How to Trim a Ficus


Ficus trees do not normally need extensive pruning for healthy growth. They can, however, benefit from removal of dead or diseased tissue to correct asymmetry or control the size of the canopy. According to Ron Smith at North Dakota State University, you should always trim ficus trees sparingly and never remove more than one-quarter of the tree's branching and foliage in any trimming session.

Step 1

Don a pair of dish gloves or liquid-resistant gardening gloves when trimming your ficus tree if you are at all sensitive to the latex its wounds emit. If you are not allergic to the latex, gloves may come in handy simply to keep your hands clean during the process.

Step 2

Trim away any brown, brittle branches that are not green underneath the brown bark, placing the cut back to the point of healthy, live wood, just outside the parent branch.

Step 3

Trim back any branches that cross and abrade one another because these can create entry points for disease. Cut back to the parent branch to alleviate the rubbing.

Step 4

Cut of the tiny, hairlike branches that have not produced leaves in two months or more to tidy the plant.

Step 5

Reduce the size or control the shape of the canopy by trimming the tips of the branches back to the desired lengths. Place cuts evenly throughout the canopy, following the contours of the tree to maintain a balanced and natural shape to your ficus. Make straight line cuts to create a more formal topiary or sheared appearance.

Tips and Warnings

  • Ficus trees will emit a milky white latex at every cut point, even if leaves are pulled off the branch. Though this does not harm the tree, it can be messy on the tree and leave residue on your hands and arms. Though ficus is not considered a poisonous tree, be sure to wash with soap and warm water after handling your ficus to remove the latex.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Long blade shears
  • Rubber gloves or garden gloves


  • North Dakota State University: Questions on Ficus
Keywords: trimming ficus trees, tidying ficus tree, pruning indoor trees

About this Author

An omni-curious communications professional, Dena Kane has more than 17 years of experience writing and editing content for online publications, corporate communications, business clients, industry journals, as well as film and broadcast media. Kane studied political science at the University of California, San Diego.