Trimming Ficus Tree: 5 Easy Steps for Pruning Ficus (Fiddle Leaf Fig) Branches

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | November 9, 2023

Man happily trimming ficus tree in pot after learning how to trim ficus trees indoors, how to prune ficus trees and how to cut ficus branches along with fiddle leaf fig care and trimming practices.

Trimming ficus tree is essential for their health and appearance. Often called the “Weeping Fig” or “Fiddle Leaf Fig”, ficus trees are ideal for indoor and outdoor use.

They can reach as high as fifty feet outdoors, indoors they tend to remain between two and ten feet in height. Maintained indoors, these plants are known to clean the air of bacteria, actinomycetes, and mold.1

The method you use for trimming ficus tree types will do much to determine how high it will grow, and can help with things like fruit yields. Yes, ficus trees do produce fruit,2 but only some of the fruit produced by these trees is of a type you would want to eat.

Additionally, understanding “how long does it take for a tree to grow” is crucial when anticipating its full potential.

Regardless, you need to have an end-game in mind when trimming, whether you’re seeking to beautify the tree’s foliage, situate it for optimum fruit production, or managing its size for the perfect indoor display as part of Fiddle Leaf Fig care.

The good news is, trimming ficus tree growth is fairly straightforward. This guide explores best practices in pruning your ficus trees so that you can ensure that they stay healthy.

Trimming Ficus Tree: 5 Steps on How To Trim “Weeping Fig” Branches

Here are 5 essential steps on how to trim Weeping Fig branches effectively:

1. Determine When Trimming Ficus Tree Is Best Done

For best results, trimming ficus tree branches can be done any time but winter.

Certainly you can trim in winter if you like, but extensive pruning at this time will probably have an adverse effect on the tree.

Graphic of a guide to trimming ficus trees showing a ficus tree with labeled branches including competing branch, central leader branch, crossing branch, dead branch, and sucker, accompanied by tools for trimming at the bottom.

Also, it’s best not to trim in the height of summer. Warm regions with exceptionally high sun can bake the health right out of a ficus, in fact this recently happened in L.A. when trees were trimmed to remove shade from strikers in July of 2023.9

Primary climates for ficus trees are east Asian, warm climates. Australia and Asia are native regions of the ficus tree,2 accordingly, mimicking such climates as possible helps their growth.

Though the ficus is technically an evergreen, you won’t find this tree in Northern climates except indoors, or as specifically husbanded by impassioned arborists who have a niche objective.

If you’re husbanding your ficus indoors, so long as you don’t trim in winter, you’ll be fine. Winter is for shaping, which is a less intensive sort of pruning.

If you want to increase the overall growth of your ficus, trim in early spring, giving the plant a full season to grow. Basically, you either want to trim before or after your tree’s dormant season,10 which is typically in winter.

2. Prune Away Diseased or Broken Branches Anytime

Whether during the dormant season of your ficus, or during its growth season, there is no bad time to get rid of diseased branches. If the branches are broken, if they’re withered, if leaves won’t grow on them, getting rid of them is good for your tree.

Sometimes there are fungal diseases which discolor leaves gradually, eventually affecting the whole branch. Sometimes other issues are at play.

Discolored leaves, dry leaves, spotty leaves, these can all be indicators of issues. This guide can help you identify what you’re dealing with.11

Even if your ficus is stressed, removing dead or diseased branches can be helpful.12 Branches that aren’t dead take away the nourishment the tree draws in from the sun and water.

If branches are diseased, they’re just wasting that nourishment.

Removing them helps the tree. If the branches are dead, they may not draw much nourishment, but they weigh the tree down, changing its shape and reducing its health overall.

Happy trees are well-pruned trees. Identify branches that need to be trimmed.

3. Be Sure To Balance Trimming Based on Size

Ficus trees grow quickly, and when you trim, you might incidentally imbalance the plant.

If there’s a huge dead branch on one side, cutting it off may cause the tree to lean the other direction.

A Weeping Fig tree with green leaves stands inside a greenhouse, accompanied by surrounding tropical plants and flowers, all under a protective mesh ceiling.

(Image: Denise Davis22)

Sometimes you’ve got to prune branches that aren’t diseased so the tree remains balanced. Accordingly, it’s important to strategically trim your ficus while taking its overall size into consideration.

4. Be Deliberate and Strategic in Your Cutting Technique

Once you’ve decided what to cut, where, and when, the next step is to trim the tree properly. You’ll want to first be sure you know how to identify and manage a “node”.

Basically, a node is the point where a twig or further branch growth extends out, think of it as an elbow on a branch.13 You want to cut right before the node on a slight downward slant.

Try not to damage the node itself. Don’t cut all nodes from a given branch, unless you’re totally removing a branch.

Leave at least one node for future growth. When you’re removing an entire branch, cut it off at the “collar”,14 think of that like a little volcano with the branch as magma coming out.

Leave the conical bit called the “collar” intact but cut all of the branch extending out from it. Don’t leave nodes if you’re removing an entire branch, do leave the protrusion from the trunk (or larger branch constituting the “collar”).

5. Have a Branch Disposal Method Ready as You Prune

Once you’ve completed pruning, you’ve got to dispose of the mess. How much you need to get rid of will depend on how extensive pruning was.

Smaller trees don’t require much clean-up. Larger trees may require whole teams to prune and clear associated organic residue.

However, if you’re diligent to carefully maintain your trees year over year, unless there’s a fungal outbreak compromising things, cleanup should be relatively straightforward and manageable. Plan in advance.

If your tree is larger than ten feet in height, you may need several large trash bags and a vehicle that can manage the load as you transport the trimmings to a local yard waste facility. Otherwise, you might be able to simply throw the organic waste out with normal trash when waste management people come in the following week.

It will depend on the size of the tree, and how your community manages organic waste like that which develops from yard management. One thing you don’t want to do is leave branches or leaves lying around.

This can hamper other foliage on your property, and diseased branches or leaves may spread fungal spores.15

Trimming Near Ficus Tree Nodes Helps Ficus Plant Growth

Beyond being the correct way to trim ficus trees, cutting off unwanted branches near the node tends to help focus the growth of your ficus tree. New growth will sprout from nodes where you’ve trimmed.

One general rule of thumb to keep in mind is this, don’t prune too much in any scenario. You can “eyeball it”.

Don’t prune more than one third of the total mass of the tree,16 no matter how diseased it is. The goal here is to give your ficus the best chance it can get at healthy growth.

Three ficus trees with vibrant green leaves standing side by side in a garden, surrounded by a decorative arrangement of white, flat stones on a bed of grass.

(Image: PublicDomainPictures21)

However, there comes a point where, if you prune too much, you not only release the burden of the unfruitful growth, but you decrease the ability of the tree to maintain homeostasis.17

Think of it this way, amputation of a limb with gangrene keeps gangrene from infecting the rest of the body. If too many amputations occur, the human body can’t maintain health and will steadily decline like a flame losing fuel and winking out.

Trees are quite similar. They can take some damage in terms of pruning, but too much and they can’t sustain themselves.

Trimming Ficus Tree: How To Find the Best Arborist or Tree Trimming Service

When you’re dealing with a huge ficus tree, unless you have experience and understand the best way to be safe, it’s advisable to engage a tree trimming service and work with professionals. Large trees require chainsaws for proper pruning, and you’ve got to use them from a high distance up the trunk, or from a cherry picker machine.

That’s a recipe for disaster if you’re a novice. Definitely, it’s wiser to find trimmers if you’ve got a large “unit” you’re trying to manage.

To determine who is best, there are several clear steps to follow. First, you’re likely looking for options that cater to the needs of large trees.

So find large ficus trees in your community that are healthy, flourishing, and gorgeous. When you find them, inquire as to the sort of arboreal maintenance said trees receive.

Sometimes arboreal maintenance is pursued through special arrangements, and you may not be able to secure the services of particular tree maintenance personnel. Generally, companies that manage trees are looking for clients, so this shouldn’t be an issue, unless of course there is some niche government situation in play.

Next, establish what sort of costs are involved. Once you know what to expect, it’s time to shop around.

Explore reviews online, ask neighbors and friends with healthy ficus trees who they work with, and compare pricing between each tree trimming professional.

If you want a tree that looks good and stays that way, it’s best to work with seasoned pros. Remember, you get what you pay for the cost of arborist.

Keep Desired Results in Mind: Why Are You Trimming?

Is trimming ficus tree growth something necessary for other plants in your yard? Are you having trouble maintaining the tree’s size indoors?

Do you want to harvest figs regularly? Are you seeking to improve the health of your ficus?3

Sometimes you’ll need to trim at one time of the year, sometimes at another. It may be prudent to remove healthy branches in some scenarios.

In others, you must absolutely leave them alone. When you know the reason you’re trimming, you’ll be aware what to trim, and when.

Here’s the first set of steps to work through as you prepare to trim your ficus:

  1. Determine why you’re trimming
  2. Determine how extensive trimming needs will be
  3. Identify the best season to trim for the results you need
  4. Acquire the right tools and supplies to expedite the work

What Types of Tools Are Needed, and Best Practices for Use?

First you’ll need to determine how extensive pruning will be. Indoor pruning will require a less in-depth approach than managing a fig orchard on your property.

Large or small, here are all the tools traditionally involved in pruning a ficus:

  • Pruning shears for thin branches and smaller trees
  • Loppers for thicker branches up to several inches
  • Pole pruners for high branches on large trees
  • Gloves to avoid skin irritation from “latex” sap4
  • Waste disposal materials: trash bags, etc.
  • Transportation for larger trimming jobs
  • Renting a “cherry picker” if needed5

The smaller the tree, the fewer gardening tools you’ll need. Large trees, especially if there are orchards of them, will require a more in-depth approach.

At the basic level, you’ll want proper shears for whatever specific pruning your ficus needs. Small shears are fine for indoor plants.

Larger trees will benefit from loppers and pole pruners. A very large tree may require you to work with arboreal specialists, as chainsaws, cherry pickers, or ladders could be necessary.

You’ll want gloves. Ficus tree sap specifically from the “Ficus elastica6 family of ficus trees used to be a primary component in rubber, before modern science moved the goalposts.

A ficus tree with thick roots and dense foliage in a park, surrounded by palm trees and overlooking distant buildings.

(Image: Denise Davis22)

Another term for ficus tree is rubber tree, so the ant in “High Hopes” was dealing with a ficus of some variety.7

Lastly, you’ll want trash bags appropriate for the work you’re doing. A small two-foot ficus probably doesn’t require anything more than an old grocery store sack from the odds-and-ends drawer in the kitchen.

A 50-foot ficus will require multiple yard-sized trash bags, and you’ll probably want a trailer that can attach to a pickup hitch to haul them where yard waste is disposed of in your community.8

Keeping Your Ficus Tree Healthy and Beautiful

Ficus trees can add “value interest” to a property.18 In a nutshell, proper landscaping, especially when incorporating landscaping trees, of any stripe tends to benefit property value overall, and can add thousands in worth to a home or business campus.

By some estimates, proper landscaping expands property value by 15% to 20%.19

Indoor ficus trees that are portable won’t have quite the same effect, but they’re still worth maintaining for interior aesthetic enhancement and air purification. One thing to keep in mind, roots of ficus trees are “invasive”,20 so if you are planting to beautify the premises, be careful to strategically place each tree.

From there, trimming ficus tree growth is a simple matter of determining your goal in pruning, identifying the proper season to prune, getting rid of branches that are diseased or broken, balancing how you trim based on branch size, cutting branches strategically, and managing waste cleanup after the fact.

There’s a bit of a learning curve here, and in some scenarios it’s best to work with arboreal professionals.

By meticulously planning your trimming ficus tree efforts, whatever the scope of the work, your ficus trees will thank you by flourishing longer and more fully.


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5JLG Industries. (2023). Towable Boom Lifts. JLG. Retrieved October 16, 2023, from <>

6Russ, K., & Polomski, R. F. (2015, December 15). Rubber Plant. Clemson Cooperative Extension. Retrieved October 16, 2023, from <>

7Sinatra, F. (2023). High Hopes Lyrics. The Genius Test. Retrieved October 16, 2023, from <>

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11Norman, D. J., & Ali, G. S. (2018, August 2). Ornamental Ficus Diseases: Identification and Control in Commercial Greenhouse Operations. University of Florida IFAS Extension. Retrieved October 16, 2023, from <>

12College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. (2023, May 15). Pruning Trees in the Home Landscape. University of Maryland Extension. Retrieved October 16, 2023, from <>

13Bedker, P. J., O’Brien, J. G., & Mielke, M. M. (2023). How to Prune Trees. USDA Forest Service. Retrieved October 16, 2023, from <>

14Wikipedia. (2023, October 9). Branch collar. Wikipedia. Retrieved October 16, 2023, from <>

15Downer, A. J., & Perry, E. J. (2019, August). Wood Decay Fungi in Landscape Trees. Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California. Retrieved October 16, 2023, from <>

16Grant, B. L. (2021, May 16). Trimming Ficus Trees: How And When Should Ficus Be Pruned. Gardening Know How. Retrieved October 16, 2023, from <>

17Gao, J., Zhao, P., Shen, W., Rao, X., & Hu, Y. (2017, April). Physiological homeostasis and morphological plasticity of two tree species subjected to precipitation seasonal distribution changes. Science Direct. Retrieved October 16, 2023, from <>

18Treeworld Wholesale. (2023, May 13). Ficus Trees: Beauty and Versatility. Treeworld Wholesale. Retrieved October 16, 2023, from <>

19Bowman, C. P., & Vukelich, L. (2023, August 3). Does landscaping increase home value? Bankrate. Retrieved October 16, 2023, from <>

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21PublicDomainPictures. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

22Photos by Denise Davis