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How to Prune a Ficus Benjamina

By D.C. Winston ; Updated September 21, 2017

Ficus benjamina trees, whether grown outdoors as an ornamental or indoors as houseplants, are relatively low maintenance trees with a naturally attractive upright growth habit and abundant glossy leaves. Ficus trees will benefit from regular maintenance pruning to keep the canopy tidy, remove dead leaves that have not dropped or to remove the occasional dead branch. Hand-held secateurs or small household scissors are the only tools you are likely to need for regular pruning. Pruning ficus benjamina that has been trained into topiary shapes or hedging will require long blade scissor shears or electric shears for the sake of both precision and efficiency. Light maintenance pruning should be done throughout the year with heavy pruning reserved for fall or spring.

Maintenance prune or groom your ficus benjamina each time that you water the tree. Look for damaged or rubbing branches, yellowing or dead leaves caught in the canopy and any leaves that have fallen and gathered atop the planting soil. Cut away any problem branching with your secateurs and simply pluck the dying leaves out of the canopy as they should come away easy without tugging. Pull away any material that you cut from the canopy or lift from the soil and discard. Ficus have a tendency to regularly drop a few leaves so this is an ongoing process.

Hard prune your ficus benjamina every few years or less frequently as needed to rejuvenate the shape after damage or re-size the tree. Again conduct this more severe pruning in the fall or spring and remove no more than one-third of the foliage bulk in any one pruning session. Thin the interior branching to allow better sunlight penetration and air flow and encourage fresh growth. Place cuts at least 1/4-inch above a leaf node to encourage new branching. Prune the top and sides to establish the desired size and shape of the tree to suit its location. Carefully remove all cuttings from the tree to prevent disease from decaying material lodged in the canopy.

Maintain the shape of your ficus benjamina as topiary or hedging with twice yearly pruning in the fall and spring. Avoid pruning in the heat of summer and cool of winter to lessen stress on the tree. For large flat planes of plant material use a long bladed manual or electric tool to give a professional appearance. For very complex shapes more frequent pruning may be required which is fine just try to avoid undue stress on the tree.


Things You Will Need

  • Secateurs
  • Small household scissors
  • Long blade shears


  • Always water your ficus tree well after any pruning session to reduce stress on the tree and help prepare the roots to send forth new growth.