cuttings not happy, Help??

louky(6b)March 16, 2012

I am a complete newbie to fig propagation and didn't think to research this forum prior to taking my cuttings. I took the cuttings from my Celeste and BT at the end of January, probably too early but as most places, we had a VERY strange winter. I used rooting hormone, potting soil, bottom heat, with a cover, and planted in a bulk container, transplanting to individual pots after 4 weeks. They all had roots, but they are dropping their leaves at a certain size. They are all still alive, trying to make leaves, but languishing in my greenhouse. Do I need to feed these at this point? Maybe too much water? Any help is greatly appreciated, I really want to save these guys! Thanks in advance.

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Considering all of the rules of thumb you broke, it's impressive they're alive. I usually struggle at the same point. I would say don't fertilize based on all I've read. Regarding water can you give an idea how much you used? How wet is the mix?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 8:59AM
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Timmy: Thanks for the prompt response. I would say the mix is wet to very wet. I used Metro Mix 360, a fine grained potting soil because it was what I had. I probably overwatered when I sensed they weren't doing well. Would repotting to a dryer mix be helpful at this point?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 10:15AM
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Sometimes the top gets ahead of the bottom. When this happens, the cutting's response is to sacrifice the leaves for its overall well being.

It's totally normal for them to drop leaves in this situation, even if you're doing everything perfectly. As long as the roots are growing well, you should be fine. To me the root situation is a leading indicator, whereas the leaf situation is a lagging indicator. In other words, if the roots are doing really well, then eventually the top and the whole cutting will do well (even if it takes a few weeks). Whereas if it is dropping leaves, it just means it does not currently or did not yesterday have enough moisture available to keep that leaf. From my observations, I don't think new leaves are that "expensive" in terms of energy used to form them, so a cutting can drop quite a few leaves, and I still don't get worried.

I would also say don't fertilize right now. Lack of fertilizer is most certainly not the reason it's dropping leaves at this point.

Try to be patient, make sure the moisture is appropriate, and that they are exposed to some light, and you should be fine. If you are using bottom heat, make sure they're not getting over about 85 degrees. Bottom heat is probably not necessary unless they are in a cold room.


    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 10:16AM
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Rob: Thanks for the feedback and easing my mind somewhat. I definitely didn't let them dry out. I think you are saying that the top might not get the moisture it needs due to not having enough roots relative to the leaf growth? How best to judge the proper moisture content? What do I look for as an indicator on when to give them some nutrients?

Thanks, Ray

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 12:04PM
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The optimum is "moist but not wet." What does this mean? It's an elusive concept. If you take a bit of the potting mix in between your fingers and squeeze the devil out if it, you might be able to squeeze just a tiny bit of water out. That is ideal. If a lot of water comes out, then it's too wet. If no water comes out, then it might be ok for a few days, but is on its way toward becoming dry.

Cuttings need very little moisture. It is more important that they reside in a humid environment. If they are in a dry environment you run the risk of the top drying out before the roots are ready to support it. I pre moisten my potting mix the day before so that excess water can run off, place the baggies with the cuttings in them in a bin with a tiny bit of water on the bottom, or moist sphagnum, or whatever, close the lid, and do not add any water for a month or more. I take the lid off for an hour a day to provide "fresh air". Even in this humid environment, most of the cuttings will lose a few leaves in the early stages.

If you used some sort of potting mix from the store, a lot of times it will say "feeds plants for 3 months" or something like that. If that is the case, you should not need to fertilize them for at least 3 months from the point where you see significant growth. So that's probably about 3 or 4 months from now. Right now there is not much growth or photosynthesis going on, so their nutrient requirement is minimal. They are using stored energy from the cutting to grow the roots/leaves. Once the root system is established and the shoots and leaves are growing vigorously, that is when they will use nutrients. So in late June if they are growing like crazy, you may want to give them a dose of fertilizer. Don't do it near the end of the season, or they may have a harder time getting ready for the colder temps.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 2:02PM
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I had a similar situation last year with leaves dropping. Turns out that I was too worried that they would dry out, and I ended up watering way too much. When I pulled the cuttings out to take a look, the roots that had been nicely developed were all brown, shriveled, and wet.

I'm no expert, but if your mix is wet to very wet, you might be overwatering.

Good luck...Geoff

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 1:38PM
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