How To Prune a Ficus Tree: A Complete Guide

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Ficus trees are the best to grow in your backyard, front yard, or even inside your house. These plants demand low maintenance but provide a beautiful look to your garden or yard.

Sometimes, the tree overgrows and causes damage to itself. Since ficus trees are very sensitive and vulnerable, you cannot move them. Therefore, the best way to deal with overgrowth is to prune it.

Ficus trees grow well in the summer and spring. But when it comes to fall, the growth ceases and eventually dies out. Ficus trees, when stopping growing, need to be trimmed.

Trimming the ficus is good in winter because injuries are less likely to occur to the plant at this time. Therefore, winter is the ideal season to fertilize ficus trees.

Pruning can enhance the health and beauty of your plant by thinning out overgrown sections, cutting back damaged or broken branches, and stimulating fuller growth.

If you have the right skills in pruning the ficus tree, you can easily induce immunity and health and enhance your plants’ beauty. If you have little or no knowledge about how to prune our ficus tree right, don’t worry.

In this article, we will give you a complete guide about the timings to prune the tree, how to shape the tree, and what precautions you should take to ensure the right health of the tree.

Choosing the Right Time to Trim the Ficus Tree

Here is how you can choose the right time to trim the ficus tree.

1. For Outdoor Ficus, Trim it Anytime in Late Summer, fall, or Spring

For Outdoor Ficus, Trim it Anytime in Late Summer, fall, or Spring
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Outdoor ficus is very flexible with the weather conditions. Therefore, trimming doesn’t demand much precise timing. You can trim it at any time of any season.

Though starting from the late summer to early spring is the best time to trim the outdoor ficus tree. However, never trim the outdoor ficus in the early summers. If done so, the plant undergoes an off-season growth spurt that leaves it susceptible to frost.

2. For Indoor Ficus, Summer, Autumn, or Early Spring are the Best Time for Trimming

The indoor ficus plant needs frequent trimming to get rid of its dead leaves and stay in good condition for its habitat. However, summer, autumn, and the initial weeks of the spring is the best time to trim the plant. While trimming, you must not prune the ficus in mid-summer because that is when the tree forms fresh buds and leaves.

3. When Shaping the Plant, Choose Winter Season

When Shaping the Plant, Choose Winter Season
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Since winters are the dormant season for the ficus plants, pruning does not cause any damage to the plants. With outdoor plants, you can view the branch structure better, and your plant will be less likely to experience shock from pruning.

4. If Caught any Disease, Cut that Portion Out

If any branch of your ficus tree is dying out or has caught the disease, you should immediately remove that portion. If not done so at the right time, it weakens your plant and makes it sensitive to future damage. To get rid of it, you can either break it with your hand or cut it out with the help of a clean scissor.

It is best to refrain from pruning or cutting your plant if it is already weak, as this could spread the damage.

5. For Your Ficus Plant to Grow Ideally, Trim it in the Springs

 For Your Ficus Plant to Grow Ideally, Trim it in the Springs
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If your ficus plant is growing thin branches that are making the plant weak, you must trim or prune it out. Pruning the weak branches forces the plant to grow stronger branches. Try pruning your ficus plant in early spring to promote branch and foliage growth the next season.

If you notice the thin growth of branches in the summers or winters, wait till spring and then prune the branch for perfect growth.

Also Read: Try These 9 DIY Gardening Tools to Save Money

Measures to Keep in Mind While Trimming

We know that pruning the plants regularly ( once a week) is important for the plants to grow fresh buds and leaves. The same applies to the ficus tree.

But while doing the regular trimming, you can only damage the plant and yourself if you keep an eye on certain aspects. The following are the measures you must follow when doing regular trimming:

1. Keep Your Gloves on When Handling the Ficus Plant

Keep Your Gloves on When Handling the Ficus Plant
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There are wide ficus varieties that, when cut, release a toxic milky sap. When it comes in contact with the skin, this milky sap causes irritation and redness. Thus to avoid such kinds of rashes and itching, you must put on gloves while trimming or pruning your ficus plant.

Latex or delicate fabric gloves won’t protect your skin from the milky sap of the ficus. Most nurseries and garden centers carry thick gardening gloves. Therefore, you must put on these gloves for maximum protection.

2. Prune Above Leaf Scars to Encourage Fuller Growth

Check your ficus tree for scars if leaves have thinned out more than usual. Clip immediately over leaf scars as your plant grows to promote fuller foliage.

Where you left the pruning of your plant once previously, you’ll find tiny, rounded traces called “leaf scars.” They typically have a lighter tint than the nearby branch.

The best time to prune above-leaf scars is in the spring.

3. Apply Cut Paste to Regions That Have Been Heavily Trimmed

Apply Cut Paste to Regions That Have Been Heavily Trimmed
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If you ever need to cut a big chunk of your ficus tree or prune back huge branches, you must apply the cut paste. The cut paste helps the branches recover and shield them from pests and infections while recovering. Pruning is like puncturing a plant with innumerable tiny wounds.

4. After Pruning, Throw Away the Ficus Trimmings

Since ficus plants are toxic, their milk can cause skin irritation. Because they are toxic, they can not even use for mulching and composting as plants. The way to manage it is to collect them in a plastic bag and dump it in the trash bin.

Ask your local recycling facilities whether they will accept your ficus clippings as an environmentally acceptable substitute.

5. Must Not Prune the Ficus Plant More Than ⅓ of it at a Time

Must Not Prune the Ficus Plant More Than ⅓ of it at a Time
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Heavy pruning at a time can cause your plant to be vulnerable and highly influenced by any disease-causing bacteria or virus. Take care that you do not trim the foliage and branch more than 30 % or ⅓ of the plant’s growth.

If you accidentally pruned more than 30% of the plant, you must get professional help to repair the damage.

Shapes You Should Give to Your Ficus Tree

Here is what you need to know how to give shape to your ficus tree. Read on.

1. Maintain the Natural Shape of the Tree

Maintain the Natural Shape of the Tree
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If you want to give an extensive shape to your ficus plant, it will only be feasible if the ficus adapts to it. Therefore, if you ever need to give a shape to your ficus plant, it is highly suggested that you keep the plant’s natural shape.

Focus your trimmer in the same direction that the plant has grown into a full tree, maintaining the plant’s original shape.

Ficus trees often have a circular shape and are wider at the base.

2. If Any Area is Overgrowing, Chop it Off

Have a focused look at your tree and detect if any branch is growing out of its size and causing hindrance in the growth. If you detect any such branch, prune it and give the other branch a space to grow to its full size.

Once you do that, your branches get thinner, and your plants get more excess for the light and the good transfer of wind. It will cause better growth of the plant.

3. If Saw any Vertical Branches, Trim Them Off

If Saw any Vertical Branches, Trim Them Off
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Growth of the vertical branches not only gives an awkward shape and look to your plant but also causes a burden to the tree. The overburdening on the tree resists its growth. If you detect any such kind of branch growth, prune them using loppers or shears, whatever suits you.

4. Never Cut the Lower Branches or Leaves

While shaping their tree, most people start pruning it from the bottom. If you apply the same technique to your ficus tree, it will be a disaster. Why? Because the lower branches and leaves bring the most nutrition to the plant and cause better growth. Moreover, the lower branches and leaves cause the tree to maintain a lightweight and stand strong.

You must avoid doing it if your ficus tree is a rubber tree or a fiddle leaf fig.


We have already talked about how sensitive the ficus trees are and how vulnerable they are to diseases. You must know that when pruning a tree, we open the way for germs to enter the tree and cause it damage. Thus, pruning of the ficus must be done in a very precise way. While pruning, you must take care of the following things:

  • Wash and sanitize the scissors, loppers, or shears before and after pruning your ficus tree.
  • Put on gloves as the ficus releases milk that causes irritation and rashes to the skin. After use, dispose of it carefully.

Keep the following tools with you for precise pruning of the ficus plant:

  • A pair of pruning scissors.
  • A round tray or turntable slightly larger than your container.
  • Branch cutter.
  • Cut paste for more significant cuts.
  • Pruning shears.
  • Permanent marker.


How much time should there be between two pruning of the ficus plant?

Depending upon the severity of the first pruning, you must give a time gap of a few weeks to a couple of months for the next pruning.

Why does the milky sap released by ficus cause irritation to the skin?

The milky sap of the ficus causes the release of histamine in the skin, which causes inflammation and rashes.

How often do we water a ficus tree?

Weekly watering would suit the best trees.

Why do the leaves on the ficus tree turn yellow and fall off?

The ficus tree gets fungus, which eventually causes the tree to turn yellow and fall off after some time.

Why does the ficus tree lose leaves?

The humidity and temperature heavily affect the ficus plant; therefore, climate change causes it to lose its leaves very easily.


Pruning the ficus is easy if you know how to do it. This article explains everything you should and shouldn’t do while pruning your ficus tree.

Note: We have prescribed you to prune the tree only ⅓ of it at a time. If, by any mistake, you ever prune the tree more than its ⅓ portion, you need not worry. You can replant that portion in a fresh pot and give birth to a new ficus tree.

However, refrain from transplanting ficus trees with branches or trunks broader than 2 inches (5.1 cm). In such cases, you must take help from a professional gardener to replant it.

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