A Complete guide!
Ever since I wrote the post Growing and Pruning Your Fiddle Leaf Fig, the biggest question people have had is about how to grow a Fiddle Leaf Fig from bush to tree form! This post will go into more detail on the subject and hopefully answer any questions you have.
Firstly, I’m not an expert on the Ficus Lyrata but spent a lot of time on plant forums, learning from experts about the subject! I guess that’s what happens when you are interested in a topic. I’ll also post some useful links to some forums that are helpful.
Can I grow my FLF bush into a tree? The answer is yes! There are a few factors involved in making sure your FLF ends up looking like a tree. But be patient – it takes time for a tree to grow! I think the main reason why most people buy a smaller bush-form FLF over the larger tree form is price. Younger (and therefore smaller) plants are cheaper and less of a risk to buy if you’re not sure how well you’ll be able to look after it – its less expense if it doesn’t last in your home. Once you are able to keep a FLF alive and healthy you might have the confidence to go bigger!
The three main components of a tree-form Fiddle Leaf Fig over a bush form are height, the single bare trunk and the branches. So lets look at each one individually:
Fiddle Leaf Figs aren’t the fastest growing plants but you can speed up their growth by providing the right conditions for them. Growth depends on three factors: light, soil and water. It may take a little while to understand what your FLF needs. Keep an eye on it and see what it responds to in terms of how much water and light it needs. FLFs need a well draining soil with a good fertilizer (this one is best for FLF’s) to get maximum growth. If your FLF isn’t responding well to what you’re doing – change something! It may take a little trial and error to figure out. For more general tips, see my post on growing and pruning your Fiddle Leaf Fig.
Once your FLF is at a height where you would like it to branch, prune or pinch out the tip or give notching a try to encourage branching. Pruning the tip gives the plant the idea that the main growth tip has been hindered and it needs to send out other shoots to survive. Notching has a similar affect and you may want to use this method if you have a precise idea of where you would like a branch to grow.
Similarly, you can prune any unwanted branches, but just be aware of the affect it will have on the plant – don’t leave your plant too bare.
While the bush-form generally have the trunk covered in leaves, the internet is full of whimsical pictures of the tree-form FLF with a bare waif-like trunk. After many years the lower leaves may eventually drop off by themselves. If you can’t wait that long, the easiest way to get a bare trunk is to pull the bottom leaves off, BUT – they will not grow back. Make sure you are ready to prune these leaves as a last resort. (the trunk should be tended to last out of these three components). The lower leaves provide support for the trunk and help it to grow strong, which is important for a tree-form as they are top-heavy and more prone to bending or tipping. Be careful of removing too many leaves at once and leaving your FLF too bare. If there’s not enough leaves, your plant will not be able to get the nutrients it needs from sunlight and heightens its chances of being unhealthy or dying.
Multiple trunks: If your FLF seems to have more than one trunk in its pot, it is possible that it is actually more than one plant! See if you can tell if they are attached (a low fork) or separate trunks. If they are separate or even if you’re not quite sure, you should be able to separate them when repotting. Carefully separate the roots and replant them in multiple pots.
Keep in mind that any work you do on a FLF (including repotting, pruning and fertilising) should be done in its natural growth time of Spring and Summer to allow the plant to adjust to the changes and react in the best possible way. Houzz forums are a great resource for any questions you have, including more specific info on training your FLF to a tree from.
Do you have any other questions about how to grow a Fiddle Leaf Fig from Bush to Tree? Let me know in the comments if this was helpful or if you have anything else you’d like to know!