Help Ficus Benjamina Pruning

maltau571August 22, 2014

Hello to everyone,

This is my first post here and I live in the small island of Malta.
I would like someone to give some help as how I can prune my ficus in order for it to become bushier as it is going tall with less leaves on the sides.

This post was edited by maltau571 on Fri, Aug 22, 14 at 15:10

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maltau571

This is the same plant looking at it from above

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 3:02PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

if its indoors year around.. you might not get it very bushy ..

explain the light it gets ...

growing a vibrant plant... usually doesnt involve cutting it up .. to make it more full ...

we have to work on other variables first..... more info .. please ...

welcome to GW ...

ken

BTW: how long has it been in that tiny pot????

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 3:03PM
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maltau571

Hi Ken and tks for answering.

I got it inside to take the picture. It is in my backyard and it gets daylight in shade. I had it in the pot for about 15 months

This post was edited by maltau571 on Fri, Aug 22, 14 at 15:16

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 3:08PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The plant's natural tendency is to put on long growth, not grow bushy. This is called apical dominance. The plant will also focus at least 2/3 of its available energy on the upper 1/3 of the plant, so to force the tree to expend energy on the lower 2/3, the upper 1/3 should be restrained by pruning. This is how you balance the energy flow so the upper part of your tree doesn't prosper at the expense of the lower part.

I would shorten the top of the tree, cutting it back a fair amount to a branch that compliments the main trunk line and will act as the new leader. You essentially have a twin trunk arrangement, so I would shorten the subordinate trunk, following the same guideline. I would then prune the growing branch ends off all branches that have more than 2 leaves.

If the plant is very root bound, that's a problem. Tight roots tend to slow growth and cause the loss of interior foliage, leaving the tree with most of its growth concentrated near apices (growing branch tips). You CAN chase the foliage back closer to the trunk through judicial pruning, but it's much more difficult to accomplish that end when the tree is root bound.

The large leaves and long internodes are telling you the plant wants more light. If you want back-budding, you should be fertilizing regularly, making sure the plant gets lots of light, including some early and/or late sun, and making sure there is plenty of air moving around the tree.

Al

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 9:42PM
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maltau571

Thanks talpa for all the info. It seems a bit too technical for me as I am such a novice in all of this. Could anyone mark on my pics where I can do the work on this pls.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 7:04AM
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MsGreenFinger GW(8 Ireland)

I think what tapla wanted to tell you, is pruning once is not enough to reshape your tree on the long term. So you can cut branches back, but you have to understand feeding and care and growth habit of your plant. I am sure he or someone else will mark on your pic where to cut, but later you will have to find it out yourself.
I personally think, there are too many bare branches at the bottom half (where you want more leaves), so you can't just cut off all the top foliage at once. Making it bushy takes long (even a year or two).

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 9:07AM
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maltau571

Thanks MsGreenFinger I am in no hurry to make it look better. I just want to know how to do the job correctly for the first time and then I`ll carry on to the next step. i just don`t want it to grow this way any longer. I know it`s gonna take long to fix it but it will not be any problem for me. thanks again

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 9:40AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It's VERY difficult to tell you where to cut by looking at a 2D picture because of the loss of depth perspective. If you're up for it, make the cuts you see below, then take 2 more pictures with the 2nd picture being 90* (a 1/4 turn) from the first.

Al

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 11:10AM
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maltau571

Tks again tapla. Ok I will prune as where marked and upload a pictures as you said. Thanks so much for this help

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 11:57AM
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maltau571

This is how I pruned it close to the marks shown. I will add another 3 pictures at a 1/4 of a turn anti-clockwise each.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 12:36PM
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maltau571

1st quarter turn

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 12:38PM
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maltau571

2nd quarter turn

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 12:39PM
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maltau571

3rd quarter turn

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 12:40PM
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maltau571

I guess it`s time to repot it into a largar pot as well am I right?

This post was edited by maltau571 on Sat, Aug 23, 14 at 13:47

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 1:03PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

These 2 branches are disproportionately long to be near the top of the tree, The lower branches should be heavier (thicker) and longer; so prune these 2 branches back to 2 healthy leaves or to 3 buds that are just starting to erupt. They will quickly back-bud and give you opportunities to shorten them even further. You want to discourage growth in the upper part of the tree to give the lower part of the tree time to regain strength and put on some growth. What you're doing now might not be pretty, but it is the first step in taking control of HOW the tree grows, so as it ages it will be full and natural.

I can't get a good sense of how some of those lower areas where there are lots of leaves are constructed. Can you take some pictures of where the leaves are concentrated from above?

Al

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 1:55PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I just repruned and wired this F benjamina yesterday. I bought a 3" pot with 5 cuttings in it about 20 years ago. How it looked 3 wks ago was really ugly, so I cut away about 75% of the live branch growth, let it grow a while, and wired it.

I'm sure the branch on the right has to go, but I'm waiting to remove it until it fuses to the trunk. It should be ready for a bonsai pot in about 2 yrs.

Al

This post was edited by tapla on Sat, Aug 23, 14 at 14:04

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 1:59PM
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maltau571

Here`s a picture of some leaves at the bottom

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 2:32PM
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maltau571

I also pruned the last two branches you marked. What next :)

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 2:51PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Make these cuts

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 4:05PM
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maltau571

Ok so from what I am understanding is that wherever I have a branch below I prune to about 4 to 5 leaves and the branches on the upper side pruned to about 2 or 3 leaves. Am I right?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 5:24PM
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maltau571

Will this kind of pruning give me a bushier plant? As that is what I am after. I want it to grow nice and bushy. I am not after a bonsai as I have no idea at all about such things. Hope i am not asking much here

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 6:12PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

What you just did is the beginning of what it takes to make your plant bushy. The foliage will come back more compact and closer to the trunk. After your tree starts back-budding (1-2 weeks) and has had a little more time to recover from the pruning, you can do a second round of pruning that will improve the tree's structure and make it even fuller.
The ideal way to increase ramification (branch and leaf density) is wait until a branch has 4 leaves and then prune it back to 2 leaves. That will build a tree as dense as it can possibly be. Combined with that, you'll need to keep thinning the top 1/3 of the plant, because that will grow twice as fast as the bottom 2/3.
You're not asking too much. I have dozens of ficus that I cut back severely on a regular basis. Here's another benjamina I just nearly defoliated so I could wire it and fix some structural flaws. In a week or so, it will have filled back in so full you won't be able to see the larger branches.
Also, I have a steady stream of friends that bring me trees like yours, or I go to their homes/offices and prune their indoor trees. Not a single complaint yet, and lots of gift cards because I won't take any money unless it's a really big operation and I have to provide the soil.
Having a good understanding of bonsai means you can look far into the tree's future and do for it today what will allow it to look more natural and pleasing to the eye tomorrow. You only need to be a little patient. You'll soon find the tree is back-budding and will see how much fuller it will can be.
Al

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 11:06PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

What you just did is the beginning of what it takes to make your plant bushy. The foliage will come back more compact and closer to the trunk. After your tree starts back-budding (1-2 weeks) and has had a little more time to recover from the pruning, you can do a second round of pruning that will improve the tree's structure and make it even fuller.
The ideal way to increase ramification (branch and leaf density) is wait until a branch has 4 leaves and then prune it back to 2 leaves. That will build a tree as dense as it can possibly be. Combined with that, you'll need to keep thinning the top 1/3 of the plant, because that will grow twice as fast as the bottom 2/3.
You're not asking too much. I have dozens of ficus that I cut back severely on a regular basis. Here's another benjamina I just nearly defoliated so I could wire it and fix some structural flaws. In a week or so, it will have filled back in so full you won't be able to see the larger branches.
Also, I have a steady stream of friends that bring me trees like yours, or I go to their homes/offices and prune their indoor trees. Not a single complaint yet, and lots of gift cards because I won't take any money unless it's a really big operation and I have to provide the soil.
Having a good understanding of bonsai means you can look far into the tree's future and do for it today what will allow it to look more natural and pleasing to the eye tomorrow. You only need to be a little patient. You'll soon find the tree is back-budding and will see how much fuller it will can be.
Al

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 11:07PM
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maltau571

Thanks so so much again for so many information. Never found so much info anywhere. Hope you don`t mind if i keep you updated with what is happening in weeks and months to come. One other question is will the branch marked here which i suppose is the main trunk keep getting higher and thinner too as I have not pruned that part in any way

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 3:59AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It will want to, but it's in your best interest (if you want 'bushy') to keep it restrained by frequent pruning. You can always grow a top easily because that's where the tree puts all its energy. That's a big problem for bonsai growers - how to balance the energy flow of the tree so the lower branches are thicker than the top. You can't do it w/o a workable pruning plan.

Allow the tree recover now & put on some new growth. Lol - it's frustrating not to be able to reach through the monitor and just prune the darn tree. I'd have a plan and the pruning done in 3-5 minutes on a tree that size.

Al

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 4:09AM
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maltau571

Ok many thanks once again. So I guess the first part of this project is done. This is a before and after picture. Hope I did as the teacher asked :). Will keep you updated

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 5:17AM
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maltau571

One other thing pls i think id definetly needs repotting. When do i repot and by how much size do i repot. Thanks again

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 5:19AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Much better. You want the 2 main trunks to be slightly slanted left at the top if viewing your 'after' picture. Do that by guiding the tops left with a pipe cleaner or two, or use directional pruning. The top bud in the 3 pictures on the left will produce branches that lean left, the one on the right will lean right. You'll want to remove any small dead stubs that might result from cutting in the middle between leaves or branches.

Do you have much change in the seasons? If you leave your tree outdoors all year, you can repot any time. If winter temps drop below 13-16*, I'd wait until temps are reliably 15.5* or warmer.

Al

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 10:17AM
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maltau571

Is the picture for directional pruning because as i said earlier I am a total novice in all this. And if I do this do I directional prune both main trunks to go to the left? If I use wire what kind of wire to use? So sorry to sound stupid but I have no idea about wiring

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 10:54AM
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