How to Prune Ficus Tree Varieties – Simple Step by Step Guide

Ficus are popular houseplants and landscape plants loved for their attractive foliage and bushy forms. While ficus are generally low maintenance, pruning is important to keep these plants healthy, shapely, and looking their best. Knowing when and how to prune ficus properly encourages new growth, shapes up overgrown plants, and helps them thrive.

When to Prune Ficus

Timing pruning at the right time of year is key for ficus. Their active growth periods vary depending on the plant:

  • Ficus benjamina (weeping fig) – Spring to summer
  • Ficus elastica (rubber plant) – Spring
  • Ficus lyrata (fiddle leaf fig) – Spring and summer
  • Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel) – Spring to fall

Prune ficus just before or during their active growing season for best results. This encourages faster regrowth. Avoid heavy pruning during fall and winter dormancy.

You can prune ficus as needed to control size and shape throughout the growing season. But for major corrective pruning, focus on early to mid-spring.

How Often to Prune Ficus

Plan to prune most ficus:

  • Annually – Lightly trim to shape in spring before growth resumes.
  • Every 2-3 years – Moderate pruning to rejuvenate overgrown plants.
  • As needed – Any time to correct damage or overly long branches.

Younger plants need less frequent pruning. Prune mature ficus more often to control size and maintain shape. Adjust regular pruning frequency based on your particular plant’s vigor and growth rate.

Pruning Tools for Ficus

Having the right pruning tools makes the job easier:

  • Bypass hand pruners – For stems up to 1⁄2 inch thick.
  • Loppers – For thick branches pruners can’t cut.
  • Small hand saw – For larger branches over 1 inch thick.
  • Hedge shears – To quickly shape dense growth.

Clean tools regularly with isopropyl alcohol to prevent spreading disease.

How to Prune Ficus

Follow these simple steps to successfully prune ficus trees and shrubs:

1. Clean Out Dead or Damaged Branches

Always start by removing any dead, damaged, or diseased branches. Make cuts just outside damaged areas or down to the base.

2. Selectively Thin Out Overly Dense Growth

Look for branches crowding or crossing each other and selectively remove some at the base. Prioritize keeping well-spaced, healthy stems.

3. Tip Prune to Limit Size

On lanky branches, cut back the outermost 6-12 inches of growth. Make cuts just above an outward facing bud or leaf. This encourages bushy regrowth.

4. Shape the Canopy

Finally, step back and assess the overall shape. Remove any errant branches extending out of the desired form. Shorten lanky upper branches.

When finished, the ficus should have a full, rounded canopy shape with open interior branching. Avoid leaving stubs and make clean cuts.

Tips for Pruning Ficus

Follow these tips for successfully pruning ficus plants:

  • Time pruning before active growth periods.
  • Remove no more than 1/3 of the overall foliage when pruning.
  • Use sterilized, sharp bypass pruners for clean cuts.
  • Prune damaged growth immediately versus waiting.
  • Space cuts 2-4 inches apart on branches when tip pruning.
  • Stand back occasionally while pruning to visualize shape.

With the right technique and timing, pruning ficus is an easy and beneficial task.

Benefits of Pruning Ficus

Regularly pruning ficus provides many advantages:

  • Encourages bushy, compact growth.
  • Removes dead and damaged branches.
  • Allows more light penetration.
  • Stimulates new growth and healthier foliage.
  • Directs energy toward lower foliage.
  • Can help manage plant size.
  • Improves overall shape and form.
  • Reduces risks of diseases.
  • Extends the life of plants.

Pruning is key for growing thick, healthy ficus with an attractive, rounded shape over time.

Final Thoughts

Pruning ficus like weeping fig, fiddle leaf fig, and rubber plant encourages bushier regrowth and shapely form. Time tip pruning and thinning cuts just before spring and summer growth. Learn simple pruning techniques to grow attractive ficus houseplants and landscape plants.


Also read:

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FAQ on How to Prune Ficus

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about pruning ficus:

How hard can you prune back ficus?

Avoid taking more than 1/3 of the plant’s foliage at one time. For major pruning, remove no more than 20%. Tip pruning is gentler than cutting whole branches.

Do you prune ficus benjamina?

Yes, weeping figs should be tipped back and shaped annually to encourage bushy growth. Never remove more than 1/3 of the leaves.

Should I prune my ficus lyrata?

Prune fiddle leaf figs in spring to shape and limit size. Tip prune overgrown branches by a few inches rather than cutting back significantly.

How do you prune a ficus tree?

Start by removing dead branches on ficus trees. Then tip prune upper branches by 6-12 inches and selectively thin inner branches. Finally, shape the outer form.

When should I prune my rubber plant?

The best time to prune a rubber plant is in early spring before growth resumes. Avoid heavy pruning during winter dormancy. Tip pruning is ideal.

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