Fig Tree blight?
Hello, my Petite Negra (Ficus carica) fig tree has developed these dark spots on its leaves. Started on the lower leaves and appears to be moving up. It got some major water stress a few weeks ago and got very droopy but peeked up nicely when I fixed the drop irrigator. As you can see it's in a pot. It's a couple of years old and I have not yet let it fruit. Is this a problem? How shall I treat it? Thanks, Tony Brown
Multnomah County Oregon
Thank you for uploading the images with your inquiry. They reveal that the dark spots originated with the “major water stress” a few weeks ago. Although the spots appear to be enlarging, they are only revealing that more of the drought-affected leaf cells have died.
Fortunately, it’s almost time for the leaves to fall. Shortly after that occurs, consider planting the fig in its final growing site in the ground. When you do that, you’ll likely discover that some of the roots are circling in the pot. If so, straighten them so that they extend outward from the main stem. If needed, cut them off at any sharp turns or kinks. It’s fine if it ends up resembling a bareroot tree you’d purchase. Plant the tree, water to settle the soil, then allow the fall and winter rainfall to take over. It’s likely you won’t need to water until after new growth appears in spring.
When you plant, don’t “fix” the soil by adding compost or potting soil. Use compost as an excellent mulch placed on the ground about 2inches thick, and extending about 20 inches outward. And please don’t add fertilizer.
You should be able to harvest a modest number of figs during the second year in the ground.
Good luck with your fig, and enjoy your garden!
thanks for for the reply and the sound advice. If I could ask a follow up... It sounds like you expect me to plant this gig tree in the ground. I had thought to leave it in the pot which is about 24” in diameter. Bad idea? (Be blunt).
Growing your fig tree in a container is certainly possible but you need to know that doing so will require more attention and effort than if it were in the ground. The decision is always up to the grower and depends, in part, upon your age, strength, and available space.
The facts are these: A container-grown tree will need to be re-potted every several years. At that point, the choice will be to move it into a slightly larger pot or to trim the roots so that it can be returned to the original container. Eventually, the tree will decline because of rootbound conditions which crowd out air spaces important to root health and water absorption. Even though the tree is said to max out at about 4-feet tall, it could be quite a wrestling match to re-pot it periodically.
Another factor to consider is winter survival. The roots of potted plants are always more at risk than are those of garden-planted trees. During the winter, consider protecting the roots by wrapping the pot with insulation or bubble wrap, or by moving the pot to a sheltered site. If temperatures are predicted to drop dramatically, move the tree into the garage or shed for the duration.
Figs “…are vigorous plants that need room for sustainable root growth. If you have a small space to garden and a container is the only choice, start with a pot that will accommodate several years of growth and then transplant to a larger one. A 7-gallon container should be sufficient for three to four years; a 15 gallon for seven to eight. Once the pot fills with roots, growth will become weaker and he suggests pulling the plant out and pruning the roots severely. The top will have to be pruned significantly, also.” (This and more tips are here: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/2016/08/don%E2%80%99t-be-fooled-figs-grow-fine-western-oregon)
Enjoy your tree!