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House Plants/trimming a ficus tree



I saw a question you answered when I was googling how to trim a ficus tree.  You mentioned that you once trimmed a ficus to where there wasn't a single leaf left and after awhile there was new growth everywhere.  There is about a 20-foot or higher ficus at the place I work at and that's what I want to do--cut it back to where there is only the one original stem (trunk), making it only about five or six feet high but with no branches or leaves left.  So, my boss thinks this will kill the plant but I tell him that no it will make it come back and fill out nicely and not be so tall.  Right now there aren't any branches until about 10 feet up and it's so gangly and unsightly this way because it has to be held upright by string.  Please tell me if I'm right by trimming it down so much.  Thank you very much for your reply.


Hi Diane,

Pruning a branched 20-foot Ficus benjamina back to 6 feet removing and all of its branches would be going too far. It might work, but I would not want to chance it. If you really want a 5-6 foot tree, then buy one and keep it pruned to that size.

For your existing tree, I suggest that you prune back all of the branches by about two-thirds, which will probably eliminate all or most of the leaves as well as the drooping and spindly branches. I would not recommended cutting any of the branches off completely unless they are brittle (dead), weak or diseased. You should end up with a fairly compact 10-12 foot tree and that is probably what best fits the space.

I have written articles on pruning and on Ficus care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at

Please let me know if any of this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.

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Will Creed


I am the only expert in this category with professional hands-on experience and knowledge of all indoor plants. I can answer questions regarding light, water, fertilizer, repotting, pruning and humidity and temperature requirements. I can identify plant pests and provide information on safe, effective treatments. My answers are based on 35 years of professional experience and scientific research and are clear and easy to understand. I do NOT use search engines to find answers to your questions. If you read my previous posts here, you will get a good idea as to how thorough and professional my answers are.


I have over 35 years of professional indoor landscaping experience caring for plants in homes, offices, building lobbies, stores, restaurants, and other adverse environments. I have written extensively on the care of indoor plants, including a 260 page book. My specialties include Ficus trees, low light plants, repotting, pest control, and re-blooming holiday plants. Be sure to check my ratings and nominations to learn why I am the top-rated indoor plant expert. I am the only House Plant expert consistently ranked in the AllExperts Top 20.

BA, Amherst College

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