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  • Fixing a leggy plant

    This is a first for me, trying to undo this kind of growth problem. Last year I received a beautiful rooted LSU Tiger plant in trade, put it in a 5g SIP, and it looked great by the end of the growing season. I put it in my popup green house in early April and the ting went wild, growing several inches on each branch very quickly and growing enormous sails/leaves. When I took it out of the greenhouse last week, it couldn't handle the wind even when sheltered a bit, or the weight of the leaves at the end, and the branches got droopy. In retrospect, I wish I had pruned each branch back several inches at the end of last year, I think it would have responded well to that. But the question is what to do now. This plant is staying in this sized SIP - my first Tiger died during it's first winter in the ground.

    Pics posted below. I pinched the top. My thought is to airlayer off the long branches, or maybe some of them, maybe a couple at a time. I would have to attach the airlayered branches to stakes for support. Airlayering will likely disrupt getting much or any fruit this year, but I need to get the plant shaped right.

    Any other thoughts?

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    SW PA zone 6a

  • #2
    I would take off that whole right trunk and stake the left one. But I like pyramidal shaped trees... and I think you want to avoid vigor with Tiger as much as possible, the wood is weak when vigorous.
    Last edited by polecat; 05-15-2019, 05:41 AM.


    • #3
      I would use multiple stakes. Could it also be missing the humidity from the GH and having droop because of that or too much sun? I'd think you 'd have to acclimatize it so that it can transition smoothly from the GH to regular conditions. Thats my first thought...


      • eboone
        eboone commented
        Editing a comment
        I took it out of the GH in mainly cloudy, humid and frequently rainy weather, and none of the others taken out showed the same effect on the leaves. But I agree that could be causing some effect on the appearance of those big leaves

      • figsitting
        figsitting commented
        Editing a comment
        Well that rules that out hope you get it sorted always good to have extra!!! Could there possibly be a problem in the soil itself???

    • #4
      Ed I agree with you about air layering to correct it. That way you have a back-up for whatever you decide to do. It looks like you could make 6-7 smaller air layers and take a few cuttings. You pinched the top and hopefully it will now give you branches in the directions you want. An option is to then plant it deeper, either in a taller container or in-ground after you know you have a back-up with one of the good air layers you make.
      Chris - Zone 6b


      • #5
        Glad to see it's doing well! I may have lost the mother plant but have a small baby from a cutting.

        I'd probably start by air layering that heavier lower branch with all the stems. Good luck!
        SE MI, zone 6a


        • #6
          Lower branch needs to go as it weakens the trunk. That has been decided. The shoot originating below the soil could stay if you want a multi trunk plant or carefully removed as it might have roots.

          As others have mentioned staking would be beneficial. My preference rather than tying is to use velcro, it is about 3/4" wide and can be wrapped loose to allow some movement to strengthen the plant. HD in the same display area as plant stakes.

          Lastly you might decrease the fertilizer, to reduce the growth vigor. At least until the trunk is more robust. The SIP is providing continuous availability of nutrients.

          I recently had my first ripe Tiger fig and it was really good.

          Zone 9b
          S of Tampa Bay, FL


          • eboone
            eboone commented
            Editing a comment
            They are really good!

        • #7
          For those suggesting that I remove the whole lower right branch - Would you just prune off that lower right branch now, or airlayer each smaller branch on it and then prune off the lower right branch, or airlayer the whole low right branch 'en masse' ?
          SW PA zone 6a


          • Evdurtschi
            Evdurtschi commented
            Editing a comment
            That depends on how bad you want the air layers. Most people here would cringe to see how I savagely prune trees to the shape that I want. I save cuttings of desirable stuff and set air layers on the super rare stuff but most just gets tossed out due to a lack of time. I have given a lot away here on the forum but only if time permits.
            Set an air layer for a backup for yourself and take cuttings from the rest is what I would do

          • Cguitar
            Cguitar commented
            Editing a comment
            That lower right branch could be 5 air layers. I'd place 4 distal air layers on hardwood one or 2 nodes below new growth and one air layer close to the trunk on the larger part of the branch. The thickest air layer off the main trunk could then be shaped to have nice branching after removing the other 4. You're focusing on shaping it this year and not fig production so it needs pruned. My thought is why not prune the tree in 2 months by taking off those air layers.

          • Wisner
            Wisner commented
            Editing a comment
            I would remove the whole right branch now. It looks like a root sprout coming up that you could air layer. I would not want to mess with air layering the tender green growth. You may be able to take some cuttings in the fall if you can get some more growth this season.

        • #8

          You have great scaffold going there. The branches are just sagging. Why ruin its shape with air layering! Wait until next year or later to air layer when you have branches to spare.

          A nice thin but stiff, long bamboo stake for each limb, tied to the stake in two places per limb, and all your floppy growth will be directed upright. It will look a little strange with all those stakes until the corrected branches put on more diameter, and get rigid. You may have to leave the stakes in place for two years, retying as the branches thicken.

          Make the stakes longer than the current growth lengths so you can tie additional lengthening of the branches to it if needed.

          I am hesitant to tell you to pinch all the branches as you did to the top one.That's still a question I am not sure is a good move now.

          If pinched, each branch will probably set figlets, which is nice. However, at each pinch you will probably get two new growth shoots pop out per pinched branch below where you pinched, each one next to each figlet forming at a leaf's base there. This may be too much weight for the trained branches to bear, maybe not. This action, you decide.

          I might go with pinched all around. You do have a stake there to tie new shoots to if needed to support the additional weight the floppy branches could not bear if they weren't staked.

          This is my opinion of what you should do, for what it's worth!

          W. PA., Pittsburgh, zone 6b USDA, but more 5b, realistically. All pot grown fig trees, no in-grounds.


          • #9
            I'm not one to fool around. Weak growth is no good, It looks like a new branch coming from below the soil line. That would be all that is left. I would cut all the rest off. The other methods mentioned would work, I just don't have time to baby it back into decent form. Staking branches in itself makes them weak. So removing it ASAP would be best. Too much trouble for me.
            I had a J H Adriatic that just had weeping growth. Much like how a TC plant grows at first. Finally it put out a straight branch. It is 3rd leaf and never fruited, but I don't care,. I need a plant growing properly. It is only 20 inches or so tall now but has strong upright growth. All the weeping branches were removed.


            • drew51
              drew51 commented
              Editing a comment
              I blame the weeping habit to poorly grown branches in weak light. They never looked right, never recovered and kept growing in a weeping manner.
              Now this is more to my liking and I can at last let it grow out. It took 3 years as mentioned to correct it. The first year no upright branches. The 2nd year one formed at last but didn't grow much. So I removed all those weak weeping branches and expect it to explode now. My plants are just leafing out now here in Michigan. Bad photo sorry as another branch from another plant is right behind it. I should have moved it to photograph.

          • #10
            If it were mine, that parasitic lower branch would be in the compost pile and the main trunk would be staked. Then a bit later in the season, I would either dig up the side shoot with some roots, or set a ground level air layer on it.
            “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
            – Chinese Proverb
            MA 5b/6a


            • Figarious Maximus
              Figarious Maximus commented
              Editing a comment
              I agree with Gina, that side shoot is to far out of whack. I'd probably cut it into cuttings and root them though rather than donating to the compost pile.

          • #11
            The 4 branches on the right need some adjustments. The one smaller branch looks to be ok. It's growing upright, so it can stay. The middle of the 3 drooping branches I would stake up and with luck it should harden up and be able to keep its position. The 2 other drooping branches I would stake up and put air layers on them. Once they're removed it should send out a new branch at each cut and hopefully grow stronger with the wind moving them around.
            Ed, Whatever you do I'm sure it will turn out to be good.
            Wishlist; Green Michurinska, Raasti northern Persian
            Sarver, PA Zone 6A.


            • #12
              I would not want to air layer weak branches, like choosing the smallest seedling to grow out. Seems counterintuitive to me. Plus I would like to see those weak branches hold all the weight of an air layer. Looking at it again, instead of removing all I would stub the main branch halfway down and cut all side branches off. Let it re-branch strong branches low. Luckily no matter what you do it will grow.


              • #13
                About staking ... I usually avoid it from the belief it prevents the plant from ever making the trunk sufficiently stocky. I've read this about trees in general, that stakes are 'crutches" that prevent the trunks from reaching the caliper they otherwise would due to effects of weight and wind sway. But for the situation of this OP plant a stake might be a reasonable choice, maybe a lifetime arrangement if it stays in the same sized pot.
                Conrad, SoCal zone 10
                Wish List: More Land


                • #14
                  The great thing about opinions is we can all have one and we can all be right. No matter how different they may be.

                  You had a plant growing in a greenhouse. It produced significant growth in a highly controlled environment. You took it out of that environment and the plant reacted. If you do nothing, the branches will mostly recover, no pruning, no staking required. I see this all the time with vigorous growing woody plants. Give it time, the plant will take care of itself. Or you can stake, to train in whatever manner you desire. Or you can prune. In essence, those are your options.

                  Right now, you have widely spaced branching. Leave in place, next year, those branches will branch. Given that you get figs on new growth...I'd manage the plant to maximize new growth, now and in the future. But I'm new at this.


                  • #15
                    I don't have time right now to read through all the response posts, but what I'd do eboone is probably trim all the branches (besides the main upright one) at the nodes that are starting to sink in a downward direction.
                    Wish List: I don't even know at the moment. A mild winter for nice growth in the Spring I guess?


                    • #16
                      Originally posted by cjccmc View Post
                      About staking ... I usually avoid it from the belief it prevents the plant from ever making the trunk sufficiently stocky. I've read this about trees in general, that stakes are 'crutches" that prevent the trunks from reaching the caliper they otherwise would due to effects of weight and wind sway. But for the situation of this OP plant a stake might be a reasonable choice, maybe a lifetime arrangement if it stays in the same sized pot.
                      These spent all last summer tied to stakes that were removed right before I topped them and took this photo. A few are still tilted a bit, but I can live with them until it's time to root prune (likely next spring) and I can straighten them up when I re-pot.

                      While the lower 3' were staked, the upper 2-3' were allowed to sway in the breeze. It got me my upright growth with no apparent impact on caliper size.

                      “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
                      – Chinese Proverb
                      MA 5b/6a


                      • cjccmc
                        cjccmc commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Thanks for posting this Gina, you are obviously getting good strong trunks and stakes can provide useful function. Are these first year growth?

                      • ginamcd
                        ginamcd commented
                        Editing a comment
                        They are. This year I'm shooting for 3-4 scaffold branches (and hopefully some figs!).

                    • #17
                      I do not think that staking has a negative effect on fig tree growth. If it needs to be staked to straighten the trunk or for support I stake them.
                      Jennings, Southwest Louisiana, Zone 9a