folded/curled fig leaves

luv_figsMay 17, 2010

Hi guys,

Please see the link above, the last two pics are of my fig. Just in the last two weeks the leaves for my fig plant are folding up. The soil is made out of peat moss and perlite, with some compost on the top layer.

I water ever other day, because it seems so dry in the top inch. This picture was taken a day after it was watered.

Why do you think its doing that?


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Certainly not too little water. I have seen the same tendency to curl upwards a bit on my trees at times and it has never led to anything serious.


    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 8:23AM
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Even though the top is dry it may be staying wet under that ,so when top few inches dry because of sun and wind the rest may still be wet and then you give it more water like you stated , maybe the peat moss mix is just staying wet all the time below. Try to see if its wet further down by sticking a piece of wood about the diameter of a pencil before you water kinda of like testing brownies in an oven with a toothpick.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 8:37AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Is there any food value in peat moss and perlite? You might need to ammend your soil with minerals, compost, plain ole dirt. I start cuttings in peat moss and perlite, but I don't think a tree can live in that stuff forever. A lot of times, you can water a dry top, and the water only goes down the sides of the pot and never reaches the roots.

You could purchase one of these cheap little tools, or make something like it out of a notched dowel. You insert it into the dirt, twist it, and the notches pull up dirt and you can see if it's actually wet or dry. The tool also aerates the soil for you. Google it. It's called a Soil Sleuth.

I couldn't live without mine!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 11:45AM
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Dennis AKA Snaglpus(8a)

Sounds to me like the tree is getting too much water and the roots are drowning. I had that problem until I got a moisture meter. I recommend getting one. It will tell you whether the tree needs water or not. Also brown roots is not a good sign. Moisture meters are sold at Lowes and HD and maybe at Walmart. It looks like a green square tennis ball on a thick long tooth pick. I also use my moisture meter during winter so I will know when to water my indoor trees. Once you start using it you will see the difference in you trees; at least I did. The meter has 3 ranges of moisture, Dry, Moist and Wet. I water my trees when the meter is in between Dry and Moist. Also, I would give the tree a weak dose of liquid plant food and see how it responds after a week or so. Good luck, Dennis

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 1:08PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I agree that it's probably getting too much water. Any combination of peat moss and perlite is going to be very water-retentive unless the perlite is the largest fraction of the soil. Adding compost or mineral soils (dirt) will only make the problem worse.

It doesn't matter if there is or isn't a store of nutrients in container media (CM). CM are all about structure, and the nutritional part is all up to the grower. CM contribute so little to the plant's nutritional needs that it's much wiser to operate as if the contribute nothing, than it is to rely on them supplying anything. Plants can live indefinitely in a favorable combination of peat moss and perlite, or even in 100% perlite with no problem, as long as you're on top of fertilizing. Remember - what determines a good CM is its structure. I can't stress that enough.

I would suggest you partially bury the container if that's an option. That will solve your water retention issues. You could also employ a wick to help you drain your soil. Tipping the pots at a steep angle after you water also reduces the amount of water the soil can hold and is helpful at promoting a more rapid return of air to your medium.

It might also be a good idea to wait and watch carefully until your trees show the first signs of wilt (occasionally) after you have watered thoroughly. This will give you a sort of baseline by giving you an idea of what your trees will tolerate. IOW, if you're watering every other day, but your plants can go a week between waterings w/o wilting, you're watering inappropriately and causing a loss of potential vitality in you trees. The ideal time to water is just before the tree starts to experience drought stress. You can't SEE the symptoms of the initial stages, but you CAN prevent them. If you know your plants can go 5 days before they wilt, then water every fourth day instead of every other day.

Heavy soils absolutely kill roots. Soils that hold perched water cause a cyclic death and regeneration of the finest roots that are costly to the plant. The microscopic hair roots begin to die in the saturated portion of CM after only a couple of hours. The longer the soil remains saturated, the larger the size of the roots that succumb to the anaerobic conditions. As the plant uses water from the CM and air returns, the plant allocates stored energy or a portion of current photosynthate in the regenerating of the lost roots. This goes on unseen, but it happens in all heavy soils. It's very expensive in terms of energy outlay because the energy that was diverted and dedicated to root regeneration would have gone into other energy sinks like fruit, foliage, branch extension, additional layers of cells in the cambium ......, or the energy would have been stored in storage organs as sugar/starch/oils .... for future use.

FWIW - moisture meters, at least the inexpensive ones found at plant stores everywhere, are not very good at telling you how wet/dry your soils are. What they really measure is the EC (electrical conductivity) of the soil solution. To illustrate, pour a cup of distilled water and insert the probe. The tester/meter will read dry. Add a little salt (fertilizer) and it will read wet. A sharpened dowel stuck deep into the soil is a good 'tell' when it comes to determining CM moisture levels.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 2:32PM
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thanks everyone for your help! yeah, i know peat moss sucks, but finding fir bark fines is just so hard.

anyway, love the idea of seeing how long it takes the plant to wilt. will definitely do that to establish a baseline.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 12:55AM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

What Al is saying here is all too true, as I've been finding out. I also planted my young fig trees in pots that are too large for them and the water sits there, not draining even though I put wicks in them. I didn't know to repot them in a slightly larger pot and followed a nurseryman's directions to put them in large pots. Instead of the trees getting repotted just once, it will be three times and that's not good for them, but they will drown if I don't get them into smaller pots.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 2:03AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

LF - if that's the only thing holding you back (bark too hard to find), let me know where you live & I'll see what I can do. I have bonsai contacts all over the country and assuredly they will have ferreted out a reliable source of suitable bark.

I literally don't know what I'd do if I couldn't find suitable bark, but I know I'd have to do some extensive modifications to the way I approach growing in containers. Even if you choose to stay the course and use what you're using, it's still a good idea to employ any tactics you can that minimize the amount of perched water soils hold. Noss has been actively seeking solutions for that very issue and has hopefully resolved the issue until spring when the timing is more appropriate to decide the course for the next year or two.

Wishing you a rewarding growing experience, LF.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 9:40AM
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Hi Al,
I would love to find pine bark pines near where i live (Orange county, CA).

I have pine bark pieces from ReptiBark, but i think that is too coarse for my young fig plants.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 12:41AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If you would be using it as the primary fraction of a soil, it's probably too expensive and too large, but if you were using it in the gritty mix, with Turface and grit, it would be ok.

You might try looking at your nearest OSH (think it's Orchard Supply Hardware or something similar, maybe Orchard Hardware Supply). I've helped a number of citrus growers develop a soil for their trees from the partially composted redwood product they sell.

Take care.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 9:18AM
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