Ficus: Multi-Stemmed to Standard

ces797(6)January 9, 2012

Hi Guys

I know this is not the proper time to undertake any major pruning but I wanted to see which route I should go this summer in pruning my Ficus Lyrata.

I currently have a 5 stemmed Ficus Lyrata, about 5 ft tall today. It's been summering outside every summer since I got it and is doing incredibly well. My question is how best to turn this into a single stemmed "Standard" Lyrata. Would it be best to totally unpot and cut away all stems/root sections that I want to discard leaving only one or could I simply just cut 4 stems down to the soil level without repotting?

With five FULL stems of leaves it's just too wide and I would love to have a single stem with a more formal appearance.

Thanks for your help


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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Are they individual trunks or do they all branch off a common trunk? If they're individual plants, are they old enough so the roots have already fused?

If the plant(s) is/are healthy, cutting it off at the soil line will likely stimulate several NEW stems from each of the old ones you sever. After you answer the questions I can tell you how to best approach the transition.


    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 5:14PM
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Hi Tapla
They are all individual trunks.
I'm not sure how to know how old it is before I got it but I've had it for about 2 years and it was a cuople feet tall when I got it. How do I know if the roots are fused? I assume by that you mean they are all intertwined making it difficult to separate?

That was my worry about clipping down to the soil line although I was mostly worried about cutting 4 trunks down and those roots dying/decaying and turning the soil mix into a rotting situation. But I also didn't want to have to re-pot again since I just did it last spring.

Here are some pictures, sorry for the quality had to use my camera phone

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 4:30PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Why not plan a repot/root pruning this summer? While bare-rooted, you can get a good look at the roots & determine if you can separate the plants or if fused roots foil that tack. If the roots are fused, you can sever all the trunks you want to eliminate below the soil line. While this is no assurance that you won't get basal sprouts from the severed trees, removing any greenery from them as it appears will soon cause the trunks to die back to any roots serving the chosen tree.

Don't worry, your tree will tolerate bare-rooting and root-pruning very well, and I'll walk you through it if you're up for it.


    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 5:18PM
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Hi Al,
I am the proud new owner of a 5 ft single stemmed ficus lyrata. The plant has evenly spread, dense, big healthy leaves from the top to bottom of the stem. I would like to get this to approx 6 feet and convert to a standard. I am hoping you can help me with where to start!
I am based in London and we are heading in to Autumn now. I have the plant in the sunniest room in the house albeit out of direct light and will water and care for per your previous guidance.
The stem is reasonably strong but if it is to support branches it probably needs to be thicker still.
Over the winter am I best to focus on encouraging stem strength or encouraging branch growth? I will look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Thank you kindly in advance!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 3:11PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hey - I'm happy for you - I know you have a strong affinity for that type of plant. If you want the tree to look natural, truncate the main stem at 2/3 the height you eventually want the tree to be. In your case, that would be at 4 ft from the floor This allows the top of the canopy to fill in naturally by the time it reaches 6 ft, instead of it looking like a 'topped' tree. I'd wait to do this until next summer - prolly early June, unless you plan on repotting (as opposed to potting up), in which case you should probably do the repotting first (mid-late June), then wait 2-3 weeks before doing the pruning. Following that, prune every branch with 4 or more leaves back to 2 leaves. This is the best route to a very full tree with lots of leaves and branches - maximizes ramification. Add a recommended strength dose of patience in there, too. ;-)

You actually don't want heavy branches in the canopy - fine branching is highly desirable and that is achieved by maximizing the number of growing points (apices) on the tree via pinching (as described).


    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 4:07PM
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Hi Al. Thanks so much for this! With regards to the pinching required to stimulate branch growth, should I do this now or wait until June/July when I trunkate?
Kind regards,

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 2:43AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You're very welcome, Carrie. This is fun for me.

If you have branches with 3 or more leaves, you can tip prune now, which will get back-budding started or even under way, but it would be best from an energy management standpoint to wait until mid-June or 2-3 weeks after your repot to cut all branches of 4 or more leaves back to 2 leaves.


    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 7:57AM
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Hi Al, agh well thanks all the same! The plant has no branches at all, just the single stem and loads of leaves, but I want to encourage branching so thinking will pinch the top as a starting point. I have attached a pic. Any and all guidance is welcomed! :)

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 9:10AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I didn't reread the thread, but if you want the plant to top out at 6', only prune the tip of the main stem now if it's already more than 4' from the floor.


    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 8:35PM
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ces, you have a very healthy 5 stem ficus - the stems never really thicken up that much. why cut it?
i started with smth like yours about 20 years ago and it was getting leggier and leggier, even in a bright afternoon or morning sun. so i finally tied up the stems together in hope that they will eventually merge - but apparently only young stems can merge, mine did not after 15 years, but the plant liked it and got bushier. then i cut off several 3 foot stems and rooted them and merged 2 and 2 successfully. on the old plant the 'old' brunches produced 3-5 branches within 1 month. i used the technique suggested in another ficus lyrata thread. here's a pic of my 20 year old : on the left it gets western diffused light, on the right about 6 months of very early north eastern low light. and it has been replanted only once about 10 years ago. it is about 8 feet tall. the 2 babies have grown within 3 years to 5'-6'.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 9:38AM
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