Fig tree suffering crisis due to heatwave


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In April (South African autumn) I planted some truncheon cuttings from a fig tree (Ficus Carica). One rooted and is growing really strongly. It's a fat tree, slightly thicker than a soda can, but planted in a rather small pot.

fig-truncheon-18-11.jpg

A couple of weeks ago, when the weather was very hot, I noticed that it was drooping really badly, a problem easily fixed by bringing it indoors and giving it water. The recovery was quick, as can be seen in this video shot over a period of about 45 minutes:


Looking at the video closely the recovery seems to start before I watered the tree, suggesting that the heat was the bigger issue.

After asking advice from a bonsai group on how to avoid a recurrence, it was recommended that I moved it out of direct sun and add another pot around the one it's growing in - my adviser felt that the root system wasn't strong enough to do a proper repot. This is a close view of how it's potted.

fig-tree-base.jpg

I moved it into my greenhouse where it was still getting filtered sun, and it was doing okay until a couple of days ago when the weather got hotter again (maximum temperature about 35°C) and it started drooping again. Now I'm not sure what to do.

Suggestions I've received have ranged from repotting, which seems risky, to leaving the tree standing in a tray of water. I've also considered trying to set up some sort of drip irrigation (if I can) as well as shortening the branches in an attempt to reduce the strain on the roots.

I watered it at about 8pm last night and left it outside, and by 10:30am this morning it was drooping again so I brought it into my kitchen and watered it, and it quickly bounced back.

Now I'm starting to wonder whether it's best to keep it indoors until the heatwave passes, but I still feel that I should prune it too.

Has anyone any other suggestions to help me keep it alive? I'd hate to lose this tree.
 
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Since you are at the beginning of your summer, things are only going to get worse as time goes on. If that was my tree - I would carefully cut the bottom of the pot off and try not to disturb the soil and roots. I would then plant the tree pot and all in a much larger pot with quality potting soil. This will allow the roots to grow down into the new soil. For the first month I would keep it in 100% shade. In the fall I would dig around the current pot,cut it into pieces and remove it with as little root disturbance as possible. I would also keep the tree moist ALL the time and not fertilize it. Figs are quite robust and yours should survive even in extreme heat.
 
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Wow, it sounds like I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I'm a small woman with little muscle strength, so trying to cut the bottom off the pot would probably mean jerking the tree around a lot, causing it even more stress. I'd actually considered trying to cut off the sides of the pot using a strong scissors, but was advised against it. Unfortunately I don't have a man to help me either, not unless I take the tree to my bonsai club, and I'm reluctant to expose it to a long and bumpy ride.

I can't really go much larger than the outer pot either because I wouldn't have the strength to move the tree if I did that. It's already quite heavy.

Even 100% shade is an issue unless I keep it inside the house for a month. Pruning might help a bit with that, but I still fear that my most shady spot would let a little morning sun onto the tree. And I used some slow release fertiliser on it (along with all my other bonsai and trees in training) just before the latest heatwave started, so I guess there's nothing I can do about that now.

On the positive side, the weather shouldn't get worse because this is already pretty extreme for where I live, but you never know what the future holds. There's no escaping climate change.

Thanks for your suggestions. I apologise if it sounds like my response is negative but it's not easy being small.
 
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Wow, it sounds like I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I'm a small woman with little muscle strength, so trying to cut the bottom off the pot would probably mean jerking the tree around a lot, causing it even more stress. I'd actually considered trying to cut off the sides of the pot using a strong scissors, but was advised against it. Unfortunately I don't have a man to help me either, not unless I take the tree to my bonsai club, and I'm reluctant to expose it to a long and bumpy ride.

I can't really go much larger than the outer pot either because I wouldn't have the strength to move the tree if I did that. It's already quite heavy.

Even 100% shade is an issue unless I keep it inside the house for a month. Pruning might help a bit with that, but I still fear that my most shady spot would let a little morning sun onto the tree. And I used some slow release fertiliser on it (along with all my other bonsai and trees in training) just before the latest heatwave started, so I guess there's nothing I can do about that now.

On the positive side, the weather shouldn't get worse because this is already pretty extreme for where I live, but you never know what the future holds. There's no escaping climate change.

Thanks for your suggestions. I apologise if it sounds like my response is negative but it's not easy being small.
Ficus cuttings root very well so since your options are limited take it out of the pot and plant it in new soil. Most likely it will live. Since you are into bonsai this should be a piece of cake for you. Good luck.
 
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The figs we have here not only can handle 95f\35cbut thrive in it. They like cool roots and make their own shade. They die back at 10f\-12c which is the bigger problem so here in zone 8 Alabama we place them on the south face of a wind blocking wall or group of evergreens. Does it get terribly cold where you are?

The transpiration is actually a good thing, as the little guy is setting up a pretty serious vacuum for nutrients at the end of the hot day. You really should not have to, but you could slice some leaves in half to balance the upper and root systems. Are you going to put it outside or what? If so I would leave the leaves alone but use some rooting hormone when planting it out.
 
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Ficus cuttings root very well so since your options are limited take it out of the pot and plant it in new soil. Most likely it will live. Since you are into bonsai this should be a piece of cake for you. Good luck.
It would be a piece of cake if it was smaller. It's the size that makes it difficult. The tree almost reaches my waist already.

Normally I take my bigger trees to my club for help with repotting, but I'm reluctant to expose this one to a long car journey just yet. Besides. at its current height it wouldn't fit into the car without bending some branches, and the parts coming into contact with the window would probably get burnt by the sun.

Perhaps if I shorten the branches drastically I'd be able to do it on my own.
 
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The figs we have here not only can handle 95f\35cbut thrive in it. They like cool roots and make their own shade. They die back at 10f\-12c which is the bigger problem so here in zone 8 Alabama we place them on the south face of a wind blocking wall or group of evergreens. Does it get terribly cold where you are?
All my other figs are handling the heat just fine. I think this one is just struggling because it has such a small root system for such a big tree.

It doesn't get extremely cold here. We have a few days that the temperature drops below 0°C, but almost never below -5°, and according to Google the lowest recorded temperature here was -8.2° - nearly 40 years ago!

I cover some of my trees with frost cloth at night in winter, but my other (potted) Ficus Carica haven't been covered at all for the last few years, except for a couple of really small cuttings.

The transpiration is actually a good thing, as the little guy is setting up a pretty serious vacuum for nutrients at the end of the hot day. You really should not have to, but you could slice some leaves in half to balance the upper and root systems. Are you going to put it outside or what? If so I would leave the leaves alone but use some rooting hormone when planting it out.
I want to put it back outside, but in a pot, not in the ground. I'm trying to avoid rooting hormone because I've heard that it's carcinogenic. This one was rooted by soaking the cutting in a kelp solution for about a day before I planted it.

As I'd like to keep the tree small - possibly for use as bonsai, I still feel it might be wise to shorten the branches rather than slicing the leaves. I may even get a couple of extra branches that way. And the reduced height would enable me to fit it into a more humid spot in my greenhouse until it's strong enough to go outside. Right now it's in the kitchen because that seems to be the safest place for it, but I'm not happy to keep it there for long.
 
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All my other figs are handling the heat just fine. I think this one is just struggling because it has such a small root system for such a big tree.

It doesn't get extremely cold here. We have a few days that the temperature drops below 0°C, but almost never below -5°, and according to Google the lowest recorded temperature here was -8.2° - nearly 40 years ago!

I cover some of my trees with frost cloth at night in winter, but my other (potted) Ficus Carica haven't been covered at all for the last few years, except for a couple of really small cuttings.



I want to put it back outside, but in a pot, not in the ground. I'm trying to avoid rooting hormone because I've heard that it's carcinogenic. This one was rooted by soaking the cutting in a kelp solution for about a day before I planted it.

As I'd like to keep the tree small - possibly for use as bonsai, I still feel it might be wise to shorten the branches rather than slicing the leaves. I may even get a couple of extra branches that way. And the reduced height would enable me to fit it into a more humid spot in my greenhouse until it's strong enough to go outside. Right now it's in the kitchen because that seems to be the safest place for it, but I'm not happy to keep it there for long.
Rooting hormones are in the Auxin phytohormone family and there are 3 used commonly for sale. NAA, IBA, IAA. Basically they are all acids. Proteins in your soil are amino acid percursors so bloodmeal has some hidden benefit toward naturally created auxin hormones. You will see some are listed as organic, but that is more of a chemical family designation. After all, gasoline is referred to as an organic solvent, so its more a carbon based genesis at that level. Most acids are man produced and purified. Even humic acids. Some argue the stucture is not natural as a result. It is hard to beat Manure! One little used auxin hormone is aspirin. Salicylic acid, as in acetylsalicylic acid, has a long history of safety. It is also antifungal and anti bacterial for root rot and damping off control. In the names of the auxins I gave above, 2 have a middle A, and those two have the "aceta" component in their chemical name as does aspirin. I speculate that somehow they are cousins. It makes me wonder about truly natural ideas such as using willow bark as a mulch, since I have read aspirin like compounds come from such a source.
 
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Rooting hormones are in the Auxin phytohormone family and there are 3 used commonly for sale. NAA, IBA, IAA. Basically they are all acids. Proteins in your soil are amino acid percursors so bloodmeal has some hidden benefit toward naturally created auxin hormones. You will see some are listed as organic, but that is more of a chemical family designation. After all, gasoline is referred to as an organic solvent, so its more a carbon based genesis at that level. Most acids are man produced and purified. Even humic acids. Some argue the stucture is not natural as a result. It is hard to beat Manure! One little used auxin hormone is aspirin. Salicylic acid, as in acetylsalicylic acid, has a long history of safety. It is also antifungal and anti bacterial for root rot and damping off control. In the names of the auxins I gave above, 2 have a middle A, and those two have the "aceta" component in their chemical name as does aspirin. I speculate that somehow they are cousins. It makes me wonder about truly natural ideas such as using willow bark as a mulch, since I have read aspirin like compounds come from such a source.
Yes, Aspirin is made from willow. I've never tried it for rooting cuttings though. For the moment I'm reasonably happy with the results I'm getting with kelp and I really shouldn't be propagating more trees anyway because I've already got more than I can cope with.

I planted 6 cuttings so I'm lucky that only one rooted. I just wish I'd put it in a bigger pot to start with.
 
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Yes, Aspirin is made from willow. I've never tried it for rooting cuttings though. For the moment I'm reasonably happy with the results I'm getting with kelp and I really shouldn't be propagating more trees anyway because I've already got more than I can cope with.

I planted 6 cuttings so I'm lucky that only one rooted. I just wish I'd put it in a bigger pot to start with.
I have a weakness for women who cannot help themselves. This explains why you cannot see my roof on google maps.
 
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I put the tree outside in a sheltered spot this afternoon and when I got home it was raining so I moved it to a more exposed spot for the evening. Unfortunately it seems to be stopping already so I don't think it's going to get much benefit.

Later I'll bring it inside again because tomorrow is going to be another scorcher.

I'll wait until Saturday's bonsai meeting before making a final decision on the way forward but I'll probably leave repotting until next spring and prune the branches instead. Keeping it compact will make my life a lot simpler.
 
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