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Air layering Fig  RSS feed

 
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I just purchased a Petite Negra fig that is 2 years old based on the tag that came with the tree. It is roughly 3-4ft tall with no branching and is being held up with a bamboo shoot. I’m thinking about starting an air layer next spring instead of topping and waisting half of it to promote branching on the bottom half and starting new with the top (it came topped to fit in the box for shipping). It has 6 figs ripening nicely, 4 on top and 2 near the center. Basically my concern is will I screw up the tree if I try an air layer in the center of the tree at year 2 or should I just top the tree lower and hope for the best? I can provide a pic if needed.
 
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I’ve only had brown turkey and Hardy Chicago. They never branched much. They like to make multiple trunks. I don’t think trimming it back will make many branches unless you cut it back almost to the ground.
Is your tree trying to make more trunks? If it’s not, you might try partially exposing the roots to encourage more trunks.

Air layering should work great. Sometimes cuttings work good. The last time they all got moldy. If you prune anything off, you might as well try rooting it. I’ve given a lot of plants away.

I’m in Missouri, so my experiences might not apply to warmer climates. Your variety might have different growth habits too.

I have one Hardy Chicago fig outside, planted in the ground about 5 years ago. Until this year, it died back to the ground every year. This year, two trunks only died back to 18 “.  Even when it dies back, it grows 8’ tall trunks and produces some fruit the same year. It’s really amazing. I’m hoping the older wood that survived will let more fruit mature before frost.

I also have one in a 15 gallon feed tub that I over wintered in the garage. That worked great.
 
Mike Bacile
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Yeah I suppose I never thought about the growing habits of this species. There is one small deformed sucker growing but it’s been the same size for a while now. It’s pretty weak. I live in Florida so the die back probably won’t be an issue. I may just air layer it to get it a bit closer to the ground so it’ll stand on its own then try to root what left. Thanks for the response!
 
Ken W Wilson
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When you cut the air layered plant off the top, it might stimulate the sucker.
 
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Over the years my plants have taught me that it is better to what is best in the long term, rather than short term.

I have a number of misshapen fruit trees in my gardening past. All victims of short term thinking.

“If I trim that branch now I’ll lose all those fruit that are setting”. That logic results in too much fruit, on too thin a branch, which ends up bending and collapsing under the weight.

Likewise, for trees that grew too tall, without enough side branches etc...

I each case I always regretted not doing the right thing earlier - no matter how drastic it felt at the time.

We can’t see your fig tree, but it sounds like a very similar situation. You know it needs to be topped to encourage more side growth, but don’t want to actually take the action because of the handful of fruit on it.
 
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It's 3-4 feet tall with one trunk and still needs a stake to hold it up? Post a picture if you can.

I was going to suggest just pinching the tip growth to encourage branching at the top, but if the trunk is not strong enough for branching that far up, then you'll just have to top it.  You could air layer it, but in my opinion with figs it's a waste of time because cuttings root so easily. Especially from tips.  I've had 90% success with cuttings, by just scraping small pieces of bark off the bottom and sticking them in pots.

As far as deciding whether to cut the fruit off, I can't help you with that... but if they are already getting big, you can encourage them to ripen quicker by removing leaves, oldest first.
 
Mike Bacile
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All good advice. I’ll post a pic of the tree to see if it may help with my explanation of what’s going on
 
Mike Bacile
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Here are the pictures. This is the way it came from the grower, looks sickly but still has green throughout so hopefully it’ll bounce back
93DBE97D-EBC0-49ED-86A7-250F74EB6060.jpeg
[Thumbnail for 93DBE97D-EBC0-49ED-86A7-250F74EB6060.jpeg]
58B33F24-6B45-4A60-8410-044C2F207BA4.jpeg
[Thumbnail for 58B33F24-6B45-4A60-8410-044C2F207BA4.jpeg]
 
Ken W Wilson
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Is this a current picture? It’s not well. Does it have any sign of new green leaves?  If not I’d seriously consider cutting it down all the way. You said there is one  healthy sucker. Cutting the main plant down would make the little one grow.  I’d pull some soil from around the base and hope for more new trunks. I don’t think it’s healthy enough for layering or taking cuttings. Has it gotten too hot, too wet, or too dry? It doesn’t have enough leaves to ripen the fruit.  Sometimes drastic changes in the amount of light knock the leaves off. If that’s the case, it’s fine. How long have you had it? Did it lose most of its leaves before you brought it home or after.
 
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Someone has stuck a twig in a pot and sold it you as a tree. Pull those fruits off and see if it grows more leaves.
 
Ken W Wilson
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If there aren’t any green buds, I’d cut it back to about 3” inches. They grow really fast when healthy. 
 
Ken W Wilson
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If there aren’t any green buds, I’d cut it back to about 3” inches. They grow really fast when healthy. 
 
Michael Cox
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As others have said, that is not a healthy "tree"

The figs that are on it may be trying to ripen, but they are doing so at the expense of the health of the overall tree.  If it were me I would immediately remove those fruit, and cut the stem back hard - ideally looking for a new leaf node near the base, and cutting just above to encourage new growth.

Most fruit trees I have purchased include instructions to remove all fruit in the first year or two - the intention being to get the tree to direct it's energy to strong growth, and reduce the risk of the weight of fruit bending very young branches and stems out of shape.
 
Mike Bacile
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I’ve had it for 3 days and the care page said “leave all new plants in shade outside for a couple weeks, then move to full sun” it’s been raining pretty good every day here in central FL. Maybe cut it down to half and put it under the soffit to dry out a bit? It came with the one leaf on it so I’m not sure what it was looking like before it got to me. There are 3 green nodes that have come up in the 3 days but this tree isn’t growing like my other fig. I leave my other fig in 6-8 hour full sun and water it twice a week( the other 5 days it sits dry and loves it).

I’ll pull the fruit off, my first thought was that they weren’t going to ripen when I first saw the tree. Instead of trying to layer it or do cuttings I’ll just cut it to half as I planned and see how that goes?
 
Mike Bacile
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This is my first year with figs so pardon my ignorance 🤔
 
Ken W Wilson
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How far down are the green nodes?
 
Ken W Wilson
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You don’t need to feel ignorant. You are asking questions and learning.
 
Mike Bacile
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One is fairly low, about 10” from the soil the other two are about 5” from the top.
 
Ken W Wilson
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That’s great that there is a green bud so high up. I’d still cut it a few inches above the bottom bud.
 
Mike Bacile
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Okay seems like the logical thing to do. Thanks for the help. Is it common at all for figs to come in like this? My local nursery’s don’t have any so I’m pretty much stuck with ordering them.
 
Ken W Wilson
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Not at all. Our local lumber yard sells nice bushy plants about three feet tall and covered in leaves.

I think there is a good chance yours will recover. You will be surprised how fast it will grow after that.

My first fig tree was ordered by mail. It was tiny but had a few leaves.
 
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