So, after my first small scale experiment with one-node fig cuttings last year (where I had essentially wasted those fig cuttings, I didn’t have any success trying) I gave up on the idea for a little while. I direct-planted them in cups, with one half of the bud facing up and one facing below the soil line, no pre-rooting at all. This turned out to be a key part of why my first efforts failed. It appears that by changing a few steps in the process, a person can be very successful using this technique to make the most out of the cuttings they have – with only a bit of extra effort.
I recently saw a post on Ourfigs by a forum member showing a sea of small fig cuttings in containers, all with lush new green growth on top and roots at the container bottom. All of these now-fig-trees were propagated from one-node cuttings. I read the post a few times over, and finally understood his process before realizing the error in mine. The forum member would write the name of each cultivar on the cutting itself, and they would all go into a bucket of damp perlite for pre-rooting, and would only get transplanted to a container after showing a good amount of roots.
This got me thinking, I might be able to do something similar using the materials I already have on-hand, and kind of make up for my shortcomings trying to do one-node cuttings last year. I decided to give it another go and adjust my process a bit with the new insights gleaned. I was already using pre-rooting for fig and pomegranates before so I already had on hand the perfect materials.
There’s a saying with those “in-the-know” with propagating fig cuttings, or perhaps more of a golden rule : “Roots before shoots”. It’s usually understood that fig cuttings need to develop roots first in order to support any amount of green growth above (shoots). I don’t always find this to be the case, often times I will see a cutting “wake up” first and break a bud or two through the parafilm wrap before I see any roots ‘peeking out’ at me through the clear container.
As an aside, I keep finding that, generally speaking, if the parameters are ‘in spec’, life will find a way. I think propagation from plant cuttings is a wonderful, tactile, and satisfying example of that. The original poster of the forum post on Ourfigs was using a different medium to pre-root his cuttings (perlite) but the principles should still apply regardless of the medium. Having learned the error of my no-pre-rooting ways, I decided I will no longer direct-plant the one-node cuttings in the soil before rooting them. And by changing this part of the process, I am now having a good deal of success, and should have a 200-500% increase in efficiency with turning cuttings into fig trees.
I will probably always use this technique now for the more expensive varieties, as long as the cuttings are reasonably thick. It should stretch a small amount of fig propagation material a few times over, when you consider most people probably root fig cuttings that have around 3-4 ‘nodes’.
There are a few downsides to this method I’ve found so far, though:
One is that it requires handling cuttings that are very small with a very finite amount of energy stored in them. Consequently there is a small room for error on the propagator’s part with regards to the cuttings’ environment or accidental injury to the roots, etc.
The second issue I’ve found is it still requires some micromanagement of the moisture level. Not just in the pre-rooting chamber, but each one of the containers you end up transplanting the one-node cuttings into will need looked over carefully. The top layer of the soil is the part that will dry out first, of course, and the cuttings are so small that an imbalance in humidity or moisture leaning on the dry side might totally dry the scion’s bud out before it gets a chance to push a few leaves out. An imbalance on the wet side will of course just rot the little cutting. For this reason I’ll stick to using fig pops for propagating all of my bigger, inexpensive cuttings in bulk. The “Fig pop” method is as close to set-it-and-forget-it as I think you can get while propagating figs. I’ll make another post soon showing the end results of this project. The pictures below show the progress so far using the method outlined.
The one-node cutting method I’m currently using for figs:
- Pre-root your fig cuttings in a bag, container, etc using a damp medium such as sphagnum moss (what I use), coir, peat, perlite, etc. I use a 1 gallon bag for each variety, and I put all of the bags into a tote with a heat mat under it at set at ~76 degrees F.
- Check on them bi-weekly, opening up the bag or container for a fresh air exchange and to periodically check for root growth
- Once a good amount of roots appear on a cutting, Transplant them into a container full of pre-moistened mix to avoid over-watering the fragile cutting. Depending on the orientation of the cuttings’ new roots, I will sometimes place them horizontally in the container, or vertically (sometimes even diagonally, they really don’t seem to mind as long as a live bud is above soil, and the roots are below soil and slightly moist)