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  • When to up-pot from 1 gallon to 5 gallon?

    Of the figs I rooted this year, it is quite clear that most of them are not in any danger of needing to be up potted. I fact many probably don't even belong in 1 gallon pots. But I have a few that have a put on a fair bit of growth. I am talking about 18 inches of new growth above the top of the cutting. I am wondering how do you tell when it is time to up-pot? No roots are growing out of the drain holes, but visually it seems like a 5 gallon would be OK. Is there any downside to up-potting early? Do people usually just leave them in 1 gallon pots for the first year?


  • #2
    I always check the bottom roots of the one gallon pots, not only for growing out of the bottom but also for wrapping around inside the pot. If the roots are growing out the bottom, I move them asap. If they're visible wrapping around across the drain holes, I move them when I have time over the next few weeks.
    Professional nurseries seem to leave them in their smaller pots for the first year and encourage a single pole of growth straight up several feet. It's great if you want a large single tree with stunted roots. One grower said he limits the fertilizer to keep his trees for sale small. They are more easy to ship that size.
    I prefer for them to bush out in several directions, shape them and want to keep them at an easy height for fruit picking. Regular fertilizer encourages vigorous growth. Over the winter there are more cuttings to share with friends. If they have roots growing out the bottom of the five gallon pot, they're ready to be planted in the ground. Around three-fourths of my first year cuttings were large enough to go in the ground their first winter.
    Last edited by Altadena Mara; 07-06-2016, 12:45 AM.
    Mara, Southern California,
    Climate Zone: 1990=9b 2012= 10a 2020=?


    • #3
      Dan --

      I'm a relative newbie but I have the experience of starting ~50 cuttings this past winter. I up-potted most to 3g pots in early spring, well before taking them outside. By May, many had roots wrapping around the outside of the pot. I then put most of them in 7-10g pots and they are growing well -- typically 2-3' high with multiple branches.

      I'd be afraid that by keeping them in 1g pots, you will constrain their growth. Your question "Are they big enough to move" may be the wrong question. I'd ask, "Is growth being constrained by the size of the pot?" You answer may be yes. And what's the harm of moving them?

      Joe, Z6B, RI.


      • #4
        I've had quite a few that I moved from cups to 1g that are already needing to move up in size. Since I had better luck with direct potting over cups/bags/black magic this year, I'm giving serious consideration to just using my 1g pots as the initial rooting container before going up to 3g, 4g, or 5g buckets or SIPs.
        Bryant...Franklin County, VA...Zone 7a. Wish List: a 32 hour day....more sleep


        • Altadena Mara
          Altadena Mara commented
          Editing a comment
          When rooting roses, the one gallon pots worked better for me than anything smaller. There was also room for more cuttings to the point of crowding. More cuttings meant more cuttings rooting. They could always be separated later into individual pots. It was a perfect size to tent the cuttings with a plastic bag from the store for humidity.
          Figs are harder to transplant once rooted so I'm not sure if crowding the cuttings would work as well with figs as it did with roses.

        • DBJohnson
          DBJohnson commented
          Editing a comment
          I'm thinking more along the lines of multiples of the same variety rooted together closely for pleaching. Bigger tree eventually and more chances to get a take in the pot.

      • #5
        Take my words with a grain of salt-only my third year with rooting then up-potting figs. The first year I left them in pots between #1 and true 1g size all season after they were out of the cup. They did not grow as well as last year and this year. Last year I transplanted most directly into 2-3 gal (true volume) pots and had far better growth, a few were even then put into their final home of a 5g SIP by end of season. Same with this year, getting good growth with the bigger pots.

        Last year I rooted them in 18-24 oz mini SIPs, this year in 32 oz cups, like the bigger size..

        Now, the only ones I move into the smaller #1 pots from the rooting phase are extras that I expect to trade away, so that they will be in a size I can mail.
        Last edited by eboone; 07-06-2016, 07:51 PM.
        SW PA zone 6a


        • #6
          Usually when the 1 gallon container is full of roots, when the root ball can be removed intact from the 1 gallon pot, but before it becomes root bound...
          For most cultivars its often about 3 - 4 months from the cutting stage and they're usually placed into 5 gallon containers (buckets). The fig trees will usually grow faster and larger due to the uninterrupted growth and larger containers.
          Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b


          • don_sanders
            don_sanders commented
            Editing a comment
            This is exactly what I've been trying to do as well.

        • #7
          I rooted my 1 gal pots (I call them quarts, I don't see how 1 gal nursery pots can be 1 gallon of dirt by any stretch) directly into 10-15 gallon pots when they get about 12" tall. I can't really see how that's different from planting in the ground... Once uppotted, they take off pretty quick. The first figs I put into 5 gallon pots don't grow as fast as the later uppotted figs in the bigger pots, even though they were repotted first and were twice the size to start out with.

          I want to mention that I'm in Central Florida, so we have super high heat and humidity, with the heat, the pots dry out VERY fast. If you are in a cooler climate, you may worry about water-logging by potting too big. Stress sometimes forces plants to bloom, and judging by some posts I've seen here, that appears true for figs too... but I'd rather have big trees faster for more figs next year.
          Want: Marseilles Black, Col de Dame (any), figs that do great in zone 9b (new to figs, so no fig trades, but have other plant types)


          • jrdewhirst
            jrdewhirst commented
            Editing a comment
            I agree -- up-potting to a big pot is like planting in-ground. The transplanted cutting doesn't know how big the space is!

            But I think the risk of water-logging (or, conversely, drying out) is less with a big pot. Water gets distributed across more dirt. Your own logic seems to apply -- would the risk of water-logging be more or less in ground? Less, it seems. So it should be less in a big pot, other things equal.

        • #8
          Thanks for all the great info everyone! This evening I pulled a few of the trees from the 1 gallon pots to get a look at the root system. It does seem like the larger trees are certainly ready. There was no danger of the root ball falling apart and roots were turning every which way, but they were not completely encircling the pot. There were some runs over 90 degrees though. Even some of the smaller trees held all the potting mix together when removed from the pot and had roots visible on the edge. I would certainly not call them root bound though.

          It looks like this weekend I will be up-potting some of my trees. Now, if only the trees with quarter sized leaves and 1 inch of growth would take off, I would be set!



          • #9
            one thing to think about when up potting. When a plant is in a pot it sends out roots to the edge of a pot then the roots grow around the outside of the soil. When you put a 1 gal plant into a larger pot it sends out roots to the new pot and there is space between rootball 1 and rootball 2. If you gradually go up in size more roots will take up the space in the pots but if you go up in size faster then there is more space between rootball 1 and 2. I don't know how much it matters or even if it does. Just something I think about
            Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana
            Buffalo WV Z6


            • #10
              Experience with air layers here has been the sooner they get into the "ground", the bigger they grow. Commercial growers take air layers into 1 gallon pots only long enough for a new set of leaves to form in a shade house, a matter of a couple weeks. Then they put them directly in the raised beds which are about 50 gallons, so effectively the same as planting in the ground. Too early is mostly a function of weather, smaller plants have trouble with direct sun or rain and subsequent leaf rust.

              Previously they up-potted in stages, but they found that a small air layer which had never been limited in root volume would outgrow a larger plant which had been up-potted in stages. So if you want the biggest, fastest growing tree, never let them get root bound.


              • #11
                I'm really liking the Root Pouch economy gallon size grow bags this year that all my cuttings were started in. Roots grow right through them from the beginning so it's easy to just set into the a bigger pot without disturbing the roots at all. They are 50% cotton and break down under soil, they say within a year.

                Having grown a few in gallon pots and a few in bigger pots from the start and seen the difference, I'll never use gallon pots again. Even the ones that went from grow bag into tyvek envelope bag are faring way better than ones in the plastic gallon pots. Going from a grow bag to a five gallon bucket, even better.