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October 17, 2022

How to Prune a Fiddle Leaf Fig? (Avoid These Common Mistakes)

Would you like to learn pruning Fiddle Leaf Fig? Or how to have a tree-like or a bushy plant? Maybe you don’t know how to prune a Fiddle Leaf Fig, what is the best time to prune or how to notch a Fiddle Leaf Fig? Perhaps you’re unsure if you should cut off yellow or brown leaves? You will learn everything you need to know about trimming and pruning Fiddle Leaf Fig in this article.

Fiddle Leaf Fig trimming is the removal of plant’s parts to change its size and shape, and maintain or improve growth. Pruning and trimming help keep Fiddle Leaf Fig plants healthy and attractive. They’re often an important part of a long-term maintenance strategy for both young and established plants.

Can You Trim A Fiddle Leaf Fig?

Yes, you can trim a Fiddle Leaf Fig. Trimming and pruning are common practices in houseplant maintenance, in the below listed situations:

  • for aesthetic purposes – to promote branching or keep growth under control
  • in case of diseases and pests
  • in case of overwatering
  • for propagation
Pruning shears, flower rake, and garden spatula hanging on the brick wall

Pruning shears and gardening tools

Do Fiddle Leaf Figs Need Pruning?

No, Fiddle Leaf Fig plants don’t necessarily need pruning if they’re growing healthy. However, Fiddle Leaf Fig pruning can be done if your plant suffers from severe pest infestation or disease. In this case, all infected or diseased parts of Fiddle Leaf should be removed. It can also be pruned when you want to alter its shape and size.

How To Prune Your Fiddle-Leaf Fig?

To prune your Fiddle Leaf Fig plant, follow the steps below:

  • Prepare tools – To begin with, you need a sharp pair of pruning shears. Always clean them before use. Wipe, spray, or dip blades in rubbing alcohol to prevent infections.
  • Plan – Before you start pruning a Fiddle Leaf Fig, make a plan. Would you like a classic tree shape or do you prefer a bushy look? Do you want to encourage branching or make the plant less tall? Are there any dead or diseased leaves that must be removed? Once you access the health of your Fiddle Fig and decide on the shape, move on to the next step.
  • Prune – Start by trimming all the unhealthy parts you marked for removal earlier. Proceed to remove some of the crowded branches. In case they’re crossing and impeding each other’s growth, address some parts to make more airflow. How to prune Fiddle Leaf Fig and where to cut? Trim the parts just above a node. This is the joint on the stem where leaves attach and this is where new branches will grow. Pay attention not to crush or damage the stem. If you’re pruning a branch, try to cut about half an inch from the trunk as this will allow the plant to heal without risk of infection to the main trunk.
  • Besides pruning for health reasons, another reason has to do with aesthetics. You may want to alter the look of your plant. Remove all growth that doesn’t fit into the shape you desire. For tree-shaped Fiddle Leaf Fig trees, remove lower leaves and branches. To achieve a bushy look, and encourage branching, trim the top part of the plant. Also, remove any unsightly growth that’s disturbing the balance in Fig’s shape.
  • Care after pruning – Fiddle Figs require lots of light for healthy growth. After trimming and pruning, place your Fig in front of the brightest window. If healthy, your plant should grow two branches below the cut. Consider using grow lights if your Fig plant isn’t getting plenty of natural light.

How To Prune An Overgrown Fiddle Leaf Fig?

To prune an overgrown Fiddle Leaf Fig, decide on the shape and size first. Once you’ve figured out how you want the Fiddle Fig to look, go ahead and prune it. You’ll want to remove any growth that doesn’t fit within that ideal shape and size. If the plant is too tall, trim the top part. If it grows unsightly branches, remove them until you’re happy with how your Fiddle Leaf Fig looks.

How To Prune A Dying Fiddle Leaf Fig?

Prune a dying Fiddle Leaf Fig by removing all the dead parts. In case the plant is dying due to overwatering, prune dead leaves first and all the stems and branches that are soft. If the problem comes from diseases, any diseased parts of the plant should be pruned too. Cut back as much as necessary to remove all infected parts. Use a sharp pair of pruning shears and sterilize them to prevent new infections.

Mr. Houseplant is holding a couple of his Fiddle Leaf trees

A couple of my Fiddle Leaf Fig trees

How To Prune A Leggy Fiddle Leaf Fig?

To prune a leggy Fiddle Leaf Fig, use a sharp pair of pruning shears and cut back until you get rid of leggy parts. You can also go for a technique called “notching”. Instead of removing empty parts of the tree, you encourage new growth in places that have no leaves. To notch a Fiddle Leaf Fig, pick a spot where you want new branches to grow. Locate a node and make a cut above it. You’re not cutting off but simply making cuts in a stem. The goal is not to lose branches and leaves but to get more growth within the exciting structure of your plant.

Pruning Fiddle Leaf Fig Bush Into A Tree

For pruning a Fiddle Leaf Fig bush into a tree, remove the bottom leaves. Before you prune for aesthetic reasons, make sure that your Fiddle Leaf has plenty of green, healthy leaves remaining. Only remove the bottom leaves if you’re sure there are enough leaves left for the plant to grow healthy.

Fiddle Fig tree with big green leaves in a wicker basket

Fiddle Fig tree-like shape

Where to cut a Fiddle Leaf Fig?

Where to cut a Fiddle Leaf Fig depends on the reason you want to prune your plant. When propagating, only cut a stem from 2 to about 8 inches long. For adjusting size and shape, cut growth that doesn’t fit within your ideal shape or height. If you’re pruning to remove pests or diseases, cut off all parts that are infected.

How Far Back Can You Cut A Fiddle Leaf Fig?

How far back you can cut a Fiddle Leaf Fig depends on the reason you’re pruning your plant:

  • When you want to take a cutting – Aim for 2-8 inches long cuttings. You’ll get smaller cuttings for small plants and bigger cuttings for established Fiddle Leaf Figs.
  • When disease or pest infestation occurs – Cut as far as you need in order to remove all infected or diseased parts.
  • When the plant is overwatered – In the stem is soft due to too much moisture, you’ll want to prune all the soft tissue. Keep going until you get to hard tissue. Cut back as far as necessary to remove all soft tissue from the plant.
  • Another less common example of pruning Fiddle Leaf Fig includes cutting the plant all the way to the ground. This pruning method can be useful for experienced plant owners, especially in outdoor gardening. Cutting the entire Fig should encourage vigorous new growth. It can rejuvenate the plant in case it is too leggy or only has the leaves in its top section. However, inexperienced plant parents should steer clear of this technique.

In case you’re wondering – “Can I cut a Fiddle Leaf Fig in half” – the answer is yes. You can cut a Fiddle Leaf Fig in half if you want to make it shorter or have it branch out.

Can I Cut The Top Off A Fiddle Leaf Fig?

Yes, you can cut the top off a Fiddle Leaf Fig. Pruning Fiddle Leaf Fig from the top is usually done when the plant becomes too tall. The best look is usually achieved by keeping the top of the plant about 10 inches below the ceiling. Any growth above this height can be pruned. If you’re not sure how to prune the top of Fiddle Leaf Fig, there’s good news. You remove the top of the plant by using a sharp, sterilized tool and cutting the parts you find unsightly.

Can I Cut The Stem Of My Fiddle Leaf Fig?

Yes, you can cut the stem of your Fiddle Leaf Fig. You can propagate the stem and the cut will stimulate new growth below the cut.

When Is The Best Time To Prune A Fiddle Leaf Fig?

The best time to prune a Fiddle Leaf Fig is any time of year. Unlike outdoor plants that are usually pruned in early summer, indoor plants can be pruned, trimmed, repotted, and propagated anytime.

What Do You Do When Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Gets Too Tall?

When your Fiddle Leaf Fig gets too tall, you can trim it to maintain the desired height. If you’re wondering how to keep Fiddle Leaf Fig from getting too tall, you can do so by regular pruning. Once you figure out how tall you want a Fiddle Leaf Fig to be, simply remove any growth above the desired height.

How To Get Your Fiddle Leaf Fig To Branch?

To get your Fiddle Leaf Fig to branch, prune it regularly. Fiddle Leaf Fig pruning will encourage branching. Healthy Fiddle Leaf Figs that receive a sufficient amount of light will grow multiple branches if you prune them correctly.

How To Notch a Fiddle Leaf Fig?

To notch a Fiddle Leaf Fig, first decide where you want new branches to grow. Then find a node that is directly above where the desired branches will be. Once you’ve located the node, make a rectangular cut above it. Make sure the cut is wider that the node. Regarding the depth of the cut, you should remove the bark and cambium. Then just be patient. It can take several weeks or even several months for a new shoot to start growing.

Take a look at the below video of Rubber Tree notching. The principles of Fiddle Leaf Fig notching will be the same.

How does notching Fiddle Leaf Figs work? A growth regulator auxin is what forces lower buds on a stem to remain dormant. Auxin flows from actively growing shoots downward in a plant. When we remove the bark and cambium above a node, we’re preventing auxin from reaching the node below the cut. This enables dormant buds to start growing.

An image of different layers inside the trunk with the caption for each trunk layer

Bark and cambium are the first two outer layers on a Fiddle Leaf Fig (Image Source: Growingfruit.com)

Imagine a shallow stream of water. If you put a large rock in the middle of the stream, the water will start flowing around the rock. The notch we’re making is the rock. The stream is the stream of auxin. The same way water would flow around the rock, auxin will flow around a dormant bud. Which makes it possible for a new bud to start growing.

How Long Does It Take For Notching To Work On Fiddle Leaf Figs?

It can take anywhere from several weeks to even several months for notching to work on Fiddle Leaf Figs. If you notch the plant during its dormant season, you might need to wait several months to see new shoots.

Why Isn’t Notching On My Fiddle Leaf Fig Working?

There are several reasons why notching on a Fiddle Leaf Fig isn’t working:

  1. The cut is not wide enough
  2. The cut is too shallow
  3. It’s too early

The cut has to be wider than the node itself, otherwise auxin will continue blocking the bud from growing. Try to go for 1/8-1/4″ wider than the petiole.

The cut has to be deep enough. You need to remove the bark and the vascular cambium layer beneath it to stop the flow of auxing and enable dormant buds to grow. If you aren’t succesful in removing cambium, use a knife to scrape of the remaining tissue until you reach the sapwood.⠀

It can take a long time for new shoots to start growing – even 6 or more months. Fiddle Leaf Figs aren’t particularly fast growers.⠀

A lush Fiddle Leaf Fig plant in the pot with big dark green leaves

A lush Fiddle Leaf Fig plant

Should I Cut The Bottom Leaves Off My Fiddle Leaf Fig?

You shouldn’t cut the healthy bottom leaves off your Fiddle Leaf Fig. It can be done in case you want to alter the shape and achieve a tree form, but make sure the plant has a lot of healthy leaves remaining. You can also remove the bottom leaves when you are dealing with sick leaves, severe pest infestation, or brown spots due to overwatering.

How Do You Remove Dead Leaves From A Fiddle Leaf Fig?

To remove dead leaves from a Fiddle Leaf Fig, first prepare a sharp pair of pruning shears. Sterilize pruning tools with rubbing alcohol before use to prevent infections. Assess the plant’s health to identify which leaves are dead and need removing. Leaves that are brown, dry, and crunchy are dead. You should cut them at the petiole, close to the main trunk. After cutting off dead leaves, dispose of them.

Should I Cut Brown Leaves Off My Fiddle Leaf Fig?

If the brown leaves are diseased or dead, yes, you should cut the brown leaves off your Fiddle Leaf Fig. Sick leaves may spread infections. And dead leaves do not do anything for the plant. They are just unsightly, so it’s safe to remove them.

If the leaves only have slight brown sport and you’re sure it’s not a disease, you don’t need to remove them. It’s just an aesthetic issue.

Should I Cut Yellow Leaves Off Fiddle Leaf Figs?

No, you should not cut yellow leaves off Fiddle Leaf Figs. Those leaves are still alive and contain nutrients. As a leaf becomes yellow, the plant moves mobile nutrients from it to other parts of the plant. These mobile nutrients are lost when the yellow leaf is removed. That’s why you should let nature take its course – once the nutrients have been moved to the part of the plant that needs them the most, the leaf will turn brown and fall off. When this happens, you’ll know that your Fiddle Leaf plant has used all the nutrients from it.

However, if you dislike the look of the yellow leaves, and your plant has plenty of healthy green leaves, it’s safe to cut off yellow leaves.

A yellow leaf among green ones on a plant

Yellow leaf on a Fiddle Leaf Fig tree

Pruning Fiddle Leaf Fig In Winter

Yes, you can safely prune Fiddle Leaf Fig in winter. You will most likely not get new growth until spring, but you can still prune.

Can I Prune A Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree In Summer?

Yes, you can prune a Fiddle Leaf tree in summer. This is it’s growing season and the plant should be actively growing during that time. It can still sometimes take a few weeks or months to see new growth, so be patient.

Can I Prune The Roots Of My Fiddle Leaf Fig?

Yes, you can prune the roots of your Fiddle Leaf Fig. Pruning Fiddle Leaf Fig roots can be beneficial if some parts of the root system are dead, diseased, mushy, smelly, etc. You can also trim the roots if the plant has outgrown its current pot and you don’t want to repot it. But bare in mind that pruning healthy roots means huge stress for the plant. Do bear in mind that by removing roots, you’re removing some of the food reserves of the plant.

Yours Truly,

Mr.Houseplant-signature-tr

2 Comments

  1. Yolanda October 18, 2022 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    Good morning Mr. Houseplant,

    I hope this message finds you well. I have two FLF that were purchased at the same time… mine has been thriving since day one. I have since then adopted my coworkers FLF whom I’ve named Bones, you can imagine why. After months of TLC he finally sprouted 7 leaves last week!!! He has three small stems, and I am tempted to notch him in the near future. Do you have any suggestions?

    • MrHouseplant October 22, 2022 at 6:31 am - Reply

      Hi Yolanda, it looks like you’ve been doing a good job, since Bones sprouted so many leaves :) I’m assuming you are replicating the conditions that your FLF has. If that is the case, I wouldn’t change anything. You can notch it, but be very patient. It can take months for the notching to result in a new shoot.

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