My Root-Bound Fig Tree

My root bound fig tree

I knew it was a fig tree, but still in the winter, when my grandmother wrapped it in burlap and tied it with string, it spooked me.  It looked too much like a person, the string in all the right places to form a bound head, waist, and legs.

But in the summer, I loved the fresh figs right off the tree.

So a couple of years ago when I saw the potted fig tree, with three figs on it,  on sale at the nursery in Vermont I bought it.   The figs ripened and tasted as good as I remembered them.

In the fall, after the leaves turned yellow and fell off, I cut the branches back and put the potted fig tree in the basement, just like the guy at the nursery told me to do.  A fig tree could live though a Long Island winter when wrapped in burlap, but not through winter in Upstate New York.

The next spring I transplanted the fig tree into a bigger pot, but this spring, when I brought it up from the basement, I saw how thick the roots were. Water barely penetrated the soil. The tree hardly grew all summer. It was root-bound.

After pruning and trimming the roots


So today, I went online, watched a few videos, and read up on what to do with a rootbound tree.

First I pruned it back to a single trunk, then I cut away and shook out the roots as best I could.  After researching it, I realized how bad the tree was.  The roots were growing on top of the soil and wrapping themselves around the trunk of the tree.

Most of what I read recommended transplanting the tree into a bigger pot.  But if the pot was any bigger it would be too heavy for me to carry up and down into the basement every year.  So I trimmed the roots the way I had read about, making the root ball smaller.

Then I  added new potting soil to the same pot and planted the tree back in it.

My fig tree back in its pot


I don’t know if my fig tree will survive my root trimming, but I had to do something or it would surely have died anyway.  I’ll keep it watered and leave it outside for a while to keep from shocking it anymore.

When it gets cold I’ll put it back in the basement and hope that next spring when I bring it back up, it blooms like the rest of the trees.


4 thoughts on “My Root-Bound Fig Tree

  1. Check out treating the fog as a bonsai. Root trimming and branch reduction are regular practices. With appropriately reduced (bonsai) fertilizers you could get some … smaller … fruits from it. Just a thought.

  2. I wonder if you could put a wooden frame around a burlap wrapped tree cover the wooden frame with clear plastic and preserve it that way in the yard? You might take a bit of new growth in the spring and try to root it for a second plant with which to experiment.

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