When you live in a hurricane region, you must landscape your property with the possibility of high winds and damaging storms in mind. Some trees are stronger and better able to withstand hurricane-force winds than other trees. For example, palm trees have a design that enables them to bend and bow to the winds; whereas, ficus trees with their wide canopies and shallow roots often do not fare as well. Trim a ficus for a hurricane by removing areas of the tree that could lead to the entire tree toppling.
Examine the ficus tree for weak areas. Look for dead branches and diseased branches and make a note to remove these branches. Check each crotch where branches connect. If you find V-shaped crotches, make a note to remove one of the branches intersecting at these crotches. U-shaped crotches are stronger unions and you can leave these crotches alone. Determine the strongest central leader (the main trunk) of the tree note any competing leaders that you should begin to remove.
Use the lopping shears to remove branches that are smaller in diameter than your thumb. Cut these dead and weak branches off where they intersect with the next largest branch. Go through and thin the interior canopy of the tree by up to 25 percent to help the tree withstand high winds---the winds will blow through the tree rather than topple it over.
Trim larger branches with the handsaw or the pole saw (depending upon how high they are in the tree). Saw these branches off where they intersect with the next largest branch. Leave the strongest horizontal branches every 2 to 3 feet along the central leader and remove the weaker branches. Cut off the branches at the branch collar (the point where the branch swells where it intersects with the larger branch). Do not cut these branches off flush because the tree will struggle to recover from these cuts.
Remove any competing leaders in stages if you find them. To remove a competing leader in stages, you must remove one-third of the branch each year. Do not remove more than one-third of a competing leader at one time because you may weaken the entire tree.