Pruning My Fig

You may have noticed in my previous post how tall my Fiddle Leaf Fig has gotten. In the two years that I have had it, it has grown at least a foot. That seems slow, but I haven’t exactly taken the best care of it. Unfortunately, the height increase of the tree hasn’t quite had the affect one would hope. Instead of a full, lush tree, I had a tall, lanky one. The lankiness was further exaggerated by the ‘Y’ shape of the tree: the taller the tree got, the wider the ‘Y’ spread.

Our Living Room, March 2013

I searched for options for how I might make my tree look fuller and less lanky. Could I stake a branch, or somehow bind the branches to lessen the spread? Those options seemed like it could only hurt the plant. So I started doing some research and found that I could prune the tree, actually lop off the top, to force new growth further down the branch.

Our Living Room, February 2015

But taking shears to my (sort of) lovely tree made me nervous. Where exactly should the cut be made? Should the cut be treated with something? Can I fertilize after I cut? So many questions that I couldn’t really find answers to online. I thought, surely there’s someone I can talk to who can walk me through this. On a whim, I called a local company, Calvert’s, which provides plants to commercial facilities and also maintains them. The woman who answered the phone was able to answer all of my questions in a way that made it sound like she had actually done it before. I was filled with confidence. So here’s what I did…

I made sure my shears were clean and sanitized, and then identified where I wanted to make the cut.


One branch was slightly longer than the other, so I wanted to even that out a bit. I could have pruned both branches, but I was nervous about stressing the plant out too much in one go.


Once I lopped off the top, the entire branch bounced back from the lost weight. I should end up with two separate branches extending from this cut. I’ve heard that you can also nick the bark above an existing leaf to encourage additional branching.

What’s fun about this next step is, in the end, I may end up with another tree! I took the piece of branch that I just lopped off, dipped the cut end into rooting hormone, and stuck it in a vase with water. It’s been just about 2 weeks and the beginnings of roots are starting to emerge. I’ll let these babies become a web of roots before I set this propagated plant into soil.



Let’s get back to the tree. A word of caution: when cut, the Fiddle Leaf Fig will leak sap that is mildly caustic, so be prepared to dab it up once you have made your cut. I was caught off-guard by just how quickly the sap came out. Picture me frantically running around my living room looking for a napkin while balancing a teaspoon’s worth of sap on an upside-down Fig branch. Once pruned, the tree side of the cut doesn’t need to be treated anything and will actually heal on its own.

Right after, I fertilized the tree and plan to continue to do so monthly until the end of time. Why? because it seems like every time I fertilize, the plant goes wild. Here’s evidence:


This new leaf didn’t come from the pruned branch, but I’m still excited about it because that means the pruning I did didn’t cause any stress to the plant. I consider that a success!

Have you had any good or bad experiences pruning plants? Have you been able to do any propagating? I’d love to hear about it!


5 Comments to “Pruning My Fig”

  1. A bit off topic —- but the fig tree in our back yard is over-producing at present, putting out more fruit than we (or our nearby friends) can possibly consume. We have under-watered it, if anything, since California is a water-negative zone. Yet even without apparent sustenance —- the fig is having a banner year, fruit-wise. Hmmmm. And also….yummmmmm.

  2. That’s what’s so addicting about gardening — you can create additional plants so easily to keep or share! Which reminds me, I’m rooting some forsythia to give to you, and just like your fig plant cutting that you’re rooting, it’s attractive in its own little vase!

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