Shall I cut Ficus pandurata (fiddle-leaf fig)?

toffee-el(Z8b Sunset Z13 Elev 4650ft)July 16, 2012

My fiddle leaf fig has only one tall stem, leaves on the lower part of the stem are dry and showing some brown around the edges, although the top leaves are green and look great.

I am wondering what will happen if I cut it around half height? Will it divide into two stems and grow from there? or it will die? Also how to cut?

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The HOW to cut part is easy - you just cut. Whether or not you SHOULD cut is a little more complex. A picture that offers some indication of the plants state of vitality and ability to rebound from the pruning is a good idea. Can you provide?

Generally speaking, when you cut a healthy Ficus back, it backbuds and produces new branching/stems behind the pruning cut. How profusely it pushes new growth depends on WHEN you prune, how much you prune, how you prune, and importantly, how much reserve energy the tree has to push new growth.

I've cut Ficus more than 6' tall back to short little 3" stump stubs with no branches, only to have the remaining stub back-bud explosively within a few days ..... but it sounds like you're probably leaning toward a more conservative approach. ;-)

If you've never repotted your tree, you might give some consideration to that undertaking. Tight roots or congested roots can be severely limiting to growth and vitality. Even if you pot up faithfully, root congestion in the inner root mass can seriously affect growth and vitality.

Find more about Ficus in containers below.


Here is a link that might be useful: More if you click me .....

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 5:15PM
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toffee-el(Z8b Sunset Z13 Elev 4650ft)

Thanks Al, great input from someone who knows what he is talking about.

More questions:
Should I take care of the roots by repotting them before the cutting of stem or the other way around? It hasn't been repotted in 4-5 years.... last time was just moving it from a 5g pot to a 10g pot. right after i bought it as a 6ft tall distressed throw away at Lowe's, I paid $5.

After Lowe's, it settled as an indoor house plant in San francisco Bay Area. Last winter it followed me to SoCal desert near Palm Springs. It was indoor for couple of month then we moved it outdoor around March to a spot that's bright but no direct sun.

Currently, it's in an environment with day temp around 105-115F and night 70f or so. A drip system supplies water every other day.

it seems to be happy with lots of new leaves. and almost 11 - 12ft tall tilting towards the sun light. Single stem and willowy.

Ideally, I would like to cut it down to say 5 ft and allow it to branch out.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 6:39PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I would normally do the repot first because it's to your advantage to leave foliage in place to make the food that will fuel new root growth, but if you can say your plant is in good health and growing well, you can do both procedures at once with no problem. I might only partially cut the top back for now, than after a week or two of evidence pointing to renewed top growth, cut the top back as you please. I'd suggest cutting it back to somewhere between 1/2-2/3 the height at which you'd like to maintain the tree. As the top fills ion it will provide the rest of the ht.

With a little foreplanning and creative pruning, your tree can be maintained at almost any ht you'd like it to be, indefinitely, and still look attractive.

Best luck - if you have additional questions ......


    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 7:38PM
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toffee-el(Z8b Sunset Z13 Elev 4650ft)

If the ultimate goal is to have it indoor and grow to 10ft tall (12ft ceiling) and around 5ft diameter. Would it's current 15g pot be big enough?

If it is, then all I will do may be pruning the roots, cut away some of the root mess, replace say 50% of the soil with new potting soil? Then wait a week or two before cutting the stem.

Any suggestion or critique on the above approach? What about timing, now or wait til it starts to cool down in Nov or so.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 11:36PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Don't read this as snotty, because it's not - it;s your tree, so do whatever you feel comfortable with. If it was my tree, I'd go all the way, bite the bullet & completely bare root so I can remove offending roots in the middle of the root mass. Those are limiting your plant now or will be in the future. There is no way around that fact other than by getting into the roots and correcting the problem. This offers the advantage of making it much easier to prune roots in subsequent sessions. If you decide to go forward with the bare-rooting, I can offer more specific help or refer you to threads where I advised others on the same procedure. You can always change the objective if you think it's going to be more than you're willing to handle & only do part of the work. I've worked on a LOT of trees where the roots were too contorted and intertwined to completely correct in one session, but I eventually manage to completely bare root everything I grow that's woody.

Ficus love the heat, but they don't especially like their root temperatures much above 90* - or their growth slows dramatically. You'll probably be ok to go ahead now if you shade the plant, even if temperatures are higher than 90* - the evaporative cooling from the moisture in the soil will lower soil temps 10-15% below ambient if the pot is shaded.

W/o seeing your tree, I'm guessing that if it's in a 10 gallon pot now, when your done repotting it could probably go back in a 5 gallon pot. Certainly 10 gallons is more than enough to sustain what you describe (unless I'm missing something) for many years. Please be sure not to over-pot - especially if you're using a peat-based commercially prepared soil. While there are things you can do to help deal with an overly water retentive soil, it's better for the plant if you don't have to.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 7:40AM
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toffee-el(Z8b Sunset Z13 Elev 4650ft)

It's in a 15g not a 10g. It's one of those indoor plastic pot with a build-in 2.5 inches deep water compartment attached to the base of the pot. I think the pot drains well as there are multiple holes at the bottom, but once the roots penetrated those holes, they can swim in a pool of water. Luckily here in the desert, water evaporate really fast.

I am going to follow your advise and bare root the plant this week. Should I move it indoor once re-pot? or that would be too big a change for a plant after major surgery? I am afraid that leaving it outdoor means 110F temp most of the day although its in shade.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 1:31PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If the pot's shaded, it should be ok outdoors. If you move it indoors, it's likely it will defoliate within a few weeks unless it's REALLY bright where you site it.

I'd lose that pot with the built in collection tray in favor of a pot and a separate tray, which allows you to raise the pot above the effluent that collects in the saucer. This is important. ALL the salts in your tap water & fertilizer solution remain in the saucer & find their way back into the soil. That in itself is undesirable, but it's especially so if you make a less than ideal fertilizer choice because the ratio of nutrients in the soil quickly becomes badly skewed.

I'd look around the hydroponics shops (phone) for Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 as my fertilizer choice, too.

Just sayin' ..... ;-)


    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 3:02PM
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