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Understanding and Fixing Fiddle Leaf Fig Roots Above Soil

Fiddle Leaf Fig Roots Above Soil

Fiddle leaf figs (Ficus Lyrata) are popular houseplants known for their large, glossy leaves and elegant appearance. However, one common issue that many fiddle leaf fig owners face is the emergence of roots above the soil surface. In this blog post, we will explore why this happens and provide practical tips on fixing this problem to ensure the optimal growth and health of your fiddle leaf fig plant.

Why do Fiddle Leaf Fig Roots Grow Above Soil?

Fiddle leaf figs are native to the rainforests of West Africa, where they grow as epiphytes, attaching themselves to the trunks of trees. This adaptation allows them to absorb moisture and nutrients from the air and rainwater that flows down the tree. When grown in containers, fiddle leaf figs may develop aerial roots in response to their natural environment being mimicked.

High Humidity and Overwatering

One primary reason for fiddle leaf fig roots growing above the soil is excessive humidity and overwatering. These plants prefer a well-draining soil mix that allows excess water to flow out of the container. When the soil remains consistently wet, the roots may start searching for oxygen, causing them to grow upwards.

Use a well-draining potting mix specifically formulated for houseplants to fix this issue. Adjust your watering routine to allow the top few inches of soil to dry out before watering again. This will prevent waterlogged soil and encourage the roots to grow downwards.

Pot Size and Root Bound Plants

Another factor that can lead to fiddle leaf fig roots protruding above the soil is an undersized pot. When a plant outgrows its current container, its roots become crowded and may begin circling around the edges. In an attempt to find more space, these circling roots can emerge from the soil surface.

To address this, periodically check if your fiddle leaf fig needs repotting. If you notice a dense root system or roots emerging from the drainage holes, it’s time to give your plant a larger home. Choose a pot that is one or two sizes larger than the current one, ensuring it has good drainage holes.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutrient deficiencies can also contribute to fiddle leaf fig roots growing above the soil. If your plant lacks essential macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium, it may exhibit stunted growth and develop aerial roots in search of more nutrients.

To restore nutrient balance, consider fertilizing your fiddle leaf fig with a balanced houseplant fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Regularly providing these nutrients will promote healthy growth and discourage roots from growing above the soil.

Light Intensity

Insufficient light can hinder the growth of fiddle leaf figs and cause them to stretch towards any available light source. When plants don’t receive adequate light from above, they may produce aerial roots as a way to capture more light.

To prevent this, ensure your fiddle leaf fig is placed in a bright location with indirect sunlight.

Rotate the plant regularly to promote even growth and prevent one-sided dominance. Consider supplementing natural light with artificial grow lights during darker months or if your plant is far from windows.

Propagation Techniques

Interestingly, some fiddle leaf fig owners intentionally encourage aerial root growth for propagation purposes. Aerial roots can be utilized to propagate new plants by air layering – a method where a section of stem with aerial roots is encouraged to root while still attached to the original plant.

To propagate using aerial roots, select a healthy stem with visible aerial roots. Make a small cut below a node and wrap moist sphagnum moss around the cut section. Cover this with plastic wrap to create a humid environment. Once roots have formed, you can cut the stem below the rooted section and plant it separately.

How to Fix Fiddle Leaf Fig Roots Above Soil

Fixing the issue of fiddle leaf fig roots growing above the soil is crucial for your plant’s overall health and aesthetics. Here are some practical steps to address this problem:

  1. Repotting: If your fiddle leaf fig is root-bound, providing it with a larger pot is essential for proper root growth. Choose a pot one or two sizes larger than the current one. Ensure the new pot has good drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Before repotting, gently loosen the roots from the edges of the old pot and place the plant in the new pot, filling it with fresh, well-draining potting mix around the roots. This will give the roots more space to grow downwards and discourage them from growing above the soil.
  2. Pruning: Trim any excessively long or unhealthy aerial roots using sterilized pruning shears. Start by assessing each aerial root individually. If a root is healthy and contributing to the plant’s stability, you can leave it untouched. However, if you notice excessively long roots, damaged or hindering the plant’s overall appearance, it’s best to prune them. Make clean cuts just above the node or where the root connects to the stem. Pruning will encourage the plant to focus on developing healthy roots within the soil rather than wasting energy on aerial roots.
  3. Proper watering: Overwatering is one of the main culprits behind fiddle leaf fig roots growing above the soil. To prevent this, establish a proper watering routine. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out before watering again. Stick your finger into the soil and water only when it feels dry at least an inch deep. When watering, ensure that water penetrates evenly throughout the potting mix and drains out of the bottom. Remember, consistency is key – aim for a regular watering schedule rather than sporadic watering.
  4. Improve drainage: Good drainage is essential for preventing waterlogged soil, which can lead to root issues and aerial root growth. Ensure your pot has sufficient drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water to escape. You can also add a layer of small rocks or broken pottery pieces at the bottom of the pot to facilitate drainage further. Use a well-draining potting mix specifically formulated for houseplants or create your own mix by combining peat moss, perlite, and a small amount of compost.
  5. Optimize lighting conditions: Fiddle leaf figs thrive in bright, indirect light conditions. Insufficient light can cause stretching and encourage aerial root growth as the plant tries to find more light sources. Place your fiddle leaf fig in a location where it can receive bright, indirect sunlight for several hours a day. East or west-facing windows are usually suitable. Rotate the plant regularly to ensure even exposure to light on all sides, preventing one-sided dominance and promoting balanced growth.
  6. Fertilization: Maintaining proper nutrient levels is crucial for overall plant health and discouraging aerial root growth. Fertilize your fiddle leaf fig regularly with a balanced houseplant fertilizer during the growing season (spring and summer). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for dilution and application rates. Avoid overfertilization, as excessive nutrients can lead to leaf burn and other issues. Balanced fertilizers containing equal proportions of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are ideal for promoting healthy root development.
  7. Air layering: If you’re interested in propagating new fiddle leaf fig plants using existing aerial roots, air layering is a suitable technique. Select a healthy stem with visible aerial roots and make a small cut just below a node using a sterilized knife or blade. Apply rooting hormone to the cut section if desired (though it’s not necessary). Next, wrap moist sphagnum moss around the cut section, ensuring it stays in place. Cover this with plastic wrap to create a humid environment, securing both ends with twist ties or rubber bands. Once roots have formed within a few weeks or months, you can cut the stem below the root section and plant it separately in a suitable potting mix.

By following these steps and addressing each aspect of care, you can effectively fix fiddle leaf fig roots growing above the soil. Remember that patience is key when implementing these solutions, as it may take time for your plant to adjust and redirect its energy towards healthy root growth within the soil.

Conclusion

While fiddle leaf fig roots growing above the soil can be alarming, understanding the reasons behind this phenomenon can help you address it effectively. By adjusting watering practices, repotting when necessary, providing adequate light, and ensuring proper nutrition, you can help your fiddle leaf fig thrive and prevent further issues with aerial roots. Remember that each fiddle leaf fig is unique, so monitor your plant’s response and adjust accordingly for optimal growth and health.

FAQ

What is a fiddle leaf fig

A fiddle leaf fig is a popular houseplant known for its large, vibrant green leaves and tree-like appearance. It is native to Western Africa and belongs to the Ficus genus.

How do I repot my fiddle leaf fig

To repot your fiddle leaf fig, choose a slightly larger pot than its current one. Gently remove the plant from its existing pot, loosen the root ball, and place it in the new pot. Fill the gaps with fresh soil and ensure the roots are covered but not buried too deep.

What are aerial roots

Aerial roots are roots that grow above the soil surface. They are commonly seen in fiddle leaf fig plants and provide additional support to the tree. These roots may be pruned or left as they are, depending on your preference.

How often should I water my fiddle leaf fig?

You should water your fiddle leaf fig when the top two inches of the soil feel dry. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot. Ensure the pot has good drainage to prevent waterlogging.

Should fiddle leaf fig roots be above the soil?

It is normal for fiddle leaf fig roots to grow above the soil. This is often seen in younger plants. As the plant grows, new roots will form and may show above the soil surface.

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