Shop Products
Houzz Logo Print

Fiddle leaf fig training/ pruning

11 years ago

Hi all, new to the forum. Glad to be here. Seems like a lot of great advice givers so hopefully someone can help with my new fiddle leaf fig. Pic is attached.

Just got it a few months ago and once the weather broke here, I put it outside which it is loving and growing like crazy, but a few questions:

1) The tree is tending to just grow straight up and get a bit tall instead of branching out and growing "over" like I see some some figs do. Is there anything that I can do to train the tree to grow out instead of straight up? I do not see any signs of any new branches off of the main stalks coming out. While I would not mind it to be a bit taller, I would rather it not grow up to the ceiling lol The bending that you see currently is just due to the high winds we've had here from some thunderstorms and not the "path" that the tree is growing in.


2) It is a triple stalk as you can see in the pic. I assume it is okay to leave it like this? As 99% of the tree pics I have seen are singles. I have read somewhere, although I cannot find it now about pruning bottom leaves as so it grows to be more like a tree with a bare trunk, but does that mean just plucking off the lower leaves even though they are healthy (albeit a few brown edges due to living in doors for a few months)?

If anyone could provide some assistance with this new venture, I'd appreciate it. Any other tips that could be useful would be great as well! Thanks so much!

Comments (252)

  • 6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Hi, K - welcome! For the most part, those using off the shelf container media would be quite ill-advised to allow themselves to be moved to "water thoroughly as soon as the surface of the soil feels almost dry". Peat-based soils with little or no coarse ingredients typically hold from 4-6" of perched water, and it's exceedingly common for there to be 6" or more of completely (as in 100%) saturated soil at the bottom of, say, 8-10" deep pots when even the entire top inch of soil is dry. You'd be served much better by using a wooden dowel as a 'tell' to check moisture levels. Then, water just before the point in time the dowel comes out completely dry.

    1. The leaves have brown spots and I'm not sure if I should cut those leaves off or leave them until they fall off and on their own. While plants don't have a brain, they do have chemical messengers that keep 'plant central' informed with regard to how its systems are operating. If a leaf becomes a net user as opposed to a net producer of energy, chemical messengers will signal the plant to shed the leaf. So even spoiled (in appearance) leaves are a + to the plant until it's shed. Part of the natural shedding process (and lopping off leaves doesn't qualify as natural) involves the plant's extraction of nutrients and an array of other bio-compounds from the leaf.

    If you continue to devote time to learning how plants/trees work, at a later date you would be able to use complete defoliation as a way to force aggressive back-budding. It will also rid your plant entirely of spoiled foliage and provide a new and pristine flush of foliage that arrives fine-tuned to the light levels that exist where the plant is sited. Partial defoliation is also a tool you can use to balance the tree's energy flow and ensure strong lower branches that might otherwise get shaded out by the upper 1/3 of branches that receive 2/3 of the energy (food) made by the plant.

    2. I'm not sure if I need to separate the 2 plants so they are in
    their own pots.
    That's up to you. Generally speaking, the amount of biomass produced in a given volume of soil will be very close to the same, where there is one or a dozen trees in the planting. You'll get a bigger tree faster if it's a singleton, but you'll get the same amount of increase in mass divided (not necessarily equally) among the number trees in a given planting. And if I do would it be better for me to take it to a
    nursery so they can do it properly.
    From a tree's perspective, your trees are very young, and I highly doubt any notable root inosculation (fusing) has taken place. Even if it has, you can very easily cut through the roots with a set of SHARP bypass pruners. When you make the cuts, cut to favor the tree with the least amount of roots. Most growers feel like messing with roots is taboo, but root-pruning makes a huge impact on both growth rate and vitality. More on that at some point, if you have interest.

    3. I see the start of a new growth in one plant but I am not sure about the other. It looks like it is brown? I'm not seeing what you're describing here.

    4. Do I need to use fertilizer and if so how often? Yes, you need to use it, but no one can intelligently or effectively guide you insofar as how/much/often you should fertilize. Your soil choice, watering habits, and solution strength determine how you should fertilize. Example: I flush the soil each time I water, so I fertilize once weekly at well beyond the fertilizer manufacturers suggested dosage in summer (plants are outdoors) when temps are above 16* and below 27*; and, I fertilize at a low dose every time I water in winter when plants are indoors under lights. I use very fast (draining) soils, which is why I fertilize this way. Others, who might be watering in small sips, might quickly find themselves in very serious trouble as all the salts from fertilizer solutions and tapwater build up in the soil.

    Getting to the point where your medium allows you to flush the soil at will w/o the soil remaining saturated so long it wrecks root health/function is the worthiest goal I can think of when it comes to upping your growing game. It also makes fertilizing monkey easy. Even w/o knowing it, 95% of hobby growers are in a constant battle with their choice of soil for control of their plants vitality level.

    Sorry for the tardy reply. Work's become like a living thing, the single purpose of which is to smother. ;-)


  • 6 years ago

    Hi all,

    New to the forum and thank you all for your invaluable advice you’ve added here. I’ve spent hours combing through all the great insights!

    I just got a large Fiddle tree about 2 months ago. I live in an apartment in San Francisco so I don’t have too many options as far as caring for him outside. We currently have him in a north facing window. He’s been doing well but over the past 2 weeks has lost 3-4 leaves. The 3 last week we’re turning brown (below) but the one that was lost yesterday was green. He’s developed some small brown spots as well (photos also below)

    I’ve been watering about once a week when dry. Will begin to water when the dowel is dry.

    But do have a few questions:

    1) Would he prefer the west facing window we have? Is direct sun okay a few hours a day?

    2) I’m still confused as to whether brown spots mean overwatering or underwatering.

    3) Is there anything else I should be doing to prevent further leaf drop & browning?

    (Excuse the night time photo)

    With the pot

    First batch of fallen leaves.

    Thank you so much in advance for any thoughts!


  • 6 years ago

    Wanted to see if anyone had any thoughts on my previous post. Just lost another leaf from the bottom of the plant, and was hoping to prevent any further leaf drop. This leaf changed quite rapidly from mostly green to this state so just wanted to check to see what I might be doing wrong.

  • 6 years ago

    I would move it to the west window, figs can take sun indoors.

  • 6 years ago

    I agree, try the west window, it won’t be getting enough light in your northern one especially with the slatted blinds reducing it further. They can certainly handle sun shining onto their leaves, it’s still weaker than direct sun outside as the window glass filters it. The only thing to watch for is overheating if it’s a small stuffy room and a hot sunny day - not so likely in SF in winter! - the leaves will feel hot if that’s the case.

    Brown spots like that ARE most commonly from “overwatering”, although what that really means is having them in soils that stay too wet too long after they’ve been watered. You want chunky freedraining soil that you can water thoroughly without becoming oversaturated - the roots need air as well as moisture. There’s lots for you to read about soils and watering and drainage on this forum if you’re interested.

    Just moving it to the west window may indirectly help this, as with more sun it will photosynthesise and transpire more which will use up more water. You’re on the right track using a dowel to help tell when to water (push it to the bottom of the pot). I tend to use pot weight as well or instead, but yours might be a bit big for that to be useful.

    Salt build up in the soil (from water and fertilisers) can also cause brown spots like that so depending on your history, flushing the pot may be needed. This is much easier with well draining soils such as 5:1:1 of course. Nice big tree, hope you get it sorted.

  • 6 years ago

    The brown spot in the image 3 down from the top appears to be resultant of a mechanical injury, a bruise, if you will, though the image isn't clear enough to say with absolute certainty. The image below that, which shows necrosis at the leaf margins is from over-watering and/or a high level of dissolved solids (salts) in the soil solution. You should flush the soil when you water, then wait until your tell comes out dry or nearly so before watering again. You should also fertilize regularly at reduced rates IF you water so you're flushing the soil. If you're concerned that the soil you're using will remain soggy so long the saturation affects root health/function, let me know and I'll help you with ways to reduce water retention, even in very water-retentive soils.

    BTW - it's not unusual for a plant to lose leaves soon after you bring it home, even if light levels are as high as or even brighter than where it was previously sited. Leaf loss now is likely a reflection of changes that occurred a month or more previous. There is usually a big difference in photo load between the greenhouse or nursery where the plant was grown on to a size appropriate for its sale. The longer it stays in that sort of 'limbo' while waiting to be sold, the more significant leaf loss will be after you bring it home - that's assuming the light levels were lower while the plant was transitioning from where it was grown to its new home under your care.


  • 6 years ago

    Thank you so much all for your very insightful advice. I really really appreciate all your knowledge and thoughtful answers!

    As a first step, I have moved it to our west-facing windows where we keep the blinds open all the time and hope that it settles in there a bit better.

    I used to water my other fiddle in the shower as it gave me an opportunity to flush the soil but it was also a lot smaller. :) I will be sure to flush the soil next time I water.

    I do think I'll have to revisit the soil mixture as it's still in the same pot/soil as when it was purchased and I'm not sure what kind of soil they are using. Can I wait until spring to replant in a 5-1-1 mixture?

  • 6 years ago

    ..... not sure where you live, but if it's in the Northern Hemisphere, you actually SHOULD wait until late spring - like around Father's Day or the Summer solstice. If you live in the deep south US, Memorial Day to Father's Day is prime repot time.


  • 6 years ago

    Ideally repot late spring/early summer, when it’s had time to recharge after winter but still has growing time ahead of it to recover. That’s the theory anyway. I’ve repotted other times without dire consequence but I think you get the best response/the least growth check if you stick to those guidelines.

    Unless it keeps going downhill, and you just have to. But I would hope that giving it more light and being more on top of the watering would stop that. Your pot does have drain holes, yes?

    If you think your mix is staying too saturated after you water, there are things you can do to drain it better, such as tilting the pot for 10-20 minutes, or setting it on towels or paper contacting the soil at the drain hole to pull excess out. I routinely do both of these, but wicks and ballast are options too.

  • 6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Hi everyone! I’m new to this forum! I live in Sydney Australia and it is currently summer here. I need some advice and help for both my fiddies! One of my fiddies I have had for about 5 years.. I got it from someone online who had too many and was selling it to get rid of her excess plants. When I first moved it home the bottom leaves were starting to brown and fall I sorta then tried different spots in my apartment.. I managed to saved it with right watering and light.. then I moved apartment three years ago and slowly over the years leaves started to discolour.. some faded to an almost whiteish green. I couldn’t find any information on this discolouring.. it didn’t look like sun bleaching.. so I gave it some Fertilizer and the new leaves seems to grow really strong big and green.. but the old discoloured leaves didn’t drop they just sorta have this sad droopy look.. does anyone know what I was doing wrong? Is it too much light? I only have one source of light from my apartment which is from my balcony sliding doors..

    Fiddie no.1

    This is the discolouration on the leaves

    These are older leaves which are droopy

    The newer leaves which grew last one year or so are beautiful and healthy and shiny

    And now Fiddie number 2.. i placed it in my room. It had a lot of growth since I bought it a year and a half ago. it had doubled in size. but the stem hasn’t thicken. It’s growing longer but the new leaves are growing far apart from each other and it’s getting too long and heavy on top to be supported by its base stem. I suspect it’s because of low light. My room in summer is very hot so I tend to have my blinds down. Or at most have a tiny gap. I just repotted it and I have now moved it to my living room.

    This is picture of my room and it use to sit at the corner- now replaced with the dried flowers

    I repotted my Fiddie no.2 yesterday

    I have stuck some sticks in to try and give it support

    Some of the other posts suggested people to cut or prune the plant so that it finds back its balance and grows upright.. but the stem at the base sorta grew longer too and the leaves start from a certain point mid of the plant.

    what should I do :( and is this new spot ok.. this is the only window I have in my apartment. I think we are north west facing.. so I have sun all day till sunset.. it when I draw the blinds it’s well shaded as well.

  • 6 years ago

    Hi Al,

    I have a quick question. Does AlL pruning need to wait until June? Yes, it’s snowing today in Michigan and I know I about the Fathers Day rule...but this new FIg is getting new growth lower on its trunk and I want it to keep growing into its “treelike” form. Am I to wait until June to trim off this new growth. It dropped a few leaves from the bare branch in photo 2 before this new growth appeared. BTW this is a newer plant and I’m not responsible for those brown leaves! LOL. Thank you!

  • 6 years ago

    Otter & JC

    Otter: W/o question, anyone can do whatever they want with their own trees, whenever they want, but from the tree's perspective, timing runs the gamut of comparison. This means there are poor times to prune heavily, a best time to prune heavily, and degrees of comparison like neutral, good, better. The stronger your tree is (in terms of its o/a vitality), the better it will tolerate pruning during parts of the growth cycle that ensure a slower recovery. Given Sydney's mean temperature pattern and the fact you're about 34* S latitude, the best time to repot and do heavy pruning is early December, but you can still take advantage of the summer weather and the long growing season you enjoy to do heavy work now, and doing so wouldn't be unfair to the wellbeing of your ficus.

    I think it's important to realize that, unless your plant is circling the drain, no one suggests you CAN'T prune in the dead of winter unless you're ready to risk your plant's viability. Pruning and repotting just before your plant is about to enter its strongest period of growth (summer) is simply easier on the plant. It recovers faster if worked on when its level of vitality is high and its food-making ability is peaking, which means it's less susceptible to insects and diseases as a result of an extended recovery period during which vitality is lower than it would have been if the work was done at the most opportune time.

    Too, when you prune, you want the tree to back-bud enthusiastically. It will not do that in the winter unless you're very close to the equator. Best back-budding occurs when you prune healthy trees acclimated to full outdoor sun, 2-4 weeks before the summer solstice. Lots of air movement and nutritional levels pushed to luxury levels also contributes significantly to the vivacity of the response.

    Working WITH our tree's natural rhythms instead of in opposition also tends to go farther toward fulfilling our desire to nurture, which is why almost all of us fuss about with our plants.

    JC - When you "repotted", did you root prune and bare root the tree, or simply bump it to a larger pot? Root congestion levies a severe tax on both growth rate and vitality.

    Your trees' trunks are very thin for their ht. I suggest you prune them back by a large measure and reposition the root mass so the trunks are positioned appropriately. If you can't provide enough light to make the plant self-supporting, pruning to reduce it's ht on a regular basis will prevent it from laying over, and should be a part of your regular maintenance. We're not obliged to allow the tree to keep everything it grows. Part of keeping a tree attractive is removing what makes it unattractive.


  • 6 years ago

    Hi Al,

    when i repotted, i just bumped it into a larger pot. I honestly just repotted without any research, the reason why i repotted was because, the past year and a half my fiddie was in the orignal plastic pot from when i got it at the shops, I thought the pot was getting too small for size and plus it is summer now so i better just do the "upgrade" now before autumn arrives.


  • 6 years ago

    Hi Al & Robin,

    Thank you again so much for your advice. I fear I might have done something wrong as my fiddle (which we moved to the west window) has lost 7-10 leaves in the past week.

    They all seem to moderately healthy leaves (albeit slightly crunchy). Is there anything you can point to that might be causing more leaf drop?

    Thank you, thank you!!

  • 6 years ago

    Can you describe how you’re watering - how you check it needs it, how often this is, what you actually do to water it, whether the pot has drain holes (vital), are you doing anything extra for drainage etc.

    Also check that when you moved it to the west window you didn’t inadvertently place it in a cold draft or by a hot radiator or vent.

  • 6 years ago

    Hi Robin, Thanks for your quick response and your help pinpointing the issue.

    When it comes to watering, I check about once a week to see if it needs water with the dowel and water when it comes out dry and it seems I water it about every 10 days or so. The interior pot is just a standard black one from the nursey which does have 4 drain holes. Typically, I just water about 2 cups but on the previous recommendation I watered so that it ran out of the bottom of the pot to flush it. It has a tray to catch the extra water so I let it run through, emptied the tray out and the bundled up paper towels around the drain holes to collect any extra water. I don't have any other methods in place for extra drainage.

    A cold draft could very well be the problem. (It never really gets that cold in San Francisco) but those windows do have a bit more draft than in the bedroom as we have additional window inserts in the bedroom windows for noise protection which prevent a lot of the draftiness. I moved it a bit further back from the window but we don't have too much space in a tiny apartment :)

    Thanks for your thoughts!!

  • 6 years ago

    Glad to hear you have drain holes and it sounds like you’re doing a good job with how you’re checking it’s dry. And that time interval sounds about right for winter in that soil. But you may not be watering with enough water each time. Ideally water thoroughly each time it’s due with enough water that it comes out the bottom.

    Most of mine are small enough to take to the sink or shower, where I water them a bit, let them sit 15 minutes or so, then water again thoroughly so it’s pouring out the bottom. I can’t say how much water I use because I use the showerhead. But a lot more than 2 cups.

    Then I tilt the pots to drain for another 15 minutes (or until I walk past a few hours later and remember what I was doing)

    Of course yours is a decent size so the logistics of doing that might be tricky. But it’s better if you can water them right through each time. Flushing to leach the soil of an existing mineral/salt buildup is more of a mission using lots more water and not done at each watering, more just as needed.

  • 6 years ago

    Loving this forum and the patience you all have in giving advice to novices like me. In the last 10 years I've grown an obsession with my plant family mostly succulents because they're easy but recently started to grow a fondness towards other plants.

    I live in NYC, and currently have a small FLF that I bought in the summer 2017. She's doing quite well and in the last 3 wks I've seen 4 new leaves grow. I use MG potting mix and have her by a south facing window that gets a lot of indirect light througout the day. I've learned how to tell when she needs water and dusting. Needless to say I have no complaints and I think she's happy and quite healthy. I do want to try the 5:1:1 ratio as Al has suggested earlier in the forum, and may do that this spring.

    So my question would be if you can advise me to manipulate the growth and structure of the plant. I would like for her to grow to about 4-5' tall with a full bush appearance with multiple branches. Currently she sits about 20 inches tall from base of trunk at to her top which is now sprouting another new leave. I'd ideally like to encourage new branch growth at about this height. When do I prune the top? Or do I notch? I think I should wait till spring but unclear.

    Also if I want to keep her leaves shiny like new growth, is it ok to clean her with and oil the leaves? Would that also help against mites? My friend mentioned neem oil but I'm not sure.

    There are also roots that appear to be growing above the soil at the base of the trunk, what should I do? Look forward to your responses and sharing the development of my newest baby.

  • 6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    About the tree's form - do you want a single trunk, bare for about 20" after exiting the soil, or do you want a multi-stemmed plant that has a number of trunks (3-5) emanating from points very near to the soil line? I think I'm reading that you want the branches to start immediately above the 20" mark. If that's the case, you'll need to pinch (remove) the apex (growing branch/trunk/stem tip). This will eliminate most of the chemical/hormone/growth regulator that inhibits back-budding (auxin). You want your tree to respond enthusiastically to the pinch, which is why doing it too early in the growth cycle isn't a good idea. Trees respond much better to pinching/pruning when they have a lot of energy reserves and they are entering the strongest period of growth in their annual growth cycle.

    If it was my tree, I would move it outdoors as soon as temps allow and make sure I'm fertilizing heavily but appropriately (I can help you with that once I know more about where you live and what's available to you). I would pinch it 2-3 weeks before the summer solstice (Jun 21 or Dec 21, depending on what hemisphere you live in). As soon as new buds break in leaf axils (a leaf axil is the crotch formed by the leaf stem [petiole] and the branch - Ficus, have dormant axillary buds in each leaf axil and above old leaf bundle scars, which are scars left where a leaf was shed), I would repot it into an appropriate medium.

    From my perspective, an appropriate medium is a medium that allows us to water to beyond the point of saturation at will - so we're flushing the dissolved solids (salts) that are present in tapwater and fertilizer solutions and are left behind to accumulate in soils whenever we're forced to water in sips, which is commonly employed as a strategy in order to avoid the sogginess that limits root function and wrecks root health. It's important to realize that a healthy plant is not possible w/o a healthy root system. If you have established goals that include healthy and attractive plants, it's crucial that you have a plan to avoid the limitations imposed by over-watering and an accumulation of dissolved solids (salts) in the soil solution.

    Not every grower fully understands the dilemmic issues associated with inappropriate soils that force the plant to pay a vitality tax resultant of an unhealthy amount of water in the soil when we water correctly – which is to say, when we flush the soil to limit salt build-up. On one hand, we have the potential for over-watering, and when we act to avoid it by offering dribs and drabs of water here and there, we have high salt levels to deal with. It's easy to see how we all might benefit from use of a soil that allows us to avoid the dilemma entirely and water so we're flushing away excess salts without limiting our plant's vitality via waterlogged soils.


  • 6 years ago

    Hi Al! Thanks for the quick reply, Yes you read correctly, I'd ideally like the growth of branches to start to appear at its current height now with a single trunk. Then branch to create a stout full plant.

    I live in New York City and we're in the midst of winter here. So I don't know why I am seeing so much growth. From what I understood the plant should be in a dormant period now... Anyways If you could give me a fetilization plan that would be amazing to prep it before I pinch in June. Do you have videos on how to pitch properly and what tools I would need if necessary or can I just cut it with a clean scissors?

    Currently the plant is in a standard clay pot 14" in diameter 12" tall, with a clay plate. I have the fast draining potting soil from MG and the plant seems to be ok with it now. At first I may have over watered so the older leaves have some spots and scars but I think I figured out the timing perfectly bc the new growth is beautiful. also the heat in apartment may also encourage the soil to dry out faster. I water the plant about once every 2 wks.

    Also what should I do about the small roots coming out from the base of trunk. there are small leaves there is that ok to cover with more soil?

    Let me know!


  • 6 years ago

    Hi Al,

    Hope you can help.

    First read this thread and its various links in September of last year. Seeing that June seemed to be the key month I held off asking my questions until a little nearer the time. I now notice no-one has added to this thread for two months so I hope I haven't missed the party!

    By the time I discovered this thread I had already cut off the apex of my two fiddle leaf plants in order to make them back bud and branch which is something I've done regularly and successfully with my blueberry plants. But both plants only grew one branch? After reading this thread I now largely put that down to the wrong soil type. I was recommended to use John Innes #3 potting soil which seems to be the go to mix here in England – at least in my experience.

    Anyway I had intended to propose my own plan of action and run it past you to see if you concurred but your most recent post of 21st Jan 2018 makes me wonder if I may need to reconsider my sequencing?

    My initial plan was to repot into your 5:1:1 mix (I was going to use 5 parts pine bark 3-5mm, 1 part perlite and 1 part John Innes #3 – would this is in your opinion negate the need for added lime?) As a repot I would remove all the old soil and root prune too and put them into light plastic containers with more drainage holes as they currently live in terracotta pots with single drain holes. I would do this in very early June then move them outside as hopefully by then temperatures will be above 15C at night, slowly acclimatising to full sun before in late June performing the crop. Cutting at where the single branches had formed, in effect taking a heel cutting. I was hoping this process would generate more enthusiastic branching than previously?

    Having read this thread at least twice I'm already using a fertilizer at the 3-1-2 ratio and watering only when the wooden dowel is dry and when watering doing so thoroughly as so the draining of the plant. So thanks for these insights and I'd appreciate your thoughts on my proposed plan.

    Also I'm intrigued by the fact that you described the bark as inorganic material in one of your posts or links and even said you could grow a plant in broken glass... so my thought is could the bark be replaced by very small polystyrene blocks thus lightening the weight of the overall plant? Or would the polystyrene leach and constitute a chemical threat to the plant?

    One final minor query (hope I'm not pushing my luck here) I've read regularly about tap water. I've always tried to use rain water. Do you simply refer to tap water due to the quantities being used would be more than most peoples water butts would hold?

    Apologies for the ramble!


  • 6 years ago

    Hi Everyone! Here's my story: I fell head-over-heels in love with a gorgeous 12 foot high fiddle leaf fig tree in a greenhouse last year. I mean, I kept going back to visit the tree. I convinced my husband it would make the perfect Valentine's Day gift and brought it home in February 2017. When the nursery guy delivered the tree, he said this south-facing bank of windows in our living room would burn the tree and that we would have to place window-film over the windows to soften the light. I didn't want to do that so I moved the tree into the interior of the room. For a few months, the tree did ok, then started dropping leaves. I initially thought the tree was just adjusting to a different environment, but finally in January of this year I panicked and moved the tree over to the window. It has only lost 2 leaves since the move. I have read this thread and so appreciate all the time everyone has put into commenting and helping others. My goal is to help the tree regain it's former full, glossy-leaved glory. This is my plan, including questions. I would greatly appreciate any comments or additional advice anyone has...I feel like I've really done a disservice to this beautiful tree.

    1. Watering: I currently check both the top and bottom (drain holes) of the pot to make sure the soil is dry before I water. I will start to use the dowel rod to check moisture levels and also to water more thoroughly to help wash out the soil. I am planning on setting the pot up on something to elevate it a bit from the tray.

    2. I live in central Ohio. In about 2 weeks, I am planning on moving the tree outdoors into full shade for a week, then into filtered light. How does one control the amount of moisture in the pot if the tree is outdoors?

    3. If the tree appears to be gaining vitality, would I expect the bare branches with leaves only at the ends to backfill? Or might I need to prune to achieve that?

    4. Nursery guy said the tree had been repotted shortly before I purchased it, a little over a year ago. This fella is heavy (the tree, not the nursery guy) so it's not easy for me to lift it out to check on the roots. Any guideline for how to check on the root system of large, heavy trees?

    5. Along the same lines, it looks like there is bark in the pot and it drains very quickly when I water, but I'm not sure how to check the current soil to see if it matches your soil guidelines.

    6. I am not sure I understand the fertilizer guildelines. What type and how often, or does it depend on the tree's general health and growth?

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for any advice!


  • 6 years ago

    This plant love bright light, but if it were growing indoor, the leaves unable to handle the heat of uv rays, so uv filtered sunlight will be suitable outdoor. I don't know what type of soil the nursery use for this plant, but if after a year it drain too quick, maybe they use mainly organic materials, which will be decomposed and decrease in volume after a year. If you want the tree growing buds on bare brances, bigger pot will be better, but still pruning required. Even mine that grow in ground isn't easy to get more branches without pruning. This plant grow multiple big leaves on single sprout, so plenty buds cannot be expected for small plant in pot. With bigger pot, bigger and stronger root, you can expect 2 or 3 buds grow in random location for a single cut. But if the pot too small, maybe you get only 1 bud on each cut you made. If you grow this plant outdoor, maybe you need to water it everyday. With free air, sun, and big leaves, evaporation rate will be high, and whatever soil in pot will be dry quick. Outdoor, drought need more attention rather than overwatered.

    This is only base on my own experience btw, so.. just sharing..

  • 6 years ago

    Thank you in advance for your responses and help with my plant! I purchased it from a nursery about a month ago. I’m new to the plant life and not sure what is the best care plan for the FLF. I live in Marina del Rey and our apartment has a lot of natural light, facing west. I have put the plant away from direct sun but still gets lots of indirect light almost all day. I have watered about 3 times since getting it (it was watered when I picked it up). They repotted for me too with new soil upon purchase. How much should I water at a time? And how often do you think? After reading this forum I now know to use the skewer which will be helpful. I have had many leaves fall off the bottom and most have had brown spots. Is this because the plant is getting a lot more light than it’s used to? Or am I not watering enough? Or, is it over watered? It does have 3 new leaves growing off the top since I got it (photo two)! I think that’s a good sign. Please let me know! Thank you.

  • 6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    How much should I water at a time? Water until at least 15-20% of the total volume of water applied exits the drain hole ...... and make sure the plant NEVER sits in the effluent (drain water). And how often do you think? Water only when the plant NEEDS water. This requires you to check the soil for moisture regularly until you are very familiar with the watering rhythm. After reading this forum I now know to use the skewer (use it - trust it) which will be helpful. I have had many leaves fall off the bottom and most have had brown spots. Is this because the plant is getting a lot more light than it’s used to? Most likely it's from a shortage of light, a deficiency of one of the nutrients that are mobile in the plant, or over-watering. It COULD be under-watering or a high level of dissolved solids (salts) in the soil solution, too. Or am I not watering enough? Or, is it over watered? You tell us! ;-) It does have 3 new leaves growing off the top since I got it (photo two)! I think that’s a good sign. Indeed it is!


  • 6 years ago

    That lower leaves fall because they're too old. That plant seems not growing new leaves maybe for half a year or more. When it got new soil, fresh nutrition.. it start growing, and the older leaves fall. Lyrata able to keep their leaves for a year or more, before they fall.

  • 6 years ago

    Hi Al,

    Appreciate you're constantly asked for advice on this forum (and others I believe) but is there any chance you could see what you think of my post from March 21st?


    One of the two cuttings I took when attempting to make my two ficus' branch has just begun to unfurl it's first fresh leaf.

  • 6 years ago

    Hi Al,

    Father’s Day is approaching quickly and that is fiddle leaf fig repot and prune time here in Michigan. I have three FLF’s. One is in great shape (picture one). The other two not looking so great. Can you give me instructions on exactly where to prune these so that they turn out somewhat like picture one? Not having any soil or other issues as I’m using your Gritty mix, etc. I’m more of a visual person, so if there is a way to “mark” the incision points, it would save further questions.

    Thank you!


  • 6 years ago


    I have a Ficus lyrata ‘Compacta’ and it is currently on one trunk with leaves all the way down. I have pruned the top of it a few times which has caused it to generated multiple new stems. It is starting to get top heavy and I am wondering if there is any way I can make the bottom of trunk to grow new stems as well to make it a thicker plant or will a have to plant another Ficus lyrata ‘Compacta’ with it?


  • 6 years ago

    If you live in the northern hemisphere, late June through mid-July is the best time to prune hard. If you want multiple stems low on the plant, you'll need to prune it hard. By hard, I mean quite close to the soil line. If I want to maximize back-budding, I usually prune a branch or stem hard. The most distal leaf left on the stem/branch gets cut in half across venation (across the veins in the leaves), and all the leaves proximal to (closer to the trunk than) that leaf also get removed by cutting through the petiole (leaf stem). This means there will be 1/2 leaf left on the plant when you're done. I've done this hundreds of times on a wide variety of Ficus species, including lyrata and elastica - never lost a tree. The tree should be reasonably healthy when you employ this strategy, and about to enter it's most robust period of the growth cycle.

    Removing leaves or branches from the trunk will limit thickening of same, but shortening the trunk also brings with it the fact that the trunk will be stiffer; this, in the same sense that a short stick of a given diameter is harder to bend than a longer stick. Periodically shortening trunks is the more desirable course if you compare that strategy to staking or tying trunks and branches to curtain rods, railings, or anything else you can lasso to help support the tree.

    If you wish, you can start the top of the tree as a cutting. You could even air-layer it now, and do the hard pruning next summer.


  • 6 years ago

    Good morning from Vancouver, BC!

    I posted on another forum on Houzz, but o think this thread might be more appropriate!!

    I brought home a pretty 4’ Ficus lyrata in May and promptly overwatered it :(

    I left the poor thing in its growers pot, with the nursery soil which I believe retains water. It is still damp after a thorough soak almost 2 weeks ago! (I am now using a skewer to monitor its soils moisture.)

    Now it has multiple lower leaves browning from the edges, inwards but so far it has not dropped any leaves. Also, it has not put out any new leaves, nor does it look like it’s going to - there are no buds whatsoever!!

    I am wanting to root prune now and repot it in Al (tapla’s) recommended 5:1:1 soil. I am so nervous about root pruning though, because I don’t want to hurt it! Could I have step by step instructions on 1)how to prune 2) how to mix the new soil 3) how to encourage new leaves??

    Also, I have not been able to find any fertilizer at a 3:1:2 ratio where I live! Does anyone know another ratio/ brand I could use or where in Vancouver to get a 3:1:2??

    Finally, I live in a townhouse with only 2 large windows on opposite sides of the house. I’ve had the fiddle by the south facing window which is bright. I am a little confused about direct vs indirect light. Is it allowed to have direct sunlight if it’s filtered through window glass? Or should no sunlight hit it, just bright “daylight”.

    Last thing, it’s been beautiful and hot here for the last few days- I thought I would put it out on my bright (shady) north facing patio for a few hours as a treat, but wonder if that will shock it??

    Any tips/ advice welcome :)

  • 6 years ago

    It's only need bigger pot with fast draining soil. No root prune needed yet since the container is too small, so the root size also small. You can expect new growth if the root performance is strong enough to feed existing living cells, plus creating new one (growing) . Cut only the damage root, then replant. When the root increase in size and performance, the upper part will follow. Trees will adapt to new light intensity by adjust its new leaves. Leaves are come and go. If your tree were growing in indirect sunlight environment, keep it that way so the older leaves won't get damage and prematurely fall.

    You can use many kind of fertilizer. It will be easier in a long term to learn how to use them rather than finding certain brand with spesific ratio that are not widely available in your area.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Hi Al,

    I see you have been giving expert advice for years and I wanted to jump right in with my question before we all exhaust your kindnesses! I just inherited a fiddle fig leaf plant from neighbors who just moved out and desperately wanted a good home for their plant. I offered to take care of it and now that I have it in my apartment, I am a bit overwhelmed. As you will see from the photos, it seemingly hasn't been pruned for a while, if ever. It had multiple stakes holding up the 4 stems (you can see five near the soil line but two stems are connected. ) I removed the stakes, which weren't doing the job anyway, and wanted to also see how difficult a time the branches were having.

    I learned from your previous responses that one should be certain of the health of the plant prior to pruning and/or repotting. As I hope you can see from the photos, the stems are weighed down heavily by the leaves-they are almost touching the ground. I suspect I have to cut off most of the branches but am not certain how I determine the plant's health and I am not sure whether, given the extreme stress on the stems, whether the plant is viable. I really could use your advice. Thank you in advance.

    I live in Northern California, by the way.

  • 5 years ago

    SOS wanting to manipulate my FLF to become thicker in the trunk, and encourage more leaves at the bottom (and in general). How can I do this?

    Will pruning/cutting back improve the exisiting stem/growth?

  • 5 years ago

    Thanks Al, much appreciated!

    Is it likely that these factors (light, warmth, soil, etc.) will achieve new (leaf) growth throughout the bare mid section of my plant? Or will new leaves only pop out at the top of my plant as it grows taller?

  • 5 years ago


    Thank you! Right now I would say I am a 9 on your scale........figuring I can always be more radical later. There are 5 trunks, the photo showed a stake or two I inadvertently forgot to pull out. I have restaked the tree and plan to slowly prune from the top , watching how it is doing. I know I have to be more proactive eventually but I need more time ...... to, I guess, bond with the tree!


  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Sorry, Maddie - I somehow missed your questions. When a tree is only realizing a fraction of its genetic potential due to cultural limitations (light, temp, soggy soil, fertility or other nutritional issues, insects/disease, correcting the cause of the limitations will produce what you'll likely perceive as a growth spurt, but will in fact be no more than the tree returning to something closer to normal growth. It's highly probable your tree would fill in a bit lower on the trunk if you take it outdoors where it gets much more light and air movement. Especially if you maintain good control of your watering and fertilize appropriately.

    Iris - you're absolutely right. You can take it off anytime (branches) - putting it back on is much more difficult (but not if you know how to manipulate the tree so it has no option other than to bend to your will).


  • 5 years ago

    Hi Al, I've been lurking these forums taking knowledge from your comments for years now, and I finally have a problem that I need some advice on. I have a Giant FLF that I've had in my home for about 5 years and suddenly this week it's getting black on the edges of some leaves that were otherwise healthy. I posted a topic here, and would greatly appreciate some help!

    Thanks to anyone that can help in advance!


  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    See your thread. Thanks for the kind words ...... and I'm glad you abandoned your lurker status.


  • 5 years ago

    Hi Al,

    Looking at the 1st photo (tall tree)- where to prune? I will follow the tree's natural tendency to produce leaves lower on the stem. I would just like a nice shape. Photo 2 - does anything need to be done here? Looking at the apparently dead area in the middle sticking up. I live in MI - zone 6b.

    Thank you!


  • 5 years ago

    I've had pretty good luck with my indoor fig tree for 2 years, but these past 2 weeks I noticed a lot of sagging in the leaves and leaves changing colors and eventually falling. I've lost a total of 7 leaves in 2 weeks.

    I'm almost positive it's because of over watering. When the leaves fall off the stems are so wet and soggy that I could practically squeeze water out. I took my fig outside this morning to see if there was root rot or excess water in the root ball and when I lifted it out of it's home, it was completely dry. Like, bone dry. Id my plant over watered? Maybe it's actually under watered? Not sure what to do except let it do it's thing. I'm afraid to water it because I don't want to cause further damage, but it so dry!

    Also, I can see the branches are a much darker brown than the trunk, which makes me thing there's a ton of water soaked up.


  • 5 years ago

    Very often, singularly or in combination, soil compaction, root congestion, and hydrophobia (from soil getting too dry which causes it to become water repellent) act to severely limit the soil's ability to absorb water. You might need to soak the pot in a tub for an hour or two in order 'break' the soil's tendency to resit absorption. Observe, when you water, whether or not the water is running to the drain by making its way downward through the gap between the perimeter of the root/soil mass and the pot wall. FWIW - the leaf abscission looks like a manifestation of a drought response, rather than over-watering.

    Something that might be helpful. Click me and I'll take you there.


  • 5 years ago

    Thank you for your response, Al. I'm using a potting mix that you recommended in this thread. When I lifted the plant from the pot, there were LOTS of roots running every which way so I do believe there is a chance the soil can't absorb water properly given the amount of dryness even after a healthy watering just days prior. I will try your method ! I also gave my plant about a cup and a half of water and I don't see any drainage in my overfill pan.

  • 5 years ago
    Would someone mind sharing if there is a way to get my flf back to the condition that it was in when I first brought it home? For the most part its been doing well, does not appear to be growing. When I brought it home in September it was much fuller near the base of each secondary branch. I have a good handle on watering and it is in a well draining mix from a greenhouse. When it was deemed time to water I would do so and then within a day or two it would drop a few leaves. This trend continued until I started adding foliage pro to each watering. I’m really annoyed by that because I was assured that the tree had plenty of fertilizer in the pot, I can even see the little green balls all over in the growing medium. I am thinking that I could have avoided it losing the ~30 leave it lost slowly after each watering before introducing foliage pro, back in December. Since using foliage pro I have had zero leaves drop.

    I would like to know the best time and if someone could also give me an idea on where to make the cuts for the hard prune that would be great too. I live in Chicago and all posts I’ve read say that late June would be best for a hard prune. I’m willing to do a hard prune, I’m excited to do it and see the rewards. I just need more information on how to do it properly.
  • 5 years ago

    Would someone mind sharing if there is a way to get my flf back to the
    condition that it was in when I first brought it home? For the most part
    its been doing well, does not appear to be growing.
    When reduced to its elemental form, elevating your tree to a higher state of vitality is going to be a function of how good you are at providing cultural conditions in the plant's sweet spot, instead of close to or beyond the limits it's (genetically) programmed to tolerate. So, it can be done fairly easily, but you'll need to make some adjustments if the decline is to be reversed.

    If a plant is truly not growing, it is not making more energy than it's using, and that's a bad place to be ..... for a plant.

    When I brought it
    home in September it was much fuller near the base of each secondary
    branch. I have a good handle on watering and it is in a well draining
    mix from a greenhouse. When it was deemed time to water I would do so
    and then within a day or two it would drop a few leaves. This trend
    continued until I started adding foliage pro to each watering. I’m
    really annoyed by that because I was assured that the tree had plenty of
    fertilizer in the pot, I can even see the little green balls all over
    in the growing medium. I am thinking that I could have avoided it losing
    the ~30 leave it lost slowly after each watering before introducing
    foliage pro, back in December. Since using foliage pro I have had zero
    leaves drop.
    Some nutrients, like nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium are mobile in the plant. That is to say the plant can "steal" these nutrients from existing foliage and move it to where it's needed to support branch extension and growth of new leaves. Other nutrients, like calcium and several micronutrients are regarded as immobile in tissues and must be in the nutrient stream at all times in order for normal growth to occur. If the FP fertilizer curbed leaf loss, it's a good bet the leaves were being exploited for their nutrients and other bio-compounds prior to being shed.

    I would like to know the best time and if someone
    could also give me an idea on where to make the cuts for the hard prune
    that would be great too. I live in Chicago and all posts I’ve read say
    that late June would be best for a hard prune. I’m willing to do a hard
    prune, I’m excited to do it and see the rewards. I just need more
    information on how to do it properly.
    Good to see you come pre-armed with some knowledge of how to work with the plant's natural rhythms in order to help the plant recover faster from any extensive work you might do - primarily repotting and hard pruning. I think we're gradually changing minds with regard to the idea that a plant's foliage is sacred and not to be cut off under any circumstances. Growth is often viewed as so special that the plants appearance is sacrificed on its altar.

    I would do the pruning around Father's Day/ Summer Solstice. As soon as the plant starts to back-bud - you can repot (if it needs it, and it probably does). The pruning will be really easy and possibly done in 2 stages, depending on how close to the trunk the foliage is on each branch. Why not send a set of 4 images of the tree, rotating the tree 90* for each subsequent image in early June. Basically, you'll choose the leader, then prune all second order branches back to 1 or 2 leaves. The leader will be one node higher than the second order branches.

    A hard pruning represents a setback for the plant because you're removing growth that's been paid for. Living in CHI, you'll want to let your tree grow wild (unpruned or pinched) from Sep 1 to at least Jun 1. Then, pinch religiously from Jun 1 to Sep 1, such that when ANY branch shows a 3rd leaf that's open and moving toward maturity, pinch that branch back to 2 leaves. Soon, you'll be removing branches to let light and air movement into the canopy because it's too full. I have to do that to ALL of my trees older than a couple of years for health and to slow growth.

    BTW - your tree appears to have a very good basic structure to build on - so, good choice.


  • 5 years ago

    Al- Thank you for the reply, I have been reading your information for the past several months and commend you.

    I did something drastic today... I wasn't thinking that the tree was pot-bound until I decided to pull it out of the container and the root ball was completely intact. I then began to remove all of the soil around it. I was shocked with what I discovered... It appears as though the tree was placed in the #7 pot all the way down like a telephone pole. I did my best with what I have read on root pruning to give the tree a better chance. I feel as though the way it was potted was crippling it from the start. The ideal root collar was nearly 7 inches deep and there were several root defects present. I wanted to take photos, but spent the time concentrating on getting the job done. I tried to remove any defects proximal to the problem. I then repotted in a #10 using a 1-1-1 mix (potting mix that it was in — pine bark fines I had from bonsai jack — small volcanic rock). Not ideal, but surely better than it was. I then made sure to plant the tree at the proper height in the new #10 pot. I am praying that this thing pulls through. I can already see the the previously buried trunk is drying a little.

    Further, in the photo that has a chopstick pointing to the trunk, that part of the trunk below the ideal root collar was noticeably soft. I didn't smell anything strange, but it sure seems like it shouldn't be there. How the tree is now I am able to expose that area to the air. If it is rot will what I did correct the problem, or is this thing doomed?


  • 5 years ago
    I must have gotten lucky. After reporting my tree and root pruning the defects it slowly lost every leaf. Hear we’re are a month or so later and signs life have emerged! I am thoroughly looking forward to shaping this tree in the future. I honestly never thought it would pull through, but luckily it had enough stored energy.

    Right now it is in a 10 gal pot and I know that’s too big for the state of the tree right now. Is it best to just let this thing recover fully all summer in that pot, pinching along the way? I don’t want to let it get taller than 6 feet. It’s currently in a mix I made and it seems to like it. I did see new root growth as I was turnover the top layer checking moisture levels.
  • 5 years ago
    Thought I’d update... it’s been two months since the super heavy root prune and defoliation. It’s about 5.5 feet tall and I’d like to keep it under 6 feet. When would be a good time to start pinching? Also I know it’s over potted right now, but since I did such a hard root prune I don’t know if I’ll set it back more by putting it in a smaller pot or if it will benefit?
  • 5 years ago

    I'd like to get my 'Y' shaped tree into a more conventional multi-branch shape. Where's the best place to prune back to? Also, it's about 9' tall and may need to get repotted. Will it become stressed if I prune and repot around the same time? Thanks!

Grow Landscapes
Average rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars8 Reviews
Planning Your Outdoor Space in Loundon County?