How to Prune an Indoor Fig Tree

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How to Prune an Indoor Fig Tree
Keep your fig tree lush with careful pruning. (Ficus Benjamini image by Westa Zikas from Fotolia.com)

Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) is a popular choice for indoor container growing. In an atrium or foyer, under a skylight or simply set in a south-facing window, these trees are hardy as well as ornamental. Allow them to dry out between waterings, and don't move them other than rotating the container to allow light to reach all parts of the plant, and your weeping fig can live well for as long as you have your home. Occasional pruning is necessary for health and good shape. Take it on in the winter months, when the tree is most dormant.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Short-handled pruning shears
  • Plant ties

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Study the shape of your indoor fig tree. Mentally divide the tree into thirds. The top third is the canopy, the middle is the trunk, and the bottom is the lower part of the trunk and the container. Get a feel for the proportions of the canopy. If the trunk is braided, the braid should stop at the top third.

  2. 2

    Clip away downward-growing or weeping branches from the bottom and middle thirds of the fig tree. Set the blades of your shears at a 45-degree angle, and cut down and away, leaving a short stub. Never cut limbs or branches flush or flat with the trunk or you will risk trunk bark injury that makes the tree susceptible to fungus and disease.

  3. 3

    Once the trunk is exposed to the height you'd like, stop. Stand back again and look at the top third of the tree for crossing branches that are rubbing against each other. Clip away these branches, leaving the strongest one.

  4. 4

    Look for dead wood, testing bare twigs with your fingers. If they bend and are still flexible, they may sprout new leaves. If they snap, cut them back to healthy wood. Look for curling or dead leaves, giving the branches a gentle shake to see what comes loose. Clip these twigs away also.

  5. 5

    Braid the trunk a few inches farther up each year if your fig tree's trunk is braided. This will help the tree grow vertically and keep a graceful shape. Secure the top of the braid with tightly wound plant ties. Remove them after a few months when the bark of limbs pressed tightly together fuses.

Tips and warnings

  • Rotate the container so that all parts of the fig tree get equal light. Resist the temptation to move the tree from window to window: Fig trees do not like to be moved once they're in their spot.
  • Cut branches back to the trunk rather than trimming small parts of branches. Clipping the ends of branches often will lead to sparse growth and a raggedy look.

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