Skip to content
Home » Common Problems When Starting a Fig Tree From a Cutting

Common Problems When Starting a Fig Tree From a Cutting

    Fig trees are among the easiest to propagate from cuttings; however, there can still be some issues. Also, people often make simple mistakes when trying to root and grow fig trees from cuttings.

    You could write a book about problems and mistakes surrounding fig tree propagation from cuttings, but most of them are so rare that they are pointless to discuss. I will try to cover the most common mistakes and issues I personally experienced.

    Let’s dive right in!

    Not Taking and Cutting Fig Cuttings Correctly

    The first and most obvious issue is not having good cuttings. I often see this because fig trees are easily grown from cuttings, so taking cuttings is not taken seriously enough.

    People are used to cutting them in any way, shape, or form, and most of the time, it works because fig trees are very vigorous. However, taking this route sometimes leads to dead cuttings and people wondering how it happened.

    There are three common mistakes when taking fig cuttings.

    1. Taking a cutting from the wrong age wood
    2. Cutting in the wrong place
    3. Exposing a cutting to the sun

    I’ve seen people mention the importance of the tree’s age when taking cuttings, and while that can affect the result, more important is how old is the wood you are taking.

    The tree can be 15 years old, but it won’t matter if a cutting is made of young growth wood. The best wood for cuttings is the new growth from the beginning of the previous year’s growing season.

    Younger than that, you will have weak wood. Older than that, you might have difficulty rooting the cutting, and it won’t grow.

    Making cuts in the right places is equally important. You don’t want to cut along the internode because the pith will be exposed. The wood there will be thin and weak, and it might rot.

    You should make cuts at the joints (nodes). Wood is thick there, and that’s where buds normally appear. The growth potential for both roots and branches is the best at those points. People often advise angled cuts, but that is correct only if the node is angled. The cut should always follow the node’s angle.

    Not protecting freshly made cuttings from the elements is a lesser-known but very common mistake. Especially direct sunlight. Trees use elements like sunlight, wind, and frost as a sign to protect exposed wood. When the sun shines on freshly made cuts, wood thickens and dries out to make a barrier and thus makes the cutting unusable.

    Fig Cuttings Molding

    Mold can sometimes be a matter of luck because fungi are living organisms that grow large colonies in certain environments. And guess what, both mold and fig cuttings thrive in warm and humid conditions.

    However, it rarely happens on fresh cuttings. That’s why I prefer taking them late dormant season when pruning. That way, I can root and plant them right before the growing season and minimize molding chances.

    It’s happening more often when cuttings are taken in the late growing season after the fruit is removed or early in the dormant season. It’s a viable time to take cuttings, but they need to survive mold until the next growing season. Mold can attack stored away cuttings and the ones planted in soil.

    I prevent mold by cleaning fig cuttings with bleach. Make sure to use 10% water diluted bleach. Otherwise, it will damage them. If you plan on removing any bark, make sure to do it after bleaching, never before.

    You can repeat the process if mold appears later until the dormant season ends.

    Fig Cutting Not Rooting

    Even a badly cut fig cutting will grow at least a few roots. At least in my experience. However, it might not be bad to consider this as a cause of it not rooting.

    Fig cuttings growing no roots is the most common problem. Therefore, it has the most causes, which I will explain one by one.

    Is My Fig Cutting Dead or Alive?

    Sometimes it’s not easy to recognize if a fig cutting is alive. I’ve had cuttings die even after they were properly rooted and planted in the soil. Sometimes the wood simply doesn’t have enough energy stored to grow. If you don’t recognize this on time, they can die before you realize it.

    To check if a fig cutting is dead or alive, you can scratch the bark with your fingernail and see if it’s green underneath or not. Deadwood will be brown-grey colored, while living wood will be tan-green. Sometimes even a thin layer of vibrant green color between wood and the bark.

    Bad Fig Rooting Temperature

    As I mentioned above, fig cuttings thrive in warm temperatures. To be precise, in 70-80°F (21-26°C). If the temperature is always colder, the rooting process will be much slower. If the temperature is under 50°F at all times, the roots are likely not to grow at all.

    However, that doesn’t mean the temperature can never fall under it. It’s enough to stay warm for 8-10 hours.

    Rooting fig cuttings in water is generally less sensitive to temperature than planting them directly in the soil.

    The best way to root fig cuttings is to have them in your living space. If that is not an option for you, you might consider investing in a heating mat with a thermostat. Having a heating mat without a thermostat can “cook” the cutting.

    I never needed to use a heating mat, but I have a friend who did. He bought a BN-LINK Durable Seedling Heat Mat Heating Pad 10″ x 20.75″ with a Digital Thermostat Controller from Amazon and was genuinely satisfied.

    Fig cuttings don’t require anything special. More expensive heating mats are used to grow plants from seeds for commercial purposes.

    Fig Cuttings Not Having Enough Sunlight

    Fig cuttings, like any other plant, need sunlight. However, since they can be damaged by direct sunlight early on, it’s best to put them somewhere where they can absorb indirect sunlight.

    If that is not possible due to location or weather, you can always assist cuttings with artificial lights. Growing lights are specially made for purposes of supplementing light to plants. Make sure to get one with a stand like LBW Full Spectrum 150W LED Floor Plant Light for Indoor Plants so you can place it anywhere you like.

    Like sunlight, growing lights mustn’t point directly at the cutting when freshly planted. After two weeks to one month of growing, they are safe to expose to direct sunlight. Although, it’s better to increase exposure day by day.

    Fig Cuttings Not Having Enough Moisture

    The only time a fig tree requires lots of water is when it’s freshly planted. Especially when being propagated from a fig cutting. Even humidity in the air is better when above average.

    That is one of the reasons fig cuttings are easier to root in water than in the soil. If you are trying to root fig cuttings in the soil, ensure the soil and containers are holding water properly.

    It’s best if the soil isn’t completely soaked all the time because bacteria and fungi colonies will grow easily. However, keeping the soil moist all the time is a necessity for rooting fig cuttings.

    Fig Cutting Has Leaves But No Roots

    A fig cutting growing leaves before its roots can be completely normal. Most of the time, it means the cutting had too many nutrients stored in the wood, and it started the growing process earlier. In this case, roots will grow within one month.

    However, growing leaves before the roots can be a sign of too much nitrogen when rooting in the soil. That’s one of the reasons why you should never fertilize fig cuttings before the roots develop. It’s likely not to grow roots on time to support new growth up top. You can take it out of the soil and root it in the water instead to trigger the root growth.

    In both scenarios, rooting hormones can help either speed up the rooting process or trigger it altogether. I would avoid using homemade rooting hormones because they can have lots of nitrogen and instead use Clonex Rooting Gel.

    Fig Cutting Not Growing

    I often find that it’s one of two things preventing fig cuttings from growing.

    The first, and most common one, is that people put them in tiny transparent containers so they can see how roots are developing. I always remind myself that roots will grow quicker than new growth above. Fig tree roots tend to do that a lot. It’s best to repot it into a bigger container as soon as it starts to grow.

    The second reason is fertilizing. The soil used for cuttings is often baren in nutrients. Freshly formed roots don’t do well with fertilized soil. They can get burned. Therefore, it’s extremely important to fertilize potted fig cuttings as soon as roots develop. When there aren’t any very slim roots, at least close to the cutting, they are ready for fertilizing.

    I usually do it two weeks after the rooting is done. I prefer to give them two weeks extra to be safe. Although, if I see them staggered in growth, I will do it immediately after planting.

    If they are being rooted in the soil, you must be sure the roots have grown enough before fertilizing. Consider carefully taking them out without damaging newly formed roots. Then after inspecting the roots, you can decide if it’s time to fertilize or not.

    The best solution to promote growth is the one with more nitrogen. I like to use Miracle-Gro Water Soluble All-Purpose Plant Food until the fig tree grows enough to grow fruit.