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Fig Tree Not Doing Well

My parents gave me a fig tree cutting about 2 years ago. They got the cutting from a friend who has a mature tree. I am not sure on the variety. They kept the cutting in water until it sprouted roots and then we transferred it into a pot. I live in Michigan so the tree would not survive a winter if grown outside. I used a few bags of top soil, garden soil and potting mix for the pot. The pot is nice and big, my wife thinks it’s too big. After a few  weeks  in the ground it started to grow rapidly and branch off. Then after a few months it started producing fruit and stopped growing. It also started sprouting other “trunks” basically trying to turn more into a bush than a tree. At first I was ripping those other plants/trunks out so that the main tree could get bigger but after a while decided to let them grow. The tree now has produced it’s second set of fruit however, these fruit are taking a very long time to ripen, I mean 5 to 6 months and only one or two fruit ripen at a time. The plant jus started growing again, mostly on one of the branches and not the main trunk.  I water the plant once every 3 to 5 days, with about a gallon or two of water each watering, I’ve also used Mirical Grow all purpose plant food every 3 to 4 months on it, I mix the small side of the spoon in a gallon of water. The problem is the plant looks like it’s dying. And has looked like this for almost 8 months now. The leaves are drying out and turning orange, and some of the leaves and fruit have a cobweb that formed on them. I haven’t seen any critters on the plant or in the soil and the plant has been in doors it’s whole life. There are 2 other plants in very close proximity to this one and they’re doing well, no cobwebs on them. I have huge windows with southern exposure and get a lot of sun light, sometimes the sun light is very intense. My aloe which I’ve had for over 10yrs turned orange when I first moved to this house because of the intense sun light. What am I doing wrong? What can I do to help my Fig tree thrive?

Thank you in advance for any help or comments.


  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 9,964
    edited November 2018
    I think your problem is likely to be spider-mites.
    You mention cobwebs which is typical for a spider mite infestation.
    You wont see them unless you use a magnifying glass on the underside of the leaves. Have a look underneath a leaf and you'll likely see the little bu**ers.
    They suck fluid from the plant leaving a tiny white puncture mark and eventually the leaves look like they're covered in dust, then they start making webs. There are probably thousands of them.

    I don't know if there's anything available to get rid of them. They're related to spiders, so general 'bug killers' will not get rid of them.
    They only thrive in dry warm conditions so if you can increase the humidity (e.g. spray the leaves with water) that may help. You could also try standing the pot in a tray filled with pebbles and water to raise the humidity, but don't let the pot sit in the water, keep the pot on top of the pebbles.

    PS - keep it away from the other plants. It only takes one leaf to touch the leaf of another plant and that'll get infested too.
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 8,089
    edited November 2018
    I agree, it looks like a bad red spider mite infestation.  The mites thrive in hot dry conditions so anything you can do to make it cooler and more humid should help.
    I think I would also try to physically remove some of the infestation and webs, maybe gently wipe over all the leaves and stems with damp cotton wool and see what comes off.  Another idea if the plant is not too big would be to stand it in the shower and spray it with tepid water (not too hard!) concentrating on the undersides of the leaves and the nooks and crannies at the leaf joints.
    Apparently there's a biological control but I don't know whether it's available in the US
    If it survives the spider mite, it might be happier if it could go outside during summer.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • Thanks everyone, I thought it could be that but I haven’t actually seen any mites on the underside of the leaves. And the cobwebs don’t have any mites in them. Someone else suggested rubbing my hand on the underside of the leaves to see if I have a rust colored residue on my hand and I don’t. Also how would I have gotten them in the first place? Could they have been dormant in the soil that I used? The plant has never been outside. It’s in a huge pot so that makes it really hard to move anywhere I’m thinking the pot might be too big. I’m attaching a picture do you guys think I can transfer the fig tree to a smaller pot and it will still be ok? When should I transfer it after I dealt with the spider mites problem or is transfering it today ok? 
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 9,964
    I would point out that most spider mites are not visible to the naked eye.
    It may well be the 2-spot mite which is minute and almost transparent.
    Use a magnifier and look on the underside of a leaf near the ribs and you may well see 2 big eyes (actually its bowels for want of a better description) staring back at you
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 8,089
    The mites are very tiny and hard to see. I can't think of any other houseplant pest that would make webs, but someone else might have another suggestion.
    If the roots aren't reaching the edges of the big pot then you could move it to a smaller one if you like.  Either way, make sure the pot has drainage holes, otherwise the compost will tend to get too wet (you don't have a saucer under the pot and I can't see if there's a separate inner pot). And I just noticed that in your first post you say you used garden soil and bought topsoil, which is not usually recommended for house plants because it gets too compacted and doesn't drain well in a pot.  Also the garden soil could have brought in some nasties.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 82,736
    edited November 2018
    My outdoor fig is in a large container in a mixture of John Innes No 3 loambased potting compost with a generous addition of horticultural grit in a ratio of 3:1 to ensure good drainage ... figs need plenty of water but the compost has to be very free draining so the roots aren't sitting in moisture. 
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Posts: 11,391
    edited November 2018
    I agree and that sort of damage is typical of spider mite damage on plants grown indoors.  As others have said, you need to use a magnifying lens to see them.  They are very difficult to control on edible crops where using insectcides is a no-no.  I've used something called "SB Plant Invigorator" which sort of glues them in place so they can't move on to fresh tissue to feed on and so die.  It is a foliar feed, too.  However, that's only a control and won't rid you of them.  For that, the only thing I've found to be completely effective is to use predatory mites.  Have a google and see if there are any available - plenty here in the UK but not sure about the US.  I used Phytoseiulus predator mites but there are others.
    You can also mist the fig regularly and stand it on a tray of wet gravel.  Both of those will increase the local humidity around the plant which is something the mites don't like - they prefer watm, dry conditions (such as that produced by central heating.)  I'd also move it outside at the times of the year when you know there won't be a frost as the plant will love that and the mites will hate being outdoors in the rain!
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • Thanks everyone. I think I can get predator mites online. 
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 28,801
    Here is some help with how to grow it - cultivation notes, including pests, from the RHS -

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Thank you
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