5 Steps to Prune Ficus Trees

Ficus tree

Where should I start to prune? This is their pet Ficus tree; how can I cut it without asking? Is someone watching me? What if I make a mistake? I have no extra time today to prune or clean up a mess.

Are these the excuses you mentally make when you look at the Ficus trees in your accounts? It can be difficult and a little daunting to determine when it’s best to prune a Ficus. Don’t worry, when you learn how to prune them it’s not so scary anymore!

The Ficus fixers

Sometimes you may be met with messy, out of control, overgrown Ficus trees. You know the kind. Those plants that have never been pruned with branches reaching out in wild directions, and full of dead twigs in the center. It’s hard to see a Ficus like that without pruning it! How can you begin to make a difference? It’s best to follow the Pruning Process step by step.

Pruning process

Step One. This is basic grooming. Remove all dead and damaged branches. Cut them off cleanly at the branch collars. This always makes a huge difference. While you’re at it, remove any and all dead leaves from the soil. So far no artistic thinking is required. No stepping back to analyze the shape and no one will be offended if you are simply “cleaning up the dead ends.” There is no Ficus sap with this step because you are removing dead wood. This step can be done on a regular, weekly visit without adding too much extra time. If you have many floors of Ficus, start with a floor a week until you get them all through Step One.

On your next visit, follow the rest of the pruning steps. As a plant technician, you can control the shape and fullness of the Ficus by using selective pruning techniques. The procedure is simple. Continue with these next steps.

Step Two. Make clean cuts to the main stem branch (no nubs, please) and trim off any sucker growth or branches growing below the main stem branch. TIP: for controlling Ficus sap drips, carry a paper towel with you and dab a bit onto the wound. If you don’t have a paper towel handy, use a bit of moss or even press soil onto the fresh cut.

Step Three. Remove branches crossing over the center of the tree or those growing inwards. Here you will need to step back and look at the silhouette of the tree to see where you need to cut. Tree-form Ficus should have an open “V” shape to their branch structure. Remove any branches crossing or rubbing against another branch. Also, prune out weak-looking branches.

Step Four. Step back again and decide on the overall shape you wish the plant to have. This step draws on your aesthetics. Remove any branches growing outside of the desired shape of the tree. Prune these back all the way to a main branch. With larger trees it can be helpful to have a spotter who stands back to see the changing silhouette and can guide you to the next necessary cut.

Step Five. Thin out any dense clumps of foliage by trimming out small twigs back to a main branch. This will encourage growth by allowing light to travel through the upper branches down to the lower foliage.

A stunning finish

When you’re finished, the tree will have an open, natural weeping shape – nothing rigid or boxy. You will be able to see through the canopy. Light will be able to penetrate and reach all the leaves and any plants growing underneath the tree. With proper maintenance and pruning, Ficus will age gracefully and retain their fullness in the interiorscape.