Growing and Pruning Your Fiddle Leaf Fig

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I’ve recently written a more specific post on How to Grow a Fiddle Leaf Fig from Bush to Tree form – check it out if you’re interested in this topic! ๐Ÿ™‚

Fancy a Fiddle Leaf Fig? Those waif-like trunks with leafy foliage are quite eye-catching! You can splash out on buying a full-grown plant but this can be expensive – and risky – if you havenโ€™t looked after one before! A much better option is to buy a cheaper and smaller Fiddle Leaf Fig, and enjoy the process of caring and training the plant yourself. Here’s a guide to growing and pruning your Fiddle Leaf Fig, from bambino to adult size!

Growing and Pruning Your Fiddle Leaf Fig - A guide for small plant or bush to standard tree form.

There’s no question that the Ficus Lyrata aka Fiddle Leaf Figs are the new ‘it’ plant for indoors and generally they are quite easy to look after! I have recently purchased a bambino Fiddle Leaf Fig myself and have scoured the interweb for the best info on how to grow and train the FLF into the shape you want.

I have heard it said that there are in fact two types of Fiddle Leaf Fig, the bushy type which you can often buy in a cluster of trunks and the more standard / tree form, but whichever one you have, you can always prune and manipulate it to look how you would like it to look. The standard tree form is more popular, but if you have a bushy type, with time and a bit of work you can train it to look like the decor tree of your dreams! Read on for the guide.

Basic Care

The main factors in your Fiddle Leaf Fig’s growth are light, soil and water.

Light: If its indoors your plant will need to be away from direct beams of sunlight, but still getting lots of indirect light such as near a window. They don’t like droughts of cold air.

Soil: Well-draining soil is best so as to not keep the roots damp, which prevents root rot.

Watering: Watering may vary depending on the conditions your Fiddle Leaf Fig is in, but generally once or twice a week is enough. You can let the soil dry out between watering. If the leaves are turning brown it may be getting too much water or not enough light and if the leaves are turning yellow it may be getting too much light. Change something in your figโ€™s lifestyle and give it time to react: move itโ€™s position, change water levels etc.

Growth: During Spring and Summer is when your FLF will appear to grow the most and be getting lots of energy from extra sunlight hours. During autumn and winter it may appear dormant – the fig is conserving its energy to make it through the winter months and may not grow too much.

Change: Generally FLFs donโ€™t like change, so if you are planning on doing something drastic (like pruning, splitting a cluster or re-potting) do it at the beginning of a new season of growth, aka Spring so it has enough energy reserved to push through the added stress.

How to Repot or Pot-Up

When your Fiddle Leaf Fig is looking too big for the pot it may be time to pot-up (aka move it to a larger pot). This will give it more room to grow and get taller. It is also a good idea to fully re-pot your FLF (which means removing as much soil from the roots as you can, trimming and planting it in new soil), which will give it fresh nutrients to grow with rather than reusing the same old soil.

How to Train you Fiddle Leaf Fig into a Standard Tree form (from bush / cluster or small plant)

 

Image via
Image via

While its tempting to get out the secateurs and start clipping your FLF to instantly look like a standard form, this may not be the best way to go about it. Those drool-worthy interior design pics make it so tempting! While your FLF may not be the ideal shape at the moment, if you allow some planning and time to go into it you will end up with a much nicer tree! The process might take at least a couple of years or seasons of growth to get it to the tree you want, but this is OK. Be patient and enjoy the process of training you fig.

Firstly, donโ€™t remove the lower leaves! These help bring nutrients to the lower trunk and therefore strengthen and thicken it. FLFs are known for having waif-like trunks, but if the trunk is too thin it wonโ€™t be able to hold up the leafy tree-top part like you want and will forever need to be staked or be leaning. In my opinion, removing the lower leaves is probably the last step to do.

Separating a Cluster: If you have a cluster or group of FLFs in one pot, you can separate them to be single trees. At the start of the growing season, remove them from their pot and carefully separate the roots, giving each plant an appropriate root ball for its size (If you have to cut the roots apart, make sure each plant has a root ball respective to the plant’s size). Replant each one in its own pot. This forum is lengthy but has some great info on one of the key elements in your fig’s growth – the soil!

Branching: If your Fiddle Leaf Fig is one trunk with no branches, there are also ways you can help it sprout new branches. One way is to nip off the tip / top few leaves of the trunk to encourage new growth. Another process is called notching, where you make a small cut into the trunk just above a bud you want to branch. This will trick the tree into branching out at this point.

If there are branches you donโ€™t want on your FLF, just remove them close to the trunk. You can also use them for propagating and growing a new FLF! If thereโ€™s more specific information you need, these Indoor plant forums have a wealth of good info worthy of sorting through.

Are you embarking on a journey with a new FLF? Let me know how its going in the comments below, I’d love to hear about it!

I’ve recently written a more specific post on How to Grow a Fiddle Leaf Fig from Bush to Tree form – check it out if you’re interested in this topic! ๐Ÿ™‚

My bambino FLF!
My bambino FLF!

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34 Comments
  1. My friend dropped a 6 ft. Fiddle Fig plant off she no longer wanted. Love it! But its to tall and is starting to lean. It has two stalks. Can I saparate them into two plants. And can I prune it to the height I want. Its in side now because I live in ohio. It has leaves down to the base of the trunk. Says not to remove these. So how do you getting looking like a tree?

    1. Hey Lesha! If it has two stalks coming out of the dirt, it is most likely two plants that can be separated when repotting. The lower leaves help the stalks grow thick and healthy so if it is already leaning, it might be best to keep them until it can support itself. Alternatively you could prune it from the top so there’s not so much strain on the stalk. From what I’ve read, the tree form can be constructed from removing the lower leaves. If you do any pruning or repotting, just make sure you wait until Spring when your FLF hits another growing season! Hope that helps ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. hi, i just bought my own fiddle fig leaf but it the bushes one, is there any other way that i can make it become a tree one. ? or i just need wait for it to grow as a tree ? by the way its just about 3 feet

    1. Hi there, you can remove the lower leaves to create the tree-like shape, however the lower leaves help the trunk grow strong so it’s best to only remove them once your FLF is at a desired height with a strong trunk. You can look into removing the growing tip to help it branch out and pruning to grow taller if that’s what you’re after. You can buy more mature trees that already have the tree-form although they do get expensive! I’m in the process of growing mine into a tree-form too ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Hi, I had been looking a the fiddle leaf fig and I bought one for a friend hoping I would wait until spring so I could get me one cheeper , but the day before Christmas I luck up and went to a home depo and found one it was only 12 dollars so my husband got me 2 of them . They are about 1-2 foot and they are a bush. I want a tree also. Do I wait until they are about 3-4 foot tall and do I start taking leaves off the bottom first then pinch the top so they branch out. I know I have to do it slowly but I want a tree so bad. This is my first 2 plants. Thanks for the help.

    1. Hey Gwendolyn! Thanks for your comment. That sounds like a great deal on two FLF’s, as you might know the bigger they are, the more expensive they get (and quickly!) You definitely have the right idea, FLFs naturally start as a bush form and with a bit of training and pruning (and patience) you can shape them into a tree. I would only take off the bottom leaves once the trunk is nice and strong, or as the last step in your process. You can pinch the stop when it has reached the height you would like it to branch around. This is a good forum which goes into a bit more detail.
      http://forums2.gardenweb.com/discussions/4234290/training-fiddle-leaf-fig-bush-into-a-tree
      Hope that helps you! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Thank you for all of your great advice on FLF’s! I have a FLF tree whose branches and leaves have gotten so wide and heavy I am concerned it will start tipping over! Is there anyway to encourage the tree to grow upwards instead of becoming a top-heavy tree? It has one trunk. Thank you!!

    1. Hey Janel, thanks for your comments! I would suggest pruning the branches that are growing too far outwards back closer to the trunk – you can use these to propagate new FLFs! With the outwards-growing branches gone, it may redirect its energy and effort into growing upwards. Check out the plant forums on Houzz which can help with more specific info, you can even post your own pics and questions to get plant-specific advice. It really helped me, I hope it does for you too ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Hi! Thanks for all the great advise! I was planning on pruning my 7 foot single FLF bush this coming spring since it’s almost touching my ceiling. I was wondering what you meant by “pinching” the top? And when making notches on the side of the trunk to encourage branching in a specific area, how deep should I notch into the trunk? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jen, Pinching the top refers to literally ‘pinching’ out with your fingers the very growing tip, which is said to encourage new growth below to create a thicker, fuller effect. You would definitely need to do more than just pinching if your FLF is touching the ceiling though, pruning sounds like a good idea. Notching is generally done about a third of the width of the trunk, above an area you’d like to see growth. There’s lots more specific info in the plant forums linked above if you need! Hope that helps ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Hi,
    I just bought a single bush from a store in Estonia. I can send you a picture. I read your writings and i just want to say thanks. I am going to go through the process of trying to turn it into a tree. Right now i am going to just let it acclimate to its new home.
    Thanks,
    Scott

    1. Thanks for your comments Scott! It’s always a good idea to let your FLF acclimatize to its new surroundings. All the best! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I have an 8 foot FLF that is looking healthy. It has a main trunk with 3 branches on top. One of the branches has taken off, growing like crazy. The other two branches don’t seem to be growing much. I’d like to keep it looking like a normal “ball” on top. Should I prune down the one branch to where it should be? Wouldn’t that encourage more growth and make the tree more lop sided?
    Thanks

    1. Hey Eric! That is a good question. To keep a more even ‘ball’ shape you’ll need to prune that longer branch back to where it should be – you can always use the pruned part to propagate a new FLF! Pruning the longer branch may actually encourage growth in other areas, especially if your FLF sees this branch as the main growing tip/trunk. Sometimes when a branch is pruned, the tree will redirect its energy into other parts of the tree… Pruning can ‘trick’ the plant into thinking that section is no longer growing. Hope it works out for you!

  8. How do you notch the tree? Xo you notch it where you want the new branch to grow. Does the notch site need any special card after?
    I have a single stand that is approximately 7 foot tall with no other out quotes and would like it to become more branched about 3 to 4 feet from base. I felt uncomfortable cutting it down to a three or four foot height

    1. That’s a good question, I’d recommend looking up some forums for more specific details! Generally you notch the branch around 1/3 of the trunk deep, just above a leaf, around the height you’d like it to branch. You could also try pruning the top of the tree (just a few leaves) to see if that stimulates branching if you’re uncomfortable with trying notching first. Hope that helps!

  9. Hi Emily!

    I just purchased a FLF bush last month. I have left it in it’s original container. There are a few leaves at the very bottom of the branch that have dark -brownish/black spots on the edge. Is it best to cut away, remove the leaf completely or repot ?

    1. Hi Lee, the leaves won’t grow back if they are removed so think about what your FLF will look like without them before you remove them! At the same time, the spots will also stay there so it depends if you prefer to leave the leaves on the tree with the spots or take them off. As FLFs get older they can lose some of their lower leaves automatically as well. If the spots were really bad I would remove the leaves so that the plant isn’t wasting energy on keeping those damaged leaves. You shouldn’t need to repot straight away, unless you can tell your FLF is bursting out of the container! Hope that helps ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I have a FLF that I bought that was in tree form, almost 6 ft tall. A few months ago it started sprouting growth at the base of the trunk and I let it grow. There are now three little branches that range from about 8″-18″ long with several leaves. I’m wondering if I should just let my FLF do it’s thing and let them grow or if I should trim them to keep it looking more like a tree. My trunk has always had a curve to it, so I’m wondering if these new branches would balance things out a bit. Would love your opinion!

    1. Hey Sarah! That’s interesting, I haven’t seen one do that before! I guess it depends on what you want your FLF to look like and how much you want to do to get it looking like that. Some people do prefer more branchy, bushy FLFs but if not, you could always use the branch cuttings to propagate a few more! It might help to think about the location of your FLF and if the bottom branches will get in the way or if it has room to grow. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Hi! I have two FLF and they are both quote skinny with one trunk. How do I make them busy and more leaves. They’re both about 3 feet and need some fattening up!

    1. Hi Sharon, FLFs naturally have very thin trunks but you could always do some pruning if its getting too top heavy or to encourage more bushy branches. Make sure they are getting enough light too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Hi!
    I have a beautiful 10ft FLF in my living room that has a 10ft ceiling…clearly, I have a bit of pruning to do. I’m nervous to do anything to this gorgeous tree that my shock it or damage it but I have to trim the top.
    Do I just simply cut the top or is there a special method?
    Help….please!

    1. Hey Stephanie, if you’re making any changes to your FLF just make sure you do it in a season of growth – Spring being the best time, so it has the best opportunity to thrive. Use something sharp to prune it and you can always use the pruned section to propagate with. As long as you are leaving the majority of leaves on the plant it shouldn’t respond badly to being pruned! ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. I just purchased a nine foot FLF that is one stalk with leaves from the base to the top. It was wrapped when I purchased it, so I did not realize that there were no branches. (Maybe that is why it was only $20.00! I am unsure whether I should notch it and if I did, at what height I should do it. Or should I prune some of the top off to encourage branching, or possibly do both?

    1. Hey Carrie, $20 is still a great price for a 9ft FLF! I would give it a chance to settle in first to make sure its happy in the position you’ve put it, then you can try pruning, notching or both. Notching is probably a more specific way of encouraging your FLF to branch, as you notch directly above the leaf / section you’d like to see branch. Pruning may or may not encourage branching, but if it does branch, its a bit unknown where a branch will start growing. Hope that helps.

  14. I bought a FLF (2 trunks in one pot, approx. 2′ tall) the other day and had no idea they were all the rage! I guess I’ve been living under a rock. Anyway, the ladies at the nursery suggested that I repot it so I did. Now I’m seeing pictures of all these fabulous single trunk/braided trunk with tons of branches and big full tops. I’m wondering if I should work toward that now or if I should just leave it alone for a while so it can get used to its new home. And if I should wait, does that mean waiting till next Spring? Will it be too late to separate them by then? I don’t want to shock the poor thing too fast. My impulse buy suddenly has me very anxious!

    1. Hey Whitney, separating the two plants could have been done when you repotted it but now I would wait til at least next Spring before you try that! Generally they can be repotted every 2 years or so. It won’t be too late to separate them at that stage, as they are two different plants they will have their own root systems. FLFs can be a little slow growing so there’s no rush to get a beautifully bushy tree-like structure happening. It might take a little patience and care but with the right light, soil and water your FLF should thrive ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Well, I’m less than two weeks in and my plant has brown spots on the bottom leaves. I’m pretty sure I overwatered it because I followed the advice of others to flush it completely. That was 10 days ago and the top soil still feels moist. ??โ€โ™€๏ธ Is there something I can do to accelerate its drying?

        Lighting may be an issue, but I’d rather not move it if I don’t have to. (It’s about 3′ from a south facing window.) If the brown spots spread once it’s dry, I guess I can try relocating.

        Thanks for your first answer, by the way. I’m not typically a commenter but your responses to others was so helpful. I’d happily take the advice of anyone else reading as well.

        1. Hey Whitney, thanks for the update ๐Ÿ™‚ hmm you may have given it a bit too much water the first time if it is still moist at the top, I generally water mine once a week and it seems to be a good routine. I think you’re right – wait until it dries a bit more and if the brown spots are spreading, try moving it to a lighter spot. It is all a bit of trial and error but I think as long as you keep an eye on it and change things accordingly, you should be able to have a healthy FLF! <3

  15. Hello!

    My fiancรฉ surprised my with my dream fiddle leaf fig the other day. I’ve only had it for like 3 days, but I’m already wondering if I’m doing something wrong! Most of the leaves on it are pretty sturdy/firm.. but I noticed today that the very top three leaves (one of which is the smallest/newest leaf) are soft/flimsy. They are not drooping down.. they’re still sticking pretty straight up but I’m worried that this might be a sign of something I’m doing wrong? Have you experienced any of this?? Any tips??
    Thank you!

    1. Hey Lauren! This is pretty normal for the new growth at the top of the plant. The new leaves are usually softer, lighter in colour and will stand straighter up until they grow bigger and heavier. No need to worry! ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Hi! I’m thinking of pruning off the top 2 feet of my tree, can I just plant that cutting in the same pot for propagation?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Frederica, sometimes its best to keep a cutting in water until roots start to develop, and then plant. I would say to use a new pot so its not competing for the same nutrients or overcrowding the pot. Hope that helps!

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