Need Help: My FLF is top heavy and trunk is splitting due to the weight. - Knowledgebase Question

Michigan
Question by raewheel
September 9, 2017
I got a fiddle leaf fig as a Christmas present, and it has been doing great. It has 1 trunk with 2 branches at the top, so it looks like a "Y". It's sprouting a new leaf from each branch about every week, it seems. At the base of the "Y", I noticed what looks like the trunk is splitting due to the weight of one branch. Temporarily, I tied a piece of cotton around the two branches to keep tension between them and ties the cotton around the base of the "Y" as well. This takes away from the overall aesthetic of the tree though. Is there anything I can do to strengthen the trunk and keep it from falling over or losing a healthy branch?
Thumb of 2017-09-09/visitor/805e19
Thumb of 2017-09-09/visitor/10c7d5


Thumb of 2017-09-09/raewheel/629ff1

Name: Rick R.
Minneapolis, MN, USA zone 4
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Answer from Leftwood
September 9, 2017

1

First, take a really good look at the crack. If it is superficial and just on the outer part (not into the wood), then there is nothing to worry about and nothing you need to do. Remove your temporary brace because the stress on the branch will make the branch react and stay strong. Bracing the branch unnecessarily actually makes the union less strong because the plant has no need to make it strong, since the brace is doing all the work.

But from the pic, it does seem as though the crack is deep, and unfortunately, there isn't a lot you can do about it. It seems to be healthy and growing well, which is most important, as it needs to mend itself naturally. If it were me, I would take some of the stress of the weight of the branch off, either by:
1 - removing a couple of leaves to reduce the downward stress, or
2 - bracing it as you have, but be sure you are not taking all the downward stress off the union. You just want to make sure the crack doesn't get bigger.
After, say, a month, loosen the brace some more to put more stress on the hopefully mended union, but not enough to cause it to crack again. It's likely that in a couple more weeks, you'll be able to remove the brace completely.

If you choose #1, as the ficus grows new leaves, hopefully it ought to be okay.

Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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Answer from WillC
September 10, 2017

0

There is not much you can do to strengthen the existing stems. I suggest replacing the fabric tie with a soft tan jute string that will be strong enough to support the stems but relatively unobtrusive.

Unfortunately, the problem will continue and even grow more problematic as each stem adds heavy new leaves at the ends. New growth does not come in lower down on the stems. Starting soon or even now, I suggest that you pinch out new leaf shoots as they emerge. This will keep the stems from growing any longer. Pinching new growth does not harm the plant in any way.

Michigan
A comment from raewheel
September 10, 2017
Thanks for both of these responses. I think the crack is pretty deep and looks like it's spread further down into the trunk since I braced it. I pinched off the new leaf shoots on both of the branches. I can't commit to pinching off existing leaves at this point. I also added a stake to the pot to support the weight of the lower branch. Hopefully, the tree will be able to strengthen at the trunk now that it won't be growing new leaves at the top. Fingers crossed!!

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