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Prune my Fiddle Leaf Fig

last month

Hi!

I want to prune my 10-year-old Fiddle Leaf Fig tree. It was pruned 4 years ago, but it needs it again. I want to create a fuller, denser tree with leaves further down the branches. I am contemplating cutting every branch so that there is just a single leaf and then pinching to encourage back budding. Is this the right method? Any advice is much appreciated!


Erin





Comments (4)

  • last month

    @https://www.gardenweb.com/user/webuser-695514143 You can force back-budding by pruning, but the enthusiasm of the plant's response depends on the plant's level of vitality (health) and when you perform the pruning. If you prune a branch on your plant now, you might only be able to depend on a single bud immediately proximal to (behind) the pruning cut being activated to produce a single branch; whereas, if you are able to determine/correct the cultural limitation(s) that have weakened your plant and wait about a month to prune, you might get a number of buds activated on all pruned branches. Another way of putting it is, you want new branching to occur on existing branches, but you want the existing branches to branch close to the trunk, not way out by the first leaf. If your plant is healthy, you can easily prune branches back to a 6" leafless stub with no chance of the plant losing viability unless you over-water. You can't do that to a weak tree because your tree needs to rely on reserve energy to push new leaves to the point where they are about 75% mature before they become net producers of energy as opposed to net users of energy. W/o ample energy in reserve, a hard pruning (back to a single leaf) can cause the plant to collapse.


    No matter how you approach things, you'll need to be proactive about eliminating the issue that weakened your plant or you'll be disappointed in how your plant responds.


    I'll ask questions that should provide info enough to make recommendations. Depending on what you provide for info, it might be possible to prune with good results this year. However, if a root disease is at issue, you might need to wait a year for best results. Leaves are your plant's source of food (sugar created during photosynthesis) so removing leaves from a plant in trouble is likely more stress than the plant can tolerate. The loss of interior foliage (close to the trunk) is proof enough that the plant is operating at or near the break-even point where the plant is using all energy it creates just to keep its systems/processes orderly, with nothing extra to produce the growth that comes when plants create more energy than they use.


    Questions:

    * Have you ever performed a full repot (includes bare rooting, root pruning, and a change of soil? If yes, when?

    * Have you ever potted up to a larger pot? When last?

    * Describe how you supplement nutrition (fertilize). What do you use (include NPK %s plz)? How often? When last?

    * Do you use anything other than fertilizer on your plant?

    * What direction does the window behind the plant face?

    * Where do you live (just a large city near you)?

    * Does your pot have at least 1 drain hole?

    * Are you able to move your plant outdoors when temps are appropriate, >60*F? This will make a big difference if low light is the most serious limitation.

    Al


    Erin thanked tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
  • last month

    Yay! I'm so grateful you responded. Here are the answers to your questions:


    * Have you ever performed a full repot (includes bare rooting, root pruning, and a change of soil? If yes, when? Yes, August 2021

    * Have you ever potted up to a larger pot? When last? August 2021

    * Describe how you supplement nutrition (fertilize). What do you use (include NPK %s plz)? How often? When last? I use a 3-1-2 fertilizer designed for FLFs every time I water. The last water was a week ago. https://fiddleleaffigplant.com/fiddle-leaf-fig-plant-food-2/

    * Do you use anything other than fertilizer on your plant? No

    * What direction does the window behind the plant face? West - there are 3 windows in a row that face west. You can see 2 of them in the photos.

    * Where do you live (just a large city near you)? Sacramento, CA - zone 9b

    * Does your pot have at least 1 drain hole? Yes, it has 6 along the bottom edge

    * Are you able to move your plant outdoors when temps are appropriate, >60*F? This will make a big difference if low light is the most serious limitation. Yes, I am able to move it.

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  • last month

    * Have you ever performed a full repot (includes bare rooting, root pruning, and a change of soil? If yes, when? Yes, August 2021 Ok. If the root/soil (mass RSM) can be lifted from the pot intact, you're due for another repot. At a minimum, you should saw off the bottom 1/2-2/3 of the RSM and rake out tangled roots on the remaining perimeter of the RSM. The reason is, root congestion limits the amount of resources available to the plant (water, nutrients, and oxygen) and causes the poodle or pompom look, which caused by a loss of inner (close to the trunk) foliage and leaves conspicuously at/near branch apices. I have a number of Ficus 20-25 that are in this condition because I bought a new boat last spring and it took me a month to get it set up with electronics and all the other necessities men think they must have.

    Liebigs Law of the Minimum says that you can only restore a plant's vitality by correcting the cultural issue that is most limiting. E.g., you can't make up for a nutritional deficiency by increasing light levels or for temperatures too low by adjusting less than ideal watering practices, The issue most limiting has to be addressed if you are to see improvement. Sometimes, you can't be sure what the actual issue is because there are many cause/effect relationships which can cause loss of inner foliage.

    Let's imagine that root congestion is penultimate to low fertility, which also causes shedding of foliage whenever a mobile nutrient is deficient, especially nitrogen, but also phosphorous, potassium, or magnesium. "Mobile" means the plant is capable of robbing the nutrients mentioned from old foliage to provide the building blocks essential to production of new leaves and branches. While it cannot be said if root congestion is the absolute underlying cause, we can know with certainty that when the primary limitation (low fertility in this example) is corrected, the penultimate factor becomes the primary limitation. That holds true for every cultural factor that affects the plant, including insect herbivory and disease pathogens. This is why it is important to always maintain a holistic (whole of the plant's cultural resources) as the center of our care regimen.

    * Describe how you supplement nutrition (fertilize). What do you use (include NPK %s plz)? How often? When last? I use a 3-1-2 fertilizer designed for FLFs every time I water. The last water was a week ago. https://fiddleleaffigplant.com/fiddle-leaf-fig-plant-food-2/I hate to say so, but the choice of fertilizers is not a good one. In fact, I had a go round with the person who represents that product on this forum. While the fertilizers RTIO might indeed be 3:1:2 which is ideal for your plant, the actual amount of nutrients it contains by % is extremely low. In fact, it is so low that I calculated you pay roughly 192x more per gallon of solution than if you were using Foliage-Pro (Now Superthrive Foliage-Pro 9-3-6). The market is saturated with usurious products, so beware. You can read the discussion here: https://www.houzz.com/discussions/5237089/fiddle-leaf-fig-advise Scroll down until you see the post by "Claire" asking for input.

    It's likely that you've been seriously under-fertilizing as that product contains less than .05% (less than 1/2 of 1%) of all nutrients combined.

    * What direction does the window behind the plant face? West - there are 3 windows in a row that face west. You can see 2 of them in the photos. OK. That's fine.

    * Are you able to move your plant outdoors when temps are appropriate, >60*F? This will make a big difference if low light is the most serious limitation. Yes, I am able to move it. Ideally, you would move your plant outdoors when night temps are reliably above 55-6-*F, or, move it in and out as temps dictate. The added air movement and increase in (natural) light increases the rate of the nutrient stream and can be very helpful forcing back-budding even w/o pruning. Your plant will definitely show it's approval.

    You can go about moving it outdoors using either of 2 strategies. Try to acclimate it slowly by increasing the amount of sun nit gets and or the length of time it is exposed to direct sun, or move it out directly into full sun. The leaves will burn and fall off, but will soon be replaced by new leaves and likely some back-budding. The new leaves will be optimally "tuned" to make the most efficient use of light they will get in the spot you choose. I started moving all my Ficus out of the basement where they over-winter under lights, directly into full sun. I have found the plants actually do much better by shedding the old foliage and starting summer with a new flush of growth.

    You CAN prune quite hard if you move it outdoors, but wait at least a couple of weeks before you prune. Keep in mind that the plant will do much better if you repot and get it on a good nutritional supplementation program using Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. It really is a superb product and I use it on all my trees. If you do prune it hard and move it out, be VERY careful not to over-water. Use a "tell" to check moisture levels deep in the pot (at the bottom) and withhold water until the tell comes out nearly but not completely dry.

    I hope that helps. Let me know if you have questions.

    Al

    Erin thanked tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
  • last month

    Hello Al,

    I checked, and the root/soil (mass RSM) can NOT be lifted from the pot intact. When I repotted in 2021 I jumped to a pretty large nursery pot (I know better now.) I do water conservatively and use a wooden "tell" to determine when it's time.


    Here is some additional history that I believe might be helpful:


    It was moved twice between July 2021-November 2021. My family was relocating, and the plant spent 1 month at my in-laws and 2 months at a rental before landing in its current location in November 2021.


    In August 2021, while I was living at the rental, it was repotted and pruned. It looked terrible. It suffered while living at my in-laws and lost several leaves and many were torn/crushed in the moving truck.


    The plant has not lost any leaves since November 2021. I removed a few that grew in small. The first photo was taken in March 2020, about a year before we moved.


    The last 3 pictures show where I pruned. As you can see, all the growth has come from that point with zero back budding.


    I have Foliage-Pro and will start a new fertilizing regimen. Should I plan on pruning around mid-June and moving her outside?


    Much thanks,

    Erin