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If your fiddle leaf fig is growing towards the ceiling with one main trunk and no lateral branches, you may be wondering how to get your fiddle leaf fig to form new branches. This is commonly accomplished by pruning the top of the tree, but this type of pruning does shorten the tree’s height. 

If you want to encourage the growth of new lateral branches without sacrificing the size of the tree, notching your fiddle leaf fig may be a good option for you.

Notching is an advanced technique and comes with some risks, such as accidentally cutting too deep and severing the plant’s stem. With caution and a sharp cutting utensil, you can easily learn how to notch a fiddle leaf fig for branching, so as to force lateral branches and create a plant with dense foliage.

Notching a Fiddle Leaf Fig: The Ultimate Guide

What does notching a fiddle leaf fig do?

Notching a fiddle leaf fig encourages the plant to produce new branches, to give it a more tree-like appearance, without removing any of its height. This method works by interrupting the flow of growth hormones in your fiddle leaf fig, allowing new growth sprouts and flourishes from the notch. 

By doing this, it will lead to new lateral branches forming with an abundance of new leaves on the branch. This means that notching a fiddle leaf fig is a great strategy for promoting dense foliage, lateral branches, and a bushy appearance to the plant.

Should I notch my fiddle leaf fig?

If your fiddle leaf fig lacks lateral branches but hasn’t reached its desired height, you should notch it, given this is an effective way to force it to grow new branches. For overgrown trees that have reached the ceiling, pruning the top of the tree is a better option and will accomplish the same thing.

Pruning is less risky than notching but reduces the height of the plant. If the height of the fiddle leaf fig plant is not an issue for you, pruning may be a better choice than notching the plant. Which you choose depends on the size of the plant and whether reducing the height of the plant is an issue for you.

How do you notch a fiddle leaf fig tree?

1. Locate several nodes on a woody stem

Nodes are thickened areas on the stem where new growth appears. They may form a raised ring around the stem. Notching works best on old wood and is not as effective on new, green growth.

Making notches at several nodes improves your chances of success with forcing new lateral branches.

bushier plant after someone worked out how to notch a fiddle leaf fig tree for branching

2. Use a clean, sharp knife to make an incision right above the node

Cut about 1/3 of the way around the stem with the cut no deeper than 1/3 the depth of the branch.

Cutting above the node interrupts the flow of growth hormones and encourages new growth to sprout and grow from the node. Cutting below the node is not effective with notching.

3. Carefully remove the bark from the stem 

The goal here is to make a cut that is about 1/8 to 1/4 inch in height, so make sure you’re only removing enough bark to allow for a cut of this size. Otherwise, you may find yourself accidentally pruning your fiddle leaf fig!

4. Remove all tissue inside the incision

When notching a fiddle leaf fig, it’s very important that you take care not to cut all the way through the stem. If you accidentally cut through the stem and sever it from the plant, place the cutting in a glass or vase of water to root it and start a new fiddle leaf fig plant.

Related: How to Propagate a Fiddle Leaf Fig (Successfully!)

5. Wipe the stem with a damp cloth

Here, you’re aiming to remove any white sap that seeps from the cut. This is because the sap from the fiddle leaf fig can irritate your skin or mucous membranes. It’s also this part of the fiddle leaf fig that’s toxic to cats and dogs, so be extra careful if you have any pets nearby while notching your fiddle leaf fig.

6. Allow the wound to heal on its own

From here, it all becomes a game of patience. If you’ve followed all of the instructions above, don’t be too worried about the cut you’ve made. While it may look like damage to your fiddle leaf fig, that notch is actually perfectly fine for your plant. In fact, it’s helping it to grow more!

Of course, it’s always good to keep an eye on your plant as part of your regular houseplant maintenance and this includes after notching a fiddle leaf fig. If you notice anything off, like your fiddle leaf fig’s leaves turning yellow or brown, it’s slightly possible that you may have cut too far. But this is rare and unlikely as, in most cases, it’s simply a case of waiting for the wound to heal.

bushy fiddle leaf fig from notching

7. Watch for new leaves and branches to sprout 

These should begin to sprout within a few weeks of notching a fiddle leaf fig, with further growth likely to follow soon afterwards. In terms of whether fiddle leaf figs grow fast, they’re not the absolute quickest plant on the block although, after notching one, you won’t need to wait too long for new growth to appear.

If, for some reason, your fiddle leaf fig has no leaves growing after a few weeks, follow the steps in that article to troubleshoot what the cause could be.

How long after you notch a fiddle leaf fig tree for branching does it work?

New leaves and branches from a successful notching attempt typically appear within 4 to 5 weeks, but the time varies depending on your plant’s growth rate and health. Notching done in early spring when new growth resumes may produce leaves and branches within a month.

Notching a fiddle leaf fig later in the summer can be effective, but it may take longer for new growth to begin growing. Likewise, healthy plants will produce new lateral branches and foliage quicker than struggling ones.

When should you notch a fiddle leaf fig tree?

The ideal time to prune or notch your fiddle leaf fig tree is in the early spring, when it breaks dormancy and begins a period of rapid growth. However, you can notch your fiddle leaf fig tree during the summer, too, as it is actively growing at this time.

Notching fiddle leaf fig trees in the fall and winter is not recommended as the plant’s growth slows and it enters dormancy until spring. There is very little growth on your fiddle leaf fig plant during this time. It’s for this reason that notching it during the fall and winter isn’t likely to be successful and can cause stress to the plant which, in turn, will result in inferior growth.

new growth after notching a fiddle leaf fig

What to do if notching your fiddle leaf fig didn’t work?

If notching your fiddle leaf fig doesn’t work to produce new growth, let the plant rest and heal before trying again. Follow the same procedure for notching your fiddle leaf fig again but avoid notching it in the same spots as this can weaken the plant.

Notching is a reliable way to force lateral branches and dense foliage on your fiddle leaf fig plant, but sometimes your efforts may fail. Making several notches (at several nodes) dramatically increases your chances of success.

How do you make a bushy fiddle leaf fig?

Bushy fiddle leaf figs with lush foliage brighten any room, but sometimes they can get leggy, misshapen, or lack the full foliage you desire. The first step to encouraging a fiddle leaf fig plant to develop bushy foliage is to make sure it is healthy and getting everything it needs to thrive.

Check that you are meeting its growing needs and your plant is healthy before you attempt to force the plant to produce bushy foliage. Here’s a brief rundown of what your fiddle leaf fig plant needs to flourish inside your home.

1. Check on its light needs

Your fiddle leaf fig needs direct sunlight to photosynthesize and produce the energy it needs to grow. To ensure your fiddle leaf fig’s light requirements are being met, place it in a location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. Near a western or southern window works well. If you have good eastern exposure, an eastern window works well, too.

Light from a northern window is not strong enough to provide your fiddle leaf fig plant with the intensity of light it needs to thrive. Similarly, be careful that your plant isn’t getting too much light, as a fiddle leaf fig with sunburn won’t look its best.

fiddle leaf fig

2. Make sure it’s getting enough water

Your fiddle leaf fig needs adequate water to maintain its beauty and health. Water it thoroughly so that water runs through the bottom of the pot whenever the soil feels dry to the touch 2 to 3 inches below the surface. Empty the saucer or catch basin after watering your plant. Water left in the saucer can siphon into the soil and cause it to remain soggy, with an overwatered fiddle leaf fig leading to a bunch of other issues, including root rot in your fiddle leaf fig.

In terms of how often you should water a fiddle leaf fig, monitor your plant’s soil closely to develop a watering routine that works for you. It may need watering once a week or more during the spring and summer when it is actively growing. It may go ten days or more during the fall and winter before needing water.

3. Put your fiddle leaf fig in the right soil

Well-draining soil is essential to your fiddle leaf fig’s health. Soil that drains poorly can cause the roots to sit in soggy soil. This can lead to root rot and other diseases.

You can make your own potting soil for your fiddle leaf fig tree by combining one to two parts of all-purpose potting soil, one part perlite, and one part peat moss. This makes a lightweight soil that drains well and is widely considered the best soil for fiddle leaf figs.

4. Ensure it has the right temperature and humidity

Your fiddle leaf fig prefers temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees and will suffer from temperature fluctuations. It is also sensitive to either hot or cold drafts and should not be grown near heating or AC vents. It likes a relative humidity between 30 and 65 percent and may struggle with dry air in your home in the winter.

To keep your fiddle leaf fig tree happy, use pebble trays filled with water underneath the pot or install a humidifier. To take advantage of the moisture released by your plants during transpiration, you can group them in a cluster. This will raise the humidity around the plants.

Some prefer to mist the plants regularly, but misting is not a reliable way to raise the humidity near your plants. The effects of misting only last a few minutes and must be done multiple times a day to be effective.

5. Feed your fiddle leaf fig with its preferred fertilizer

The best fiddle leaf fig fertilizer is one that’s high in nitrogen. A formula of 3-1-2 is ideal. You can find this or a similar formula at your local hardware or plant center. Feed your fiddle leaf fig once a month from spring through summer, following the application rate on the container. Withhold fertilizer in the fall and winter and resume feeding your fiddle leaf fig in the spring when new growth appears.

healthy dark green leaves on a fiddle leaf fig

6. Pinch your fiddle leaf fig

Pinching is the easiest way to force new growth and doesn’t require any special skills.

The process of pinching a fiddle leaf fig refers to removing tiny new leaves on the tips of your plant’s branches and stem with your thumb and finger. Locate the new leaves and squeeze them to nip them from the plant.

Pinching out the new leaves forces the plant to produce new growth from nodes along the stem or branch.

7. Prune your plant 

Pruning is a little more involved than pinching but produces the same results in terms of being able to make your fiddle leaf fig bushier.

To prune your fiddle leaf fig, you will need a clean, sharp pair of clippers or knife. Locate a node on the plant stem in the location where you would like new growth or lateral branches to grow.

Cut the stem about ¼ to ½ inch above the node. This will force new growth from the plant node. You can prune lateral branches or prune the entire top off the fiddle leaf fig to force branching.

Limit pruning to no more than 10 percent of the plant. Severe pruning can cause the plant stress and slow its growth.

8. Notch your fiddle leaf fig

Notching is a more advanced method of forcing your fiddle leaf fig tree to become bushy.

As outlined above, notching involves making a cut into the plant’s stem just above a plant node. This interrupts the flow of growth hormones and forces new growth to sprout and grow from the node.

Notching can be risky as it requires a deep cut through 1/3 of the stem and runs the risk of accidentally severing the entire stem. Follow the instructions above if you decide to try notching your fiddle leaf fig tree to force new branches and bushy growth.

Encouraging lush new growth on your fiddle leaf fig plant will improve its appearance. One way to do that is with notching, but keep in mind it is not the only way. If you are nervous about notching your fiddle leaf fig and risking damaging it or cutting the stem completely, consider pinching or pruning to create a bushy plant instead.