Houseplants forum: SOS! Fiddle leaf fig dying...

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Cplant
Sep 4, 2016 3:06 PM CST
Hi everyone. My name is Cara and I am a very amateur plant owner.

I just moved to Nashville and I really wanted to add the beauty of nature to my lonely apartment.

Almost a month ago, I bought a fiddle leaf fig from the garden section of the farmers market.

I thought maybe over watering it could have been the issue ( even though I didn't water more than once a week) and now I have no idea what's happening to the poor thing. Dark brown spots are developing all over the leaves and there is cracking as well. I cannot tell if there is a possibility of root rot or mites or what... I've been reading almost every blog there is!

Any advice on how to save this guy or is he too far gone? :(

Thank you

Cara
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Name: Tara
NE, Florida (Zone 9a)
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terrafirma
Sep 4, 2016 3:20 PM CST
Welcome! Cara to NGA!

I'm going to defer to and tag @drdawg
He grows and sells these beauties and I would say that he could best answer your query, and give you excellent advise!

Hopefully, he'll be 'round soon.
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Sep 4, 2016 3:32 PM CST
Hi & welcome!

How far from the window is your plant? Which direction does the window face? Did you change the pot when you got it home?
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Cplant
Sep 4, 2016 3:41 PM CST
It was pretty far from the window at first. I moved it into my bedroom to get the best lighting 2 days ago, but now I'm worried about bugs so I took it out of there again.

My bedroom window gets nice lighting and faces southwest and my living room window faces northeast (doesn't get very good lighting because it faces the interior of the courtyard of the apartment complex).

I did not change the pot when I got home. We re-potted the plant at the time of purchase at the farmer's market.
Name: Carter Mayer
Houston, TX (Zone 9b)
Tropicals Adeniums Plant Identifier
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Carter
Sep 4, 2016 4:17 PM CST
Yup, I thought of Drdawg soon as I saw this, too. He knows a lot about fiddle leaved figs (ficus lyrata). My first thought would be overwatering. I assume it's a larger sized pot, and once a week can be a lot of water for a large indoor plant - depending on how much you water it each time. Rather than a particular schedule, I would only water it when the the top couple of inches of soil dry out. It may be once a week, or it may be once every few weeks, but doing it that way, the plant will let you know when it's thirsty. Thumbs up

Plus, it could also be from just being in a new location and will need to acclimate to its new home in your apartment - and then being moved around several times from your living room to bedroom and back to living room. Poor thing doesn't know what's going on! Blinking It does sound like the light from your bedroom would be best for it to be happy.
Name: Fiat
Modesto -The Central Valley of (Zone 9b)
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fiat
Sep 4, 2016 6:22 PM CST
Before Drdawg come to rescue, I just want to share with my experience. I bought a small FLF from online vendor in Aug, 2014 and it was abused by USPS (supposed to be delivered on Sat, but instead...) and suffered a heat trauma (...stayed 3 days-weekend in Post Office store room during 3 digit summer time). It came in very bad shape and I had to scramble repotting it. The photos I took shown below reveal its condition on 8-18-14 (after repotted when bought), 4-2-15 (new leaf growing), 6-1-15 (2nd new leaf growing).
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After I found it was in dire condition when arrived, I also panicked and posted here asking for rescue. Drdawg gave me some good advice and I followed them through the first year... and it was good as I saw new growth in the second year! This year so far I see it has 3 new growth. Looking into my 2014 photo and yours, I suspect yours also had a heat, dry shock during transportation to new place. For my case, the main thing I did at the time was misting my fig at least once every day and I also placed it over a big tray of pebble stone and water. And of course watering it frequently (probably twice a week then). This is just my experience on my Fig. You may want to wait for Drdawg's diagnose and advice. GL

Add: The photo below taken on 3-5-15 shows that new growth was up while the damaged old leaves were still hanging and living without being gone...
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If a plant looks good, smells good, don't eat it, grow it!
Fiat
[Last edited by fiat - Sep 4, 2016 6:30 PM (+)]
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Cplant
Sep 4, 2016 6:26 PM CST
Thank you everyone! I am excited to compile advice and hopefully see some positive results...
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional interior landscaper
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WillC
Sep 5, 2016 12:20 PM CST
Cara - The symptoms shown in the photos are generic, meaning they can have several possible causes. The most likely causes are root damage from repotting, improper watering and inadequate light. (When posting photos it is best to post a photo that shows the entire plant because that reveals much more.)

You must provide better light than the northeast window. If you are seeing insects, especially flying gnats, then that is due to the quality of the soil used by the farmer's market. Gnats are also a sign of soil that is kept too moist. Once a plant is repotted, all bets are off about watering instructions because we don't know how much soil was added, where it was added and just how the repotting was done. No doubt soil was added to the top of the original rootball. If so, remove all loose soil that is not in immediate contact with roots. Removing that excess soil will help the soil below dry out more readily and it will also eliminate some of the gnat larvae that inhabit the upper levels of the soil.

In sum, more light, less soil and less water.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
[url=www.HorticulturalHelp.com]www.HorticulturalHelp.com[/url]

Cplant
Sep 6, 2016 9:30 AM CST
WillC, thank you. I will post another full photo later on.

I have been seeing gnats. What type of soil should I repot with?

Cplant
Sep 6, 2016 9:33 AM CST
Also, could it help to put it outside for a few hours once repotted? Or should I just leave it be near the window with more light?
Name: Carter Mayer
Houston, TX (Zone 9b)
Tropicals Adeniums Plant Identifier
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Carter
Sep 6, 2016 10:15 AM CST
Any regular potting soil would probably be ok, the key is sterilization. You can nuke it in the microwave to easily do this (I do this occasionally for seed or cutting starting). Just use a microwave safe dish & nuke for about 3 minutes. Then keep coverered while it cools enough to use. I generally just use a gallon size ziplock bag - leave it partially open while nuking, and then close it after you remove it for cooling. You might have to do this several times to get enough soil to repot your ficus.

I've read that fungus gnat larva only live in the top inch or so of soil. You could remove just the top incho or so and replace that with sterilized soil. In addition you can add an inch or so of sand or gravel to help deter gnats from continuing to lay eggs in the soil. Fungus gnats only live a few days, so killing the larva and inhibiting egg laying should take care of the issue.
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
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purpleinopp
Sep 6, 2016 4:04 PM CST
Putting your plant outside for any length of time will likely burn it if it's only been inside for a month. Your SW bedroom window should be a good place for it.

When it was repotted at the market, did you watch? Did they put the undisturbed root ball into a bigger pot with more soil around it (potted up?) If the soil is all or mostly peat, potting-up like that may cause a lack of oxygen which would impair root function. If what I described is what happened, and the outside of the soil ball was covered with a lot of roots, the plant could be ill from lack of oxygen/rotting roots. Those perimeter roots had adapted to accessing oxygen and are now surrounded by moist soil, which could cause them to rot (and would be diagnosed as overwatering.) Being carried around and driven in a car right after the potting was probably not helpful because it would have caused settling/compacting of the soil.

A pic of the whole plant would be a better indicator of overall health & size, if you are able to add one.

I don't sterilize soil, I just use a more chunky/porous/airy mix that gnats find unsuitable for breeding, bags labeled cactus/palm soil seem to have much better stuff if buying bags. Adding a significant amount of perlite to potting soil can be a workable fix if that's a more appealing option.

Does the new pot have a hole in the bottom so excess water can escape?
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Cplant
Sep 6, 2016 8:52 PM CST
Wow I couldn't be more thankful everyone is talking me through this!

I did watch them repot the plant at the market. They removed soil around the rootball like you are describing, purpleinopp, and filled in with new soil around it. Maybe I can figure out what soil they used and if it was indeed mostly peat.

What is perlite?

Yes the pot has a hole where water can come out and a collecting tray.

I am trying to attach photos of the full plant but for some reason garden.org isn't allowing me as a new member. I will try back in a few days. Thank you! Thank You!

[Last edited by Cplant - Sep 6, 2016 8:58 PM (+)]
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Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
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purpleinopp
Sep 7, 2016 7:14 AM CST
Happy to share what's helped me. Good vibes to you & your plant!
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Name: Carter Mayer
Houston, TX (Zone 9b)
Tropicals Adeniums Plant Identifier
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Carter
Sep 8, 2016 8:37 AM CST
Perlite is a type of very light, very porous pure white "stone" like soil additive used for soil aeration and drainage. Looks like small little white pebbles mixed in with the soil that is easily crumbled if crushed between your fingers. In most garden/potting soils it ranges from granular sized (like sand) up to about the size of a BB (maybe about 3/16" to 1/4").

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Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
Bulbs Foliage Fan Tropicals Butterflies Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents
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purpleinopp
Sep 8, 2016 9:12 AM CST
Well said, Carter, great pic too!

I forgot to add in my last post about the difference between potting-up, which I described, and repotting, which entails removing the old soil, usually some amount of root trimming, and often replacing the plant back into the same pot if there's plenty of room again after removing the old soil & trimming roots. This is how bonsai masters are able to keep their trees alive for hundreds of years in quite small pots. Over such a long time, if they'd just been potting-up, the pots would be as big as a Mack truck.

Confining a woody entity with the potential to become huge into a pot takes some compromise, unless your house has a huge, sky-lit atrium to just let plants get to monstrous proportions. Most of us have to control their size so they will fit inside a normal house, which also usually slows the speed of growth compared to an individual outside in the ground in a suitable climate.
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[Last edited by purpleinopp - Sep 8, 2016 9:13 AM (+)]
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional interior landscaper
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WillC
Sep 10, 2016 9:49 AM CST
Cara, - As a self-described amateur you are getting into dangerous territory if you attempt to replace soil at this point. My recommendation is to remove all the loose excess soil on top, but leave it in its existing pot and allow the soil to dry deeper into the pot between waterings. If the gnat larvae are deprived of excess moisture they will die back slowly.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
[url=www.HorticulturalHelp.com]www.HorticulturalHelp.com[/url]

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