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jurasico

Fiddle Leaf Forum

jurasico
3 years ago
last modified: 3 years ago

Given the inordinate number of posts on Fiddle Leaf (Ficus lyrata) on the Houseplant forum, maybe a separate FLF should be added.

Comments (52)

  • Mike the Fiddle Leaf Fig Guy
    3 years ago

    finally someone created one!!!

  • Marcy
    3 years ago

    I agree that more plant lovers should search before asking the same questions over and over, but I also think any activity on the houseplant forum is better than coming here and finding no new activity at all. Most of the questions we're talking about have FLF in the title, so skip them if you don't want to read or respond.

  • Related Discussions

    Fiddle Leaf Fig/Ficus Lyrata lower leaf growth/pruning HELP!!

    Q

    Comments (9)
    If it were mine and I wanted it pretty much the way it is now, single stem with a bushy top, I would cut it back below the branches on each prong of the 'trident'. Put it outside in partial shade for a couple weeks to acclimate, and then move to full sun. Ficus back bud easily, and full sun will encourage this. Once new growth is under way, move into part shade so as not to produce sun leaves, which will not like being moved into a relatively dark house for winter. Ficus are known to drop their leaves if a shadow passes over them lol. If you want a bushy plant that branches near the soil line, you can cut the main stem to 6-12 inches, and proceed as above. There is a chance, however slight, that the plant will not like being chopped on and turn up it's toes, but I think it's a chance worth taking considering the state the plant is in now.
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    Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata) leaf issues

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    Comments (11)
    You're using the dowel correctly. Water when it first comes out dry. I will begin fertilizing per your recommendations--additional info to ensure I am using a good fertilizing regimen would be helpful. I'm not sure how often I should fertilize, and how that will change when the plants go dormant, and when that may be...I would expect that in October they would be at the end of their growing season, but they have both put out two new leaves in the last few weeks. They won't go completely dormant, but they will become largely quiescent or at rest but growing slowly. How fast they grow depends primarily on light levels, temperatures, and nutrition. If you invest in a container of Foliage-Pro 9-3-6, you won't need anything else. Did you read the link I left above about how to deal with water-retentive soils? My plan would be to flush the soil thoroughly asap, then fertilize with a full recommended solution of the FP 9-3-6. It makes more sense by far to tie your fertilizing frequency to your watering frequency. If you continue to water in sips for the winter, flush the soil every 6th time you water and fertilize right after with a full recommended dose. Using a full dose when the soil is still saturated means there won't be a full strength concentration in the soil solution because of all the water already in the soil. People that simply recite the advice that you shouldn't fertilize in winter usually tell you that the plant doesn't need fertilizer because it's not growing, but nutrients are used by the plant to keep its systems orderly and do more than grow, so your plant needs a full compliment of nutrients in the soil all year long. The plan I just laid out will help you maintain the proper ratio of nutrients at an appropriate concentration and prevent the ratio of nutrients (each to the others) from becoming out of balance, which can very quickly become a serious issue if you're watering in sips. More on flushing the soil if you actually plan on following that advice. You'll also find plenty of good info that will help turn your plant around if you follow the link. Speaking of, the plant that put out the deformed leaf is now producing leaves with holes...at first I feared it was pests, but it looks like they are just developing with holes in them. Would this be caused by the same water/fertilizing issues we've discussed? Very commonly, dry air causes a leaf of F lyrata to stick to itself before it unfurls. As the leaf opens, the 'stuck together' part often tears, leaving split leaves, or if the entire piece of tissue that's stuck to another part of the leaf's surface pulls free - a hole. This is very common in leaves that unfurl in winter when humidity is VERY low or in leaves that are in a cool, air-conditioned environment - especially if the cooled air blows over the plant. There are some nutritional issues that can cause weak or dead spots in the tissues of young leaves, but getting on a sound fertilizing schedule should put a stop to that. Al
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    Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaf Loss, Recovery and Growth

    Q

    Comments (11)
    After spending half an hour on the following post it occurred to me that a houseplant forum search for "nicking" might yield more accurate information. Sure enough, I found several threads containing Al's explanations, but I spent so much time on mine that I refuse to delete it!!!!! Here are a few of the threads. The nicking discussions aren't long but I think Al's post on the first link explains the effects of nicking vs pruning. Use the search box at the top of the page to find even more threads. http://forums2.gardenweb.com/discussions/1458989/fiddle-leaf-fig-question?n=1 http://forums2.gardenweb.com/discussions/1465570/pruning-ficus-lyrata-to-branch?n=24 ******************* My now-superfluous post: Ah, I see; most people seem to call that nicking, not slitting. The reason you haven't found info on it is that few people do it, but Al has gone into it the few times he's been asked. I'll describe it as best I can from what I remember of his posts about it. Anyway, you would use a sharp sterilized (just in case) knife to cut a small horizontal wedge through the cambium (basically the living usually green layer under the bark) right above a leaf node. Nicking (or pruning) above a node stops the inhibitory hormone from the top of the tree from reaching it, letting it respond to hormones that direct it to grow. The same thing happens when you prune. Whether you prune or nick, the amount of back-budding you'll get depends on the plant's condition. IMO, if the stress that caused your ficus to drop leaves still exists, nicking or pruning won't have much (if any) effect so long as the plant is still under the stress that made it drop so many leaves. I'd guess that's because the weakened plant isn't producing the hormones that would stimulate growth above ground. That's been my experience. My ficuses didn't respond at all to tip-pinching last fall when they were still weak, but now after months of proper care and increased spring sunlight they're growing like crazy, including a lot of back-budding far back on its once-bare branches, without any intervention at all from me. I think that's an accurate description of what I've read!
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    Fiddle leaf fig with pale, gray leaf

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    Comments (4)
    This looks like the fungaluglies at work, perhaps anthracnose. I'd remove the affected foliage with a sterile tool and dispose of the leaves in a sealed plastic bag or burn them. I'd also treat with a fungicide - a systemic would be most effective. Bayer's Disease Control for Roses/ Flowers/ Shrubs delivers the systemic 'tebuconazole' which is a very effective fungicide. As always, read/ follow directions and only spray outdoors. Al
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  • Mike the Fiddle Leaf Fig Guy
    3 years ago

    but what’s the big deal macy and dino; isnt it a house plant still?

  • Need2SeeGreen 10 (SoCal)
    3 years ago

    Didn’t we used to be able to “pin” links at the top of the page? Someone better at this tech stuff could do that with Tapla’s sick plant thread (for one ... many others too)

    I too tend to sometimes wait too long to ask for help, which can lead to panic. Also if people are new at container plants, they don’t understand how they are asking someone to quickly explain some fairly complicated tasks. They naively believe a simple answer is possible. I never knew how much harder it is than growing in-ground until I moved and had no access to dirt.

  • Tiffany, purpleinopp Z8b Opp, AL
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    There is already a Ficus/fig forum, with a link at the top of houseplant forum. There are plenty of FLF posts there too. GW is already far too diluted, IMVHO, and if people are posting here instead of in the fig forum, I think they still would if another fig forum was created just for FLF / F. lyrata.

    https://www.gardenweb.com/discussions/fig

  • mmauenn
    3 years ago

    Tiffany, I think the fig forum is more towards edible figs. I have seen a few posters there being directed to the houseplant section for FLF help.


  • jurasico
    Original Author
    3 years ago

    "I think the fig forum is more towards edible figs"

    Imagine my surprise when my Ficus lyrata produced FIGS (after an outdoor season). They look like F. carica but are not eaten (some searches yield inedible; but others describe them as non-posisonous as well).

  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    3 years ago

    All ficus fruits are important source of food for birds and animals. But they are usually very tiny and I am guessing they are not that tasty either. F. carica is the only one that produces a large enough fruit that can be harvested for human consumption. In India, there is a F. Carica variety that produces massive clusters of green figs (think like 100 in a single cluster) used as a vegetable and is cooked. It is called Dumur in my language. It is also pickled in spices - loved that stuff. It is not cultivated - just grows wild.

  • Lucille
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    I think that if you

    1) are able to and

    2) want to

    answer a query on any plant it might be good to do so. Sometimes it is more than info that people seek, they may just feel better if they know there are people willing to help.

    Answering the immediate problems and then advising a search or giving a redirect would help fulfill both the need for info and the need for support.

  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    3 years ago

    I feel like getting a FLF just to see how finicky it really is. Not to going to happen this season as the stores here are all out of it. Plus my wife will be utterly unhappy considering the gazillion plants we already have.

    The multiple postings does not bother me much. I wish there was a sticky feature - it would have helped a lot of people. Often I think the old timers develop a fatigue syndrome. As for me I am mostly lazy and if I start a conversation I want to see through to the end and not abandon someone in the middle.

  • Tiffany, purpleinopp Z8b Opp, AL
    3 years ago

    I'd like to get one too, just so I can repot it often, prune the roots when I do, never let the soil dry out completely, & watch it branch in response to the pruning I would do, while propagating the trimmings. Just to have an example to thwart the silly mystique of what is surely its' undeserved baggage of old wives' tales, especially in other places beyond this forum. If I could give it a sunny spot over winter, I would. Without that, it would be a sorry exercise in futility.

    Tropic, a FLF suddenly showing up would be noticeable, wouldn't it? LOL! I'm trying to limit any new additions @ my house to those from the realm of very small plants.

  • jurasico
    Original Author
    3 years ago

    I don't think that they are particularly difficult at all, but they have attained a cult-like status in interior decor magazines! Don't take those "green thumbs" for granted! (Lots of people need to be snuggling up to plastic and silk.)

  • Sage TX 9a
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Also, I've seen FLF Amazon listings call them "EASY!" in the headline link. Totally misleading to people who would be vastly better off with artificial foliage to brighten up their dark corners.

  • tapla
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    If I might play at being a muse this evening: If you're reasonably proficient at keeping even a small variety of houseplants chugging along in a medium to high state of vitality with few to no losses, FLFs ARE going to be very easy to keep happy. If a grower has established a revolving door plant exchange strategy that finds them regularly heading out to the plant store to buy a replacement for the one they just put on the fast track to plant heaven, it would be silly to think they're going to be able to keep any new plant acquisition in fine fettle. They're just another plant, and there is no secret knowledge required to keep them happy.

    Somewhere around 90% of the plants we commonly grow as houseplants, other than cacti, SOME succulents, orchids, and meat eaters, all prefer roughly the same cultural conditions, with some variation in light levels that can be identified within a few moments online. The primary key to consistently being able to keep plants healthy is providing a soil you can water to beyond the saturation point without worry that an overly water-retentive soil will limit root function and/or wreck root health.

    A partially saturated soil quickly kills fine roots in the part of the soil that is saturated. Even if this doesn't lead to root rot, it REQUIRES the plant to replace the lost rootage BEFORE the plant's chemical messengers will signal plant central it's ok to put on some additional top growth. From the perspective of drawdown on energy reserves, this is extremely expensive to the plant. Even if the energy sapping cyclic death and regeneration of roots doesn't manifest itself in a generally unhealthy/shabby appearance, the loss of growth potential can easily be greater than 75%. Too, a plant's defenses are a byproduct of its metabolic rate, so a plant that is barely growing is (literally) barely not dying.

    Once a grower is able to reliably maintain a healthy root system, the rest is VERY easy. There are no worries about over-watering, and fertilizing becomes a snap. A robust metabolism = a dynamic defense system; so, insects, disease, and cultural conditions close to the margins of what the plant is genetically programmed to tolerate present nowhere near the threat they would to a plant barely able to produce the amount of energy it needs to grow and keep its systems orderly. On the other hand, a soil that requires heroic efforts to 'make it work' is a soil that you will always have to battle for control of your plants' vitality. THAT, is frustrating, and cuts deep into the grower's potential for the personal satisfaction that comes from a positive growing experience.

    Al

  • mmauenn
    3 years ago

    I’m far from an expert but I don’t think they are very difficult to keep once you get the right conditions for it.

    I think the causes for high rates of failure is that most homes just do not have the right environment for the plant.

    There’s also a lot of misinformation online about how to care for them.


  • tapla
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    I disagree. Most houses, other than subterranean digs, are perfectly capable of providing an environment well within the limits the plant is programmed to tolerate. Ultimately, grower error is practically the only COD toe tag we can hang on a dead plant. Even if the house was totally inappropriate for any given plant, the COD would still be attributable to grower error for not recognizing the cultural maleficence.

    But I DO agree that "There’s also a lot of misinformation online about how to care for them".

    Al

  • Tiffany, purpleinopp Z8b Opp, AL
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Fettle - a fun new-to-me word... but glad The First Edition song wasn't, "...see what fettle my fettle was in..."

  • Matthew Galloway
    2 years ago

    Ok, having an issue diagnosing this leaf issue with our two outdoor FLF plants


    Help?!?!


  • tapla
    2 years ago

    .......... probably going to need a little more input from you if we're to be of any value.

    Al

  • Matthew Galloway
    2 years ago

    Sorry, tried attaching a photo earlier...


    We have two FLF on our outdoor front patio that have been healthy and thriving until this. Even our backyard in ground tree has some holes


    We are in Tampa, FL for reference


  • tapla
    2 years ago

    Looks like Japanese Beetle damage.

    Al

  • Matthew Galloway
    2 years ago

    Any recommendations to fight it?

  • tapla
    2 years ago

    Neem oil is a powerful anti-feedant if you use the right product correctly, but I'd use Bayer 3-in-1 for Insects, Disease, and Mites.

    Al


  • Lauren Gaydosh
    3 months ago

    Have had my FLF for over a year. It’s always had some brown spots on the tips of the leaves but this has spread recently and bottom leaves are dropping. Is it over watered or under watered?

  • tapla
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    Over or under-watered, the symptoms are the same because over-watering results in a plant still thirsty, as excess water in the grow medium impairs normal root function. When root function is impaired, trees very often suffer a drought response, even while the grow medium is awash in a sea of plenty.

    Often, loss of lower leaves is related to natural senescence (aging), or a decrease in the amount of light that strikes individual leaves. It can occur on the side of the tree opposite the light source, or because foliage higher on the tree shades lower foliage. When either occur, the plant's chemical messengers inform plant central that certain leaves are unable to pull their own weight, and have thus become a liability. At that point the shedding process begins, the first step being resorption, during which some nutrients and other reusable compounds are reclaimed for use elsewhere in the plant.

    How do you determine when it's time to water?

    What are you doing insofar as nutritional supplementation/ fertilizing?

    Please provide an image of the entire plant, including the pot.

    Al

  • Lauren Gaydosh
    3 months ago

    I usually test the soil with my finger and if it comes out dry I water it. It’s about every 3-4 weeks. I do use fertilizer for FLF I. Spring and summer.

  • tapla
    3 months ago

    What type of fertilizer do you use?

    Does the pot have a drain hole?

    You're over-watering. When the top inch or two of soil is dry, the bottom 6" could still be 100% saturated. I wrote this short piece (below) about using a "tell". It should be very helpful if you adopt the practice of using one. It's far more important to be apprised re moisture levels deep in the pot where the fine roots should be, than in the top inch or two of soil where roots serve as little more than plumbing.

    I hope THIS is not the fertilizer product you're depending on?

    Using a 'tell'

    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 plenty of air (oxygen) in the soil to drive root function. Many off-the-shelf soils hold too much water and not enough air to support the kind of root health most growers would like to see; and, a healthy root system is a prerequisite to a healthy plant.

    Watering in small sips leads to avoid over-watering leads to a residual build-up of dissolved solids (salts) in the soil from tapwater and fertilizer solutions, 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

  • Lauren Gaydosh
    3 months ago

    That is the fertilizer or something similar. Thanks for the tips. I’ll try watering less and using a tell.

  • Lauren Gaydosh
    3 months ago

    Has anyone ever seen these on the underside of their plant? I can’t tell if they’re little bugs or accumulations or sap or something else.

  • tapla
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    It's a scale insect - it feeds on your plant's sap - and it should be addressed (for the plants well being).

    Al

  • clairebell1983
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    Hi, i have had a FLF for about 4-5 years now. i repotted it last September and a dew of the leaves have started to get little patches, papery and alnost grey in colours, the leaves are then yellowing amd dropping. it is only a few..do you think it is just shedding them naturally or do you think i have a problem? it hasnt grown any new leaves since i repotted it, only one tiny one which has started to grow this week. thanks so much. claire


  • tapla
    3 months ago

    Did you repot (bare-root, root prune, and complete change of grow medium), or simply pot up?

    Please provide an image of the entire plant, including the pot, and close-ups of the damage you described.

    Is the damage limited to older foliage?

    Please describe what you're doing insofar as fertilizing is concerned. What product? NPK %s? How often? When last?

    Al

  • clairebell1983
    3 months ago



  • clairebell1983
    3 months ago



  • clairebell1983
    3 months ago



  • clairebell1983
    3 months ago



  • clairebell1983
    3 months ago

    Thankyou for your reply I completely repotted as it had been in the same pot/soil for several years. i would say that for now, yes it had only been the lower older leaves.

  • tapla
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    As the plant adds new leaves and the canopy expands, the lower and inner leaves receive diminishing exposure to light. When leaves are unable to create enough food to justify their existence, the plant's chemical messengers signal plant central it's time to be rid of the freeloading leaves. Shedding starts with the process or resorption, during which the plant reclaims and reuses mobile nutrients (N, P, K, Mg) and other biocompounds elsewhere in the plant. As that process nears completion, a corky layer of tissue forms at the point where the leaf stem (petiole) attaches to the branch that supports it. This is called the abscission (abscission = shedding) layer, which continues to wall off the offending leaf from the rest of the plant until only the leaf's own weight is enough to separate it from the plant.

    So, what you're seeing is a normal part of the plant's morphology. If you were to attempt to stop it from occurring, you would need to increase the amount of light reaching those leaves before the abscission layer begins to form, as it's an irreversible process.

    Are you fertilizing?

    Al

  • clairebell1983
    3 months ago

    Thankyou so much for this, i was concerned as i repotted in september and was worried something was slowely going wrong. I am no expert when it comes to fertilizing. I do add some baby bio to the water around once a month over the summer?

  • tapla
    3 months ago

    Baby-Bio, a resident of Europe then? UK?

    If you're using the houseplant formulation, it suits your plant fairly well. If you're flushing the medium when you water (so at least 20% of the water you apply to soak the grow medium exits the pot's drain hole), you might consider using 1/2 capful in a L of water every 3rd time you water, and in the darker months, use the same concentration every 4th time you water. If you're watering correctly, it makes more sense to tie your fertilizer applications to the frequency with which you water as the regular flushing of the grow medium is an important part of your o/a nutritional supplementation program, even though it does flush much of the fertilizer from the grow medium. Flushing is a near necessity because it A) limits build-up of salts from fertilizer solutions and tapwater in the grow medium, and it eliminates tendency of the ratio of nutrients in the grow medium to become badly skewed after only a few fertilizer applications. IOW, flushing is like hitting a reset button that resets the level of salts in the grow medium to zero, or very close to zero.

    To keep track of who gets fertilized when on a plant by plant basis (because you won't be watering all at the same intervals), drop a marble, stone, diamond ring, in the plant's pot when you water. When it's time for the next watering after you've dropped the second stone (when fertilizing every 3rd time you water) you'll fertigate (fertilize + irrigate) and remove the 2 stones in the pot and start the cycle over. You can do this with any number of plants and still keep track easily.

    Try to schedule any subsequent repotting sessions so they're near the summer solstice (Jun 21). Your plant will be much stronger, will have a good amount of reserve energy, and will be at peak ability to make food, which it does via photosynthesis. It will also recover in a fraction of the time it takes for plants repotted in fall/ winter/ early spring. The speedy recovery reduces risk of predation by insects or disease pathogens from getting a hold, and in general, it just makes life easier on your plants ..... not to mention the personal satisfaction you'll get from knowing you're making allowances for the plant's weaker periods early autumn through early spring) and taking advantage of the robust part of the annual growth cycle (late spring through summer).

    Good luck!

    Al

  • Molly Greenheck
    2 months ago

    Hi there! After numerous google searches I am feeling grateful to have found this site and the plant-loving community who frequent it. I am a novice plant-mom with much to learn, but have really enjoyed reading the posts and forums about how to troubleshoot different symptoms and better care for indoor plants.


    Why I'm here: I have a fiddle leaf fig that is showing some root growth out of the top and bottom of the pot and could use some advice on how to address this.


    Some background: I received the plant as a gift in October of 2019 and didn't do much to care for it except for water it consistently and dust off the leaves every few weeks. It never had any trouble the first several months I had it (i.e., the leaves all looked healthy, no leaf drop, but no leaf growth either). After doing more research, I realized that I should pot up the plant because it appeared to be pot bound (horizontal root growth) and had roots growing out the bottom of the pot. I potted up in early August 2020 (went from 10" container to 12") but did not know to trim the roots or loosen them up, which is unfortunate (in hindsight I should have read more on the topic and sought out additional information). After potting up, I was thrilled to see the plant was really thriving and grew a TON. There were many new leaves in August, September, and October. I knew it wouldn't grow as much in the colder months so I wasn't surprised when the growth slowed through the winter. However, in April 2021, there was additional new growth, and I noticed more roots growing out the bottom of the pot. I decided to size up to a 14" container. The woman I spoke with at the nursey suggested repotting every 6-12 months, so I thought this was appropriate, but now I know there really are no rules of thumb and I should have thought this through a bit more... Unfortunately, I still didn't know to trim the roots, but I did loosen them up quite a bit before repotting. After potting with fresh soil in the 14" container in April '21, I haven't seen any new growth. There have not been any signs of distress (to my mostly untrained eye, anyway) - the leaves appear green and healthy, there hasn't been any leaf drop, no discoloration or anything like that. But, my goal is for the tree to grow, and I was a little disappointed that I hadn't seen any new growth.


    Fast forward to now: it's July '21 and I am noticing roots poking out the top of the pot and out the bottom of the pot. I can't imagine that the pot itself is too big - it's 14" and the tree is only about 5' 3" tall, plus I just recently sized up to the 14" pot 3 months ago. My thought is that I may have sized up too quickly and the plant is focused on growing its roots instead of growing its leaves, but I don't know for sure.


    Would the best course of action be to:

    1. leave the tree as it is, with the roots poking out the top and bottom?
    2. repot into the same pot, but doing it right this time (trimming the roots, removing all the soil in the root ball, etc.) ?
    3. sizing up to a larger pot, of course following the correct repotting procedures that I have thus far neglected?
    4. Or some other course of action I have not yet considered?

    Any advice would be much appreciated. Images attached.


    -Molly





  • tapla
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Hi, Molly - nice to have you as a contributor. I can answer your questions, but first I should say that almost all my contributions to the forums are from the perspective of what is best for the plant ..... what course would result in the plant achieving as much of it's genetic potential as possible. From the questions you asked, I can see you're on the same page. I think it's always best to focus on vitality rather than growth

    Once a planting gets to the point where the root/soil mass can be lifted from the pot intact, root congestion has already started to rob that plant of it's genetic potential in terms of growth rate, vitality (health) level, and by extension, appearance. If the root congestion is not relieved through the process of repotting, which includes bare-rooting, root pruning, and a change of grow medium, it becomes a permanent factor unless a pair of human hands corrects the congestion and removes roots with the potential to become a future problem. This is true even if the grower decided to depot the plant and transplant it in the landscape. Bonsai trees can live in tiny containers in perfect health for centuries while the average grower has difficulty maintaining a plant at a high level of vitality for more than a year or two max, and a potted plant more than a few years old that is truly growing in a high state of vitality is truly rare.

    You said, "After potting up, I was thrilled to see the plant was really thriving and grew a TON." It's important to remember that neither potting up nor repotting produces a a growth spurt. The fact is, the plant was fully capable of growing at the 'new and improved rate' all along, were it not for the limitations imposed by tight roots. What you're seeing more accurately serves as witness to the fact potting up allowed to plant to return a little closer to it's normal growth rate. Unfortunately, potting up never provides the full measure of relief that repotting does.

    You ask: Would the best course of action be to:

    1. leave the tree as it is, with the roots poking out the top and bottom? Of the 3 options you describe, this one offers the plant the least opportunity to realize as much of its potential as possible. I wrote a piece and used some numbers to conceptualize the contrast between potting up and repotting.
    2. repot into the same pot, but doing it right this time (trimming the roots, removing all the soil in the root ball, etc.) ?
    3. sizing up to a larger pot, of course following the correct repotting procedures that I have thus far neglected? Either 2 or 3 will best serve the best interest of the plant. Undoubtedly, you'll be able to use a smaller pot after the repotting session; and, if repotting becomes a regular part of your care regimen, you'll soon be able to repot into MUCH smaller pots. Appropriate pot size, after a repotting session, is determined by your choice of grow medium. I use a grow medium that holds little to no excess water, so I can pot a tiny seed in a 55 gallon drum of that medium without any concern that the seed is over-potted. The more excess water a medium holds, the more critical choosing the right size pot becomes.

    Example of a couple of my root reductions:

    Buxus (boxwood) before:

    Notice the entire soil mass is densely colonized by fine roots

    after:

    Acer palmatum (Japanese maple) before:

    after:

    These images are too extreme for a hobby grower first dipping a toe into full repots and working on trees that might not make the 'very healthy' threshold, but it gives you a sense of how much root reduction a healthy tree will tolerate. When repotting, it's the timing of the repot, the age of the tree, it's state of vitality, and how it was cared for during the repotting session that determines how quickly it recovers from the work. Most tropical trees I repot are pushing new growth in 1-2 weeks, so repotting is not a hard hit in terms of lost potential during the short recovery period; and this is especially so if you could make the comparison between the same tree potted up vs repotted. Trees regularly repotted can easily put on 3-5X the mass of trees regularly potted up if they're well cared for.

    Repotting vs Potting Up

    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 because container culture is inherently somewhat limiting. 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

  • clairebell1983
    2 months ago

    Hi, just an update from me, after i posted last and sone of the olders leaves have dropped....we have started to grow lots of new leaves!! Just wanted to say thankyou!!






  • tapla
    2 months ago

    Great news - strong work!

    Al

  • Molly Greenheck
    2 months ago

    Thank you, Al, for the thoughtful reply to my post above. I appreciate your insights and perspective. I'd love to share an update as well.


    About a week and a half ago, I repotted my FLF (more specifically, I lifted the root ball from pot, loosened up the root ball, root-pruned, and repotted in fresh potting soil). It was my first time doing so and I am not 100% confident I did it correctly (I am a little worried I pruned too many roots), but I do think I reduced the amount of root congestion.


    Now, ~11 days later, I am a little concerned about what I'm seeing. My plant's color has changed slightly - from a dark green to a lighter green - and some of the older leaves appear to be yellowing and almost translucent. Pictures posted below, and can be compared to ones posted above.


    I'm also seeing whitish pigmentation on a couple of the branches. This is only visible in a few spots, but I haven't noticed it before and am not sure what it means.


    Given this white stuff I'm seeing in conjunction with the new yellowing of leaves, is there cause for immediate concern or action? Or is this to be expected after a repotting session/during the normal course of a FLF's life?


    If there's anything I can do to help my FLF, I'd like to - I just am not sure how to interpret these signs or what the right course of action would be.


    Any thoughts or advice is appreciated! Thanks.







  • tapla
    2 months ago

    The reserve with which you approached the repotting session leaves me reluctant to believe you went too far in pruning the roots. You would have had to remove all of the grow medium from roots, and removed roots the attachment point of which was at the base of the trunk. For a bonsai grower, the call to remove a very large fraction of a tree's roots during the first repotting session is irresistible due to the perceived urgency to get the tree to fit in a bonsai pot. I commonly remove 1/3 to 1/2 of the root mass during a repot, but occasionally go as far as removing up to 90% of the roots from healthy trees, as you saw above. Here's a ficus benjamina that underwent a radical repotting session:


    There is no need for someone who enjoys growing houseplants to be that radical, but focusing on removing the thick roots that serve little purpose to make room for fine roots to colonize is a key component of root pruning. In subsequent repotting sessions, the root system immediately above was significantly and additionally reduced by gnawing away another 1 - 1-1/2" of the bottom of the heavy roots with a root-pruning tool, below, bottom row, far right.

    Getting back to the yellowing leaves, it's difficult to guess at what might be going on w/o additional info. How long did the rootwork take? What % of the grow medium would you guess was removed? What did you use as a grow medium for this repot. Did you fertilize after the repot? When was the last time you fertilized? With what? Have you been taking special care to ensure the old root mass is being appropriately moistened when you water?

    Often when a plant is sort of repotted and sort of potted up, you end up with two distinctly different soil conditions. Old soil in the original root mass is still very compacted, making it difficult for water to penetrate to where the roots are located; while, the new medium is very quick to absorb water and hold onto it. You can end up with the old grow medium very dry and the fresh medium wet to appropriately moist. In this scenario it's essential the grower takes care to ensure the original root mass has absorbed enough moisture that roots can move enough water to keep the plant appropriately hydrated by taking additional time to allow water to slowly trickle into the original root mass. Within a few weeks, when roots have colonized the new soil, the issue usually goes away. However, the old root mass often still remains dry, which further reduces the importance the roots remaining in the original root mass to little more than plumbing, as all or nearly all the fine roots will have succumbed to the dry conditions.

    Compounding the issue I'm describing is the fact that the new fraction of the medium has not been colonized by roots yet, so it tends to stay wet much longer than it would if it was fully colonized, increasing intervals between waterings which exacerbates the dryness in the original root mass.

    That would be my best guess, but perhaps something else will 'jump out at me' if you reply to the questions asked earlier in this post.

    Al


  • Molly Greenheck
    2 months ago

    Thanks, Al. That makes sense. I'll answer your questions here:


    How long did the rootwork take?

    • I would estimate it took about 30 minutes from the time I pulled the root ball out of the pot to the time I added the FLF back to the pot with fresh soil. Maybe slightly longer. I took care to keep the roots moist and work quickly.

    What % of the grow medium would you guess was removed?

    • I probably removed about 70-80% of the grow medium. After reading your response above and with the benefit of hindsight, I realize this may have been a touch dramatic. Looking back I may have been better off with a less radical approach... time will tell.

    What did you use as a grow medium for this repot?

    • I used a potting soil from my local floral & garden store. It's described as having a blend of fertile loam, peat moss, and perlite, ideal for indoor plants.

    Did you fertilize after the repot?

    • I did not.

    When was the last time you fertilized?

    • Probably a month ago.. I typically fertilize every third week I would guess.

    With what?

    • Miracle Grow All-Purpose Plant Food

    Have you been taking special care to ensure the old root mass is being appropriately moistened when you water?

    • Maybe? I do water very slowly, but I'm not sure what additional special care I could be taking to ensure the old root mass gets enough water. My follow up question here would be, what else can I do to ensure this happens?


    I hope that additional info helps!

  • Lauren Gaydosh
    2 months ago

    Is this root rot? I removed the bugs but the plant is still dropping lots of leaves. l cut back on the watering as well and have watered only once in the last two month.

  • tapla
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    It can't be said definitively, but at a minimum, it's resultant of over-watering. Root rot is a biotic disease while over-watering creates a physiological disorder that causes stress and increases the potential for for fungal infection.

    If your grow medium is still holding moisture after >2 month interval since the last watering, your grow medium is very inappropriate. OTOH, if it's been >2 months since the last watering but the plant has been dry for 7 weeks, the grow medium might be serviceable - no way to tell with the info provided.

    Al

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