The Ficus tree is an easy-to-care-for indoor plant, but you will also find gardeners cultivating it outdoors.
Generally, plants achieve greater leaf size and height outdoors than indoors.
Did you know that the Weeping Fig can reach a grand height of 60 ft. (18 m) as an outdoor plant according to the University of Florida? This means your outdoor Ficus tree will require more frequent pruning.
Let me share with you what method and time are best to prune an outdoor Ficus tree.
How and When Is an Outdoor Ficus Tree Trimmed?
An outdoor ficus tree is trimmed by trimming the dead or damaged branches. Then go for healthy foliage. Make sure to get rid of all broken or overlapping branches to have a healthy Ficus tree receiving good airflow and sunlight. Ideally, winter is a perfect pruning season, but dead foliage can be removed any time of the year.
Steps for Pruning Your Outdoor Ficus Tree
Timing is critical for the proper trimming of the Ficus tree. Avoid pruning this plant during its active growing seasons.
The Ficus tree grows actively in spring or summer, whereas growth declines in autumn. The plant enters dormancy once the cold winter months arrive.
Dead branches and leaves can be trimmed at any time of the year. But winter is the ideal season for regular trimming of Ficus tree.
Some growers also recommend pruning your plant after new growth emerges to make sure you do not trim recovered foliage.
Trimming helps you give a manicured but natural-looking appearance to your plant. But it also keeps your plant robust by focusing the energy on healthy parts.
Below I have listed all the steps for pruning an outdoor Ficus tree.
- You will need a clean pair of pruners and hand gloves for your safety. I would recommend using pruners that are designed specifically for narrow stems and close work.
- The Ficus tree produces a milky sap that can cause skin irritation. Therefore always wear gloves and/or safety goggles.
- I would suggest taking extra caution while pruning outdoor plants to avoid damaging nearby plants. Analyze the whole plant and decide which areas should be trimmed.
- Locate a growth node, the point where the twig or leaf joins the stem. Nodes can be identified as bumps on the stems.
- You should trim before the node on the stems because as new growth sprouts, the stump will hide under it, and the trimming will not be obvious.
- Make sure you cut close to the node. Always make slanting cuts away from the growth or secondary branch.
- If your Ficus tree is tall, you should focus on reducing the height by trimming foliage at the top. But if you want to create or maintain a silhouette for your plant, make a trimming plan before starting.
- Make clean cuts using sterilized and sharp tools to make sure the trimming is not too obvious. Always start trimming by removing the dead, yellow, or brown foliage and then move to healthy foliage for downsizing.
- Branches broken or damaged by strong winds or any other factor should also be trimmed. Removing these broken parts will maximize the nutrients and water distribution to healthy parts of the Ficus tree.
- Unhealthy branches should be pruned to the point you notice healthy or green growth to help your plant heal.
- You can also trim thick, overlapping branches to improve air circulation or sunlight exposure for foliage hiding under these branches. If any of the branches are obstructing your walkway, trim them as well.
- If you want to trim a whole branch, you should cut it back to the trunk without leaving any nodes behind.
- Never prune more than 1/3 of the plant, even if you have a large amount of dead growth. Else the heavy pruning can further stress the plant. As the plant recovers within a few days, you can repeat the process and remove the remaining dead parts.
- If your plant is large, even after pruning 1/3 of the plant, you should repot or propagate your Ficus tree to give it room for growth.
- Water your plant thoroughly after trimming to help relieve stress on the root system.
- To help your Ficus plant adjust to its new shape, avoid fertilizing for 2 or 3 weeks.
Pruning Tips for an Outdoor Ficus Tree
Expert gardeners discourage moving your Ficus tree every now and then because this plant dislikes being moved.
Following are some pruning tips based on my experience.
- Thin fabric or latex gloves are not recommended for protecting your hands from the Ficus sap. You should wear thick gardening gloves.
- Before trimming, assess your Ficus tree and identify the stems that make the skeleton of the plant. Avoid pruning these branches.
- Prune above the leaf scars (the point where leaves grew originally) in spring to have a fuller plant.
- Before bringing your Ficus Tree inside for the winter months, thoroughly trim your plant.
- The Ficus tree will react to pruning stress (or environmental stress) by suddenly dropping a large number of leaves. If this happens, avoid pruning your plant for some time and maintain optimum growing conditions to help it recover.
- Never remove all the branches because this will stress out your Ficus tree, and the trunk alone is not enough for the plant to survive.
- Avoid trimming the foliage in the lower part of the tree because these bring vital nutrients to the trunk of the Ficus tree. However, these branches and leaves can be thinned lightly for better growth.
- Winter is the best season for shaping your outdoor Ficus tree.
- To encourage branching and grow a fuller Ficus tree perform pruning in the spring season.
- Never use the clippings of Ficus tree for composting or mulching because they are toxic.
Why Pruning an Outdoor Ficus Tree is Important
Ficus tree will thrive outdoors all year round in USDA hardiness zones 10-12.
But for other zones, grow them outdoors during summer and move them inside once the temperature starts dropping below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).
They appreciate the morning sun and afternoon shade in the summer season.
The hardiness zone can vary depending on the species you are growing. These plants are a popular choice for exterior landscaping in warm zones of tropical and subtropical areas.
This plant is a fast grower under optimum conditions, so you will soon notice it taking over the outdoor garden.
You will need to prune your Ficus tree for the following reasons.
- It is losing the arched shape because of heavy growth on the ends of stems
- To maintain a more compact appearance
- To increase branch formation
- It is blocking the airflow for other plants in your outdoor garden
This plant has bent branches which is the reason behind its second name Weeping Fig Tree, but to maintain the bent appearance, your plant might require extra care from your side.
This is where trimming and pruning come in handy.
Most growers like to maintain the leafy crown and the bush-like shape of the Ficus tree. But every Ficus plant does not have this appearance naturally, so it should be trimmed regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions about How and When to Trim an Outdoor Ficus Tree
Should I prune my outdoor Ficus tree only in winter?
The Ficus tree is a tolerating plant that is hardy and resilient in both indoor and outdoor environments. Therefore, pruning or trimming can be performed at other times in the year as well. Winter or dormant season pruning is mostly recommended because it is less stressful with minimum sap loss.
What is the easiest way to sterilize my pruning tools before trimming my Ficus tree?
You should always practice safe gardening techniques by sterilizing your tools before and after any process. You can use one teaspoon of bleach in two cups of water to create a cleaning solution. Dip your tools in this solution to disinfect them.
How can I protect the freshly pruned outdoor Ficus tree from fungus and diseases?
Apply cut paste to the freshly cut stems or pruned areas to protect the Ficus tree from fungus or diseases.
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Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.