It has been a long two months since I started my first fig cuttings. As I promised, I hold nothing back here nor do I pretend to be a perfect gardening blogger where everything works out. While I initially thought I would have nearly 90-95% success with my cuttings, it has not proven to be that high. I attribute the failed fig cuttings to two avoidable mistakes.
First, all of my Black Italian cuttings failed to take root except for one, and it barely budded. I have discovered on a fig forum that another person had a 100% failure with Black Italian, so perhaps its a finicky variety While there were some buds breaking on the cutting, no roots formed. These cuttings were, in my opinion, too dried out when I received them. They were likely older cuttings and not fresh. Had I experienced failure over a broad range of varieties, I would attribute the failure to my methods, but one variety simply failed to thrive and that points to stock quality. So my first mistake was not buying the freshest cuttings possible, which is hard to do if you are not seeing the actual cuttings in person.
I also am having a terrible time with LSU Gold. I have one cutting that budded and a couple other that had small green buds that seem to have stalled. I fear they have also succumbed to the second mistake. That knocks ten out of forty cuttings. Add three others that molded and that’s 13 out of forty lost.
My next mistake involved moisture management. Apparently, I over-watered some of my cuttings that had dried out significantly. I know that this method allows for watering through the holes in the media cup, and I saw it described as using a dropper or spray bottle to introduce very small amounts of water to the cup when the growing medium became very dry. I over-watered, and eight or nine of my cuttings rotted. This was very discouraging.
So, ultimately, my success rate appears to be 70% at this point (67.5% to be exact). But I still have a number of the cuttings that are slower in budding and showing signs of growth, but are going very slowly.
Regardless, I am delighted that I have come to where I am with these cuttings. Today, two months after starting them, I up-potted the fourteen most vigorous plants. They were placed in a mix of pine bark chunks, organic garden soil, peat moss, Perlite and vermiculite. The organic garden soil is very compost-heavy, and my pin bark chunks were not the micro-fine size so many fig growers fuss about. Instead, I used the finest pine bark I could get, about half-inch chunks, and tossed out the largest chunks. The bark keeps the soil loose and aerated.
I don’t really know the ratios, I eyeballed it. If analyzed, its probably 2 parts soil, 1 part bark, 1 part Perlite/Vermiculite mix, 1 part peat moss. If my pine chunks were micro-fine, I’d have used the more traditional fig grower mix. Thank goodness figs aren’t real picky. I have grown figs in 100% potting soil from the big box store and they did fine. Hopefully these will take off and grow.
I also potted my plants in painted pots. Black pots in my area heat up far too much. In fact, a black pot in direct sunlight can reach 120 degrees F in 80 degree ambient temperature. The black really absorbs the full spectrum of light and can cook a plant in a 1 gallon pot. I had some light tan paint on hand so I painted some of my pots. Pure white would be better, and a reflective silver might even be best. In my painted pots, the temperature was a consistent 15 degrees lower, on average. I suspect a white pot would be even better. This is a southern problem for sure, but one that is very real.
So there’s an update on my fig cuttings, what a joy to be able to tend these little plants from mere sticks to aromatic, leafy young trees!