot."?

  • petrushka (7b)
    5 years ago

    >> For the record, both those plants died :( possibly due to underwatering, and I hope not to repeat that with this beautiful giant I just got.

    do you actually know what went wrong last time? i read thru your other thread and you seem to have followed the recommendations.

    How long did those plants take to decline and did you try to remedy the situation?

    and how are you planning to avoid it this time around?

  • petrushka (7b)
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    >>1. It's in a corner of the house with a big north-facing window (to the left in this picture) and an east-facing window (straight ahead in this picture). Is this placement ideal?

    I've read that the tree prefers diffused light (south- and west-facing windows), but also that north- and east-facing are preferred. Conflicting info.

    -----

    it NEEDS part sun or it won't grow well. So North is out even if very bright - it'll just sit there barely doing anything.

    Ideal condition indoors is sunny west or east window unobstructed, wide and tall, if possible - N-NE-NW corner where it gets BOTH east and west is even better! It can actually take full sun in south window too - but if it's used to moderate lighting conditions, it will need to be acclimated to the sun slowly, a few hours a day.

    So your East window is better. Is that the best you got?

  • petrushka (7b)
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    >> Can this plant recover? The other leaves look healthy, however, there is no new growth at any of the termini of the branches/at the buds,

    that's pretty 'normal' - it's very slow to start probably since it needs a repot badly. When they get this big - repotting is hard, of course, but it's necessary if you want MORE growth :). Otherwise it can stop growing or grow a leaf or 2 per season.

    however, considering it's 9' and has huge branches - do you really want them to get longer? it's looking lopsided and lanky as is. It needs pruning badly.

  • petrushka (7b)
    5 years ago

    >> How do I keep this plant looking this majestic? If I prune it, how long would it take to grow into this size?

    it depends on your growing conditions. If you prune it down to 2 leaves on each branch - mm-mm...it'll take several years to regrow to look good. It'll take at least a year for it to produce 1 foot on each branch (5-6 leaves) and that is in good indoor conditions WITH repot.

    considering your unsuccessful attempt to separate and grow them last time i'd be much more cautious with severe pruning of both : roots and branches.

    it's quite all right to just prune about 1/4 - 1/3 of roots and put it in the same pot it's in now. and i would trim branches by half. i can't see the structure of branches from your photo, but it seems it has several Y forks - so that's good. but it also developed very long unbranched limbs: i'd reduce those by half (even if there is a small branching at the end).

    You should try to root the cut branches - it'll make you a nice full bushy pot to play with.

  • petrushka (7b)
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    re: brown edges on leaves.

    it looks like mechanical damage - may be during the move or it was brushing against hot/cold glass. Otherwise the leaves are ok.

    Check how moist the soil is with a chopstick or dowel - do not let it go dry more then half-way: the mix looks fairly good to me. i see perlite and bark and it looks new-ish.

    chopstick/dowel check is a must since you are not used to watering it and you can't tell by feel how much water to give it and when. It a good sized tree and rather well grown, just lanky. I'd say you need to water at least once a week well, to fully moist ball.

    it's holding the leaves all the way to the fork almost, nice and close together, so it must've had good light and decent watering and may be even some fertilizer too;)...

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Being nervous is understandable. It's not every day one grower instructs another to reduce the foliage mass of one of his/hers tree by >90%. I often defoliate my ficus entirely, and prune the trees I'm bringing along as future bonsai from a ht of many feet, down to inches. As long as they're reasonably healthy and in good soil, there is very little risk involved ..... unless you over-water.

    A ficus purposely defoliated:

    Trees chopped back:

    The same 3 trees in the same order:

    So yes, I did mean to cut each branch back to 2 leaves in June. You can do this a couple of weeks before Father's Day and repot around that weekend, or when growth resumes after the repot (usually about 2-3 weeks). Between now and then, put together a plan that works WITH the tree's natural rhythms instead of against then, and make sure you're using a soil you won't be in constant battle with, for control of your tree's vitality (health).

    It's very EASY to tell if your tree is root bound and in need of a repot. Simply lift the tree from the pot. If the root/soil mass comes out intact - it needs repotting.

    If you prune it (top and bottom), get it in a good soil, and fertilize appropriately, your tree will grow many times faster and will be far healthier than if you didn't do these things.

    Potting-up is indeed kicking the can down the road, and in the interim, your plant is missing out on potential that can never be reclaimed. Lets say you have a bag with 20 lbs of M&Ms in a bag with a hole in the bottom in it, and by the time you get half way to your destination, you lost 8 lbs of M&Ms. If a good soul feels sorry for you and gives you 8 lbs of M&Ms, have you recovered the lost potential? No. You might have had 28 lbs instead of 20. so there is potential that can never be regained.

    If you cut the tree back and saw off 2/3 of the roots, it's unlikely there would be additional loss of foliage, as long as it gets proper care. Even if there was loss of foliage, the tree would back-bud and carry on.

    "Figure out a way to secure the plant in a much smaller pot."? Plants that are secured to the pot so they can't move in relationship to the pot and soil mass recover from rootwork much faster than plants that can shift. How you secure the plant depends to a large degree on the shape of the pot.

    The branch on the left was horizontal and is being pulled to a vertical position with heavy copper wire. That branch will be the top of the tree and the fat part above it, once the branch is set in position, will be pruned off just above the branch. Note how I had to engineer something to stabilize the tree. I'm now thread grafting branches onto that tree.

    Too, after the tree is root-pruned, it CAN be moved down to a much smaller pot; although, if the soil is appropriately fast (draining) it could go back in the same pot. It's primarily soil choice that determines how large a pot can/should be.

    About repotting vs potting-up (forgive the weird formatting):

    I
    often explain the effects of repotting vs potting up like this:

    Let's
    rate growth/vitality potential on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the
    best. We're going to say that trees in containers can only achieve a
    9. Let's also imagine that for every year a tree goes w/o repotting
    or potting up, its measure of growth/vitality slips by 1 number, That
    is to say, you pot a tree and the first year it grows at a level of
    9, the next year, an 8, the next year a 7. Let's also imagine we're
    going to go 3 years between repotting or potting up.

    Here's
    what happens to the tree you repot/root prune:

    year 1: 9

    year 2: 8

    year 3: 7

    repot

    year 1: 9

    year 2: 8

    year 3: 7

    repot

    year 1: 9

    year 2: 8

    year 3: 7

    You
    can see that a full repotting and root pruning returns the plant to
    its full potential within the limits of other cultural influences for
    as long as you care to repot/root prune.

    Looking
    now at how woody plants respond to only potting up:

    year 1: 9

    year 2: 8

    year 3: 7

    pot up

    year 1: 8

    year 2: 7

    year 3: 6

    pot up

    year 1: 7

    year 2: 6

    year 3: 5

    pot up

    year 1: 6

    year 2: 5

    year 3: 4

    pot up

    year 1: 5

    year 2: 4

    year 3: 3

    pot up

    year 1: 4

    year 2: 3

    year 3: 2

    pot up

    year 1: 3

    year 2: 2

    year 3: 1

    This
    is a fairly accurate illustration of the influence tight roots have
    on a woody plant's growth/vitality. You might think of it for a
    moment in the context of the longevity of bonsai trees vs the life
    expectancy of most trees grown as houseplants, the difference between
    4 years and 400 years lying primarily in how the roots are treated.

    Al

  • sjnieslen00
    5 years ago
    my flf also got theose spots and they spread quick. I was told it was a fungus and got a spray at the nursery but I that was about 10 months ago and I have no idea how to get rid of those ugly leaves without just removing them which I'm afraid to do. It will probably shoot off limbs and the stalk is only a half in thick there .. too small to support another I'm afraid. I have rep
  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    The fastest and healthiest way to deal with the thin stems/trunks and spoiled foliage is to get the tree outdoors when temps allow and root prune and repot into an appropriate soil, then cut the tree back hard. Cutting back hard limits the amount of deflection (bending) in the trunk, in the same way that a short stick of a given diameter is harder to bend than a long stick of the same diameter. In essence, if you're forced to grow in low light conditions, you should be ready and willing to sacrifice some extension growth for the sake of appearance and the tree's ability to support itself. The last thing you want is a tree tied to itself and curtain rods in a dozen places because the trunk is too weak to support the weight of the canopy.

    If it was my tree, I'd cut it back hard and repot. When back-budding is underway, I would probably defoliate the entire tree. That way, when the tree puts on a new flush of foliage, all the leaves will be pristine and perfectly acclimated to whatever outdoor spot you've chosen as its summer home.

    BTW - your tree doesn't have a fungal issue, but it does have a root health issue. Getting that under control would be my first priority for the simple reason that a healthy tree can only exist in the imagination if there isn't a healthy root system to support it.

    Al

  • sjnieslen00
    5 years ago
    that makes perfect sense! I up potted right before the leaves started turning brown. thanks!
  • L T
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    @tapla I watered the plant again because the moisture meter came in at nearly bone dry, even after I watered it on Monday. I asked my friend when he last watered it, and he said it didn’t get a good drink in nearly a month and a half! Egad. I could tell that the soil has proper drainage.


    To clarify: Do you suggest I prune the branches *first*, then repot? Or repot first, then prune? Or does it not matter?


    How do I tell where the tree is now, in terms of its rhythm? For the record, I touched two leaves that were looking pretty rough, and they easily fell off. (This happened in the past week since I got it.)


    I have a question about the amount of light it's getting. See photo:



    It's positioned at the northeast corner of the house, but there are overhangs outside that prevent some light from getting in. The photo here shows the light at around 1:30 pm from the skylight. It gets *some* direct light, but there is not a lot of direct light coming from the north or east windows. There is no other location that's suitable for this big tree. Given this condition, should I supplement the lack of light with the Dyna-Gro in a month or so?


    @petrushka: Honestly I don’t quite remember/didn’t keep good records of what I did last time. I think it really had to do with underwatering. I was so terrified of what everyone said about watering that I only ended up watering the plant maybe once a month. It was in a small pot (gallon), and the drainage was good, but I was terrified of overwatering to the point of perhaps dehydrating it.


    The plants took about 2 months to decline. I didn’t really try to remedy the situation because I figured the stalks were dead.


    I’m not sure how I’m planning to avoid it this time around; to be honest, I think my conditions are better (better light), and I will monitor the water better this time because I have a meter.


    I have an east window and south window that both meet nearly at a corner (see photo).

  • Ekor Tupai
    5 years ago

    In easy way, pot it up and let the root get more room to make it healthy and support it's grow. This big leaves plant have only small stem, grows slowly depend on it's root performance. Few energy stored on it's stems so dramatic changes will be hard to handle for this plant. I have both green and the variegated version. The veriegated one is a lot more difficult to handle.

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    5 years ago

    If you clean the tip of your moisture meter and dip it in a cup of distilled water, the meter will tell you the water is dry; this because the meter actually measures electrical conductivity. So if you have a given volume of water in a given soil, the higher the TDS (total dissolved solids or roughly - salts) the wetter the moisture meter will tell you the soil is. A wooden dowel, used as a 'tell' is more reliable.

    If I do heavy root work on tropicals, I habitually reduce the canopy by a very large fraction to keep the plant from A) collapsing, or B) from shedding branches that might be an important part of the composition I'm building.

    Example:

    From this root mass

    to this:

    You can see the huge roots I severed, and that was only the first rootwork session. Since then, I've pruned the root mass back to just about even with the soil level in the image below. We actually have a tool designed specifically for this chore, called (what else?) a root cutter. The tree is F benjamina.

    The foliage mass, on the same day, went from this:

    To this:

    I'm not sure what this means: There is no other location that's suitable for this big tree. Given this
    condition, should I supplement the lack of light with the Dyna-Gro in a
    month or so?
    You can't counter or remedy a lack of light by supplying fertilizer. In fact, you need to be careful about not over-fertilizing in low light conditions. Dyna-Gro's Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 is a good choice for low light conditions though, because it's nitrogen sources tend to reduce likelihood of the coarse growth that occurs when using fertilizers that get their N from urea.

    More about using a 'tell' please forgive the weird formatting, which happens on all the word documents I write and save to share):

    Over-watering
    saps vitality and is one of the most common plant assassins, so
    learning to avoid it is worth the small effort. Plants make and store
    their own energy source – photosynthate - (sugar/glucose).
    Functioning roots need energy to drive their metabolic processes, and
    in order to get it, they use oxygen to burn (oxidize) their food.
    From this, we can see that terrestrial plants need air (oxygen) in
    the soil to drive root function. Many off-the-shelf soils hold too
    much water and not enough air to support good root health, which is a
    prerequisite to a healthy plant. Watering in small sips leads to a
    build-up of dissolved solids (salts) in the soil, which limits a
    plant's ability to absorb water – so watering in sips simply moves
    us to the other horn of a dilemma. It creates another problem that
    requires resolution. Better, would be to simply adopt a soil that
    drains well enough to allow watering to beyond the saturation point,
    so we're flushing the soil of accumulating dissolved solids whenever
    we water; this, w/o the plant being forced to pay a tax in the form
    of reduced vitality, due to prolong periods of soil saturation.
    Sometimes, though, that's not a course we can immediately steer,
    which makes controlling how often we water a very important factor.


    In
    many cases, we can judge whether or not a planting needs watering by
    hefting the pot. This is especially true if the pot is made from
    light material, like plastic, but doesn't work (as) well when the pot
    is made from heavier material, like clay, or when the size/weight of
    the pot precludes grabbing it with one hand to judge its weight and
    gauge the need for water.


    Fingers
    stuck an inch or two into the soil work ok for shallow pots, but not
    for deep pots. Deep pots might have 3 or more inches of soil that
    feels totally dry, while the lower several inches of the soil is 100%
    saturated. Obviously, the lack of oxygen in the root zone situation
    can wreak havoc with root health and cause the loss of a very
    notable measure of your plant's potential. Inexpensive watering
    meters don't even measure moisture levels, they measure electrical
    conductivity. Clean the tip and insert it into a cup of distilled
    water and witness the fact it reads 'DRY'.


    One
    of the most reliable methods of checking a planting's need for water
    is using a 'tell'. You can use a bamboo skewer in a pinch, but a
    wooden dowel rod of about 5/16” (75-85mm) would work better. They
    usually come 48” (120cm) long and can usually be cut in half and
    serve as a pair. Sharpen all 4 ends in a pencil sharpener and
    slightly blunt the tip so it's about the diameter of the head on a
    straight pin. Push the wooden tell deep into the soil. Don't worry,
    it won't harm the root system. If the plant is quite root-bound, you
    might need to try several places until you find one where you can
    push it all the way to the pot's bottom. Leave it a few seconds, then
    withdraw it and inspect the tip for moisture. For most plantings,
    withhold water until the tell comes out dry or nearly so. If you see
    signs of wilting, adjust the interval between waterings so drought
    stress isn't a recurring issue.


    Al


  • sjnieslen00
    5 years ago

    @tapla I'm in Denison, (North) Texas and it's already been low 90s all week. What kind of soil, sun and how long should I leave it outside?

  • PRO
    Horticultural Help
    5 years ago

    No need to go to extreme measures Dulce. The leaf discoloration is a natural reaction to its recent relocation and maybe improper watering. It is not a fungal, bacterial or root problem. Overall, your FLF is healthy. All it needs is a location in front of a moderately sunny window indoors and a thorough watering as soon as the surface of the soil in its original pot feels almost but not quite dry on the surface. The moisture meter may be misleading you because they are notoriously variable in different kinds of potting soil.

    When kept indoors it is non-seasonal and will want some pruning as needed to keep the overall size and shape manageable.

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    The necrotic leaf margins are almost certainly a symptom of a compromised root system and the accompanying inability to move an adequate volume of water to the plant's most distal parts. Also, watering as soon as the surface feels dry is not a good idea - especially if using an off-the-shelf medium based on a large fraction of fine particulates. A 10" deep pot might have 6 or more inches of completely saturated soil in the lower reaches of the pot when the soil surface is just starting to dry - exactly the kind of watering habits that limit root health/function.

    SJ - I suggest that you set as a minimum standard for any container media you employ, that you can water to beyond the point of saturation (so you're flushing the soil when you water) without having to worry that the soil will impact root health/function by remaining soggy for an extended period. Soil porosity is critical to good root health, and too much water = too little air in the soil.

    The plant's foliage will handle full sun, but it probably won't tolerate the high soil temps associated with plants in pots located in full sun. Keep in mind that you might need to shade the pot or grow the plant in open shade or dappled sunlight. Ideally, soil temps should be <90*. Try to grow in white or light colored pots, which helps to limit rising temps from passive solar gain.

    Leave it outside until mean temps drop below 55*, or at least until it's healthy enough to satisfy you.

    Growing is about serving up all conditions as close as possible to the plant's 'sweet spot'. We can stay out of trouble as long as we're not asking our plants to deal with conditions they're not genetically programmed to handle.

    Al

  • L T
    Original Author
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    I totally put off hard pruning the leaves and branches, root pruning, and repotting until two years after I posted this. And now I think I'm in trouble. The leaves, mostly the ones at the farthest bottom of the trunk and some near the end of the spindly branches, are starting to yellow, then fall off. I don't suspect this to be an over- or under watering problem. I think it's root impaction.


    Here's what it looks like when the yellowing starts:



    Then, after a few days, it looks like this:



    Then, the whole leaf just falls off. This usually takes about a week.


    Thanks to @tapla for giving me suggestions throughout this journey. I have one final question for him before I start the repotting process: Do you think it's too late in the season (in zone 10b) to repot? I've waited nearly two months since your original recommendation (mid-June).


    I picked up the materials from Home Depot this evening and am ready to do it sometime this week, if the timing is OK:




    I couldn't find fine/small pine bark, but I think this ground cover material will do. It's 100% forest material (no dyes, etc.): https://www.homedepot.com/p/Gardentime-2-cu-ft-Pathway-Bark-GT-00023/205690122

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    3 years ago

    I think the timing should be ok if you're still in L.A..


    The ground cover/bark looks good, but the peat is going to be screened so it's VERY fine ..... just the nature of peat-in-a-bag. It would be better if you could find a 1 cu ft bale, which would be compressed, but not screened. Best size for the perlite would be propagation (coarse) or soil mix grade (medium)/



    I didn't read back through the thread other than to see where you live. Do you feel comfortable with the repot and understand roots need to remain wet for the duration of the session? Are you going to prune ht?


    Al

    L T thanked tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
  • L T
    Original Author
    3 years ago

    Thank you, @tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a), for your sage advice.


    Yup, still in LA!


    Will note to inspect and possibly screen peat to make sure it's not too compressed. I'm going to repot this weekend.


    I think I'm comfortable with the repot. I'll reread everything you shared with me on this thread before doing it. One question before I start: Are the yellowing leaves for sure the result of root impaction, or might it be something else? I am pretty certain...

  • L T
    Original Author
    3 years ago

    Update! @tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a), thanks for all your repotting tips!! I finally executed the repotting/root pruning this weekend. As you can see, the base of the tree was pretty root bound:



    I could pull the whole thing out of the pot in one piece simply by lifting the trunk of the tree, so this was a sign that the roots were pretty impacted.


    Here's how things looked after I picked out the old dirt. Looking pretty good, I think. It took forever, and it was getting dark, so I couldn't take a ton of pics of the process.


    I trimmed most of the smaller roots and cut the larger ones maybe by about 1/3. I was a bit afraid to cut the larger roots more aggressively (the ones that connect to the trunk).


    All in all, the root ball had a good trimming, but I wouldn't say I reduced the ball by 2/3. Maybe the thinner roots, but not the thicker ones. I hope that's OK.


    I have seconds thoughts about how much I trimmed—perhaps I should've been more deliberate and really cut 2/3 off the bottom. Now I'm wondering if I should revisit the repotted plant and redo it.



    On Monday, I'll do a hard prune of the foliage. It got too dark to do it tonight. I want to prune it in a way that encourages growth (back budding?) where the trunk splits to create that Y, where I circled:



    Two beautiful leaves that were on this part of the tree fell off this past month. I want to stimulate growth in that area so the tree is more compositionally balanced.

  • L T
    Original Author
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    @tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a), thank you! I’m proud that the root system of my tree looks good! I attribute it to its genetics and my careful attention over these past two+ years of living with it. :)


    When you say “you’ll want all roots to be connected to the several horizontal roots radiating outward from the base of the trunk,” do you mean that I should aim for something like this in the future?



    In this photo, it appears that the smaller roots radiate out of the larger horizontal ones that connect to the trunk. I'm using a bonsai photo as an example because thinking conceptually about what I need to do in miniature—bonsai!—has helped me a lot.


    I felt that the tree needed to retain the deeper roots in order to stay upright, so I was afraid to cut more than I did. When do you think the tree will be ready for another root pruning? In two years? In one? How can one tell?


    I’ve yet to prune the top. Surprisingly, none of the leaves continued to yellow, and none have wilted, since I root pruned. Is this normal, post-prune? It’s been three days already.


    Given that it’s nearly late August, would you still advise that I do a hard prune—that is, cut off each branch and just keep two leaves? The thing is, so many of the leaves at the end of the branch look great. The ones that are closer to the trunk look less young and vibrant. Would there be a way to encourage leaf growth in places where leaves have already shed (namely, near where the trunk splits in two directions)?


    I'm definitely saving your notes for future sessions. I learned so much doing this and am excited to learn more about how to keep this tree (and my other plants) happy and healthy. I even looked up bonsai to see if I can start a new practice. Something about getting my hands in the dirt and understanding the root system was very rewarding. Thanks for all your help!