Prune this: Ficus Tree overgrown and in need of a trim and a prune!
How to Prune a Ficus Tree
Whether growing indoors or outdoors, ficus trees are beautiful, low maintenance plants. Routine pruning is a great way to keep your tree strong and robust. By thinning out overgrown areas, cutting back diseased or damaged branches, and encouraging fuller growth, pruning or trimming can improve the health and appearance of your plant. With the right pruning techniques, your ficus tree's foliage will look fuller and more appealing.
Choosing When to Prune
Trim outdoor ficuses anytime in late summer, fall, or spring.Outdoor ficuses are fairly adaptable and can be trimmed during most seasons. Anytime from late summer to early spring is ideal, as this is right before and after your ficus's dormant season.
- Try not to prune your outdoor tree in early summer, as this can induce an off-season growth spurt and leave your plant more vulnerable to frost.
Prune indoor ficuses in summer, autumn, or early spring.Indoor ficuses need regular pruning to remove old leaves and shape the plant to its living space. Avoid pruning your indoor ficus in mid-spring, however, particularly when it is forming new leaves and buds.
Shape ficuses in winter.For extensive shaping, wait until your plant's dormant season in winter. Your plant is least likely to sustain shock from pruning and, with outdoor plants, you'll be able to see the branch structure better.
Prune away diseased, broken, or dead branches anytime.Dying or dead branches can weaken your tree and make it vulnerable to further damage. To prevent this from happening, remove damaged branches as you notice them.
- If your tree is weak, avoid pruning beyond from trimming or cutting away damaged areas.
Prune your ficus in the spring if you want it to grow fuller.If you've noticed excessively thin areas on your ficus, pruning can encourage branching. Try trimming your ficus in early springtime to encourage branch and foliage growth during the next season.
- If you've noticed thinning in summer or early fall, wait until the following season to prune for this reason.
Doing Routine Pruning
Put on gardening gloves before handling your ficus.Most ficus varieties excrete a toxic milky sap that causes skin irritation. To prevent rashes, wear thick gloves while pruning your ficus.
- Gloves made with latex or thin fabrics will not protect your skin from the ficus's sap. You can find thick gardening gloves at most plant nurseries or garden centers.
Inspect your tree for dying or dead branches.If you notice diseased, damaged, or dead branches, prune them away at a downward slant with your loppers or shears. Cut the damaged branch back to a healthy area to help your tree heal and focus its energy on healthy branches.
- Dying or dead branches usually lose their bark and have grey or decaying wood.
Prune above leaf scars to encourage fuller growth.If your ficus tree has thinned out more than usual, inspect your ficus for scars where leaves used to be. Clip directly above leaf scars to encourage thicker foliage as your plant grows.
- Leaf scars are small, round marks found where your plant originally grew leaves. They're usually lighter in color than the surrounding branch.
- Pruning above leaf scars should ideally be done in spring.
Put cut paste on extensively pruned areas.If you prune back large branches or make many cuts, apply cut paste over the clipped area. Because pruning is like making many small wounds on a plant, cut paste will help your tree heal and protect it from diseases and pests while it recovers.
- You can buy cut paste online or at most plant nurseries.
Discard ficus clippings immediately after pruning.Because ficus plants are toxic, their clippings cannot be used as a mulch or compost. Collect the clippings in a trash bag and discard them when you're done pruning.
- For an environmentally-friendly alternative, ask local recycling centers if they can make use of your ficus clippings.
Don't prune more than 30% of your ficus at a time.Too much pruning can throw your tree into shock and leave it vulnerable to diseases. Limit yourself to removing less than 30% of your ficus's foliage and branch structure at a time.
- If any tree damage expands across more than 30% of the plant, hire a professional landscaper to determine the best treatment for it.
Shaping the Tree
Work with your tree's natural shape.Ficuses are not ideal plants for extensive shaping. When shaping your tree, keep your tree's initial shape in mind and aim for a trimmer, better maintained version of its original pattern.
- Ficus trees are usually round and widest at the bottom.
Thin out any overgrown areas.Inspect your tree for branches that jut from the plant's natural shape or overlap other branches. Cut away these overgrown branches with shears or loppers, depending on the branch size, directly above a node or where another stem branches off to minimize damage.
- Thinning out your ficus's foliage helps light penetrate the tree, which can make the plant look fuller and give it better air flow.
Prune away vertical branches.Vertical branches can give your tree a bulky, awkward shape. Inspect your tree for any branches growing upward and cut them back using your loppers or shears.
Avoid removing lower branches or leaves.The lower leaves and branches bring essential nutrients to the trunk, and a strong trunk is essential for holding up the ficus's foliage. Thin or shape the lower branches lightly to keep your tree strong.
- This is especially true for smaller ficus trees like rubber trees and fiddle leaf figs.
Transplant or repot your ficus if it grows too large.If you've cut back about 30% of your ficus and it is still too large for its pot or your backyard, try repotting or replanting it somewhere else. This can give your ficus more room to grow without sending it into shock from excessive pruning.
- Avoid transplanting trees with a trunk diameter wider than 2 inches (5.1 cm). Hire a landscaper or nursery professional to replant large ficus trees.
QuestionMy ficus is growing too wide and not tall enough. I think it's my pruning. What should I do?
HorticulturistHorticulturistExpert AnswerWhile it is recommended that you prune vertical branches first, be sure to also prune other parts of the tree in order to maintain a balanced shape.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do I do if there are yellow spots on my ficus tree's leaves?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt needs more water. You should water at least once a week during summer; 1-2 times per month in winter, depending on how warm it is. Watch for yellowing and give it a drink of water if it appears.Thanks!
QuestionHow much can I trim back a ficus?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on the size of the tree. A small tree is very young and fragile, so trim lightly. Older and larger trees can have all the dead wood cleaned off and trimmed back. Remember that pruning the top will shorten the potential height of the tree and that the more leaves you cut off, the less surface it has to photosynthesize. Ficus trees are finicky, so don't over do it.Thanks!
QuestionOur ficus is huge and leaning touching the ground. Can I cut back to 5 or 6 ft?Andy WinderCommunity AnswerThis depends on the height of the ficus. As a general rule, avoid cutting more than 30% of the tree at a time. If you need to cut back more, prune more next season or transplant your ficus somewhere else.Thanks!
QuestionI have a 16 year old Ficus growing at a severe angle, and it needs pruning. Can I also remove it from the pot and straighten it's position?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. Water it well before you move the tree. Make sure the new pot has a drainage hole. You may want to stake it straight, but be careful not to tear the roots.Thanks!
QuestionAfter repotting my indoor Ficus tree, it is losing good leaves at a rate of 5 or 6 a day. What did I do wrong?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerFicus trees are like grumpy old men -- they don't like to be moved. Typically they, like Geraniums, prefer to be pot-bound and will go into shock for a brief time after a re-potting. If there was no damage to roots during the re-potting and soil with a food additive was used, your plant should recover in a week for two.Thanks!
QuestionHow much does it cost to trim a Ficus Tree?Andy WinderCommunity AnswerPruning ficus trees can be very cost-effective. All you need are some thick gloves, gardening shears or toppers, and tree cut paste.Thanks!
How can I get my ficus tree to grow?
How much green do I need to leave on a ficus tree when pruning it?
My focus tree grows very tall with lots of leaves on the branches but none on trinkets how do I trim it to get more fuller?
- If your plant loses leaves after extensive pruning or transplanting, don't worry. Ficuses often shed leaves after these events, and your tree should grow more after several weeks.
- Sanitize any tools you use before and after you prune each plant. This helps prevent the spread of disease.
- Do not use household scissors or knives to prune your ficus tree, as these can damage the plant's tissues. Using gardening shears to trim the ficus will keep it healthy and strong.
- Never prune more than 30% of a ficus at a time, as too much pruning can weaken the plant.
Video: How to prune a ficus by Nature at Work
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