The Ficus lyrata is a quick-growing tropical tree native to Tropical Forests in western Africa. In fact, when a fiddle leaf fig grows in the wild, this impressive tree grows to heights of 50 feet.
It won’t get that big when grown inside the home, of course, but it can grow to heights of 12 feet, including that it can grow up to 2 feet a year until it reaches its mature height. This means knowing how to prune a fiddle leaf fig is essential for any Ficus owner.
That is, as the fiddle leaf fig grows fast compared to some other houseplants, it’s very possible for your plant to quickly outgrow its space in your home. Controlling the size and shape of your fiddle leaf fig tree is critical to maintaining a healthy and attractive tree, which you can easily do with some selective pruning.
I’ll take you through just how to do this, including some tips on just when your fiddle leaf fig should be pruned to keep it healthy and thriving.
How to prune a fiddle leaf fig
Prune a fiddle leaf fig by ensuring your tool is sharp and clean to both protect the plant from damage and from accidentally spreading infection from other plants. You should aim to cut around half an inch from the leaves or the trunk, ideally above a node, to encourage future growth
The exact way to prune a fiddle leaf fig will differ slightly depending on your goal. That is, you may be doing this just as some maintenance to remove leaves that aren’t looking their best or you could be trying to keep your plant’s height under control.
Whatever your objective, the different sections below will show you just what needs to be done.
1. Removing dead leaves
It is natural for older leaves on your fiddle leaf fig to turn yellow or brown and die off occasionally, so if your fiddle leaf fig leaves are falling off, it’s probably not a major cause for concern. You may also notice some leaves that are brown or damaged at times. These leaves can stress your plant and no longer serve the plant.
Prune dead, diseased, or damaged leaves by cutting them from the main stem or branch. This improves both the health and appearance of your fiddle leaf fig.
2. Maintaining the shape
Your fiddle leaf fig naturally grows towards the light and can become lopsided or heavier on one side than the other. While you can control this by turning your plant regularly, sometimes it will grow lopsided despite your efforts.
You can prune your fiddle leaf fig to maintain its shape when this happens. To do this, trim back foliage and branches that extend beyond the tree’s overall shape.
Did you know: Sometimes, a fiddle leaf fig will have multiple stems. This is very normal but if you’re looking to shape your plant that has this, check out that article for how you can actually braid your fiddle leaf fig!
3. Controlling height
When grown inside the home, your fiddle leaf fig plant can grow to heights of 12 feet, often hitting the ceiling. To control the height of your fiddle leaf fig and keep it from outgrowing the room, prune the top off the tree, so the leaves are 8 to 10 inches from the ceiling.
Make the cut ½ inch above a leaf node. This will force new growth from the node.
4. Improving airflow
Sometimes your fiddle leaf fig plant can become overgrown with multiple lateral branches. When this happens, airflow may be restricted, making your plant more susceptible to disease. Prune to thin out the foliage and allow air to circulate freely around your plant.
Cut lateral branches just above the branch collar. The branch collar is a raised woody ridge that separates the lateral branches of your fiddle leaf fig tree from the tree’s main trunk.
Lateral branches that cross the center of the plant or cross other branches should also be pruned to improve air circulation.
5. Forcing lateral branches
Without pruning, your fiddle leaf fig tree will likely produce one main trunk with few if any lateral branches. But you can force it to grow lateral branches by pruning it.
Prune 8 to 12 inches off the top of the fiddle leaf fig to encourage a lot of lateral growth on the tree. Cut just above a node on the main stem. If you are hesitant with pruning a large section from the top of the plant, you can pinch out the center leaves on the tip of the stem to force lateral growth too.
Pinching will cause the plant to fill in and send out some lateral branches, but pruning is more effective and produces more abundant growth.
Should I cut off fiddle leaf fig leaves?
You should prune away any old, discolored, or damaged leaves from your fiddle leaf fig. These leaves no longer serve the plant and can take energy away from producing new growth. When pruning to maintain the plant’s shape or to allow more air circulation, you can selectively remove leaves, too.
When cutting back the top of the plant to force lateral growth, it is best to leave the existing leaves along the main stem until after you see ample new growth.
Where do you cut a fiddle leaf fig?
When pruning your fiddle leaf fig, it is important to make the cut about half an inch above a node. This causes new growth to sprout and grow from the node. If not, the section of the stem above the node may turn brown and die, especially if it is too long.
Branches and stems are made up of nodes and internodes. Nodes are the area where new growth occurs. Nodes look like a thickened ring or ridge around the stem and may have leaves growing from them.
If you keep this in mind, your fiddle leaf fig will be growing new leaves from its nodes in no time.
Can I cut the top off my fiddle leaf fig?
Cutting the top off an overgrown fiddle leaf fig helps control its height. Likewise, pruning the top off a fiddle leaf plant encourages lateral branches to grow and creates lush, dense foliage. If you cut the top off your fiddle leaf fig plant, cut it just above a leaf node.
What happens if you cut the top off a fiddle leaf fig?
Cutting the top off a fiddle leaf fig will both control the plant’s height and force new lateral branches to grow. Be aware though that when you cut into this plant, white, oozing liquid will come out. This can be irritating for humans and toxic to pets, so be careful.
If you’re worried about your fiddle leaf fig being toxic to your cat, for example, our article runs though some signs of this and what you should do if you believe your pet has come into contact with this liquid.
However, if the appropriate care is taken, cutting the top off a fiddle leaf fig is an excellent way to manage your plant while ensuring it stays healthy.
Can you replant the top of a fiddle leaf fig?
When you prune the top off of your fiddle leaf fig tree, you can replant it by using the cutting to propagate a new plant. This is as long as you have cut the top in such a way as to have at least one node on the cutting, as this is required for it to grow roots.
You can find out more about how to propagate a fiddle leaf fig in our article on this but, in brief, here’s the process:
- Remove the leaves from the bottom three to four inches of the cutting and place it in a glass or vase of distilled water. If you choose to use tap water, let it sit out overnight so chlorine and other chemicals in the water can dissipate.
- Place the vase on a sunny windowsill.
- Change the water whenever it looks cloudy or discolored.
- Roots will appear in a few weeks.
- Pot the cutting in fresh soil when the roots are 2 to 3 inches long.
When should fiddle leaf figs be pruned?
You can prune old or damaged leaves off the plant at any time, but severe pruning should be done in the spring when new growth begins. You can also prune your plant during the summer, if needed, but it’s best to avoid pruning your fiddle leaf fig in the fall or winter.
Like most plants, your fiddle leaf fig’s growth slows in the fall and winter as it enters dormancy. It needs this time to rest and should not be pruned at this time.
Can I prune a fiddle leaf fig tree in summer?
The best time to prune your fiddle leaf fig is in the spring when new growth begins, but you can prune it in the summer, too. Regrowth may be a bit slower in the summer, but this should not be a significant concern.
Aim for doing this in early summer, if possible, to try to catch your Ficus’ prime growing season to ensure it thrives after being pruned.
Can I prune a fiddle leaf fig in winter?
You can prune a fiddle leaf fig in winter, but it’s not recommended.. This is because your fiddle leaf fig tree’s growth slows in the fall and winter as the plant enters dormancy. Accordingly, fall and winter pruning may cause stress to the plant, and new growth will be minimal.
The cooler seasons are the time for your plant to rest after a season of rapid growth. It’s for this reason that it’s best to wait until spring or summer to prune your fiddle leaf fig as this is when it’s growing rapidly. This forces a flush of healthy, new growth.
(It’s also why I’d recommend that you don’t repot a fiddle leaf fig in winter either.)
That said, you can safely remove discolored or diseased leaves at any time.
How far back can you cut a fiddle leaf fig?
How far back you can safely cut your fiddle leaf fig plant depends on the size of the plant. A large tree can be cut back by a foot or more. As a rule, avoid cutting your fiddle leaf fig tree back by more than 10% of its size.
To cut back a large fiddle leaf fig that has grown too tall, cut it back so that the top leaves are 8 to 10 inches from the ceiling.
How do you prune a fiddle leaf fig that’s leggy?
A leggy fiddle leaf fig plant will benefit from pruning the top and pruning back any lateral branches to force new growth and dense foliage. This will help fill in the plant, but you will also need to move it to more light to prevent legginess.
Fiddle leaf figs need six hours of direct sunlight a day. When your fiddle leaf fig’s light requirements aren’t met and it’s grown in less light, they tend to get leggy as they try to stretch for more light.
Place your fiddle leaf fig plant near a window that receives bright, direct sunlight for 6 or more hours a day. A southern or western window works well.
Find out more: 5 Simple Steps to Fix a Leggy Fiddle Leaf Fig
Can you cut back a fiddle leaf fig?
You can cut back both the main and lateral stems if your fiddle leaf fig is overgrown or lopsided. But you should limit your pruning efforts to no more than 10% of the plant. Cutting back more than this will cause the plant stress.
It is also important to trim a fiddle leaf fig in the spring or summer when it is actively growing. Pruning in the fall and winter when the plant is dormant causes stress to the plant.
Can I cut the stem of my fiddle leaf fig?
You can cut back the stem of your fiddle leaf fig to control the height or to force new growth on lateral branches. However, keep in mind that cutting it back more than 10% of its size will cause stress to the plant.
You cannot cut the stem below the bottom leaves as the plant needs the leaves to perform photosynthesis and provide energy for the plant. Without adequate leaves, the entire plant will die.
Pruning your fiddle leaf fig to control its height, force new lateral branches, and maintain the plant’s shape helps keep your plant healthy. Likewise, pruning away dead, damaged, or discolored leaves improve the plant’s appearance and encourage healthy growth. But remember. The best time to prune your plant is in the spring or summer, when it is actively growing.