Growing ficus elastica to have one trunk?

bedtimeMarch 17, 2013

I would like to grow my ficus to be like an actual tree with one bare trunk.

Like this (not my image. only a link to what I'm talking about):

I have a ficus elasctica burgundy that is about a year old and so far only about 20" in height but its in decent condition with whats its been through. The pic is below. It seems to be 'one' plant but has 4 main trunks and several smaller ones. I'd like to remove all but one trunk and let it grow (with just one trunk structure). The arial roots can stay as I find them appealing.

How would I do this? If I pruned the other trunks wouldn't they just grow right back? I'd like them to stay gone. Perhaps prune them in the winter??

Also, I'd like to the trunk to be about 3 feet up before it branches. I know this would take alot of time to grow to this height and that I'd likely have to grow well beyond 3 feet before I pruned to get back budding into several branches at and over the 3 foot line.

So, the question is, how to do this? Examples if possible. Would love to see pics. And possible time frame? I'm thinking this might take a few years, but I'm patient.

Any ideas or suggestions are appreciated.

My current tree (currently i cannot upload as bandwidth is too low):

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Hi Bedtime,

I too prefer one, solo trunk opposed to multi trunks.

The answer to your question, 'if I pruned the other trunks wouldn't they just grow right back?'
The answer is YES, but if you continue pruning, new growth eventually stops, but, takes time. Patience is necessary. :)

The object is to select the strongest and straightest trunk.
Remove extra trunks.
Perhaps, unpotting your Ficus, then pruning excess trunks and roots 'deep as possible', will slow down new growth.

Stake and tie solo trunk so it stands erect.
Ironically, the strongest and straightest trunk is usually nearest the edge of pot. lol.

Saturate soil until water seeps from drainage holes.
I use a product called Superthrive, so a few drops per gallon of water should do. ST works well with newly potted plants, cuttings, seedlings, etc.
Last, half-strength fertilizer, which can be mixed with ST.

BTW, If you're certain you want to continue with this project, begin when Ficus/Rubber Tree produces new growth.
Working on a dormant plant is a no-no.

Last summer, I Solo'ized, lol, my two Rubber Trees. One green, one variegated. I'll try posting pics.
BTW, they do not look like show plants. lol.

Variegated, before...pic was taken 2009

Variegated and green, After

Variegated RT trunk isn't very straight. I figured, after the trunk grew a little taller I'd cut below curve.

Good luck, Bedtime..... Toni

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 2:26PM
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You rock! Thank you so much for taking the time to put all this together for me. Your plants look great! I I just repotted my varigated ficus about a week ago, and I know you said to wait, but I decided to prune it down as I dont want to wait and then stun it again later. Might as well get it all over with now. Yeah, I shouldn't have, but I did. I feel bad now, not following advice when I know its for my own good, sigh. : /

BUT, I am waiting for my ficus burgundy that I posted above. It hasn't been repotted and when I see new growth I'll completely repot with new fir bark / parcilite / peat moss soil and prune it down as you mentioned.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 5:12PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

BT - at the first repot, you'll be able to determine how many plants are actually in your pot. Separate the plants and focus on the most vigorous. Training your plant to grow as a standard isn't something best done all at one time. The leaves and lower branches you remove today(or whenever you remove them) would have 'fed' the trunk, making it thicker & stronger - better able to support the top of the tree. You should leave the lower branches and leaves attached to the trunk while the tree is growing to the desired ht. As long as the tree is healthy and growing well, they can be removed at any time without actually harming the tree, but a wise grower will use them as sacrifice branches to strengthen the trunk and add taper to the tree.

Learn what you can
And go in with a plan. ;-)


    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 5:41PM
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your trunk won't thicken that much for many years. i have ficus lyrata that is at least 20 years old and trunks are still about 1" in diameter. the rubber ficus also tends to grow on tips only - and branches tend to get unbalanced - and will lean the trunk this way or that if too long - so you'll have to prune steady to maintain shape. the lead trunk will tend to grow very tall, while other branches won't! so it might not look too good most of the time, you know. i have seen ficus lyrata smallish standards - about 5' with may be 5 branches and bushy - but that's direct from the nursery with good light and optimal conditions. i have never seen a rubber tree standard. i love the variegated ones like you have and used to have one too - but found it quite temperamental, shedding all bottom leaves and growing just at the tip. i think they really love humidity and warmth. if you had it outside for summer, may be it'll make bushy.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 6:38PM
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Thanx for the advice. Will definately keep what's left of the lower leaves on the varigated ficus and not remove any on the burgundy when I repot in the coming months. For now I actually like the bottom leaves so it's all good.

And I chose the strongest growing trunk on the varigated ficus. :)


Good info. It seems this might take a while. : / Anywho, that's okay. I have time. I would pay good money to get an indoor grown ficus at a nursary but they usually only seem to sell small ones that around about 1.5 - 2'. Varigated are even smaller.

I'll be putting most of my plants outside on the balcony when it hits 14C+. They'll be out for about 5 - 6 months and will receive full unobstructed sunlight from about 10 am - 8 pm. This should be enough to give some serious growth hopefully.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 7:37PM
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i hope you mean at night? it's tropical, so min is at 60-65F, so it's ..more like 15-17C at night. and it does not take direct sun all day - it has to be filtered. it might burn. although in tropics they can be in full sun, the indoor trees won't be able to take it. they need shade above 80F(28C).

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 7:50PM
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I bring them out when the temp is about 14C and back in at night if the morning temp is going to be below 15C. If I notice burn damage I'll put it in the corner of the balcony where there is shade most of the day but the transition outside in full sun will be a slow one. Right now it's getting full sun indoors and is doing fine.

Thank you for mentioning this though. It's a great point and I'll keep this in mind a little more since you mentioned it.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 8:03PM
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You can definitely buy lollipop rubber plants - from Holland they cost me the equivalent of about $60-$70 trade price, so I guess you'd be well into three figures retail, but they are nice with a big straight trunk.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 4:04AM
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You did an excellent job pruning your Rubber Tree. It's standing quite erect and perfectly centered.
Upper foliage is large; you're definately doing something right. :)

Yes, it can take years for a solo/Standard trunk to thicken, but waiting if fine with me.
I've never seen standard Rubber Trees sold locally, but they are available online.
Still, I'd rather wait than pay 150.00 and up for a plant. Not to mention shipping cost. That's the reason I said, waiting is fine with me. :)

It's recommended repotting/pruning from spring-summer, but IMO, most rules aren't written in stone.
If one knows what they're doing, 'appears you do,' there's nothing to fret over.
Bedtime, don't feel bad. :)

Did you save or toss additional rooted trunks? Doesn't hurt to keep second or thirds as a precaution. Know what I mean?

Do you feel green/burgundy grows faster than variegated?

Good luck with both Ficus. I'm certain they'll do well. You sound determined; determined people get the job done.

Hi Al.

StewartsJon. Now, that's one, beautiful standard tree! I love it.
What's its height? Toni

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 12:54PM
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I tied a green peg to the varigated plant and now it is standing perfectly straight.


Wow, that is a beauty. If I could find that at a nursary I'd easily put a couple hundred down for it but they don't seem to sell anything over 2'.


I tossed the other trunks. I don't want any more plants then I already have... I found that my burgundy grows about 50-100% faster then the varigated version with leaves about 50% bigger.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 5:22PM
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