Ficus species such as the weeping fig or the rubber tree are among those houseplants that you don’t have to cut regularly – but they don’t have a problem with that either. Our cutting tips.
Whether weeping fig or rubber tree: The species from the genus Ficus are undisputedly among the most popular indoor plants. They quickly provide fresh green in the apartment and are extremely easy to care for. You don’t actually have to cut them, at least not regularly. But if a cut is necessary, for example, because individual branches have dried up, the plant is growing crooked or has simply become too big, a Ficus has no problems with it – so you can brave the scissors! However, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Cutting ficus: the most important things at a glance
- All Ficus species are extremely easy on cutting. You can also cope with cutting back into the old wood.
- The best time to cut the ficus is in spring, right after the plants have hibernated.
- If you want to achieve better branching, your Ficus will also need enough light after pruning.
- If possible, wear gloves when cutting and make sure that the sticky milky sap does not drip onto the carpet or your clothes.
Why do you have to cut a ficus?
The weeping fig (Ficus Benjamina) in particular suffers a little from the darkness of winter, as little light can penetrate the interior of the crown because of the many small, densely packed leaves. As a result, it then sometimes forms long, thin shoots. A pruning towards the end of winter is a real treat for the plant. If you cut back the shoots rigorously, the ficus is stimulated to a fresh shoot and better branching.
Ficus Benjamina can be made in pretty much any shape – you just have to cut it properly
If you buy a rubber tree (Ficus elastica), it is usually a single shoot. If you cut it regularly, the ficus will grow bushier. Tip: If you put the cut shoots in a water glass, they will quickly form new roots there. The same goes for Ficus Benjamina.
How to cut a ficus
In principle, you can’t go wrong with cutting a ficus. More radical cuts back into old wood are also well tolerated. So you can shape your ficus however you want. To stimulate better branching and the formation of side branches in the rubber tree, the scissors are always placed over a leaf and the tip of the shoot is also cut over the fourth or fifth leaf.
Your Ficus elastica is already bushy and you would prefer a slimmer specimen? Then just cut off any side shoots above the second leaf. With the weeping fig, you cut directly over a side branch instead, as it forms many more shoots and leaves. By the way: You can also cut a violin fig (Ficus lyrata) if it has grown too big. Here you simply cut off the tip, similar to the rubber tree. If you put the plant in a bright place in the house after cutting, it will sprout again quickly.
The rubber tree (Ficus elastica) is traditionally offered on the market with single shoots. If you want to encourage it to grow bushier, you have to cut it accordingly
This is how the rejuvenation cut works in Ficus Benjamina
Your weeping fig only seems to consist of long, thin shoots instead of forming a beautiful bushy crown, has it aged or has simply become too big? Then it’s time for a makeover! This is best done in late winter or early spring.
When pruning, you can go to work boldly and shorten the plant by up to two-thirds. The following applies here: the more forcefully you cut your ficus, the more forcefully it will sprout again. In addition, remove dead twigs directly at the roots and cut outshoots that are growing transversely.
Not sure if a branch really died? Then do a quick vitality test. To do this, just scrape off a little bark. If the underlying tissue is brownish and dry, the branch can no longer be saved, but if you still see fresh green, there is still life in it.
Admittedly, the weeping fig looks a bit like a plucked chicken after cutting, but if you give it some new soil after cutting and provide it with a green plant fertilizer, it has a beautiful, dense crown again after a few weeks.
Even more radical prunings are no problem for Ficus Benjamina
Should you cut a ficus when it sheds its leaves?
The clear answer is: No! If a ficus loses its leaves, it has nothing to do with the fact that the plant needs pruning. There can be many causes for leaf shedding: drafts, a root ball that is too cold, lack of water or a change of location are the most likely.
Caution milky juice! Here’s how to protect yourself while cutting your ficus
The most important thing at the end: It is best to wear gloves when cutting your ficus – with the ficus species, a white, sticky milky sap emerges after injuries (including after the cut), which irritates the skin. It also contains latex.
Therefore, be careful not to accidentally rub the milky juice in your eyes. The milky juice is not only dangerous for us humans, but it also leaves unsightly stains on clothing, carpets, or parquet. Therefore, before cutting your ficus, layout some old foil or newspaper on the floor and wear old clothes.
Our tip: have a few sheets of kitchen paper ready so that you can dab off the milky juice directly. You can also carefully scorch the interface with a lighter or stop the flow of milky juice with lukewarm water. In the case of larger cuts, it is advisable to rub them down with a little charcoal or ashes. Then soon no more milky juice comes out.