I threatened this punny post title last year, when I sewed a planter bag for one of my big fiddle leaf figs. That fig and another have outgrown their pots again, so I’m sewing new planter bags for them. I’ve … Continue reading
After years of professing to have a black thumb, I have been pleasantly surprised to discover over the past couple of years that fiddle leaf figs seem to love me as much as I love them.
Other posts in my fiddle leaf fig series are:
Today, I’m sharing tips on repotting your plants. I just repotted my two largest plants, which actually turned out to be a serious workout! (Or so I told myself when I had dessert later…)
What are some signs it’s time to repot your plant?
- You just bought a new plant – most new plants from the nursery have been in their small pots for a while and should be repotted.
- The soil isn’t holding water – water runs through more quickly than usual, because much of the soil is filled with roots
- You see roots coming out the bottom of your pot (see below!)
- It’s been a couple of years since you repotted. The timing depends on how fast your plants are growing. I’ve had to repot every 1-2 years
This plant had been in the same pot for about 20 months, and it was definitely time to repot it!
Tips for repotting your plant:
Ideally, try to repot in the spring or summer, when your plant is growing fastest, as this will help it recover more easily. Since we’re in California, where winters are shorter and milder, I’ve been able to repot in winter without issues – this was out of necessity, when I suddenly realized my plants were suffering from outgrowing their pots.
Pick a pot that’s a few inches bigger than the previous pot. Going up too far in size will leave too much empty soil and risk overwatering. Ideally, use a pot with good drainage, though I have do have several growing successfully in pots without drainage holes – I did put more rocks at the bottom of those, to create a space for water to drain within the pot.
If the roots are really matted and tight (left picture below), you can gently loosen and trim them (right picture below). If you can’t or don’t want to use a larger pot, you can also gently trim the roots, brush off as much of the soil as possible, and use the same pot, though this might limit your plant’s growth overall. I’ve just put my biggest two plants into 24″ diameter pots, which I think is as big as I’ll go, so I’ll need to try just trimming the roots next time. I had to look in a few places before finding this size at Flowercraft in San Francisco.
Line the bottom of your pot with small rocks to keep the soil from leaking out and add extra drainage. Add a layer of fresh potting soil on top of the rocks, and put your plant back in. Adjust the height by adding or removing soil until the top of the root ball sits a little below the rim of your pot, remembering that the soil will compact a bit over time.
Fill in soil around the root ball until about two inches from the top. Add some slow release fertilizer pellets – I use this one from Osmocote – and the continue filling in soil until it’s even with the top of your root ball.
Give your plant a good watering, and watch it grow!
Here’s a picture of the craziness while I was in the middle of repotting the two big trees – it’s a jungle in here!
My plants sure seem happy in their new pots! I have a plan to sew some giant planter bags for them, similar to this one, which is now going to be handed down to a younger FLF! UPDATE: Here are some pics of the plants in their new planter bags, and here’s a link to the tutorial for the new giant planter bags!
Let me know if you have any questions, and happy gardening!
Julie aka “Jewels”
It’s no secret that I have a serious love of the fiddle leaf fig plant – and quite unexpectedly for this life-long brown thumb, I have had a lot of success in growing them! This is a good sign for those of you who want a fiddle leaf fig of your own!
I started off with three plants that I bought. They have grown so much that I have been able to prune them (here are some tips on pruning), and I have propagated five new ones (here are some tips on propagation) off of those. I’m about to send one of the baby fiddle leaf figs off to a friend’s home, and I thought I would include a little card with some tips on caring for these special plants. I’m not having difficulty letting go, really…
Here’s the card I put together, and if you want this in a PDF format, this is the link: Caring for your Fiddle Leaf Fig.
So, I know I’m not the only one who loves the ficus lyrata, or fiddle leaf fig. My post on how to propagate fiddle leaf fig plants from cuttings is by far one of the most popular topics on the blog!
It’s my second year of growing these magnificent plants, and I thought I’d try my hand at shaping one into a tree. The two most common shapes for fiddle leaf fig plants are a column, often planted in groups of twos or threes, and a tree shape. Even though they look very different, these two shapes are the same plant, and you can actually make a tree by carefully pruning and shaping your plant!
The best time to prune is spring or summer, when your plant is growing most actively.
Here is a tree-shaped fiddle leaf fig I bought from Sloat Garden Center about a year ago. It has grown three-to-four times in size, and I’ve pruned it several times already. As it grows, I study the shape and look to see where it may be getting lopsided. Then, I cut the branch including two-to-three leaves off of that area, and this encourages the plant to branch out in new directions. The more you cut, the more side branches the plant will grow.
Why? The plant hormones – auxins – that promote upward growth also inhibit branch growth. The auxins flow from the tip down, so when you cut off the tip, you lower the level of auxins, which allows branching. The more you cut, the lower the concentration of auxins, and the more branching you’ll get.
These are examples of a traditional column shape, and the one in front is actually a plant I propagated off of the one in back! I was able to cut off the tip of the column-shaped plant with just one leaf, and it grew back just one bud, keeping its vertical form without branching. The benefit of doing this, besides getting a new plant from your cutting (!), is that it slows down the vertical growth and lets the trunk get stronger.
Of course, you don’t have to be traditional! I bought this plant from Flowercraft last Mother’s Day, when it was just the lower section. It grew two side branches, and I just let it continue that way. I pruned one of the side branches once, so you can see there is yet another small branch coming off of it. This plant now has a very unique shape which I’ve grown to love.
Back to my latest fiddle leaf fig project! I had this smaller fiddle leaf fig plant that I actually purchased online, when I was eager to get my hands on one and was having trouble hunting one down at a nursery. It grew a bit slowly at first, but it did eventually take off, and now it is ready for an adventure!
How to shape your fiddle leaf fig plant into a tree:
- In spring or summer, cut off a large section from the top of the column. I cut off the top of the stem with six leaves, in two sections of three leaves, so I could root both of them into new plants. Make sure you have some rooting hormone on hand and read my other tips for propagating a new plant. The more you prune a plant, the more it will branch, and I was hoping to get about three side branches.
2. About a month later, I was rewarded with three new buds! Each of these will grow a new branch, and we’ll be on our way to a pretty new tree shape!
3. When it grows enough, I will start taking the leaves off the bottom section of the trunk. It is good to wait a while to do this, as each of those leaves is helping provide energy for the plant. I also have never been able to propagate a leaf without the stem section, though I think I might as well try when I cut those leaves. More to come!
I’ll keep updating this post with progress and tips, so come back and see how this beauty is doing!
Update at 1.5 months:
So, I have good news and bad news…. good news is that two of the buds have totally taken off into branches… bad news is the third bud hasn’t grown much. I’ll give it some more time, but I know that the plant hormones – auxins – that promote upward growth also inhibit branch growth, so I may try trimming the top of the new branches when they get mature, to try to allow that third little bud to grow.
Since I’ve become a crazy plant lady, I’m always looking for planters to hold my collection. Big plants like my fiddle leaf figs (see how to propagate them here) can get heavy, so I try to put them in plastic … Continue reading
Don’t say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! After years of joking about my “brown thumb,” I’m getting really excited about gardening and plants. It’s so rewarding to watch things grow, not to mention how plants freshen up any space both visually and literally.
I’m growing all kinds of plants, but one of my greatest loves is the Ficus Lyrata, the fiddle leaf fig, and I’m so grateful that they seem to thrive in our conditions. I originally bought three plants, which have all at least tripled in size, and I’ve successfully started about 10 plants from cuttings. Here is a list of all my fiddle leaf fig-related posts:
- How to propagate plants from cuttings (this post!)
- How to prune and shape a fiddle leaf fig
- Complete care tips, such as light, watering, and repotting
I mentioned I originally bought three plants. I’ve heard that some people have found these at big box hardware stores, but I had no luck. I ended up buying one online (really!) but eventually acquired two more at local nurseries Sloat Garden Center and Flowercraft. The one I got online is fine, but the ones from the nursery are much bigger, so I’d definitely recommend looking around locally, if you can.
After just a few months, two of my trees needed trimming already, so I decided to try to propagate new plants from the cuttings. I have done this several times now, so I have updated this post with all the tips – get it? tips!
When and where to propagate?
- Plants grow fastest in spring and summer, so you’ll have the best success between March and September
- For more tips on when and how to prune your tree, check out this post
- Place your cuttings in a bright location, to help them grow, but avoid direct sun that could scorch the leaves. The cuttings are more delicate than an established plant
What type of cutting can you propagate?
- Newest lesson: the cuttings from more mature branches seem to work better. I tried propagating brand new growth (about a month old), and those cuttings failed to grow 😦
- Using a clean knife or scissors, take a cutting that includes a section of stem and one to three leaves. If you want to trim more than three leaves, separate the cutting, so each section has no more than three. A bigger cutting can’t get enough water to survive while it’s forming new roots
- If you cut the tip of a branch, which includes a bud, the cutting will continue to grow from the bud
- If you cut a section of stem from the middle of a branch, a new bud will form on the side of the stem and will grow upwards
- I have heard lore of being able to propagate a leaf without a stem section, but the one I tried did not work. I will probably try again, but I don’t have first-hand experience seeing this work.
- Update: I just got an exciting new tip from Candice on Instagram (@cee_marie923) She accidentally stripped the outer layer off the stem, and the roots grew much better and faster! I can’t wait to try this out myself. Meanwhile, here’s a picture of her cutting – thanks, Candice!
What supplies do you need?
- You can place your cutting in water, soil, or an inert medium like vermiculite. The bottom tip of the cutting needs to stay very moist, which is easy in water. If you use soil or vermiculite, wrap the container in plastic wrap to keep moisture in and check it every few days, adding water when it starts drying out
- I applied rooting hormone to the bottom end of the cutting to help encourage new root growth. Apply this just once. If you over-use the rooting hormone, it actually hardens the tip and makes it more difficult for roots to grow – yes, I learned the hard way!
Here are some pictures to show what you can expect over time:
You may see some new roots around this time!
And your original plant should be growing a new bud (or two, or three) where you took the cutting:
You can see more robust root growth taking off!
Exciting news! The single top leaf has grown so many roots that I transferred it to a pot today!
Crazy! This is where I cut off three leaves from the top of a plant. It went from buds to tons of new branches and leaves in just one week. So exciting!
This was the stem with a single leaf. It now has three new leaves and a promising looking bud pushing out the top. Yay!
If you take a cutting from the center section of a stem, with no bud attached, it may take even longer for a new bud to form, but it can definitely work!
For real! The plant in front was a section of stem with a single leaf off the top of the plant in back. It grew like gangbusters!
Thanks for reading and please share your questions and tips!