SIck fig tree?

Asked September 30, 2020, 3:54 PM EDT

About a month ago, leaves on our fig tree nearest the house wall (actually touching in places) started sickening. Before this, the branches, leaves and fruit looked like the rest of the tree, although circulation wouldn't have been as good. Now the condition is spreading outwards to the rest of the leaves. Attached are photos of the yellow-with-spots condition. My question is whether I need to do anything or might this be a one-off due to heavy moisture this summer and the tree will rebound next year (as it did after the hard frost about 6 years ago). The tree is about 8 years old. Thanks.

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

These symptoms are likely abiotic (environmental, not pest- or disease-caused) and as such would be not very concerning this relatively late in the season (even if it began a month ago). Has the plant been checked for water regularly in periods with sporadic rainfall? (Similarly, is it being allowed to dry out between waterings?) Figs have decent drought tolerance but aren't fond of consistently damp soils. Cumulative and varied environmental stresses throughout the growing season can cause shrubs and trees to begin the leaf-shedding process early. Complicating things, sometimes leaf-decay fungi can colonize such senescing (in the process of shedding) leaves, making it appear that an infection was the cause. Spotting like what we see here could be due to that or simple chlorophyll breakdown as is normal during senescence.

If the plant is so dense that it's shading much of its own growth or has poor air circulation against the house wall, you could consider trimming some of this growth back or thinning-out dense stems next spring. As you may already be aware given the age of your plant, most fig varieties when mature in our area can easily reach at least six to eight feet in height and width, so they need a good amount of "breathing room" to thrive. Although a building wall can give them good protection as a temperature and wind buffer in winter, giving them enough distance from it can help with overall vigor and leaf retention.