How to prune a dying ficus tree

6 Tips for Keeping Your Ficus Tree Happy and Healthy

The ficus tree is one of the most popular house plants around. It’s gorgeous in the home or office, as it cleans the air around us while adding lush green splendor. Whether you’ve always wanted to grow a ficus, or would like to explore unique varieties, this growing guide is perfect for you!

All About the Ficus Tree

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It’s no surprise that the Ficus benjamina tree is recognized as one of the most graceful, evergreen plants of our time. Known as the official tree of Bangkok, it’s native to Asia and Northern Australia. The ficus tree is known in those locales as a large ornamental, flowering tree with a vigorous growth habit. In the wild, it’s not unusual to see these trees reaching a huge 80 to 100 feet tall.

It’s grown indoors in less tropical areas, hence its great popularity in the houseplant industry. In fact, its reknown has grown at the same rate as our desire to create a healthier, eco-friendly indoor haven.

When grown inside, Ficus benjamina (aka “Weeping Fig” in its common name), provides a profusion of rich green, oval glossy leaves with an elegant, branching form. Indoor trees reach a modest three metres in height. This makes them just perfect for creating a “green screen” and elegant focal point in your home.

In fact, there are so many varieties available that you’re bound to find the perfect plant for your space.

What Will We Learn In This Article?

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The variegated version of the Weeping Fig—Ficus benjamina “Variegata”—is almost as popular as the glossy green version. Difference is that its mid-green oval leaves are mottled with shades of white and pale yellow. An impressive addition to any plant collection, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Today we’re taking a closer look at how to successfully care for and confidently prune a ficus tree.  A lot of people get quite scared when it comes to pruning, so confidence is key here. I shall go through how to prune, when to prune and why “light pruning” is best for your plant.

After we’ve talked about the growing forms available, we’ll also touch upon other ficus varieties. All are very popular at the moment, and you’re guaranteed to love them, if you don’t already!

Ficus benjamina Forms

Some ficus trees are sold as “standard” trees. These have a single stem and bushy top growth—perfect for creating a more classic-shaped indoor tree.

Many of these standard forms have single or double spiral stems, braided stems, or open-braided stems. All are attractive in their own way, but I just love the open braided version. Do some research to determine which you like best.

Other ficus specimens are grown up a moss pole or secured with a bamboo cane, and have more of a bushy appearance from root to tip. These are great to use as a foliage screen; sort of like a green wall. Unlike the standard versions, they have no noticeable stem: just lovely weeping green leaves from pot to tip. This can be exaggerated with regular pruning which in itself will promote a fuller plant.

As you can see, there really is a good selection available depending on which form you prefer. No matter which you choose, all have a mass of glorious glossy leaves and fantastic air-purifying properties.

Caring for Your Ficus Tree

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons

1. Finding the Right Spot for Your Tree

Ficus trees aren’t fans of being moved around too much, so it’s imperative to choose the right place for them, and leave them there. Being frost tender, they’re not suitable for placing outside if your winter temperatures drop to below 10 degrees Celsius. Unless you live in a tropical climate, your ficus tree is more suitable to keep as a gloriously green tropical house plant .

Rather than stating what they like, I shall firstly state what they dislike to avoid any mishaps:

  • Due to their tropical origin, ficus family members are very sensitive to cold.
  • Drafts from doorways, windows etc. are a no-no: they need a warm, sheltered environment.
  • Changes in temperature can cause stress to your plant: avoid keeping them near radiators.
  • Moving to areas with different light levels can cause your plant to drop its leaves. These will regrow so don’t panic. New leaves will grow which have adapted to the change in light levels.
  • Bright, indirect sunlight is the best place to site your plant, though they can tolerate bright shade.
  • A south or west-facing aspect is preferred.

In short, a spot that is warm, has no drafts, has sufficient space, has good light levels ,and is far enough away from radiators to not directly affect their temperature.

2. Watering and Fertilizing

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Water your ficus tree regularly throughout the growing season. Just make sure to allow the compost to dry out a bit before re-watering.

Fertilize every three weeks with a well-diluted house plant feed, but only throughout the summer months. The extra nutrients will help to promote new shoots and leaves.

In the wintertime, when in dormancy, your ficus will use less water and no extra feed, so cut back on the watering schedule.

3. Choosing the Right Potting Soil

Always use the best potting soil that you can afford.  Ficus trees prefer well-drained, fertile soil.

4. Light Preferences

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Position your ficus tree in bright, indirect light or bright shade.

These trees are quite a sensitive lot. Not only are they hyper-sensitive to temperature changes, they’re very light-sensitive too. I can’t count the amount of stressed phone calls I’ve taken from ficus owners whose plants have dropped their leaves. People always think their plant is dying, but this isn’t the case at all.

All plants in the ficus family suffer the same stress, and this is shown by leaf drop. It’s common for your ficus tree to drop its leaves when the seasons change, or even when you move it a bit. Rest assured, there’s no need to panic: nature has everything under control. Your ficus will grow new leaves, which will have adapted to its new situation’s light levels. Now THAT is clever.

Pruning your Ficus Tree

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Regular pruning will promote bushiness and keep your tree in good shape—both in its physical form, and its overall health. Ficus trees are renowned for “bleeding” when you prune them. Sap seeps out from the cut and this can cause stress to the plant. Therefore, it’s better to carry out gentle pruning more often, than hard pruning when your plant has outgrown its space.

There’s a rule of thumb within the gardening community: to only prune less than 30% of your ficus plant at one time. Excessive “bleeding” can cause branch die-back and sometimes even kill the plant. With this in mind, it makes much more sense to keep your fab ficus foliage under control.

5. When to Prune

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Most people recommend pruning in winter or early spring. Your plant will be dormant at this time and has a better chance of healing more quickly. Any dead, diseased, or broken branches can be pruned from your plant at any time of year. Doing this will reduce the risk of infection and put extra energy into producing healthy leaves in springtime.

Remember that regular pruning avoids the problem of a harsh heavy prune, which stresses the plant.

6. How to Prune

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Always use clean, sterile snips and wear a good pair of gloves to avoid skin contact with sap. Many people, especially those with a latex allergy, will have a bad reaction to the tree’s sap.

Firstly, look at your plant and locate any dead, dying, crossing, or congested shoots and branches. Remove these with your snips. If these are close to the trunk, always make the cut a little way up the branch collar. This avoids potentially harming the trunk.

Next, look at your plant’s natural shape. Sometimes, when growth has gotten out of hand, it’s quite hard to “see” their natural shape. If your plant has grown too tall for its space, the crown is usually a good place to start.  From there, you can then remove further extensive growth to balance the tree’s form. If the plant has grown too wide, then this is another good place to start.

Always make your pruning cuts above a leaf node, at a 45-degree angle against the node. That node will sprout new growth, and will cover the cut stem. Continue to prune around the tree, creating a balanced and more compact shape. In the case of all ficus trees, remember that less is more. Cut less than 30 % of your foliage at one go.

Now that we have guided you through the pruning process, let’s take a look at a couple of popular ficus varieties that are pleasing to the eye, and have similar environmental needs.

Further Ficus Varieties

Ficus elastica – Indian Rubber TreePhoto credit: Pixabay

You probably already know of this ornamental tree. It’s a superb, tropical house plant with shiny, almost waxy, large oval deep green leaves. Ornamental hybrids such as the Ficus elastica “Robusta” are commonly available. These have larger, stiffer, and more upright leaves than their native form found in Asia, Sri Lanka, the West Indies, and Florida.

Ficus lyrata – Fiddle-leafed FigPhoto credit: Wikimedia Commons

A true favorite of mine, which has grown hugely popular in the last few years for use as a tropical specimen plant. Its large, fiddle-shaped, waxy, mid-green leaves grow in small branchlets from the main stem and have a slightly crinkled appearance. A very lovely form and healthy-looking plant—definitely one to watch out for.

Ficus benjamina “Too Little” – Miniature cultivar

Photo credit: Adam Ask Why

A miniature cultivar of the Ficus family, often used within the bonsai industry, with magnificent results. I have seen many perfectly proportioned little fig trees, but this variety seems to have the best shape. An interesting addition to glass terrariums, where the high humidity suits their needs perfectly, but just as good as a lone specimen bonsai. Requires regular misting.

Pruning Ficus Benjamina - Bring Nature Inside

by Aparna

Spring is just around the corner. It is a good time to get our indoor plants in shape before they put out new leaves. Pruning my ficus has been something that I have been procrastinating about the entire winter season.

I bought this plant when I was a beginner in my plant journey when I have no idea how to take care of a plant. Without even researching beginner-friendly plants, I went straight to the garden center and picked up all the pretty ones. This Ficus was among them.

If you have a Ficus, you might know already, it doesn’t like to be moved around a lot and does not respond to changes very well. And I did exactly the same. I moved it around causing it to lose almost 75% of its leaves.

It was quite disheartening to watch that. It took almost two years to get it back to the shape it is today. Still, it is not perfect, on one side it is leggy and on the other side, it is bald. But I am happy that I did not give up on it.

Before the spring sets in, it would be a good idea to give this plant some shape and prune the dead branches so that I will, hopefully, have a bushy plant by this summer. 🙂

Before Pruning

It is better to give the plant a good shake before so that all the dead and weak leaves can fall off. They shed a lot during winters, which is quite normal. There is nothing to worry about.

Also disinfect the shears or scissors so that the tool doesn’t transmit any pests or diseases from any other plants.

Make sure to wear gloves while pruning as the sap produced from the plant can cause skin irritations. Safety First!


To prune it basically, we find a node. A node is simply where the leaf the stem or the branch.

Cut just an inch above this node at an angle. This will promote new growth to the sides, making it bushy rather than becoming leggy.

To know whether a node is healthy, check whether a sap (a white liquid) is coming out of this node. This means it is a healthy node and it has the potential to promote new growth. This sap is also the reason why I am wearing gloves because the sap can be quite an irritant to our skin.

Opposite to a healthy node, dead branches or stems do not produce any sap. So prune the stems till you see the sap coming out of the node.  Also, cut off any dead stems or branches as they will anyway not grow back.

Why should we prune Ficus Benjamina?

The main reason why people prune ficus is to tame it. As you can see this plant can grow pretty wild and outgrow the place where it is located. It grows both wide and tall.

And also, as you learned from the story of my ficus before, they don’t like to be moved at all. They will shed their leaves if there is any change in their environment, even if it is a good chance. So the only way to keep it manageable is to prune them and maintain that well-manicured look. That is the main reason why Ficus are pruned annually.

The other reason why we should prune Ficus is to remove dead leaves and branches like these.

When we prune the ficus tree, that means if we cut down some of the foliage, more sunlight and air will reach the center of the plant. This will prevent the plants from getting infected and grow healthy.

I am pruning my ficus Benjamin for all the reasons mentioned above, to remove all the dead branches, to make it manageable so that they don’t take much space in my living room, and also to make them grow bushy on all sides uniformly.

When should we prune Ficus Benjamina?

Ficus usually has an active growing period, i.e. in the spring and summer to early fall and a dormant period which is late fall and winter. In the winter the plant does not show any new growth instead sheds a few of its older leaves.

The best time to prune your ficus is when during its dormant period when there is no active growth. This will help the plant to thrive in the winter better.

If there are dead leaves and stems, you can prune them all throughout the year. But an extensive pruning, as I am doing here, should be done in winter.

It is almost the end of winter here in Germany. Now is a good time to prune my ficus before it starts to put out new growth in spring.

Result of my pruning 🙂

This is how my ficus turned out after pruning. This is not the perfect shape but hopefully, it will grow back in the spring and become bushier.

Hope this was useful to at least some of you. Happy pruning! 🙂

Pruning ficus - how to trim ficus at home

Publication date: 09/15/2019

Ficus is one of the most popular indoor plants, which has a lot of varieties, and each of them is original and beautiful. In order for this flower to grow correctly and please the eye all year round, it is necessary to cut it in a timely manner. This procedure is carried out not only in terms of aesthetics, but also in order for the flower to actively grow and multiply. Many flower growers are interested in how to cut a ficus, what time is best to do it, and what rules and nuances need to be taken into account. We will try to answer all questions in this article.

Can ficus be cut?

Like any other indoor plant, ficus needs care, and timely pruning is one of its main components. Therefore, ficus cutting is not only possible, but also necessary. Before proceeding with pruning, you need to decide on the purpose of this procedure. You can cut the ficus in order to form a beautiful crown, or for sanitary reasons, as well as to rejuvenate the plant. In any of these cases, pruning of ficuses should take place according to certain rules using a clean and sharp tool.

Why is ficus pruning necessary? Circumcision time depending on purpose

To give the ficus a beautiful appearance and form a crown, circumcision must be carried out in the spring, when the flower is actively growing. At the same time of the year, plants are usually transplanted, but pruning and transplanting ficus cannot be done at the same time! You must first prune, and only two weeks after pruning, the plant can be transplanted.

Ficus pruning

Sanitary and anti-aging pruning of ficus can be carried out at any time of the year, even in winter, when the plant stops growing. This is done in order to rid the plant of weak, dried and diseased shoots. If they are not cut in time, they will infect healthy shoots, as a result of which the plant may stop growing and even die.

Basic rules for pruning adult ficus

At first glance, pruning a ficus at home seems to be a rather complicated procedure, but if you follow certain rules, even a beginner can handle it. First of all, you need to prepare the tool; at home, a secateurs, garden shears or a regular knife are perfect; The main thing is that the tool is clean and sharp. Before starting the procedure, the instrument must be treated with an antiseptic, and if you cut several flowers, then you need to disinfect the instrument after each plant.

It is possible to prune shoots to form a crown only in an adult ficus, it is better not to touch a young plant that is in the stage of active growth. You can cut the top of the ficus no more than twelve centimeters, otherwise the growth of the plant may stop. It is correct to cut the shoot above the bud, on thin shoots it should be even, and on thicker shoots it should be beveled. The main thing is to make a neat cut, otherwise there is a risk of infection of the plant with a bacterial or viral disease. After trimming, the sections must be treated with a special antiseptic or crushed charcoal. In order for the crown to turn out to be of the correct shape, the side shoots must be cut symmetrically, especially this rule applies to Benjamin's ficus. If there are shoots that grow inside the crown, then they must be removed first. The variety and physiology of the plant should also be taken into account. If everything is done correctly, then the crown of the plant will turn out to be lush and neat, and the flower itself will not endure the procedure easily and without consequences.

Circumcision of ficuses for sanitary and anti-aging purposes must be performed as needed. This is not done to give the plant a shape, but to rid it of unwanted shoots. It is necessary to constantly monitor the ficus in order to detect the disease or pests in time and get rid of them. If necessary, you can cut the ficus, leaving only stumps; over time, it will recover, thanks to the growth at the roots. The rules for pruning a diseased ficus are the same as for a healthy one: a sharp and clean tool, a correct and accurate cut and subsequent treatment with an antiseptic.

Basic care after pruning ficus

Pruned ficuses require special attention:

  • During this procedure, the plant is stressed, weakened and most susceptible to bacteria and infections.
  • A recently cut plant should not be sprayed: water that gets on the cuts can provoke the development of the disease.
  • The temperature in the room must not be lower than room temperature, the plant must not be placed in the cold and in drafts.
  • It is necessary to feed the plant in order to give it more strength to grow, however, it is not worth overdoing it with fertilizers, as well as with watering, this can adversely affect the health of the ficus.

If everything is done correctly, then after a short period of time the plant will recover and form a crown of the required shape. Ficus can be cut once a year, then it will be healthy and pleasing to the eye.

As a result of improper care, illnesses and insect attacks, indoor plants lose their attractiveness and may even die, and when there are many plants, these risks increase significantly. Therefore, the care of a large number of plants should be entrusted to professionals, because the cost of professional care of plants is much lower than the constant purchase of new ones.

The Greenofis company offers comprehensive services for the care of indoor plants. We have been working in this direction for more than ten years and during that time we have managed to establish ourselves as a reliable and steadily developing company.

Our services include:

  • diagnostics and treatment of plants;
  • care advice;
  • standard and warranty flower service.

We guarantee impeccable diligence and high qualification of each of our employees. Call the phone number listed on the website and we will tell you about our services in more detail.

Author of the article: Tishchenko Evgenia Aleksandrovna (Chief Plant Maintenance Specialist at Green Office)

How to form and cut ficus correctly

Quite often in city apartments and offices you can find different types of ficuses. These evergreen broad-leaved plants are popular for their hardiness and beautiful leaves.

In order for the plant to have a beautiful crown and not just stretch up, but form a beautiful bush, pruning of the ficus is necessary at home, we will talk about this.


Pruning ficus leaves is one of the important stages of plant care. Pruning can serve two purposes:

  • Give the ficus a beautiful, defined shape.
  • Remove all old and diseased shoots.

Depending on the goal you are pursuing, certain rules must be followed.

When to prune ficus

Pruning a ficus bush, like most indoor plants, should be done at the very beginning of spring, when the plant wakes up and starts to grow. Pruning homemade ficus only stimulates this process and after it the axillary buds wake up, from which young and strong shoots will appear.

It is not recommended to transplant the plant into a new soil and pot at the same time and prune. This will be a strong stress for the ficus. After pruning the ficus, it is advisable to feed the plant.

How to prune ficus correctly

If you want to have a beautiful and well-groomed ficus bush on your windowsill, then pruning should start as early as possible. It is quite difficult to do something with the shape of an already adult plant, the buds, which are located on lignified branches, wake up with great difficulty.

When pruning ficus, some recommendations must be observed:

When cutting ficus shoots, the cut must be made above the bud. If the shoot is thin, then you can cut it straight, and thick branches obliquely. When starting to trim the side branches of the ficus, it is necessary to foresee in which direction the kidney is located, over which it is supposed to make a cut.

If the ficus produces a lot of aerial roots, they should not be removed, but can be sent to the ground as they grow.


In order to form a beautiful and neat ficus bush, pruning should be done as early as possible.

The whole process of ficus formation can consist of the following steps:

  • Cut off the main ficus shoot at a height of 10-20 centimeters. If the ficus has large and large leaves, then at least 5-6 of them should remain.
  • If the side shoots of the ficus have reached a length of more than 10 centimeters, then they must also be pinched. The cut is made over the kidney, which looks outward.
  • All newly made cuts must be sprinkled with crushed charcoal, but before that, remove the secreted milky juice.
  • If the ficus bush has a high density of shoots, then some of them must be removed, especially those that are located inside the crown and thicken it.

For uniform growth of shoots, the ficus must be periodically turned to the sun in different directions.


You can form a ficus not in the form of a bush, but in the form of a trunk. To do this, you need to choose a young plant that has a pronounced central trunk.

The ficus formation process is as follows:

  • On the main trunk of the ficus, all side shoots must be cut regularly. Leave only a few located at the very top of the trunk.
  • When the ficus reaches the desired height, usually 30-40 centimeters if it is located on a table or windowsill and about 60-100 centimeters if grown on the floor, then the pruning of the side shoots is stopped.
  • After that, you need to pinch the top of the ficus, this will give a good incentive for the development of side shoots of the ficus.
  • If the lateral branches are too long, they should be cut above the bud that is facing outward.

To make the stem stable, you can tie it to a peg, which can then be removed. All cuts that are made also need to be wiped with a damp cloth and sprinkled with crushed charcoal.


It is possible to form a stem in the form of a tier, but this will require an adult plant that has a pronounced central trunk.

Further, the process can be represented as the following steps:

  • As soon as the ficus reaches the desired height, it is necessary to cut off the top.
  • If the formation of a two-level trunk is supposed, then the crown of the ficus should be divided into three parts: the 1st and 3rd are located on top, these are the levels that will be spherical in shape, and the 2nd part is between the levels, it is freed from all shoots.
  • If it is supposed to form 3 levels, then the crown must be divided into five parts. 1,3 and 5 are the upper future levels, which are shaped into a ball, and 2 and 4 are the distance between them, freed from all shoots.
  • You can form levels from top to bottom, but then the top of the stem cannot be removed until the ficus grows to the desired height.

All care for such a multi-tiered ficus will come down to cutting off all the overgrown shoots on the bare part of the trunk and removing some young shoots that grow inside the crown and thicken it.

From some ficuses with small leaves, for example, Ficus Benjamin, you can, if desired, form real green figures in the form of a ball, pyramids, cubes, in the form of animals and birds.


This type of pruning of ficus is not aimed at forming a beautiful plant shape, but at removing weak and diseased shoots. It can be carried out throughout the entire period.

Learn more