How to prune ficus?

Trimming Ficus Trees: How And When Should Ficus Be Pruned

Ficus are one of the most common and easy to grow houseplants. In fact, they are so easy to grow indoors that occasionally the plants outgrow their site. Ficus plants don’t like to be moved, so the best option is to prune the plant to keep it manageable.

Let’s talk about how to prune a ficus tree and, more importantly for the plant’s health, when should ficus be pruned?

Ficus are not winter hardy and are generally grown as houseplants in the United States and other parts of the world. They are native to tropical and subtropical regions and are considered part of this type of exterior landscaping in warm zones. Indoor plants have slow, steady growth but can become heavy on the ends and lose their arching shape. Rejuvenation pruning will make the plant more compact and enhance proper branch formation.

When Should Ficus Be Pruned?

Obviously, trimming ficus trees is necessary if the plant has grown into a byway or is touching the ceiling. Trimming to diminish size is a common reason for pruning any woody plant. Timing is also an issue. Ficus tree pruning needs to take place when the plant is no longer actively growing.

Most plants are vegetatively active in spring and summer, with growth dying down in fall. By winter, the plant has gone into dormancy and is less susceptible to injury. Therefore, winter is the best time for trimming ficus trees. You can prune out dead material at any time during the year.

How to Prune a Ficus Tree

Use a clean sharp pair of bypass pruners and don a pair of gloves. Ficus have a latex sap that may be irritating to skin. First, look at the tree overall and decide what areas need to be minimized. If the tree is too tall, this is clearly where you start, but if you need to create a better silhouette, you will have to make a plan before you start cutting.

There are some cutting rules for ficus tree pruning in order to create a better appearance and keep cuts from looking obvious. Once you have decided which vegetation needs to go, the first step is to remove any dead or broken branches. This will give you an even better idea of the remaining necessary cuts.

Ficus Pruning Tips

Cut just before a growth node so that new growth will sprout there and cover the stump.

Another tip is to remove a branch back to another branch that is one of its size. This will prevent unsightly stubs and restore the size and appearance of the ficus. Cut at a slant away from the node or secondary branch.

If you have a damaged ficus with lots of dead growth, prune away no more than one-third of the material. You can cut more off later as the plant recovers. The best time to try this sort of pruning is after the plant has started re-sprouting so you can ensure that you are not removing recovered material.

In the meantime, give the tree lots of TLC and cross your fingers.

What is a Ficus tree? Ficus trees, also known as ficus benjamina, weeping fig tree or the benjamin fig, have a tendency to freak people out… It seems like as soon as the ficus tree comes home, leaves start dropping.

The last thing a Ficus tree owner was to think about is pruning.

There are too many visions of leaf drop in their mind.

There are newer varieties of Ficus species which hold their leaves much better.

Cultivars like the:

  • Ficus microcarpa (Chinese banyan)
  • Ficus nitida (Indian laurel)
  • Ficus elastica (rubber plant or rubber tree)
  • Ficus lyrata (fiddle leaf)
  • Fcus retusa (ginseng ficus)
  • Ficus maclellandii (Alii Ficus)
  • Ficus neriifolia

… are even grown like indoor bonsai trees in pots.

Ficus Tree Care Hate Mail

Before I get too far I need to really get something off my chest relating to Ficus and Ficus growers.

I’m sure “hate” mail will soon be following.

The weeping fig ficus benjamina continues to be a major crop for indoor use. At one point in my foliage growing career I grew over 125,000 plus Ficus plants per year. The issue I have with SOME, not all, Ficus growers is with pruning or trimming a Ficus tree!

Economics being what they are, its financially cheaper to prune a Ficus with hedge clippers.

Just get out the clippers and make all the plants the same height. That’s the problem – using hedge clippers is NOT the correct way to prune Ficus benjamina tree.

Plants much like people and none of these Ficus growers would dare to have their hair cut the same way they “trim” their Ficus crop! If you want the right results you need the correct method.

I’ve always hand pruned my Ficus crops all 125,000 plus of them.

I’ll admit I tried the shear method and all it does is promote a disease called Phomopsis. What Phomopsis causes is twig dieback and under indoor conditions it can get very severe.

GROWERS if you are not going to prune Ficus trees correctly – please quit selling them to the public. You’re only creating headaches! I feel better now…

Here’s what happens. You’ll notice on a Ficus tiny “branches” with a node between them.

If you just randomly cut between these nodes (this happens when you shear), the twig dies Phomopsis.

A correctly pruned Ficus plants won’t miss a beat. It may have lost some foliage but it will immediately begin to sprout out and grow.

This shrub is also good for bonsai training. The ficus benjamina bonsai features shiny leaves, ideal height, and sturdy trunks.

If you prefer a bonsai ficus, then this cultivar makes a perfect choice.

Next time you’re in the local garden center take a good look at the Ficus benjamina and see if you can find what I’m describing.

How To Trim A Ficus Tree Basics

Learn how to prune a ficus tree.

When Ficus pruning is done correctly can extend its life… proper pruning will also extend the useful life of many indoor plants. Pruning helps:

  • Control or maintain shape and size
  • Promote growth
  • Allow more light and air to the plant
  • Remove dead, diseased or pest infested foliage

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Let’s assume your Ficus bonsai tree has outgrown the space and you need to reshape it.

Start by removing all the dead twigs on the tree. Ficus are lovers of light.

As some of the smaller inner branches are shaded out they just die – this is natural. These twigs will generally be very small about the size of a #2 pencil lead.

Remember – Ficus are lovers of light. It’s important to get light on the foliage where the stronger branches are.

Remove any weak growth in the center of the plant.

Now it’s time to start pruning the outer growth. Remove about one-third of the canopy all the way around the tree.

What you will be doing is reducing the size of the canopy and promoting new growth and a fuller tree.

Sometimes you’ll get a “wild” branch that heads for the light and just changes the shape of the tree.

Selectively prune this branch or branches back toward the center of the tree. This will force new growth back into the center.

Root pruning is also done by owners who’d like to encourage these deciduous trees to grow back roots closer to the trunk.

Pruning Basics

  • Always cut back to a healthy branch, leaving as small a wound as possible.
  • Always make complete, smooth cuts; never rip or tear a branch. This leaves the plant open disease or infection.
  • Never cut too far above a bud; this results in a dead stub. It looks bad and can rot back (Phomopsis) into and or past the new growth.
  • Remember the tips (terminal bud) of a branch or stem grow much stronger and faster than lower buds on the branch (lateral bud). When you remove the terminal bud the strongest lateral bud takes its place.

Ficus trees are gorgeous and very popular. It is therefore not surprising that they make some of the most popular houseplants. Another reason for their popularity is that they are not very difficult to grow: as long as you provide them with some basic nutrients and favorable growing conditions, they will grow strong and healthy.

Ficus Trees Grow Fast

Since Ficus trees grow so readily, even indoors, it means that they will grow a lot. It is not surprising to have a healthy Ficus tree growing very fast in its pot. While this is a great thing for owners who wish to have a big and healthy Ficus in their home, there is one problem: what to do when a Ficus tree outgrows its container?

This is a great thing, since it means that your Ficus tree is thriving and enjoying itself in your home. On the other hand, it creates a potential problem because Ficus plants can quickly outgrow their pot.

Another issue is that Ficus trees do not like to be moved around. It creates a lot of stress for the Ficus, which can make it drop its leaves. In order to prevent this problem and to solve the issue of the Ficus tree becoming too large, it is important to prune your Ficus regularly.

Luckily, your Ficus outgrowing its container will probably happen only on the outside (its leaves). The roots do not grow so fast so you don’t need to think about repotting so often. However, regular pruning is one of the basic things you need to master if you wish to grow Ficus plants in your home.

When to Prune Your Ficus?

The main thing you need to know is when to prune your Ficus. It is vital to understand that Ficus trees are not winter hardy. This is why they are generally grown as houseplants and not outdoor plants in the U.S. These plants are native to tropical and subtropical regions of the world so they can be grown successfully outdoors only in the warm climate zones. In case you live outside of the tropical and subtropical regions, chances are that you will grow your Ficus indoors.

One thing to remember about the Ficus trees growing indoors is that their growth is typically slow but steady. This is why it might seem like your Ficus is growing very fast and spreading. This growth can sometimes be so vigorous so the plant becomes very heavy on the ends. It affects the arching shape of the Ficus, which is something you’ll want to avoid.

This is one of the main reasons to prune. It is considered a “rejuvenation pruning” because it will enhance the proper branch formation on your plant and make your Ficus tree more compact and visually attractive.

When to prune your Ficus? It is important to trim your plant whenever it comes in contact with the furniture, ceiling or other objects in your home. This is one of the most common reasons for trimming your tree and you will need to do it whenever you see that your Ficus is growing into other objects.

A more substantial pruning, however, needs to be timed properly. Anything more than a little trim here and there needs to be done only when the plant is no longer actively growing. Keep in mind that your Ficus, just like most other plants, is vegetatively active in spring and summer. By fall, the plant slows its growth and in the winter it goes into dormancy. This is when it is much less susceptible to injury and other problems. This is why winter is the best time to prune your Ficus tree.

At the same time, keep in mind that removing dead material can be done any time during the year. You don’t have to wait until the winter for this.

Tips for Pruning Your Ficus Tree

Pruning your Ficus tree is not complicated, but you need to work carefully in ordr not to hurt your plant. It is best to use a clean, sharp pair of pruners. Bypass pruners seem to work the best. Also, don’t forget to wear a pair of gloves so you don’t hurt yourself during pruning. Keep in mind that Ficus plants have a latex sap, which can be irritating to the skin. This is why gloves are a must.

Before pruning, take a good look at your Ficus tree to identify the precise areas that need to be pruned. In case the plant is too tall, this is where you’ll start. However, if the problem is simply creating a better silhouette, you need to think a bit to decide where to prune. Deciding where to start cutting might be the most important step.

Once you have identified places to cut it is always important to remove any dead and broken branches first. Do this before you start with proper pruning. This will further help you identify things that need to go and help you decide how to shape your Ficus properly.

Keep in mind that there are some pruning rules you will need to follow. These will help you create a better appearance to your Ficus tree and avoid that the cuts look obvious. The most important rule is to cut just before a growth node. This is needed to ensure that a new growth will sprout there and cover the stump.

Another thing to keep in mind is to remove a branch back to another branch that’s one of its size. This is the best way to avid messy stubs. It will also restore the size and beautiful looks of your Ficus.

It is also best to cut at a slant away from the node or secondary branch. This will ensure proper growth and make your Ficus look beautiful.

In case your Ficus tree is very damaged and has a lot of dead growth, it is best to prune away no more than one third of the material. It is always possible to prune more later, once the plant recovers. It is best to wait until your Ficus tree starts re-sprouting. This way, you can make sure that you don’t remove any new material.

Photo credit: reuben.lim Ficus chartacea via photopin (license)

How to Prune a Ficus Benjamina Tree

The ficus tree (Ficus benjamina) is a plant that can reach the grandiose height of 30 meters (98 feet) in its natural habitat. More often, however, the ficus is kept as a potted houseplant. The ficus is very tolerant of both indoor and outdoor conditions. In terms of appearance, the plant has gracefully bending branches, earning it the nickname weeping fig tree. These limbs have glossy, oval-shaped leaves with tips that taper to a slender point. Like all species of fig tree, the ficus can produce fruit. However, it is not typically consumed, although it is edible.

Pruning and Maintaining a Ficus Tree

The primary reasons to prune a ficus are to enhance its shape and inhibit its growth. The typical indoor ficus has an exposed trunk with a leafy crown that’s a roughly rounded, bush-like shape. The ficus is easily conditioned and trimmed into this configuration; however, it is not entirely naturally occurring. In nature, a ficus tree typically spreads somewhat wider and has an amount of nonconforming lower limbs, lending it a bushier and less well-groomed appearance. The typical indoor ficus is shaped to accentuate and exaggerate this already attractive design.

Basic Ficus Tree Pruning

Ficus trees should undergo pruning after new growth stops in the late summer and early fall. The typical plant experiences this fresh growth in the spring and early summer months. If a potted ficus is brought inside for the winter, pruning it before bringing it into the house is an ideal time. Because ficus are fairly hardy and resilient, pruning can be done year-round if necessary, not just during the optimal period in summer/fall. Dead or broken branches can be pruned at any time.

To prune a ficus tree, the most useful implement to have on hand is a pair of small pruning shears designed for fine/close work and narrow stems. These should be clean and sharp for the best results.

Ficus trees can be pruned step-by-step in the following manner:

  • Locate a node where a leaf/twig joins the stem/branch
  • Cut on a slight downward slant before a node
  • Cut close to the node without cutting into it
  • Leave at least one node for new growth on that stem/branch
  • To eliminate a branch, cut it back to just before the trunk/limb and do not leave any nodes

This should be done with the aim of creating a natural-looking, yet well-manicured tree.

Ficus Bonsai

Bonsai refers to the ancient Japanese art of growing miniature trees in shallow containers. Both the Ficus benjamina and Ficus retusa varieties make excellent bonsai trees. This is because of their small leaves and relative hardiness. The ficus tree also grows quickly and is evergreen. Like all bonsai, they require methodical and frequent pruning to maintain both the desirable size and traditional form. This practice can require much time and patience, but the end results are often quite stunning.

Ficus Tree Stress Reactions

The ficus has a tendency to drop leaves suddenly due to changes in light, temperature, watering volume and schedule, air quality, positioning, and other factors possibly too inconsequential for its human owners to notice. Ficus are adverse to all forms of change and express their response to environmental stress by dropping large quantities of leaves. In general, this is not a cause for alarm. The ficus will adjust.

Other Considerations in Ficus Tree Maintenance

The roots of the ficus are considered invasive. If the ficus is planted in the ground, its roots will spread, possibly growing underneath and uplifting sidewalks, concrete patios and driveways. For this reason, ficus may not be appropriate for in-ground planting in all locations. In potted plant form, they must be re-potted every one to two years; otherwise, they will become pot-bound and will no longer thrive.

How to Trim a Ficus Tree: 5 Steps to the Perfect Shape

Ficusses originated in humid tropical areas of the Northern Australia, Asia and the Pacific. They grow freely in the wild turning into real banyans, huge trees with multiple trunks and a huge root system. Keeping them in check and stopping their roots from damaging the roads is the main plant care issue for the natural outdoor growing trees. They generously yield for two times per year with sweet and healthy figs.

Of course the ficusses we get to see in our houses, schools and offices every day have little in common with their tropical counterparts. They are not as large and are unlikely to flower and produce fruit. They are beautiful with their lush green glossy leaves. Their ability to grow well in pots and indiscriminateness has attracted numerous gardeners around the world. If you are looking for a house plant and want something big, bold and beautiful yet simple and easy then ficus benjamina is just a thing for you.

Growing Ficusses Indoors

Follow our simple ficus benjamina growing tips and the results won’t be long in coming. So if you have already brought the young plant from the flower store home you need to take care of the following:

  • Find a good location. Ficusses cannot stand direct sun rays as they are extremely damaging. Find a spot near the window where the shrub can get lots of indirect sunlight.
  • Get a proper fertilizer. You can use a liquid or a solvable one once or twice per week during spring and summer months. Do not forget that during the winter and autumn month it needs fertilization about once a month.
  • Use soft water. In case you have been using the lime water for this evergreen shrub you now have to carry out the soil rinsing procedure. Take the pot outside and rinse the soil with water for a few times allowing the water to drain through the root system and come out through the bottom hole. Provide regular moisturizing by watering the plant every few days once the surface of the pot gets dry. It is important not to overdue on water as well.
  • Change the flower pot once every two to three years.
  • Perform annual trimmings to shape the tree. Read on to find out how to trim the ficus benjamina.

Shaping the Evergreen Shrubs

Every beginner gardener feels a bit worried when it comes to pruning the shrubs and shaping the plans. You obviously want to make things right and cause as little damage as possible. Actually it is fairly simple to prune the ficus tree properly. All you need is to learn a few tricks from the experienced gardeners. Read on when and how to prune your shrub:

Step 1. Decide on the best pruning time. The best is to shape the tree in the late summer or early fall right after the active growth period. Although you should cut off dead or broken boughs throughout the whole year.

Step 2. Cut close to the nodes at a slight angle. Make sure you do not damage the nodes.

Step 3. If you want to get rid of the branch cut in at the limb.

Step 4. Leave at least one node on every trimmed branch.

Step 5. Use cut paste for the bigger wounds.

We really hope you have found this information useful. Come back any time for even more expert tips and advices.

How to Trim a Potted Ficus Tree

Ficus (Ficus benjamina), or weeping fig, is a popular houseplant that grows best in a sunny, draft-free location. Unlike other houseplants, the ficus tree prefers to be root bound. For this reason, a ficus tree can grow 6 to 8 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide while planted in a pot that’s small relative to its size. A fast grower, ficus trees need frequent pruning to keep a natural, tree-like form. Pruning also allows light to reach the inner leaves and branches.

Stand back from the potted ficus tree and decide what limbs can be trimmed to give the plant a natural, tree-like shape. Look for limbs that interfere with foot traffic as well as limbs that are growing against a wall or window that should be removed.

Prune unruly branches back to the main trunk or main stem. If you are cutting a limb to limit the spread of the plant, cut the limb back to a “Y” where another limb is growing upward to train the growth upwards instead of outwards. This helps the plant retain a natural shape. Cut limbs back to the natural collar where the limbs meet; don’t cut flush against a main stem, as this will delay the natural healing process. Stand back and examine your progress after each cut.

Trim out dead and spindly growth from around the trunk and main limbs.

When trimming a potted ficus tree to bring up the bottom of the canopy, trim the ends of the limbs back to an upward-growing branch or “node,” as described in step 2. Removing an entire limb may leave an empty space in the side of the canopy.

After trimming, water, apply a diluted fertilizer and add more potting soil, if needed.

How to Care for Outdoor Ficus Trees

ficus image by c-chez-marc from

The ficus tree is sometimes referred to as a weeping fig, but its given scientific name is Ficus benjamina. Ficus trees can be grown indoors or outdoors. Growing a ficus tree outdoors can make for an interesting landscape as severe pruning is not an issue. You can shape the tree anyway you like. If left unpruned, however, the ficus tree can grow to 60 feet tall and 100 feet wide. If you’re considering using a ficus tree outdoors, you will need to know how to care for it.

Plant your ficus tree in an area of your yard that gets at least six hours of sunlight each day. Ficus trees love the sun.

Fertilize your soil. The ficus tree can survive in many different types of soil, but you want to make sure you feed the ficus tree by giving it a slow-release 10-10-10 fertilizer. Do this once a month during the spring and summer.

Water your ficus tree once a week in the spring and summer, and once every other week in the fall and winter months. When you water, allow the water to sink deep into the soil to reach all of the roots.

Protect your ficus tree from frost in the fall and winter by spreading a thick layer of mulch around the base of your ficus tree. Ficus trees are very susceptible to frost damage.

Prune your ficus tree as desired. You may need to prune your tree to a certain size so it fits on your property. You could also prune it to maintain a certain shape. Pruning regularly won’t hurt your ficus tree.

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