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How To Grow a Fiddle Leaf Fig from Bush to Tree

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A Guide to growing a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree!

Ever since I wrote the post Growing and Pruning Your Fiddle Leaf Fig, the biggest question people have had is about how to grow a Fiddle Leaf Fig from bush to tree form! This post will go into more detail on the subject and hopefully answer any questions you have.

I’ve spent years now researching and reading up on Fiddle Leaf Figs, as well as growing and experimenting with my own. I’m happy to share what I’ve learnt, especially since there can be a lot of misinformation out there!

 

Can I grow my FLF bush into a tree? The answer is yes! FLFs are so versatile that they can take on a bushy appearance, or be grown and trained into a tree-shape. There are a few factors involved in making sure your FLF ends up looking like a tree. Firstly be patient – it takes time for a tree to grow! Maybe you’ve found a smaller, bushy FLF to bring home. Younger (and therefore smaller) plants are cheaper and less of a risk to buy if you’re not sure how well you’ll be able to look after it – its less of a risk if it doesn’t last in your home. Sometimes I prefer to bring home smaller plants, as you can then experiment and grow the plant to the size and shape you like.

The three main components of a tree-form Fiddle Leaf Fig over a bush-form are height, the single bare trunk and the branches. So lets look at each one individually:

Height

Fiddle Leaf Figs aren’t the fastest growing plants but you can speed up their growth by providing the right conditions for them. Growth depends on three factors: light, soil and water. It may take a little while to understand what your FLF needs. Keep an eye on it and see what it responds to in terms of how much water and light it needs. FLFs need a well draining soil with a good fertilizer (this one is best for FLF’s) to get maximum growth. If you’re new to using a fertilizer, read these tips first. If your FLF isn’t responding well to what you’re doing – change something! It may take a little trial and error to figure out. For more general tips, see my post on growing and pruning your Fiddle Leaf Fig.

Branches

Once your FLF is at a height where you would like it to branch, prune or pinch out the tip or give notching a try to encourage branching. Pruning the tip tells the plant the that the main growth tip has been hindered and it needs to send out other shoots to survive. Notching has a similar affect and you may want to use this method if you have a precise idea of where you would like a branch to grow.

Notching a Fiddle Leaf Fig may seem scary but it shouldn’t be! Use a pair of clean and sharp cutters, or a razor if your FLF has a thinner trunk. Cut around 1/3 of the way across the trunk and around 1/3 deep, at an angle. Do this above a leaf node. If you’ve done it correctly, some milky white sap will drip. If you see no change within a week to the bud below, go over the same spot again.

Similarly, you can prune any unwanted branches, but just be aware of the affect it will have on the plant – don’t leave your plant too bare.

Trunk

While the bush-form generally have the trunk covered in leaves, the internet is full of whimsical pictures of the tree-form FLF with a bare waif-like trunk. After some years the lower leaves can drop off by themselves. If you can’t wait that long, the easiest way to get a bare trunk is to pull the bottom leaves off, BUT – they will not grow back. Make sure you are ready to prune these leaves as a last resort. (the trunk should be tended to last out of these three components).

The lower leaves provide support for the trunk and help it to grow strong, which is important for a tree-form as they are top-heavy and more prone to bending or tipping. Be careful of removing too many leaves at once and leaving your FLF too bare. If there’s not enough leaves, your plant will not be able to get the nutrients it needs from sunlight and heightens its chances of being unhealthy or dying. Read my full guide on strengthening a weak or leaning trunk here.

Multiple trunks: If your FLF seems to have more than one trunk in its pot, it is possible that it is actually more than one plant! See if you can tell if they are attached (a low fork) or separate trunks. If they are separate or even if you’re not quite sure, you should be able to separate them when repotting. Carefully separate the roots and replant them in multiple pots.

Using the above steps, with time your FLF should begin to take on a more tree-like appearance. It’s fun and so rewarding to be able to do this process yourself! I’ve also found it has taught me more details on how to care for them, and I’d now feel confident I could get any size and shaped FLF thriving!

Keep in mind that any work you do on a FLF (including repotting, pruning and fertilising) should be done in its natural growth time of Spring and Summer to allow the plant to adjust to the changes and react in the best possible way. See these posts for other information on Fiddle Leaf Figs.

Do you have any other questions about how to grow a Fiddle Leaf Fig from Bush to Tree? Let me know in the comments if this was helpful or if you have anything else you’d like to know!

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44 Comments. Leave new

Hello, thanks for the information!
I recently removed few leaved from my FLF because they had big hole or had big brown spot. After that, one side of FLF looked empty so i did notching to encourage to grow the new branch a month ago but nothing happened….. Now it seems like scar 🙁 Is there any tip for notching? Or is there any way to encourage the new growth on the same spot i did notching?

Thanks!

Reply

    Hi Joy, for any plant or FLF to respond to pruning or notching, it must have enough energy stored to produce new growth. So for best results, the best thing to do is to make sure your FLF is getting enough light, water and nutrients through fertilizer. I find they often need a lot more light than they’re getting, so consider if yours is getting enough! A good way to know is if your FLF is regularly pushing out new leaves at the top or not. FLFs will also generally have the most energy stored at the peak of the growing season, aka late Spring-ish. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, now is a pretty good time to give it a go.
    Notching is best done on more mature, ‘woody’ stems. Young stems are green, and will then slowly turn brown. If the stem was green, this could be why you didn’t see results from notching. You may want to wait until the stem matures and thickens. When you notch, if you don’t see any small new growth within a week, go over the notch again. You could also try nothing in several places, as not all notching will end up being successful. Hope those tips help!

    Reply

My FLF had grown to over 10′ tall and getting close to the ceiling. I live in NC where I can take it outside in the summer months so I do. It has about 5 main branches, some longer than others. I want to cut it back to about 8′ and to be bushier, lollipop shaped if you will. Can I just lop off the longer branches? How do I promote new leaf growth to get the lollipop shape I want. My tree also needs repotted, can I do it all at the same time?
Thanks

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    Avatar
    Emily Connett
    April 21, 2019 5:43 pm

    Hey Doug, I would say it would be fine to prune your FLF back to about 8′. Generally it’s best to prune no more than a third of a plant to prevent it from going into shock. When you say your FLF has 5 branches, do you mean 5 trunks coming out of the soil, or a single trunk with 5 branches further up? If it is a single trunk with 5 branches, you shouldn’t have too much trouble pruning them back as long as you follow the ‘no more than a third’ pruning rule. Pruning will naturally promote new leaf growth and back-budding, which should result in bushier growth. If your FLF has 5 trunks coming out of the soil, I wouldn’t suggest pruning them all off to leave a single, tree-shaped trunk as the plant will most likely suffer from the change.
    It is a little tricky to give exact advice without knowing what your FLF looks like, however I would probably suggest repotting first and then pruning once your FLF has adjusted to the new pot. This may look like waiting until your FLF is growing again (a sign of health) before attempting to prune. If you have multiple trunks in the one pot, you could try separating them when you repot. You may want to dig into the soil a little bit to see how connected the trunks are before repotting, to see whether you’d be up for attempting it! As your FLF sounds quite mature, I would say you’d have to cut the roots apart to do this, which can be a little risky. It’s up to you what you decide to do, depending on if you feel confident to do it and if you think your FLF is healthy enough to adapt to the change. If it all sounds a bit much, I would suggest to start with a new, smaller, singe-trunk FLF to get the lollipop shape you want and enjoy how much your original FLF has grown! 🙂

    Reply

Hello! Thanks for all the great info! I just purchased a FLF today! Its a small 4″ plant. I am wondering, the lady who potted my plant recommended I bind the stems together to make them form a stem and trunk, but I can’t seem to find any information on this! The plant has multiple green stems coming up from the roots with small leaves beginning to grow. Do you have any information on this? Or will the trunk begin to form as it grows and then I can begin pruning smaller leaves off the lower portions, as you described? I appreciate the help!

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    Hey Kyra, I’m wondering if she meant to braid the stems together? It’s not very common, but I have seen FLFs where the trunk has been braided as it grows. You can google it to see what I mean… I haven’t done this myself and would assume that it would take a bit of work to continually braid as it grows, although the results look amazing. I’m sure its best to start this process while the plant is still young.

    If you have a cluster of stems in a pot, its likely that a few may end up leading the pack while some stems may stay smaller. It sounds like your plant may share the one root system, which would make it harder to grow into a tree-form unless you did the braiding. When multiple stems share the one root system, its riskier to separate them and may cause more harm to the plant if you do. If you are really after a single-trunk tree FLF look, you may be better off getting another FLF with a single stem that you can then more easily train into a tree style.

    I would always let the lower leaves stay on as long as possible, regardless! They do a lot to help support the trunk and provide nutrients for health and growth. As your FLF matures you may find they eventually drop off, which one of mine has started doing.

    Hope that info helps, sorry I couldn’t be of more assistance with the braiding! I’m sure there is some info if you look up braiding 🙂

    Reply
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nichole hyland
March 14, 2019 12:20 pm

Hello!
My FLF is about 7ft tall and is one branch with leaves. It won’t stand up on its own and I have stakes holding it up. What should I do with it? It keeps growing but the trunk does not support it.

Reply

    Hey Nichole, there’s definitely a few things you can do to help, depending on how you’d like your FLF to look! If you are happy with your FLF’s height and single trunk, you’ll need to work on strengthening the trunk so it can stand straight by itself. Sometimes the trunks are weak because they have grown without enough sunlight – you can confirm this if there are gaps between the leaves. When there’s enough light, the leaves grow closer together and support the trunk better. Make sure your FLF is getting enough light or move it to a brighter location. If you can, putting your FLF outdoors will help the trunk. Any breeze will help strengthen the trunk and within a few weeks you should notice a difference (I helped one of my weak FLFs this way). If you cannot get it outside to experience the breeze, wiggle the trunk every second day or so to mimic the wind. It sounds strange but it does help! Your FLF can handle a lot of wiggling, so don’t be afraid to really move it.

    If you would like your FLF to branch or it is growing too tall, pruning will definitely help the trunk. With less leaves to support up top, it won’t be as bendy. Pruning will encourage branching and stop your FLF from being so top-heavy.

    Lastly, I saw huge improvements in my FLFs trunk when I started using a quality fertiliser. A specially-formulated one will also help the leaves grow closer together and the trunk to thicken. There should be a link to a great FLF one in this post if you need.

    This is a lot of info but if you do each of these things, they will definitely help your FLF! Staking is great for short-term help but it doesn’t help the trunk to grow stronger or support itself. Let me know what you decide to do and how you go! All the best 🙂

    Reply

I read a comment by someone who said that their FLF grew to 6’. Mine is the same.
I got mine just a year ago and it was 36” tall. It is now all the way to the ceiling and still giving off new leaves. It even grew a side shoot about two thirds up its main trunk. Totally unexpected for me! Mine is really fast growing and I have it indoors in less light than it should have and in the NorthEast. It is a really fun plant to grow!

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In my research i’m finding that the smaller versions are actually a different variety (“compacta” or “suncoast”?) mine has three trunks rather than one… is pruning it to a tree still possible?

Reply

    Hey Sarah. Yes, there are smaller versions available, such as the bambino, although I haven’t heard of the ones you’ve seen. These versions are referring to the size of the plant rather than if they are a ‘bush’ or ‘tree’, as their shape mostly comes down to how they are planted and are cared for.
    It is possible to grow yours into a tree but you may need to assess further when you repot. If it is too difficult to separate the three trunks, it may be best to keep them together to prevent too much damage from trying to untangle the roots. If they are still young, it will be easier to try separate them than if they are older (and therefore have a larger root system).
    If so, other options could be to propagate a stem, which you can then grow singularly in a pot to form a more tree-like shape. Or leave the three trunks in the one pot and enjoy how lush and bushy they get! You can always find another single FLF in a pot to train into a tree-shape.
    I’ve just bought another FLF with three stems in the pot, to grow bushy and lush. My FLF that I’m training into a tree is well on its way – branching at the top now! More FLFs is always better, haha. All the best! Let me know if you have other questions.

    Reply
Avatar
Virginia Acosta
October 31, 2018 12:55 am

That link for “good fertilizer (this one is best for FLF’s)” – for a second, i thought it was a flat iron LOL 🙂
Great article and great advice! thank you for the helpful info! 🙂

Reply

Got my first FLF 1 month ago. Mine is more of a small bush,but i’ve got big plans for my little guy (Newt). Thanks for your helpful tips to help him grow up to be a beautiful tree❤.

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Thais Dolabella
March 26, 2018 8:04 pm

Hi!!! I’ve been looking for an answer online that I can not seem to find it anywhere!! I have two very big and beautiful fifis (how I call them) for a while now. I got about 10 pots with leaves propagation that I have started in water and then placed them in pots. They are all still green and looking like healthy but nothing changed!! No growth whatsoever! How long does it take for a leaf in the pot to grow into a little tree?! ?

If you can help me that question you will be a legend!!! And I will be very thankful too of course! ?

Reply
    Avatar
    Emily Connett
    March 27, 2018 2:02 pm

    Hi Thais, I think it will depend on the type of cutting you did. I’m pretty certain that FLF’s can’t be propogated from a single leaf – they need to have some stem attached. The leaf can still grow roots and live but it isn’t likely it will grow into anything else from a single leaf. If your cuttings were a leaf plus part of the stem, then they should most likely grow! But just to get roots may take 6-8 weeks, so as you can see, it may take a few months before you see any new growth. It also entirely depends on how healthy it is, it’s environment and the season. Patience is key 🙂 hopefully you will get some growth soon!

    Reply

Quite useful tips however I do not agree that they are slow growing and I’ll explain why..I have had my flf bush since 6/2017 and it was but 3 feet tall when it was purchased. I waited about 2 weeks to repot and it’s been in the same location (an easy facing window w white sheers) every since…I ignore her basically only watering about every 2 months and currently it is 6 feet tall and shows new growth weekly. Now patiently waiting for her to start branching out

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    Hi Chad, that’s amazing growth! It must love its location and conditions 🙂 Well done, I hope your FLF continues to do well!

    Reply

Thank u so much..i think i should consider moving it to some different place since its winters here and the room gets a bit colder as conpared to other rooms in the house
Thank u for the help 🙂

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Hi,
I’ve just got a 1 foot tall fiddle leaf fig..its been 1.5 months now and the plant was doing fine and it even sprouted two new leaves but recently i am noticing some brown patches on most of the leaves mostly near the edge..i am not able to understand what’s wrong..i water it once in 10 days and its placed in a south facing room with large glass doors..although its a little away from the glass door but i think it receives moderate light..i am concerned if the brown leaves are a result of cold air passing through the doors..

Reply

    Hey Anamika, if the brown spots are on the edges of the leaves creeping in, I would say it has something to do with moisture levels or the environment its in. Is it in the path of a heater or air con? If its getting hit with dry air for extended times this could be a reason. FLFs love a bit of humidity so make sure its in a good location and you can even mist it with a sprayer. Once every 10 days is generally a good time to water. To be even more sure, feel if the top 1 inch of soil is wet or dry. If the top inch is dry, its time to water again. When you do water, you can fully saturate the plant until water runs out the bottom (make sure the pot has a hole in the bottom, FLFs also need good drainage). Hope this helps you. Once you get the basics right, your FLF should stay happy! 🙂

    Reply

Hey I’m still very new to caring for indoor plants and I’m not very sure what you mean by pruning or pinching (where and how – Pictures would be very helpful!). I have a FLD plant and would really like to encourage it to grow into a tree and I’m well aware that it will take time 🙂 Thanks nonetheless for this post!

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    Hey Melissa, pruning and pinching will encourage a bushier growth and branching, but if you’re wanting your FLF to grow tall, just make sure its getting enough light, water and nutrients 🙂 Pruning uses sharp secateurs to cut branches when they are growing too big and need to be trimmed, or to encourage other branches and leaves to grow. Pinching is literally using your thumb and finger to pull out a new bud before it develops (similar effect to pruning). Hope that helps!

    Reply

Hi, I’ve done a lot of search but can’t seem to find the answer I need. My question is- where exactly do I cut the top off in order to branch? Should it be just above a bud, just below one or doe it not matter? Hopefully you can help with this. Cheers

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Have you had success notching? Would love to see pictures of how to notch . Every time I top the FLF I only get 1 new branch instead of 2. So frustrating!
Thanks for your help!

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Emily. Can you please show me exactly what notching looks like. I would hate to do something too dramatic and damage my plant.

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Thank you so much, that was exactly what i was looking for! Hope my fig will groš healthy:) have a lovely day!

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Hi Emily,
I have a FLF and it was doing well until I took it outside to give it a shower. Then before I could move it back inside two leaves got direct sun and turned brown. The new growth above them is fine.
Can I trim off these two large leaves just below the new growth?
I know I can trim off the brown on the edges, but these leaves are mostly brown.

Reply

    Hi Anne, unfortunately if you trim the edges of the leaves, they won’t grow back! You can do this if you are ok with the trimmed leaf staying that way. My dog took a bite out of a lower leaf on my FLF and the teeth marks are still there! If it looks like the leaves are dead and aren’t recovering, you could remove them completely to keep your tree looking green.

    Reply

Thanks for the tips, very helpful! I thought the bush variety was a different plant than the tree, so I was happy to hear that it just takes time!

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    Hey Nathan, that’s what I originally thought too! Just gotta have patience for these ones to grow. There is a smaller variety called bambino, but the leaves are so teeny tiny you would know if that’s the variety you had ?

    Reply

Hi. Thank you for your post it is very helpful foe me coz my FLF has 2 branches and it gives me an idea to see if its 2. But Im not really good in planting and no green thumb as well, just trying my plants to stay long. For the soil, what kind of soil would you suggest if I repot it? Thanks.

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    Avatar
    Emily Connett
    July 11, 2017 11:59 am

    Hi Lerry, when repotting it is best to use soil that allows the plant to drain water easily – so go for a chunky mix or add in some small bark pieces. This creates room for excess water to drain. Your local nursery should be able to help with specifics! Hope that helps 🙂

    Reply
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Shannon Renfro
July 4, 2017 4:15 am

I found this post while searching for an answer for my leaning branches. I have a three branch fiddle that quickly found it’s happy spot in my house. It’s grown about a foot since I bought it with at least 15 leaves since last August. Even grew in Oregon winter! Weird! I think the branches are forked just under the soil, but I will try the stakes as you suggested to another commenter.

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    Avatar
    Emily Connett
    July 4, 2017 5:33 pm

    Hi Shannon, that is a lot of growth, sounds like you are doing something right! Thanks for your comments, hope the info helps 🙂

    Reply

Hi,

Thank you for this post! I’m still not sure what I should do about my bush Fiddle leaf tree…
There’s two branches growing down at the dirt level. It is one plant though, not 2 or 3. Will I ever be able to achieve the tree shape? I’m afraid the trunk won’t be strong enough if I cut them.

Thank you!

Reply
    Avatar
    Emily Connett
    June 25, 2017 7:40 pm

    Hi Eve! It sounds like your FLF has a double trunk, you could still achieve the tree-shape letting both the trunks grow, it would be a unique FLF! In my opinion the attribute that makes the FLF appear most like a tree is the removal of the lower leaves when it gets big enough. You could remove the less dominant trunk, but this may be a little risky and there may always be that ‘kink’ in the spot where it was removed. Remember its always best to prune with the tree’s natural shape in mind! 🙂

    Reply

Hi, thanks for the info. Maybe you can help me, my FLF is doing great, the only thing, it’s getting really tall and starting to lean pretty bad. I’ve staked it awhile ago, but as it continues to grow , it leans more and more. I guess I could stake it with a taller stake……… any other suggestions?

Thanks

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    Avatar
    Emily Connett
    March 22, 2017 3:01 pm

    Hi there, FLFs are renowned for their thin trunks and are therefore prone to leaning! You can prune the top to remove some of the weight higher up, otherwise you can stake it higher – this will help stabilize it but may not help the trunk grow thicker. Try pruning or notching to create branches that might help balance the weight. All the best 🙂

    Reply

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