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Here are three pruning approaches to use.
1.Remove up to one third of the outer growth on all the stems and branches. This will shrink the overall canopy of the tree by one third. This approach will yield a smaller and fuller ficus tree. It is great for ficus trees that have outgrown their space.
2.Selectively prune back up to one third of the longest individual stems and branches into the center of the tree. This will open up the center portion to more light. The cut back stems will now produce new growth and fill in the sparse center area. When done regularly, this technique will maintain the existing size of the tree without making the pruning obvious.
3.Combine the first two.
Pruning ficus trees is as much art as it is science – like cutting hair. Try to visualize how your tree will look with certain branches cut back and also how it will look as the new growth comes in. I have successfully pruned back ficus trees enough that there was not a single leaf remaining. In time I had a beautiful tree with all new growth. Plunge in and have fun!
Ficus Benjamina enjoys indirect light, so don’t place it in a window where it gets more than an hour or two of sun each day.
Water only when the top 2-3 cm of soil is dry.
Fertilize lightly, using a soluble mixture. Well-rotted compost is a nice top dressing, but will not provide all the nutrients your houseplant requires. You should fertilize your plant every two weeks to a month or so in summer, but not in winter.
Prune only when necessary to keep the tree from flopping over. Alternatively, you can use nursery ties to stake the tree.
If you have a braided tree, you may decide to keep the braid or not. It is braided like a typical 3-strand braid. Either prune off side branches or incorporate them into one of the three main strands. You’ll only want to braid the new wood, which is flexible enough to bend into the braid. Do not force your tree limbs or they will break. To keep the new braids from becoming too loose, you can use nursery ties.
If your tree is in a smaller pot (under 30 cm), you’ll want to water when the top 2-3 cm of soil is dry. A larger pot should be allowed to dry out more.
Keep the room at a fairly steady temperature through the year, a little warmer during the day (ideally about 20° to 23°C) than at night (ideally about 16° to 18°C). Temperatures below about 10°C may kill the plant.
All F. benjamina loose their leaves from time to time. Leaf drop typically happens in the autumn, but houseplants can interpret autumn at different times. This will depend on your house’s temperature, etc. Just because all the leaves are gone does not mean your plant is dead. Keep up with your watering and fertilizing schedule, and you should see new leaf growth within a week or two.
If you need to replant, expect a total leaf drop. As F. benjamina does not like to be moved, the movement during a replant can send the tree into shock. It should recover with new leaf growth within two weeks.
DO NOT overwater. This is the #1 killer of most houseplants, including F. benjamina.
When buying a new plant, do not buy it on a very cold day – moving it from store to car, and car to home, may kill the plant if the temperature is below 10°C. Also never drive with it uncovered in an open pick-up, the wind speed created by the driving will dry out and kill the leaves.
If your F. benjamina is getting too much sunlight, the leaves will bleach to light green to yellow.
F. benjamina dislikes excessive movement. If it is necessary to move your tree, do so with gentle motions. You don’t want to just grab and shove the pot, of course.
Prune Ficus “trees and shrubs” as you would any woody plant, making your cuts just above a node, where a leaf is attached to the stem, or where another stem branches off. You can also prune just above a leaf scar, even though there’s no leaf there any more. New growth should arise from the scar area.
F. benjamina are prone to mealy bug and scale. Look for white clumps that look like cotton on the backs of the leaves and where branches meet–this is mealy bug. Scale are extremely small brown bugs that make the plant feel sticky and give the leaves a glossy shine. If you have either of these, you may spray your plant every three to five days with a mixture of twenty drops of dishwashing liquid (make sure it is not anti-bacterial) to a litre of water. Spray the whole plant, especially under the leaves for four to six weeks.