The Q&A Archives: Pruning Ficus Tree

Question: My ficus tree grew really well this summer, out on my deck. Can I trim it back before bringing it inside for the winter? Or, since it is so large, can it stay outside for the winter?

Answer: Ficus won't tolerate freezing temperatures, so you'll need to bring it indoors. However, you can certainly trim it back before bringing it inside for winter. When you trim it, cut the largest limbs back to where they join with a smaller side branch, rather than simply shearing all branches back equally. This method of pruning is called "thinning" and leaves the tree with a more natural, less butchered look. You may want to thin out some of the branches in the center of the tree, too, since in the process of acclimitizing to the lower indoor light levels, the tree will probably drop some of these shaded inner leaves.

Make sure to trim your tree outdoors, as ficus will drip sticky white sap from the wounds. Wait until the dripping stops before bringing the tree inside. If an approaching cold spell forces you to bring the trees indoors before you have a chance to prune it, be sure to protect the floor under the tree when you prune--the sap can really stain.

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