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5 Steps How To Prune A Fiddle Leaf Fig Into A Tree

5 Steps How To Prune A Fiddle Leaf Fig Into A Tree

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Originating from the lowland rainforests of Western Africa, the fiddle leaf fig grows large, upright leaves that fill a space with vibrance and sophistication. 

It is also known as Ficus Lyrata and extends to about 12 meters in its natural habitat. 

However, fortunately, in artificial or indoor conditions, it reaches up to 6 meters only. But the intensity of its attractiveness stays just the same. 

Having a fully grown fiddle leaf fig in your home can be a real focal point, but only if it is grown in the classical tree shape.

This requires some skill to achieve as a ficus doesn’t normally grow like this on its own.

I had to learn these skills on how to prune a fiddle leaf fig into a tree, and now, you can too.


How To Prune A Fiddle Leaf Fig Into A Tree

Start off with clean, sharp pruning scissors and proceed with motions that are least damaging or crushing to prune a fiddle leaf fig into a tree. Make an incision just above the top of the node you have decided to cut, avoiding cutting right above it. Now let your fiddle leaf fig develop new branches. Till then, do not strip the leaves off the trunk; these leaves encourage new lateral bud growth. The goal is to remove lower branches and leaves that are out of shape.


Steps On How To Prune A Fiddle Leaf Fig Into A Tree


Step One: Preparations

Before I start pruning my ficus, I clean my cutting equipment. Some people cut with a scalpel, though this can be dangerous.

Others prefer pruning shears. Whichever you choose, be sure the blades are clean, sterilized, and sharp.

Bruising your ficus can result in infections, and damaging the branches and leaf attachments can result in the fiddle leaf fig going into shock.

Get a pair of hand gloves and wear an apron so as not to dirty your clothes. For those with allergies, I also recommend wearing a face mask.


Step Two: Pre-Pruning Rules

The best time to trim my ficus is in spring. This is because the fair weather will help my ficus recover from the stress of pruning.

I am always careful never to cut more than 10% of the total foliage from my ficus.

A fiddle leaf fig is susceptible to sudden changes, and it can easily go into shock and die due to a harsh trimming.

I always plan ahead of time which branches and leaves I will be cutting. Removing a branch is final.

I can’t stick it back, so I need to be sure I want to cut it before I do. Marking them before I start cutting is a good idea.

It also allows me to have a good idea of the final shape I am striving for. Plus, by marking the leaves and branches, I can ensure I stick to the 10% rule.

There’s a method to cut a branch or a leaf. I don’t simply snip it off.

Cuttings should be sharp, clean, and swift to avoid bruising. Cuts should be half an inch from the trunk.

Usually, when you create a longer cut section, you’ll have more branches to grow. The size of the cut section also affects the height of the plant.

I’m careful when making cuts as they can become infected, and by removing the cuttings, I ensure there can be no secondary infections.

My ficus will grow some time after the trimming, and the cut where the leaves or branches are removed will result in two branches forming from the cut.

This results in new branches and leaves forming.

Any procedure I do with my fiddle leaf fig will make it fragile and easily stressed. Therefore, I don’t fertilize my ficus for at least a month after pruning.


Step Three: Removing Damaged Branches And Leaves

When I am pruning, I start by marking the damaged leaves or branches as these HAVE to go.

Keep their appearance in mind when viewing the plant’s overall aesthetic.

Thus, I trim only these marked leaves and branches, and then I can do a more detailed trim later in spring when the fiddle leaf fig has recovered.


Step Four: Removing Branches That Cross

A fully grown fiddle leaf fig can become quite dense due to cross branches, which makes the ficus more like a bush.

By removing cross branches, the tree’s density is improved to enable better airflow and light to reach all the remaining leaves.


Step Five: Shaping My Fiddle Leaf Fig Into A Tree

By placing my fiddle leaf fig in the position I want to have it in my house, I can decide which branches or leaves I need to remove.

The idea is that I remove branches that are low and any leaves that also hang low.

The tree shape is achieved by “cleaning up” the trunk, so there is a barren trunk and a lush leafy canopy at the top.


Why A Fiddle Leaf Fig Needs To Be Pruned

Before I start, I ask myself why am I pruning my ficus.

A fiddle leaf fig is naturally supposed to be in a tree shape, but with the artificial lighting conditions in our homes, these plants often become oddly shaped.

This is not only unsightly, but it can also lead to my ficus constantly falling over or becoming really twisted when it grows into the ceiling.

By knowing why I need to prune my ficus, I will better know what to look at, how to select leaves and branches to trim, and follow a more conservative approach as a fiddle leaf fig is a sensitive plant.

Cut too much off and my ficus could die.


Pinching the Tips of a Fiddle Leaf Fig

Simply pinching the new buds at the top with your fingers will not stimulate significant lateral growth from the main trunk. Therefore, making an incision is a better option.

Pinching is a better choice when you are promoting lateral growth to make your fiddle leaf fig look fuller. 

It usually does not contribute much to growing a tree from a small fig plant. However, for plants that are 12 inches or longer, it may encourage more branching.


The Aftereffects

When done correctly, some white, milky sap oozes out of the trunk. However, this is normal and does not signal danger. 

But please remember not to taste or expose your eyes or lips to it as it may cause allergies or irritation.


Determinants of a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree

Fiddle leaf figs have a slow to moderate growth rate. 

The pattern is mostly dependent on the type of conditions the plant is experiencing. Those in an ideal environment grow much faster than those in compromising conditions.

Providing light, water, and soil in the right proportions makes a drastic difference. Fiddle leaf figs, bushes, or trees love dappled, bright sunlight 6 hours daily. 

These beauties should be watered once a week only, considering their water retaining characteristics. For soils, well-draining and well-aerated soils with compost or horticultural charcoal work wonders.

Moreover, use high-quality, NPK-balanced fertilizers. Avoid giving the plant water that is too cold or hot, and you will have a happy, healthy fiddle leaf fig tree.


Frequently Asked Questions About How To Prune A Fiddle Leaf Fig Into A Tree


Can you make a fiddle leaf fig bush into a tree?

It will take some preparation and time, but you can train your ficus into a tree shape by removing lower branches and leaves and ensuring seasonal trimming to reach the correct tree shape. Trim in spring and be sure to keep the 10% rule in mind, so you don’t remove more than 10% of your ficus’ foliage and avoid your tree going into shock and dying.


How do you shape a fiddle leaf fig tree?

Work slowly, be careful not to damage any of the remaining leaves, and prepare well. Clean your blades before pruning, and when you are cutting leaves or branches, be sure to think and then cut. Remove lower branches and leaves, clearing the trunk of foliage.


How long does it take for a fiddle leaf fig tree to grow?

Fiddle leaf fig has a slow to moderate growth rate. To reach full maturity and develop into a tree, this plant may take up to 10 to 15 years. However, in about 3 to 4 years, the fiddle leaf fig becomes large enough to be considered a tree.


Do fiddle leaf fig bushes grow into trees easily?

With the proper attention and care, you can turn your small fiddle leaf fig into a lofty tree brightening up your garden. Please be sure to use the correct soil, fertilizer, and watering schedule for the healthiest growth pattern.



Take your time when pruning your fiddle leaf fig into a tree. There is no rush, think before you cut, and position your cutting tools carefully so as not to damage other leaves and branches.

I always play some soothing music while I work, and I spend more time planning which leaves and branches should go than on actual cutting (which is usually faster).

Following the pruning, I ensure my fiddle leaf fig is positioned in a warm, well-ventilated space with bright light to ensure healthy growth can continue.

Happy pruning!