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Fiddle Leaf Fig Update PART 3

Other posts in this series: Part 1, Part 2

I think my fiddle leaf fig posts have been my most popular blog entries so far. I’ve had many reader requests for another update in the comments sections of those posts, through my “contact me” page, and even on my instagram account! I’m sorry that It has taken me so long to finally get around to this, but as promised, here’s my latest update!

My last post left off on May 13th. I had pruned the top of the tree a month prior, and new branch buds were starting to grow in as a result.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Update PART 3 - >> joeandcheryl.com <<

Unfortunately the rest of the summer had not gone as smoothly as the year before. And I believe this is due to choosing a pot that did not allow for proper drainage or drying of the soil. Sigh, that’s what I get for choosing form over function. The first sign that this was a problem was when rust colored spots began to appear on some of the older leaves.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Update PART 3 - >> joeandcheryl.com <<

My poor baby! This is a very clear sign of root stress. It’s usually either caused by too much water or too little water. In my case I knew for sure it was too much water. The previous year, it was in a smaller pot that was extremely porous. The soil would dry out completely in a matter of two or three days.  During that time, I never saw any signs of distress from my little fiddle. This summer, however, the new pot seemed to take over a week to totally dry out so I’m pretty sure this was the problem. The soil even started to grow little yellow mushrooms which is a clear sign of too much moisture. My temporary solution to this problem was to drill additional holes into the pot using masonry drill bits. I increase the size and number of the bottom holes for drainage, and added tiny vents to the sides of the pot as well.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Update PART 3 - >> joeandcheryl.com <<

Fiddle Leaf Fig Update PART 3 - >> joeandcheryl.com <<

After doing this, all of the new leaf growth was significantly healthier and I have not had any new spotting since. Check out how nicely the new branches were developing by July.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Update PART 3 - >> joeandcheryl.com <<

Fiddle Leaf Fig Update PART 3 - >> joeandcheryl.com <<

So much better! But the only other problem is that the new leaves came in small and stayed small.  The previous year, all the leaves would grow in HUGE. I’m wondering if its a combination of the root stress along with sort of a bonsai effect from the pruning. And perhaps the stupid pot too. I was holding out hope that I could make this pot work, but I still feel that it may not be ideal for this particular fussy tree. Come Spring, I may re-pot into a terracotta pot that will allow for more water evaporation. I want to wait until the next growing season so that I do not add more stress to the roots while its in winter dormancy. I also do not plan to do any more pruning next year. I’m really happy with the number of branches that it has and I’d like to give it a year to fully recover.

After the July photo above, the branches grew a bit longer and then entered into winter dormancy around October or so. Once it became dormant, I reduced how often I water the plant. Here’s what it looks like today.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Update PART 3 - >> joeandcheryl.com <<

You can clearly see all of the new branches which gives it a much prettier tree-like shape. The fiddle also dropped some of the lower leaves, the ones that were the most badly damaged by the root stress incident. You can still see some damage on a couple of the other lower leaves, but I feel confident that this little plant will bounce back next year since all of the new growth still looks so healthy. I’ll definitely update next summer once it starts growing again.

20 comments to Fiddle Leaf Fig Update PART 3

  • Mia

    I encountered some of the same issues, so this post is very helpful. The trunk of mine doesn’t appear as sturdy as yours, but maybe lopping off the top in the spring might work. Noted a smaller version in the next-to-last photo–any comments on that one?
    Thanks Cheryl for documenting your FLF adventure!

  • cheryl

    Very observant Mia! That is a smaller FLF in the next to last photo. It’s actually the cutting from my last pruning which has grown quite happily since I last took that photo. You can read more about my propagation procedure in my first post about FLFs. This little guy has not had any of the problems with root stress since I had put it in a porous terracotta pot from the start. Its also grown quite tall since I took that photo and is now about 1.5 feet tall. I think of it as my backup just in case I manage to kill my first one. haha.

  • Thank you so much for all your updates on your plant, I was excited when I saw this new post! I have a fairly big fiddle fig that grew a lot when I first got it, but over the fall started to loose leaves. Then I went away for two weeks this December and it got incredibly cold in this area (San Francisco) and I came back to many leaves on the ground. Have you experienced and drafts hurting your plant? I think I will cut the top off in the spring, I have experience with rooting hormone with roses, and am excited to try it again. Except when you use the powder hormone, do you put the cutting with rooting powder directly into the water or do you wait a bit? I feel like that would just wash off if you do it immediately. Thank you again!

    Lauren
    Sparrow & Urchin

  • Kristen

    Thank you so much for posting so many helpful & encouraging FLF updates! I do have a question for you regarding pruning. My fig is currently nearly 4.5 ft tall and I would love to encourage more branches but should I wait for spring before doing so? I don’t want to kill the plant but at the rate it’s growing, I don’t want to wait too long either. Any advice? Thanks!

  • cheryl

    Hi Lauren! Unfortunately I have not had any experience with drafts. I live in an old NYC apartment building where the radiators are always in high blast. I more often worry that the air is too hot and dry. As for the rooting powder, I usually apply directly onto the cut and then stick it directly into water. I’m not sure if this is the best way, but I figure it’s still in the water, even if dilute. It’s worked fine for me so far!

  • cheryl

    Hi Kristen! I’d say if it is actively growing, it should be fine to prune. I just don’t like doing it while it’s dormant and you know it’s dormant when all growth stops completely. In NYC that tends to be during October till march. If you live farther south, the winters may not be as dark and the plant may not go dormant. The reason I wait for spring is that I know I have a long growing season ahead of me for the FLF to re-establish itself. But I don’t see a problem with pruning if it is in an active growth stage.

  • Nicole

    Thank you for documenting your Fiddle Leaf Fig’s journey. My boyfriend bought me a 4′ one for Christmas. Sweet of him, but he bought one with tons of brown splotches during off-season. Needless to say, the lower leaves are dropping, one by one. We’re trying to figure out if it’s 1) sunlight 2) under-watering 3) over-watering.

    How often do you water during the winter? Ours is also living in a hot & dry NYC apartment.

    We just gave it a good shower last night and I believe the healthy leaves have perked up.

    Did you also encourage branching? I’m excited for March when I can lop off the top and propagate another one based on your steps.

    Also how often do you water your String of Pearls? You have a very happy and full one pictured.

  • cheryl

    hi Nicole!! Mine is in a hot and dry NYC apartment too!! OK, here’s my LONG answer… A year ago when my FLF was in a tiny 5 inch pot, I’d water it about once every other week in the winter. This worked out well because the 5 inch pot dried out really fast. But now that its in a much larger 8 inch pot, I find that it is happiest when I water only once every 3-4 weeks in the winter. It takes much longer to totally dry out, so the roots end up sitting in water a little longer. I’m also discovering that the FLF is happiest when the pot is JUST big enough for its root structure. Not quite root bound, but a little on the tighter fitting side. My guess is that it is able to suck up the water you give it and it does not end up sitting in the water as long. So as you can see, there are a couple factors that influence how much I water. I might do it more if the roots are tight and the pot is really porous, I might do it less if there is a lot of extra soil that stays waterlogged for longer. I think the best way to tell is by sticking your finger into the soil at least an inch or two deep to see how wet it still is. If its still moist after one week, wait a couple more weeks to water again. But if its bone dry after a week, watering every two weeks might be OK. Just make sure its never soaking wet for too many days.

    And yes, I don’t think my FLF would have grown branches if I didn’t do a little pruning. Its so fun to be able to influence its shape like that.

    As for the string of pearls, I have it planted in a succulent soil mix that drains really nicely. So its been pretty happy getting watered once a week for the past year now =)

  • Holly

    Oh I too am so excited to see an update!
    We are in the middle of FULL BLOWN GROWTH SEASON here in Australia

  • Holly

    Oh I too am so excited to see an update!
    We are in the middle of FULL BLOWN GROWTH SEASON here in Australia

  • Holly

    Oh I too am so excited to see an update!
    We are in the middle of FULL BLOWN GROWTH SEASON here in Australia
    My FLF has thankfully has bounced back ( I commented I think on your last post part two ) he had a lovely day of sunbaking one fine Autumn day …. then a week later he was traumatised.
    Brown dead bloches formed around the edges of some leaves.
    I actually trimmed the brown edges off ( it’s the hairdresser in me! )
    I had been giving my FLF a liquid fertiliser every three waters through Winter ( bout every six weeks) and I can really see the. Benifits of doing so.
    I also got a damp tea towel added a dot of Mayonnise and wiped over each leaf…. This gave him the most AMAZING shine!

    I am hanging out till next grow season before I snip the top off, I am still unsure off your description of the plants armpit?

  • cheryl

    hi Holly! about the armpit. check out this photo from my previous post. http://joeandcheryl.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/photo-5.jpg . in the right image where the arrow is pointing, do you see where the new bud is growing? it’s that pit where the leaf attaches to the main stem. It reminds me a lot of an armpit… where the arm attaches to the body. I’m sure there is a technical term for this, but I have no idea what it is.

  • Holly

    Ahhhhhhhhh, o.k so above the leaf!
    I was thinking under 🙂
    Cool cool, I get it know…. many thanks.
    *so sorry bout my double post up there, not really sure how I managed the eeep!

  • Rose

    Hi Cheryl,

    I have a FLF and it has four individual stems all in the same pot, do you think I could separate them out? even to two pots with two stems each? Im in NZ so our growing season is coming to an end but figured I would wait til next spring. The only thing I’m worried about is they are harder than hens teeth to find in NZ so don’t want to kill the entire plant due to stress!!! Maybe its better to take a cutting and hope for that to take before I look at separating the entire plant?? Have you got any thoughts? Thanks! Best FLF post/s that I’ve found anywhere.

  • Cindy

    Thank you so much for this blog series! I think we have just arrived into the growing season in California. I am interested in both repotting and pruning my plant that is about 4 feet tall (3 stems). I am nervous to shock the plant too much; would you recommend repotting first, and then waiting for a bit to prune? Additionally, since I have 3 different stems, would you recommend pruning all 3 at the same time, or perhaps one at a time? I definitely would love the tall, bushy top look. Thank you, Cheryl!

  • How’s you Fiddle fig doing this growing season? Mine is finally bouncing back after loosing all those leaves over the winter draft and I moved it away from the window! I also did my first trimming yesterday. There wasn’t much stem to put in the water so the bottom of the leaves are in the water a bit, hopefully that’s fine. My FLF was a big one so the leaves are quite large and hard to balance in a cup of water, haha. Anyway hope you have some great progress! Funny how I have the need to check in on your plant baby.

    Also I’m going to also comment that your string of pearls is amazing, that’s the plant I’ve killed so many times!

    Lauren
    Sparrow & Urchin

  • Leigh S.

    I love this series! It has been super helpful…..as a new houseplant owner 😉

    Do you think you could post another update soon??

  • Leilani

    Hello,
    Just want to thank you for your post and all updates! This has helped me a lot in understanding the care for my FLF “Meadow”. Before reading your blog, I repotted my FLF in a 17″ pot. When I got it it was in a 6 gallon pot 5 feet tall, 6 branches one trunk. I may have shocked it! Tried to find several spots where there is good sunlight. I live in south Florida so temps are hot here with humidity. Well, she started getting brown spots, I think bc of lack of light. I mimicked your steps in propagating. I may have pruned to much. Snipped the very top of four branches. Do you think that’s too much? Oh boy, hope I haven’t ruined it! I also ordered one from the Amazon listing you posted. Thank you again! Can’t wait for your next update! Sorry my comment is so long!

    Blessings,
    Leilani

  • Becky

    Just got my fist fig tree , love your tips ,hopefully I can keep him happy with them , please keep us post on new updates not much out there as far as keep one alive

  • Matt

    Hi!

    I just got my fiddle leaf in December 2015! I’m excited to see the plant grow and thrive in my Chi apartment. Can’t wait to repot in March and monitor growth and development.

    Curious to see a picture of your tree as it is today! I wish there was a Part 4, I want to continue to watch your tree grow year after year. You should post a follow up pic from Jan 2016.

    Thanks for all of the helpful tips 🙂

    Matt

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