How to Prune a Ficus Tree

Ficus Tree Pruning

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: Andy / Andrew Fogg

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