Fig pops are the ‘new’ thing in the last few years after being popularized in Ben’s blog. They are less work than pre-rooting in moss, but provide some of the same benefits. They also allow you good visibility into what is going on with the roots early and don’t require any water until the cutting are more established. Since watering (or not watering) is the easiest way to kill cuttings this is a big advantage, especially when you are starting out. Another good write up about fig pops is available on FigBid (another great place to buy figs too).
Fig pops are similar to the direct plant method and follow the cutting preparation steps described in our rooting overview. Rather than a pot you use a 4X16 poly bag, the ULINE 1 mm bags work well. Fill the bag about half way with moist, but not wet, potting mix similar to what we describe in our article on potting mix.
We seal our bags up with a rubber band wrapped once around the neck of the cutting and then around the bottom of the bag. We do not put any holes in the bag. This allows the potting mix to retain the same moisture level until leaves start to appear and pull moisture out of the soil. Since moisture will not leave the bag it is important to not make the potting mix too wet.
Once your cutting has roots and leaves and starts to dry the soil in the bag it is important to open the bag. In the pictures below you can see that as leaves start to form the soil also begins to be dried out around those roots. Until the potting mix starts to dry out it is OK to leave the cutting in the sealed bag, but once the mix starts to dry you want to be able to add water so that the roots don’t start to dry out and die.
There are a couple approaches to continuing to grow the cutting at this point. You can open the bag, cut the corners off the bottom of the bag to allow water to drain out, and water sparingly until the cutting’s roots fill the bag. During this time keep the soil from drying out, but don’t soak the cutting. It is better to water a little bit at a time and see how the water soaks in to the mix until you get used to the right amount of water to add. The advantage of this method is it is easy to up pot the cutting without damaging the roots once the roots are more established.
Another option is to up pot the cutting at the point where the leaves first start to form and you see some significant root growth and soil drying. We use this method when we have large numbers of cuttings to care for and having them in bags makes it difficult to water uniformly. In general, allowing the cutting to grow in the open bag is the better answer if you have a small number of cuttings. Below are pictures of the cutting being re-potted. If you up-pot at this stage be very careful not to break off roots.
First cut the bag and open it fully, don’t pull the cutting out or you will break the roots.
Next remove the plastic bag and soil that comes away easily. Be very careful with the roots, especially if any hold a large amount of potting mix since the weight of the mix can break roots off.
Now full the pot you intend to transfer the cutting to part way up with soil. you want to be sure to bury any roots on the cutting, but you can expose more of the stem than was exposed in the fig pot, especially if there are buds starting to grow further down the stem.
With the pot partially full of potting mix place the cutting in and hold the cutting while gently backfilling around it. Shake the pot slightly once full to help the potting mix settle around the roots.
Going forward you still want to be very careful watering the cutting till two or three more sets of leaves are established. Water sparingly around the edge of the pot when the pot gets light. Checking the weight of the pot requires some experience, but is the best way to know how much moisture is in the pot.