Monday, 27 June 2022

How to: propagate a Fig

Back in July of last year, I was teaching my Trainee how to take cuttings of Fig (Ficus carica) because they are very easy to do, and I like to encourage my Trainees with tasks that are likely to be successful.

We were summer-pruning a wall-trained Fig:  there was plenty of material to be removed, so we selected a good handful of likely-looking cuttings.

Then we found some plastic plant pots, which we filled with clean compost - I prefer to use standard multi-purpose compost, the sort you buy in big bags, because it is pretty much sterile. If you use home-made compost, or garden soil, you will get weeds in the pot...which is not to say you can't do it! It just means you have to check the pot every week, and carefully tease out the weeds, without disturbing the cuttings.

It's ludicrously simple: all you do is select a cutting that is about as thick as a felt-pen (not the tip, the barrel part) then make a clean cut across the stem, just below a node: if you're not sure what a node is, it's the slightly knobbly joint where a leaf joins the stem. 

Now remove the first few leaves above your fresh cut, just snip them off very close to the stem.  Aim to end up with about 5" (13cm) of clear stem. Then move up to the next available leaf, and snip off the rest of the stem, above this leaf.

So  you end up with a finger-thick stem, with a nice clean cut across the bottom, and one leaf at the top.

Push this cutting into your compost-filled plant pot: while you are at it, do five or six cuttings in each pot, and put most of them around the very edge of the pot. I am not entirely sure why, but they seem to root better. Logically, the newly forming roots would be hard up against the  sides of the plastic pot, so they would be exposed to extremes of temperature, instead of being insulated by some soil/compost, but *shrugs* it seems to work.

Here is my pot of cuttings:

Six or so cuttings. and please note the label!! 

Always label your cuttings, so that you know what they are... and when you started then.

Then water the pot well, and leave them outside to get on with rooting. 

You will need to keep an eye on the pot, to make sure that they have enough water - lift up the pot to check how heavy it is. If it weighs nothing, and you nearly fling it over your head, then it desperately needs water. If it weighs a ton, then it's possibly slightly over-watered. We are aiming for that "goldilocks" situation of enough water to keep them alive, but not so much that they rot.

Almost a year later, here is that exact same pot:

As you can see, just one cutting has flourished!

This is not a failure, this is par for the course: and this is why we don't take just one cutting, we take lots of them.

And before you ask, yes, sometimes every single cutting "takes", as they say, and you end up with far too many plants, but that's not a problem, you just plant out as many as you can fit into your garden, and then sell or give away the rest!

This particular little fellow is doing very well, he's made some good new growth, the original green stem has toughened up and turned brown, with two new green shoots growing out from it, so I am well pleased.

As I don't have room for a Fig in my tiny garden, I am going to pot this one on, which means that I am going to transfer it to a bigger pot, and let it grow bigger.

If more than one cutting had "taken", then I would have turned out the pot, and gently teased apart the roots, so that I could pot on each of the cuttings individually.

So there you have it: taking cuttings from Fig is super-easy, so if you have one, why not give it a try?

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