Nature provides endless variety in its plant life; some are basic, while others resemble something from science fiction. However, this variety isn’t limited to the great outdoors, as many indoor plants are chosen specifically for their foliage.
A perfect example is a Fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata), so named because its large leaves are shaped like fiddles.
Caring for this particular ficus plant isn’t very difficult, but a popular sticking point is transplanting especially large ones. The good news is that this process is fast and easy once you know what to do.
Repotting Fiddle Leaf Fig
Repotting is essential for the health of indoor plants, even if they don’t get any larger, because the natural process of replenishing soil quality cannot occur in a confined space such as a pot.
However, this is also the perfect time to ensure your ficus’s roots are healthy, so we’ll also discuss this aspect.
Signs It’s Time To Repot Your Fiddle-Leaf Fig
You should repot a fiddle-leaf fig every 2 to 3 years in the spring, even if it hasn’t shown any symptoms of needing a new container.
As mentioned, this is necessary because the soil will have lost its nutrients and has been building up mineral salts in the meantime – which can prove toxic to plants.
However, there are also some important signs to look for that may require repotting sooner than this:
If you aren’t using the soak-and-dry method to water your fiddle leaf, you could end up with a very sick plant.
Overwatering fiddle leafs can cause root rot and openly invite mold and fungal infections in the soil.
A single overwatering won’t spell disaster, but multiple overwatering will require a fresh pot and new soil.
Your Ficus is undoubtedly rootbound if you see roots poking out of the container’s drainage holes or the soil surface.
Rootbound plants can’t properly draw nutrients or water from the soil, leading to symptoms resembling other care issues.
The only treatment for root binding is to give it a larger container.
The Great Pot Debate
Repotting fiddle leaf figs should be easy, but (like many plants) there’s always something to make things more complicated.
For fiddle leaf figs, the container size is a matter of contention for many enthusiasts.
Some will say you need a container 1 to 2 sizes larger. Others say it should be 3″ to 4″ inches but no bigger than 6″ inches larger.
Some will tell you to get a container that’s ⅔ the size of the plant itself.
But who’s correct?
The simple truth is that there’s no right answer in all cases because a fiddle-leaf fig can grow so fast for some people that they can’t keep up.
Therefore, we suggest you pay attention to how fast your fig grows throughout the year.
The size difference in one year will help you determine how fast the plant grows, so you can choose a large container for it to grow into.
Just remember, giving it a container too small will leave it root-bound, and providing one too large will increase the risk of the soil becoming contaminated by fungal growth.
In the end, use your best judgment and remember that it’s always an option to do an emergency transplant to a different pot if things aren’t working out.
Removing And Examining The Root Ball
Now that some important points have been covered, it’s time to get to work.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Lay some tarp or cardboard out beside the plant so there’s less dirt to vacuum up later.
- Next, tip your ficus onto its side to make removal easier, then gently work it out of the pot.
- In many cases, you might find the plant is stuck, at which point you can take a sterile trowel or knife and gently work around the inside edge of the pot.
- Make sure your tools are sterilized before and after doing this to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.
- Sometimes a few firm whacks on the bottom of the pot will work, too; just be careful not to break anything in the process.
- Once the plant is out of its container, gently remove as much soil from the root ball as possible.
- Some people use their hands, while others prefer to rinse the dirt. Whatever method you choose, you may need to tease some of the roots apart, especially if the plant is root-bound.
- Finally, examine the root ball for signs of infection. You have root rot if you see dark brown to black roots, especially if they’re also squishy or give off a rotten smell. This must be dealt with immediately, but if the roots are healthy, you can skip straight to the repotting.
Root Rot Treatment
Root rot is a nasty disease caused by either bacterial or fungal infections in the root system. While deadly, it’s not difficult to treat if you catch it in time.
You’ll need a sharp knife, something to sterilize between every cut (isopropyl alcohol works well), and a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water.
Begin by working through the entire root ball and removing any infected roots.
Once all visible signs of infection are gone, you must soak the roots in your bleach solution for 20 minutes.
This will kill any remaining rot and won’t harm the plant.
Allow your Ficus to air dry for 2 to 3 days before putting it into the new pot.
Repotting Your Ficus
Once you’re sure the root system is healthy, it’s time to put your Ficus into its container.
You will likely have to use a larger pot than last time, but even if your plant has reached full size, the pot will have to be replaced if the soil or roots are contaminated.
Lay the pot on its side beside the root ball and like it up so the ficus plant is approximately at the same level as it was in the previous container, then note how much free space is at the bottom.
Get your potting mix (be sure there’s some perlite or another aggregate to help with drainage) and pour some into the bottom of the pot until you’re at the level where the root ball would sit.
Adding a small mound in the middle of the pot is best so you can also fan out the roots with less effort.
Sit your fiddle-leaf into its new pot (you may need a set of helping hands to ensure it stays fully upright), spreading the roots around the central mound.
Once they’re spread out a little, add the soil evenly around the base of the plant, gently patting the soil as you go and teasing the roots, so they’re nice and spread out.
Once the soil is at the same level as in the previous pot, give it final light tamping (don’t overdo it, or you’ll compact the soil) and give your plant some water.
It’s now good to go for another 2 to 3 years!