Pruning Roots

Pruning the roots once every 2-3 years

When pruning the roots of your potted fig trees, you must perform this once every 2-3 years. Otherwise the tree might experience a stunted growth and cause stress to the tree. It’s a good idea to prune your tree in early spring, just before the tree begins to leaf out. If you wait later in the season to prune, the tree will feel shock and the leaves will wilt for several days.

Of course, you can plan to transfer the tree into a larger pot. Although this can make it difficult to move the tree around and it can grow to enormous proportions. So, pruning is the best option if you plan to return the tree to the pot that you love so much.

Below are photographic examples showing the stages of root pruning.

 

  • This fig tree that has been removed from it’s pot. You will notice the roots that were pressed up against the lining of the pot giving the soil a distinctive shape as you can see here.
Roots ready for pruning
Roots ready for pruning

 

  • Roots with the old soil removed, prior to pruning. It is important to loosen the roots just like you do when you want messy hair.
Roots without soil, ready to be snipped
Roots without soil, ready to be snipped

 

  • This photo shows how the roots look after pruning. It looks like a bad hair day or if your hair gets wet after you get a perm.
The main roots have been pruned.
The main roots have been pruned.

 

Replace the grow medium

At this point, it is recommended that you either replace the grow medium or re-use your existing long-term conifer bark-based medium until the next time you prune the roots.

Homemade Grow Medium

Homemade conifer grow mediums

Homemade grow medium in your pots doesn’t have to be a laborious activity, therefore this might be more enjoyable if the nutrients in the medium could last more than 2 years.

After doing some research, I came across a conifer bark-based medium mix that will last up to 3 years.

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5:1:1 mix of pine bark:humus:perlite

Mixing these ingredients together into a 5 Gal. Bucket (Pail) to mix this grow medium mixture by hand or with Playtex Gloves if your hands are sensitive.

Homemade conifer bark-based grow medium ingredients
Homemade conifer bark-based grow medium ingredients

Humus based mediums

Humus based soils break down quickly – within a single growing season. When you use them, you have to hope the container size and plant mass is enough to compensate for the collapse toward the end of summer. Hopefully, your roots have spread throughout the container and the planting has matured. This will show that the plant is able to use the water from compacted soils quickly enough to avoid root rot. Rootings should be healthy enough that they actually become a part of the structure of the soil and function as aids to the soils ability to hold air. For maximum vitality when using these soils, plants should be bare-rooted every year.

It is possible to use peat, but harvesting it has been outlawed due to a near extinction. I don’t recommend using it, since it takes millions of years for the Earth to create this delicate material in the peat bogs and just a few years to run it toward extinction.

Conifer bark-based mediums

Homemade conifer bark-based mediums break down at a rate around 1/4 that of humus soils. Gardeners can guarantee that the roots will become a part of the soil structure without much concern for root rot. This will ensure that your irrigation practices are reasonable. 5:1:1 mix of pine bark:humus:perlite is a good example of this type of medium. People using it with very good results. In terms of fertilizing the medium, there is literally no need to add fertilizer to this mix. Perlite and humus may contain a small amounts of fertilizer, so researching your ingredients to see find fertilizer is a good practice.

You should expect at least 2 years of service from homemade soils, as opposed to 1 from those based on humus. Your trees should have some attention paid to their roots every two(2) years – 3 years maximum. “Servicing” requires you to prune the roots. You will be able to prune your roots twice (once every 2 years) with this type of medium.

Below shows an example of how a tree looked after adding this conifer bark-based grow medium.

Fig tree with homemade conifer bark-based grow medium
Fig tree with homemade conifer bark-based grow medium

Rooting Materials

Rooting starter kit

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Rooting Materials
These are materials used for rooting your clippings

Rooting for the first time while propagating fig trees from clippings, then here are materials that you will need.

Grow Medium — the type of soilless mix. I bought this FoxFarm Light Warrior Seed Starter Soilless Mix

Spray Bottle — to mist water into the terrarium atmosphere inside the dome.

You will need this root starter kit that contains all of the above as 1 shipment. Growing TrayPlug Tray, Humidity Dome, and Clonex Rooting Hormone (as shown in the photo above).

Seeding Heat Mat — goes under the growing tray.

Replacement Rooting Hormone — Either this CLONEX Rooting Hormone gel packet as seen in the photo or this bottle that you can reseal Clonex Rooting, 100 ml

In this image are three materials used for Air Layering.

Air Layering Materials
Air Layering Materials

2-Liter plastic bottle — I don’t drink soft drinks. So, I purchased the cheapest seltzer water bottles in the store for 99 cents

Sphagnum Moss

1 roll of white Electrical Tape — being that it’s plastic tape , it holds up well for several weeks.

Rooting From Summer Cuttings

Rooting from summer cuttings is very simple with this instruction

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Rooting Fig Tree Success
This fig tree was successfully grown from a summer cutting.

Rooting with this method has close similarities to rooting from winter cuttings. It’s essentially the same, however it requires complex tools found in the Rooting Materials post. Materials required are in the root starter kit as mentioned in the page. (Humidity Dome, Plug Tray, Growing Tray, Rooting Hormone and Seeding Heat Mat, sold separately).

Follow these 7 easy steps

  1. Go to your existing fig tree and look for a fresh straight bark branch about 6 inches long. It should be about the thickness of a pencil. If you don’t include this, you will notice that the green end will rot. Be sure to remove the leaves.
  2. Wrap the cut ends with damp paper towels, seal in a plastic bag (I use ziploc bags) and place in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. This will put the cutting into a normal dormant mode, making it behave as if it’s Winter.
  3. Prepare your plug tray by filling the plugs (holes) with grow medium. Add water and let it drain in into the growing tray under it.
  4. Prepare the insertion of the cutting by first setting the hole with a pencil.
    Poking the hole with a pencil
    hole example from the rooting from winter cuttings instruction
  5. Apply rooting hormone onto the cut end of the clipping. You can use your fingers or a small brush to apply the rooting compound. Slide it into the hole. Pinch the bottom of the plug tray to press the soil against the end of the clipping.
  6. Place the plug tray into a growing tray. Cover this with a humidity dome.
  7. Place the entire hot house onto an insulated table (preferably wood). To maintain the grow medium temperature at 70F, insert the seeding heat mat under between the terrarium and the table and plug it into an outlet. Check the temperature periodically. If it goes over 70F, unplug it. Move this entire unit into a shaded area, in a greenhouse or near a window in your home. If it’s inside a greenhouse, you might not need the seeding heat mat.

Dryness is not your friend. Let’s add moisture.

Lift up one end of the humidity dome and using your spray bottle, mist a spray of water inside to get it super steamy inside. You will need to do this everyday. Check on this daily.

The tree above that is featured in this section in the orange pot succeeded as one out of 18 cuttings that I tried this out on.

Please tell me your results in this process in the comments section. Did you have success? Did you need to modify these instructions to reach a better outcome?

Rooting From Winter Cuttings

Rooting from winter cuttings made easy

Everyone seems to have their own favorite method of rooting, especially when rooting from Winter cuttings. The steps below describe one method that some people like because they can stick the cuttings into the grow medium and then set it aside until the cutting leafs out. Other people like to add another step that they think is more reliable. That other step is to first collect a few 6-8 inch cuttings, bunch them together and wrap a damp paper towel around them. Insert them into a ziploc bag, seal it and then set it outside under the shade. Once the roots form, insert each cutting into it’s own pot with grow medium. This method leaves out the need to use rooting hormone.

  1. When you are pruning your tree during the end of the Winter season, gather a select number of cuttings that are pencil thick, as straight as possible and about 6-12 inches in length.
    Tip: The best cuttings are the ones that have some green colored tips like in this image.

    Rooting success from winter cutting
    Rooting success from winter cutting
    fig tree cuttings taking root
    fig tree cuttings taking root
  2. Get a small 5-6 inch tall nursery pot such as the homemade one below and then pack it with grow medium. Add water and let the medium soak for 1-2 hrs or overnight. These pots have holes cut into the bottom to allow water to drain out when watering.
  3. Grab a pencil and insert it into the soil to preset a hole for your cutting.
    Poking the hole with a pencil
    Setting the hole with a pencil
  4. Using your finger, spread the rooting compound (hormone) onto the cut end of the cutting. Don’t worry, roots will not grow from your finger.

    Optional

    You may also apply it onto the first knotted point in from the cut end.

  5. Apply the root hormone
    preparing the cutting
    preparing the cutting
    Adding rooting compound onto the cutting
    Adding rooting compound onto the cutting
  6. Insert the cutting into the soil and then press down onto the soil firmly to hold the cutting into place.
  7. Add water and then move the cutting into a shaded area. In about 6-8 weeks, leaves should begin to form. I like using the lower end of a clear 2-liter plastic bottle with holes cut on the bottom because it allows me to see the roots pressing against the plastic. Once the roots have fully formed throughout the pot, you may transfer it to a larger pot. By the following growing season you may plant it into the ground. See the Winterizing instructions here for potted plants.
    Tip:
    This method isn’t 100% successful, so I recommend that you do this with more than one cutting in case if one doesn’t grow.

    Add the water to soak
    Add the water to soak

Rooting Troubleshooting:

If for some reason, your cutting remains green at the tip for more than 5-6 weeks without leafing out, carefully check the cutting to see if roots formed. If no roots, make a clean cut above the area where you added the rooting hormone. Look for wood that is still fresh and not rotted, follow this instruction:

  1. Wrap the cut end with a damp paper towel, seal in a plastic bag (I use ziploc bags) and place in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. This will put the cutting into a normal dormant mode, making it behave as if it’s Winter.
  2. Go back to step 2 near the middle of this page

Air Layering a Fig Tree Root

Air layering a tree to form roots

Maybe you’re wondering what Air Layering is. When I first heard the words, I pictured wafer cookies with layers of air in them.

Air Layering your fig tree is not too far from that concept. This method allows you to grow roots directly out of a branch into a complete root ball and the process doesn’t provide any nutrients into the roots to extend the size of the branch. Although not recommended, you can cut it down with all the roots intact and plant it into the ground. You’ll have excellent results if you first plant it into a pot afterward and then plant it into the ground the following Spring season. What Air Layering does is encourage the roots to grow in a space that contains a mixture of air pockets, water and the roots layer upon themselves into a tight ball. Air Layering is 100% successful with cloning fig trees unless you wait too late in the season to do it.

The month of June is the best month to begin Air Layering, because when you transplant it into a pot it will have enough time to establish itself before the Fall season comes around. Any existing figs on the branch will continue to grow, but will not taste good when they ripen. I recommend to not attempt to start this in August. I tried it with two trees and they nearly died.



Before we begin, please see photo No. 2 in Rooting Materials. Be sure you have these materials ready along with a pitcher of water and a small bowl. Now, you don’t have to use this same exact bottle, you can experiment with different plastic bottles and different ways to cut them up to fit your branch. The objective is to create a container that will hold damp moss inside of it. Once you’ve created this container, there will be no need to add water to it.

    1. Bowl of moistened (not soaking wet) spagnum moss.
      Bowl of moistened (not soaking wet) spagnum moss.

      Take the bowl and add a handful of the moistened Sphagnum Moss into it.

    2. Using scissors or a box cutting knife, cut the 2-liter bottle (or any other plastic container) similar to what you see in the images below.
    3. Cut the bottle in such a way so that you can slip it onto the branch. I cut a slot at the sides of the bottle spout and then slipped the bottle horizontally over the branch.

      This image contains a different bottle prepared for a smaller branch with a cap for adding water if necessary.

      Small bottle prepared for a smaller branch
      Small bottle prepared for a smaller branch

    4. By following the below instructions, you should have two bottle top ends that should fit together.
    5. Now look for a branch that looks straight
    6. On the branch, you’ll see how the branch appears segmented with bumps that seem to encircle the branch. This is where the roots will grow from.
      Black arrow points to where roots will grow from branch
      Black arrow points to where roots will grow from branch
    7. Once you have located these bumps, fasten one of the bottle sections with electrical tape onto the branch in such a way that the container will encase one of those bumps or knots. Just use your common sense on this step as some branches are pointed in other directions. It might require taping both halves onto the branch and then pushing the moss through a hole on a top with step 9.
    8. Add water to the moss until it’s soaked and then squeeze out all of the water until the moss is just damp. (remove excess water from the bowl).
    9. Pack the damp moss into the bottle half that is on the branch.
    10. Fasten the other bottle segment above the lower one using your tape. Carefully taping the two halves together. If you have extra space for more moss, pack some in before you completely seal off the container. Be careful not to leave holes, otherwise moisture will escape and ants will make a home in the container. Yes, I said ants! Small black ants love it for some reason.
      Horizontal container (difficult construction)
      Horizontal container (difficult construction)
    11. Now mark your calendar and wait 6-8 weeks for the roots to grow. I have found that by week 8 the roots are fully prepared for the transplant into a pot.
      Upside down water bottle cut in half with fig branch protruding it
      Upside down water bottle cut in half with fig branch protruding it
      Air layering close shot showing roots inside upside down water bottle
      Air layering close shot showing roots inside upside down water bottle
    12. Carefully dismantle the plastic container from the root ball.
      Dismantling the container
      Dismantling the container
      Roots freed from containment, ready for pruning shears
      Roots freed from containment, ready for pruning shears
    13. Snip off the new air layered branch below the root ball with pruning shears between two “knots” in the branch. I use this tool because it gives a nice clean cut.
      Showing an example of where to cut the branch with the pruning shears
      Showing an example of where to cut the branch with the pruning shears
    14. Transplant the root ball into a nursery pot that has holes on the bottom. Loosen the roots a little although not necessary and then fill the pot with pre-moistened grow medium. Although pre-moistening is not necessary, I just found it helpful. For this example, I moistened the potting soil with water with another pot. Notice the stick end below the roots as seen in the above photo, I let this end stand directly against the bottom of the pot.
      And finally, transplanting into a pot, filling it with grow medium
      And finally, transplanting into a pot, filling it with grow medium
    15. Water until the grow medium is wet. The water should pass through quickly. To know when to water it again, insert a clean strip of wood into the soil, wait a few minutes and then pull it out. If the wood comes out dry, then add water. Following this method will prevent from rotting the roots.

I have tried Air Layering using other containers. Plastic wrap stuffed with the moss was an option, but birds pecked at it forcing me to wrap it with aluminum foil. Clear containers are the best, because they are “all window” allowing me to see the roots. If you use plastic wrap, it is necessary to add a little bit of water to it at least once a week.

Note

The example container in the photo with the pruning shears in it was the most complex I’ve made. I cut the bottle in half and used the top and bottom segments. the bottom segment required using a hacksaw to cut a slot and drill a large hole in the bottom. What a pain the neck. The bottom of a 2-liter bottle is very thick plastic. It’s not worth the trouble to see someone else struggle with that.