How To Prune Fiddle Leaf Fig Into Tree

As I indicated earlier, many growers like to cultivate a traditional tree shape, complete with a distinct canopy and trunk. However, F. lyrata tends to grow in a columnar or bushy shape when kept as a houseplant.

In the wild, F. lyrata does this on its own by losing its lower leaves and growing into its original shape as a banyan tree.

like the renowned “Wild F. lyrata and ordinary banyan, F. benghalensis, both start out their lives as epiphytes. When a seed falls into another tree’s canopy, it germinates, develops, and eventually strangles its host plant as it descends to the ground.

Your houseplant won’t do this, of course, but the tree shape is attractive. How can a rambunctious F. lyrata be transformed into a tall, graceful specimen?

First off, if you’ve recently acquired a highly sought-after fiddle-leaf, hold off on starting to prune it into a tree shape.

Whatever two-thirds of the intended height means to you within the boundaries of your space, let it grow to that point. The trunk might become strong and thick as a result.

It’s advisable to top the tree out at least eight to ten inches away from the ceiling if you want it to grow tall.

This not only improves the appearance but also prevents the top leaves from bending and slamming against your ceiling.

Say, for instance, that you want to top your tree off at about seven or eight feet and that your home has nine-foot ceilings. You shouldn’t begin trimming for lateral growth until the trunk is at least five feet tall based on these measurements.

Wait until spring or summer when the plant is actively growing before pruning your fiddle-leaf fig to generate a tree form with branching lateral growth. Then, make a cut at least six inches down from the tip of the tree.

You can preserve and grow this cutting! Cut in an internodal space, if possible.

Don’t remove the leaves that are below the cut. So that the plant can photosynthesize and generate energy to grow those lateral branches, you want them to stay.

Within a few weeks, your F. lyrata will start to branch from the cut. Although this tree occasionally produces just one branch, it frequently produces two or three additional lateral branches.

You can remove one or two leaves from the tree’s base once the new branches have developed leaves.

The hue of the leaves and emerging branches will deepen as the canopy ages. Feel free to remove one or two more leaves from the bottom part of the trunk once you become aware of this.

You can continue to prune leaves away from the tree’s trunk as the canopy grows over time. You’ll eventually grow a tidy trunk that supports a Y-shaped canopy.

Note: Some knowledgeable gardeners enjoy using a technique called “creating lateral branches by notching. Using this technique, the gardener carefully cuts through two nodes. This cut is supposed to encourage the tree to generate lateral branches without losing height.

Because of the fast growth of F. lyrata and the fact that we are confident that pruning for lateral branch growth yields reliable results, we advise using this technique to produce that attractive canopy.

After pruning, give your plant the best care possible by providing it with the right amount of water, fertilizer, and light, which will hasten the healing of its wounds.

How can you grow a tree out of a fiddle leaf fig?

When notching, a precise cut is made above a node as opposed to clipping the top sprout. Only if you don’t want to lower the height of your fiddle leaf would I advise employing notching over pruning, which is a sophisticated method.

Another way that notching functions is by obstructing the hormones that control growth—again, auxin. The impact is gone as the wound calluses over, and hormones will start to flow once more.

How to notch your fiddle leaf fig

First, some dexterity is needed for notching. If the incision is made too deeply, you run the danger of amputating the limb. (But hey, even if you accidently cut off the head of your ficus, there will still be branching.) If you make the cut too shallow, it might not heal.

It doesn’t yield reliable outcomes like pruning. Though it can result in less-than-ideal gaps in your fiddle leaf branches, think about cutting a few more notches than you desire branches. (Again, pruning doesn’t have a problem here because it works best on the nodes closest to the incision.)

It works better on a woody stem than on more recent, softer green growth.

This is how you do it:

Make an incision above a node using a clean, sharp blade. I applied a brand-new X-Acto knife blade’s tip edge. (The kind where the old blades can be removed with a snap.) I was able to secure the internode because of this. If using pruners makes you more comfortable, do so.

Make an incision that goes 1/3 of the way around the stem and no deeper than 1/3 of the stem just ABOVE the node. There will be some latex sap, which you should brush away in case any children or animals decide to taste it because it does like milk.

Making the incision above the node as opposed to below it prevents auxin, a hormone that controls growth, from functioning properly. By switching the flow of carbohydrates from vegetative development to reproductive growth when a node is cut just below it, blooming and fruiting are encouraged (flowers & fruit).

Leave it alone to recover, and maybe after a few weeks you’ll have buds that develop into branches. As with pruning, your chances of success will increase if you attempt this during your fiddle leaf’s prime growing season, which is in the spring or early summer.

One last piece of advice: wait to remove leaves from the trunk of your fiddle leaf until the new branches have begun to grow. Your plant should be as robust as possible because those leaves aid in the development of the new lateral buds.

So that’s pretty much it. Your single-stalk fiddle leaf can easily be transformed into a full, tree-like canopy. Waiting for those branches to appear after you’ve finished your trimming or notching just requires patience.

How do you feel? Do you favor single-stalked fiddle leafs grown singly, in clusters, or as a single-trunked tree?

Don’t forget to register below to receive your free design guide on how to construct a house that is inspired by nature.

Why should I Wiggle my Fiddle leaf fig?

Your indoor tree’s trunk can be moved to simulate wind, which will help you become more resilient outside. You can also leave your tree outside for extended periods of time to strengthen its trunk and expose it to the elements. Once you get the leaves inside, be sure to inspect them for bugs.

What are the best growing conditions for an indoor fiddle leaf fig tree?

Know that your fiddle leaf fig tree prefers moderate temperature changes and place it in a sunny spot within the house. The tree should be planted in a container with well-draining soil that is kept humid but not soggy since this might cause root rot.

Why isn’t my fiddle leaf fig tree flowering?

You should be careful not to overwater your fiddle leaf fig because it is prone to root rot. When storing the fig within a container, make sure the bottom has lots of holes to allow for proper drainage.

How do I fix a leggy fiddle leaf fig tree?

Give a leggy or tilted fiddle leaf fig tree bright, filtered sunshine as treatment. Please place your plant in the area of the house that gets the most indirect sunlight, which is usually six to eight hours per day. Don’t keep it in the Sun for too long, though; doing so could scorch the leaves.

Will wiggling my fiddle leaf fig tree weaken its roots?

Every one to two weeks, wiggle your fiddle leaf fig tree for 1.5 to 2 minutes to significantly thicken the trunk. Beginning with light shaking, progressively build up the force. If your plant is stake-supported, move it about at first with the support in place. You can take the stake out once your fig tree has gotten used to this practice.

How much time does a fiddle leaf fig need to branch?

Depending on your plant’s growth rate and health, new leaves and branches following a successful notching effort normally appear between 4 to 5 weeks. When new growth begins in the early spring, notching might result in the production of leaves and branches within a month.

Later in the summer, a fiddle leaf fig can be effectively nicked, but it can take longer for new growth to start. Similar to how healthy plants grow new lateral branches and foliage more quickly than unhealthy ones.

Can I chop my fig tree’s top off?

If a fig tree is left to grow on its own, it develops into a charming and romantic figure with a strong, twisted trunk that rises 50 feet in the air and thick, robust branches that span the same distance horizontally. You must begin training the tree as soon as possible if you want something more manageable and compact. A fruit tree is trained when it is young to develop a structure that produces copious amounts of fruit that is simple to harvest. Fig trees typically have an open center structure with no central branches, enabling more sunlight to enter. Cutting off the top of the young tree is the first step in the procedure.

Remove the newly planted fig tree’s top 24 inches or so from the ground. Act before the first buds emerge in the late winter or early spring. All remaining branches should be cut back to 6 inches.

Early in the summer, keep an eye out for quick new growth. Choose three healthy shoots from the new branches at the end of June to act as the main scaffolding branches. Select branches to be evenly spaced around the trunk, up to 8 inches vertically apart, with the lowest branch being 20 inches or so off the ground. Avoid branches that are attached to the trunk at tight angles; instead, go for angles of about 45 degrees. Use paint or ribbon to identify the scaffold branches so you won’t confuse them.

When the scaffold branches are longer than 30 inches, trim them back to 20 inches. On each scaffold branch, pick three or four auxiliary scaffold branches. Reduce all other shoots to a height of 6 inches.

Should I remove my fiddle leaf fig’s bottom leaves?

You should be aware of what those bottom leaves do before selecting when to remove them.

Lower foliage has the same function as that fresh, vibrant growth up top: the leaves work to mix that green chlorophyll, commonly known as “the meat of the leaf,” with sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to produce sap, the plant’s own sweet food.

So let them alone if you want the trunk, roots, and new growth to continue receiving energy from the sun through the foliar producers and absorbing it.

Another advantage of the lower leaves is that this is typically where the most frequent watering issues show up. To put it another way, many owners of fiddles may detect overwatering and underwatering based on early warning indicators from these bottom leaves. You lose access to one of the plant’s early warning systems if you remove them.

Keep in mind that the lower leaves should be saved for the very last stage of shaping because they AID in giving the tree its characteristic shape.

Once more, deciding whether or not to remove these lower leaves depends on what they do for the plant.

Are fiddle leaf fig trees and bushes distinct from one another?

You can be unclear as to what distinguishes a fiddle leaf fig bush from a tree.

It’s not always true that one shape is “better than the other.” Your fiddle leaf fig will not benefit more from a bushier shape or a tree shape. It is purely a matter of cultivation and personal preference.

The good news is that your fiddle will naturally grow in a bush shape, which makes it easier to cultivate in many ways. It actually takes a lot of meticulous shaping and pruning to get the tree to branch out where you want it to and to remove the leaves from where you don’t want them to. This is why so many fiddle aficionados crave that lollipop shape.

However, there are several actions you can take to mold a bush and encourage your tree to add additional leaves and even branches as needed!

What gives my fig tree a bush-like appearance?

Depending on the cultivar or variety, trees display apical dominance to varied degrees. The apically dominant trees grow powerfully erect if left to their own devices, but non-apically dominant trees typically have bushy growth with lots of secondary, lateral development. The reason for this is because auxin and cytokinin, two growth hormones, have an antagonistic connection (or conflict, if you will) in all plants. Even in a single branch, cytokinin induces secondary growth when it is present in adequate amounts in the plant. Auxin production is adequate in apically dominant trees to counteract the effects of this hormone by promoting elongation at the branch or leader apex (tip).

When we cut off branch tips (the apical meristematic areas), auxin flow is drastically reduced and cytokinin “takes over” and drives abundant lateral growth, changing the tree into a bush. Auxin is produced mostly in apical meristems & freshly emerging leaves.

As you can see, two factors—genetics (how genetically apically dominant the tree is/is not) and pruning practice, skill, and ability—are at play in this situation. With careful trimming, even plants (of the ground cover variety) with practically “0” apical dominance and a strong propensity to develop prostrate can be encouraged to maintain conventional upright growth.

Therefore, there is no reason you must accept the growth habit contained in the plant’s genes if you wish to spend the time to educate your trees into the shape you choose.

How should a fig tree be pruned?

Whether you have a fig tree or a fig bush in your backyard garden, pruning it each year will promote growth. Think about some general advice for this procedure.

  • 1. In the tree’s first year, prune it. When you first plant a young fig tree or fig shrub that you purchased from a nursery, trim it. When pruning for the first time, you should remove roughly 50% of the branches. This will enable the tree to concentrate its efforts on developing a solid root system.
  • 2. During the tree’s first winter, prune it once more. Winter trimming should be done every year, beginning with the first winter your tree experiences. The end of the tree’s dormant season in late winter is the ideal time to use pruning shears. By early spring, new branches will begin to grow as a result.
  • 3. Continue to prune your tree every year after that. It’s crucial to prune your fig tree in its first year, but remember to continue pruning it the following year and the year after that. Fresh fruit will start to ripen in early summer if your fig tree is pruned while it is dormant. This will result in a more fruitful growth season.
  • 4. Decide which branches should bear fruit. It’s time to go strategic now that you’ve finished your first pruning. Search for five to six exceptionally sturdy branches that branch off from the main trunk as you prune the tree in its second year. Your main branches for fruit production will be these. Remove the rest of the tinier branches from the main trunk.