The fiddle leaf fig tree, AKA fiddle leaf ficus or Ficus Lyrata (FY-kus ly-RAY-tuh), is often equally nicknamed cousin Ficus Pandurata (FY-kus pand-yoo-RAH-tuh) can be quite impressive and fun to grow.
They rarely produce (sadly inedible) figs indoors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy their unique fiddle-shaped leaves.
These plants can get quite big, growing 2 to 3′ feet annually to a height of up to 40′ feet outdoors and 10′ feet indoors.
Their wondrous leaves can reach an equally impressive 12″ inches long.
But growing indoors means you’ll need to do a lot more pruning than you would outdoors to keep this aggressive grower happy, healthy, and room-sized.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Pruning
There are many reasons to prune a fiddle leaf fig tree.
Here are some of the various reasons and a guide on how to best prune our plant.
Pruning Away Damaged Leaves
Brown spots or other signs of damage to leaves and stems can signify illness.
Carefully removing these damaged bits will not only improve the look of your fig but may also help prevent the spread of disease.
Therefore, don’t be afraid to trim off a browning leaf whenever you see it.
Pruning for Posture
It may sound silly, but even plants need good posture.
This can be a problem for your fiddle leaf fig plant if it’s growing indoors, as it will naturally bend closer to the nearest window to get more light.
In time, your fig may lose its balance, tipping the entire pot!
You can usually help prevent this by rotating the pot regularly, so all sides get equal sun exposure.
But sometimes, you may forget to turn the plant or come back from a vacation to find it’s leaning a little too far in one direction.
You can prune a little off of the lopsided side to help your little tree regain its posture.
Pruning for Shape
The most common reason for pruning an indoor fiddle leaf fig is to keep it looking like a tree.
Outdoors, the lower leaves will die and fall off as they lose access to sunlight.
But indoors, these same lower leaves may still be pulling enough light to remain, making the plant look more like a tall shrub than a tree.
Some of the lower branches may even spread horizontally to get more light.
You can safely remove these branches from the trunk to help keep that tree-like appearance.
Pruning for Size
As mentioned, these trees can get quite big, even indoors.
Once your fiddle leaf ficus is 10″ inches from the ceiling or closer, it’s time for a haircut.
Not only will this help keep it from rubbing against your ceiling and possibly staining it green, but it can make the plant grow into a more compact and fluffy shape.
Pruning for Spread
Fiddle leaf fig leaves can be fragile, and overcrowding will cause them to rub against one another and do damage.
It can also reduce the efficiency of the leaves and make the plant less attractive.
You can fix this problem by thinning out some of the more dense sections to give the leaves room to breathe.
Related: Top Types of Ficus For The Home
The Pruning Process
Except for removing damage, the best time for pruning your fiddle leaf is in the spring to early summer.
Grab a sterile, sharp pair of pruning shears, some isopropyl alcohol, and a cloth (to resterilize between cuts), and protect your floor with some old newspaper or cloth (and your hands with gloves) from the sticky sap.
Form A Pruning Battle Plan
You’re going to want a good plan of action before making that first snip.
First, decide what the overall shape is you’re aiming for – a shrub or tree.
The latter will focus more on the lower areas to expose the plant’s trunk.
Likewise, you’ll need to examine the plant for signs of overcrowding or disease and get an idea of where to thin it out.
This step is very important! You don’t want to bare the plant and not miss trouble spots.
Planned cutting areas should also include the top of the plant (if it’s too close to the ceiling) and any branches that are touching or crossing paths, as this could lead to overcrowding (if it already hasn’t happened).
Pruning (Like a Surgeon)
Now it’s time to make your cuts.
Going to each branch, you’ve mentally marked, give it a strong, even snip at 45° degrees, ensuring the cut is at least 1/2″ inch from the trunk or nearest leaf.
These cut areas will eventually scab over and sprout two branches at the cut.
Only one newly emerging branch is a sign the planet needs more light.
Remember to sterilize your shears after each cut, and be very careful when cutting diseased areas to prevent them from touching nearby parts of the plant.
Be sure to dispose of these diseased leaves in an airtight plastic bag and burn them, if possible.
Also, avoid removing more than 10 leaves at a time, which can shock the plant.
Aftercare After Pruning
Once you’ve finished pruning, give your tree a little love by ensuring it’s in a sunny (but indirectly so) spot and has some fresh fertilizer and water.
You can use any healthy clippings for propagation or dispose of them.
If you’re feeling especially generous, have a talk with your plant during and after the pruning session.
The carbon dioxide you give off (and the clean oxygen you inhale while near it) can make both of you feel better.
Finally, you may want to give the remaining leaves a gentle wipe-down with a soft, damp cloth or some non-chemical leaf shine so your fiddle leaf will look and feel its best.