If you’re after that coveted tree-like shape for your Fiddle Leaf Fig, sooner or later you’re going to want to learn how to help it branch!
It’s in a plant’s nature for them to default to upward growth; where they can compete with other plants for more sunlight. So sometimes it takes a little human help to encourage them to branch outwards.
If you’ve had experience with any type of hedge or vine-like plant, you’ll know that pruning is necessary to get lush and bushy growth. The same applies to your Fiddle Leaf Fig! When a stem, branch or trunk gets pruned back, it is most likely to grow multiple stems in its place.
So here’s three methods you can use to encourage your Fiddle Leaf Fig to branch – watch the video at the end of me pruning my own Fiddle Leaf Fig!
Pruning your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Pruning is hands-down the easiest and most reliable way to get your Fiddle Leaf Fig to branch! It involves cutting off the stem of your Fiddle Leaf Fig at the height you’d like branches to grow from. Keep in mind that the cut section isn’t wasted – you can always propagate your Fiddle Leaf Fig and get a whole new plant from it!
Pruning works by activating dormant buds below the cut. This happens because the growth hormone (auxin) can no longer travel up the stem, and it’s redirected to the buds that are generally closest to where the cut was made.
Generally when you’re looking for your plant to branch, you’d typically like at least a couple (if not more) branches. For the best chance of getting multiple branches when you prune, try to prune above a cluster of leaves. Or, a group of leaves that are close together.
Dormant buds live where leaves meet the stem. So for the best chance of activating multiple dormant buds, you’ll want to target a section on your FLF that has buds close together. They’re sometimes very small and hard to spot, so don’t worry if you can’t spot them. They’ll be there!
Another thing to look out for is how close together the ‘nodes’ are. Buds can also grow from these areas. Nodes look like little rings around the stem, and are often where the crispy brown leaf casings on your Fiddle Leaf Fig sit.
You can expect to see buds start to increase in size within a week or two. However it can take longer, and will take even more time for the new leaves to bloom, depending on environmental conditions.
Pruning is best done when the plant is taller than the height you’d like it to branch at, as you’ll be removing a section of stem. For example, if your FLF is 5 feet tall, but you’d like branches at around 3 feet high, you’ll need to prune your plant back to 3 feet tall.
If you don’t want to cut off the height of your plant, see the section on notching.
Tips for Pruning:
- Use a clean & sharp pair of cutters
- Cut the stem on an angle
- Wipe off any sap with a clean paper towel
- Prune just above a leaf – dormant buds (nodes) sit at the point where a leaf meets the stem. You may be able to see a small brown (or sometimes green) bump at this point.
Notching Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Notching is a method of encouraging a Fiddle Leaf Fig to branch that doesn’t involve removing any height off the plant. Instead, small cuts or ‘notches’ are made up and down the stem or trunk to encourage new growth to form further down the plant.
There’s two different styles of notching. The first makes a diagonal cut around a third of the depth into the FLF trunk, just above a leaf or node. The second is similar, but two cuts are made and a section, or small ‘chunk’ of the trunk is removed. The two cuts should be made within 1-2mm of each other, to remove a slither of the trunk.
Notching can be tricky to get right without cutting too deep into the plant, or accidentally decapitating it altogether! It’s definitely a more experienced method that can give mixed results. I also recommend doing multiple notches if you want to give it a go. Not all of them are guaranteed to work. So you may want to do maybe six notches if you’re aiming for two or three branches.
Notching is done best on a more mature, or woody stem. If your FLF stem is still green, it might be best to wait until it matures before trying to notch.
Tips for Notching:
- A sharp craft knife may give you more control over the notch than a pair of cutters
- Make the notch directly above a leaf or node
- Make the notch on a diagonal, cutting around a third into the depth of the stem.
Pinching Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Pinching is similar to pruning, except you won’t need to use a pair of cutters. Instead of removing a section of stem, pinching refers to plucking the top bud off the plant, also known as the growing tip.
This is a great method if your plant has reached the height you’d like it to start branching at. For example, if your FLF is currently two feet tall, but you envision it branching out at a height of three feet, wait until your plant grows to three feet. Then you can pinch the top.
You’ll notice your Fiddle Leaf Fig has a brown-cased bud at the top. This is where new leaves grow and it’s totally normal. When new leaves form and mature, the brown casings pull back and dry out.
This is natural and they don’t need to be removed, but they may fall off when they’re ready.
To pinch your Fiddle Leaf Fig, use your thumb and pointer finger to break off the top growing tip. If it’s too hard to break off with fingers, you can also use a pair of cutters.
I post lots of plant tips and FLF updates on Instagram – come follow along!
Why Can’t I get my Fiddle Leaf Fig to Branch?
The above methods have a great success rate of growing branches. However there are some factors that can hinder branching, so it’s best to make sure you address these things for the best chance of branching.
The Health of your Fiddle Leaf Fig
The current health of your Fiddle Leaf Fig affects everything. If your plant is not currently growing, or possibly just trying to survive, it may not have the energy to grow – even if you try to encourage it with pruning, notching or pinching.
Your plant’s health can also be affected by watering issues or pests. Read my post on growing a Fiddle Leaf Fig for more general care information.
The Time of Year
It’s best to do any pruning, notching or pinching in the growing season, aka Spring and Summer. If it’s winter or a cooler climate, your Fiddle is probably not actively growing.
To push out new growth, plants need to have enough energy stored. And plants make & store energy through sunlight.
A plant lacking in light isn’t as likely to branch well. Or, you may only see one new branch (instead of two or three), making your plant lopsided and not at all what you envisioned. To counteract this, place your plant outside to give it the best chance of storing energy and creating new growth.
If you can, put your Fiddle outside for a month before attempting any branching methods. Fresh air and air circulation around the plant can also assist in growing branches. Putting your Fiddle outside does come with some challenges of direct sun which can cause sunburn, or extreme temperatures.
If you’re not confident doing this or if your climate doesn’t allow, you may want to invest in a grow light. Grow lights can help your plant produce energy and even get them growing throughout winter. Read this guide to LED grow lights for more info.
Lack of Nutrients
A Fiddle Leaf Fig struggling to find nutrients may not respond as well to pinching, notching or pruning. While some Fiddles can do reasonably well without any added help, pot plant soil can slowly be depleted of nutrients over time.
If you’re planning on creating the tree of your dreams, you’ll want to give your Fiddle Leaf Fig the best possible chance with a quality fertilizer. There’s a lot to learn about fertilizers, but if you’re looking for a recommendation, this fertilizer contains all the nutrients your FLF needs.
That’s a lot of information about encouraging your Fiddle Leaf Fig to branch! Let me know if you have any questions by dropping me a comment – I’d be happy to answer them!
Hi thanks for this great information! I’ve had my FLF for several years and I’m realizing I didn’t know how to take care of it properly! The initial plant came with two stems in the pot and I left it that way so now I have two huge stems (5-6 ft) in one pot and I’m wondering if there’s a way to safely separate them?
I definitely have a lot of work to do because the leaves are far apart and not branching and there’s some leaning to I read your article on that as well so I will follow that advice too!
Hey Colleen, it is possible to separate two in the one pot, however there is likely some damage that will take place from separating their root systems, especially as they would have been growing together for some time and are probably quite tangled. In this case you may end up having to cut through some of their roots (this is better than pulling/breaking them), and just be aware that they might have some leaf drop after the process. Other than that, make sure the rootballs don’t dry out during repotting and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!
I have a FLF that is refusing to grow. It’s about 2’-3’ and I’ve had it for a few months. It’s in an east facing window in my bathroom that has the privacy coating so it’s getting tons of light. I think I initially overwatered it so I’ve been hesitant to water it again. I’ve already snapped the top off a month or so ago but after reading your post, maybe I shouldn’t have? There appears to be one growing back but it’s SO small and if it’s growing it’s doing so extremely slowly. Should I give it a good soak and then notch it? I really want it to grow and I know they have the potential to be big which is what I want. Help!
Hi Erin, a lack of growth generally comes down to environmental and/or care conditions rather than pruning & notching. This post on encouraging growth should give you sone tips! 🙂
Hi Emily, I’ve got three 7’ fiddles that all look very healthy, but they’re not like bushes, they’re more like pillars! One main stem with leaves crawling up it. I tried notching, but it only worked at the *very* top—none of my notches at the 3’ or 4’ level produced stems. Any tips for encouraging branches fairly low on the plant’s trunk? Should I trim them all the way back to 4’? I feel sad doing so!
Hi Eve, it really depends what sort of look you’d like to achieve for your FLFs in the long term! If you’re after the lollipop tree shape, the best way to encourage this would be to prune them back so that they branch at an ideal height, about 4′. Notching is very hit and miss, so pruning them back would be the easiest way to encourage this. Notching can also work well in combination with pruning, so you could try a combined effort and see how that goes.
Hello! I have an actively growing 8′ tall FLF tree that I potted up about a month or so ago. It has new leaves growing currently but only on one of the branches. This particular branch has really grown recently but it seems that none of the other branches have grown in some time. To encourage them to keep up and keep growing, would you recommend I pinch the bud off the top of each branch or try notching towards the top of each branch? Thanks!
Hey Jacque, sometimes this can happen when a plant has a dominant ‘leader’ branch. Basically this means all the growth hormones will be redirected to this main branch that is the largest, rather than the others that aren’t growing. It’s a natural occurrence in nature but to encourage the other branches to grow, make sure the plant has great growing conditions first, then prune the leader branch to a point that is slightly lower than the others. This should help trigger/reset the plant to encourage other branches to grow too. All the best!
I bought a FLF with three distinct “arms.” The leaves looked to have some sort of fungal infection so I had to trim nearly all of them up and down the trunk. I have some puckering/brown spots on the upper leaves, but there had been a burst of new growth by the base of the trunk! My question is – should I trim all the “old” leaves that are up at the top? I don’t want them sapping nutrients from my new growth, which looks much healthier. My question is – will any leaves grow up there? It will look really weird if I have a naked tree with just new growth at the base! Happy to send pics. I am stumped and can’t find an answer!
Oh! Also wondering if I should separate the arms? There are three of them. I don’t know if it would be possible to separate…they all pull down into one very distinct trunk and the root system is beyond my comprehension. Also not sure if I need a bigger pot – but guessing not if there’s all this new growth?
Hi Liz, it sounds like the growth near the base of the plant are what’s commonly called tree suckers. They are smaller growths that most people remove so that the energy is actually directed to the main parts of the plant instead. If you are aiming/hoping for more healthy growth towards the top of the plant, I would probably remove it. You can always propagate this part too. If the leaves near the top are over 50% damaged its best to remove them, but if not, they will definitely be helping the plant’s health and should stay!
I’m not quite sure if by arms you mean your plant has three branches? If so you can definitely cut & propagate them. More info on propagation here!
I have a 3ft fiddle (3 stem) that unfortunately got sunburnt during moving house. I removed all the really bad leaves, do I just leave all the other leaves that are not more than 50% burnt? How will I make it luscious and green again now that it has all the brown burnt spots in various places. One side in particular had most of the leaves removed, what will I do with the bare side? Will any grow further down the stems? It has sprouted 5 new leaves since moving 3 months ago and in the process now of growing a new bud. (Australia)
Hi Kayla, some people like to cut the browning off the remaining leaves purely for aesthetic purposes. Unfortunately leaves won’t regrow where they’ve been lost, but as the plant continues to grow it should start to look better. Otherwise pruning or notching (once the plant is mature enough) can be another alternative to get a fuller, bushy look.
Thank you for your posts and replies. I used the pruning method per your instructions and it worked perfectly! I now have 3 plants! I would like to encourage a new branch on the mama plant. (one died years ago.) I’ve tried notching for the last couple spring seasons Unsuccessfully. Question, can I notch on the trunk where no leaves are growing?
Hi Jenn, yes you can try notching in all different places to see what works. Notching is definitely not always 100% successful so its a good idea to do multiple notches in the hopes that a couple will take 🙂
I pinched the cone piece at the top to stimulate new growth and a milky liquid came out , does anyone know if this is normal, the plant is i a very healthy state.
Hi Jerome, this is totally normal and is sap from the plant 🙂
I tried pruning off the top of my fiddle last year. It has only branched on one side (doubled the height of the main trunk!! ) , the other bud however appears to be dormant. What should I do now? I like the height…but worried about the top of the fiddle only being one small branch now and originally pruned it to have 2 branches out the main trunk.
I’ve found this can happen if the plant doesn’t have optimal growing conditions when it’s pruned! Fiddle Leafs like to have a dominant ‘leader’ branch which will be taking the most energy & nutrients, and unless pruned back the dormant bud isn’t likely to grow on its own. I think the best thing to do would be to prune it back to encourage multiple branches, but making sure it has the best conditions possible first. I always put mine outside when I’m pruning for branches which I find helps!
what does it mean if i am notching my fiddle and no sap comes out toward the middle/ lower end of the stem but sap does come out when i do it at the top????
I need help! My friend gave me a cutting and I placed in water for months, It did great and I finally transplanted it into a pot. The one leaf grew and then stopped. It hasn’t done ANYTHING for months now. What do I do? The one leaf is beautiful. Help!
That can be fairly normal as they work on settling in and strengthening their roots! I think as long as you’ve got general care sorted, just give it time and it will grow when its ready 🙂
I have a young FLF and it just grew 2 new branches since I got it a few weeks ago… i have a couple of concerns:
1- leaves are pointing up, is this normal?
2- leaves are getting dimple like indentations and the back of the leaf has brownish shadow at those spots. I mist the leaves twice a day. Leaves edges are also not straight. What am I missing?
Hey Rana, sounds like your FLF is doing well for growing so soon! 🙂 It’s totally normal for the leaves to point upwards and for the leaf edges to not be straight, so no problems there. There isn’t a need to mist twice a day unless you’re misting just the top bud. If you’d like to increase humidity, try a humidifier instead. In terms of the brownish shadows, it could be a bunch of different things but I would just keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t get any worse. If they turn into brown spots or patches, you can find more info on what the brown spots might be here. Hope that helps!
Hi I have a Flf and mine is a bit lopsided at the top of the tree but very healthy. I was thinking of propping it up as I was really worried it would break. What I wanted to know will the steam get any stronger once it’s ready to be on its own or will it stay that way because of the weight of the plant. Thank you.
Hey Marjorie, you can read more about helping leaning Fiddle Leaf figs here. There’s things you can do to help them grow straight and also have stronger branches – the post should have all the details you need 🙂
Hi, i am trying to notch on the trunk of my fig, you mentioned i should cut 1/3 depth of the trunk, if i just cut enough so that sap starts to drip, will this be enough?
I believe it needs to be a third deep to cut through the layer underneath the bark 🙂
I have a FFL that even when it looks absolutely healthy, it is not growing. No new leafs or branches in years probably 3 yrs. I repotted it two months ago, change soil, add fertilizer, but nothing. Two weeks ago I pinched the two dormant buds on top. Question: How long usually takes to see results of pinching? How long until I can see if that works? I also did two notches but nothing is happening yet. Is it possible that it was not done properly and will not help growing?
Thank you 🙏🏼
Hey Yari, if your plant was already not actively growing, it’s likely you may not see the results from pinching or notching, as they need to first have the energy stored to respond favourably to these changes. How long it takes to see results can depend on the plants’ environment, the season and also its general health. Here’s a post on encouraging growth that will have some more tips for you on getting it to grow.
I just purchased new FLF for my living room.
All the leaves are higher on the trunk, what should I do to promote growth of branches and leaves on lower trunk ?
The tips in this post on notching should help 🙂 Plants can’t regrow leaves, so any new growth lower on the trunk will result in branches.
After reading several different blogs on FLFs this is the most complete. Thank you for taking the time of writing.
I’ve had my FLFfor over a year, it gave two or three new leaves after one or two months after I got it but then it stopped.
The leaves started getting brown and falling due to overwaterig (I learned this after).
Now the leaves are not falling and the few leaves that are left look strong but it’s not growing anything new. I tried pruning but nothing happend either.
I live at a place where we have same weather all year long, I have it by the window where it gets a lot of sunlight (I’ve tried to move it farther from there but seems to not like it)
I want it to grow but nothing seems to work. Please, any advice will be very helpful.
Hey Paula, glad the blog could be helpful 🙂 I’ve actually written a post all about encouraging new growth here, so I hope you’ll find some answers to your questions in it!
Hi, I have a new FLF and I am so scared! I have killed a couple of them previously but I am desperately trying to get the hang of keeping my new beauty alive and hopefully help it to thrive! I am never sure about watering 😐 I am awful at gauging when, how much, fertilize or not. I have read through several posts and I am overwhelmed 😫 I love plants in general and I want to finally learn how to properly care for them. Please help 😟
Hi Shannon! Sorry to hear it’s been a bit of an overwhelming process for you. The best thing to do is put it in a bright window and leave it be 🙂 Fiddle Leafs don’t like change so sometimes less is more with these plants! And just check with your finger when the top 2″ of soil feels dry, then it’s time to water. How often it dries out will depend on a bunch of factors, which is why it’s best to just use your finger to check 🙂 In terms of fertilizer, it’s better to use less than more too, if you are unsure. Once you get the hang of watering and it has settled in the rest will fall into place! All the best 🙂
Hi! My tree has lost most of its leaves on the lower half and has a lot of brown spots; all the newer leaves growing on top are large and green and healthy. Is there a way to encourage growth on the lower half? Is the only way to do that is to grow new branches? Thanks!!
The tips on notching in this post should help with encouraging growth on the lower half! Any new buds/growth will always result in a branch – unfortunately leaves cannot regrow where they’ve been lost.
I have a nice fog tree and it has a lot of buds but only two are growing a lot of new leaves while the others seem dormant. Any ideas what I should do? Also how often should I give my fig fertilizer?
Hey Alison, it’s pretty normal that because we keep them as indoor plants, which is a less than ideal environment for growth, that they won’t grow to their full potential like they would if they were keep outside or planted in the ground. So it’s possible that the plant just isn’t getting enough light/energy to push out multiple buds. This post should have some good tips for you – putting it outside in a more ideal environment may help. In terms of fertilizer it will always depend on what type you are using and it’s best to go by the instructions as some are stronger than others. Here’s more info on specific fertilizer for fiddle leafs if you need 🙂
Do you have a recommendation for soil for my FLF.. When do you recommend repotting?
Also, If the new pot has only one drain hole in the bottom will that be enough? Thank you!
Hey Stephanie – all the details are in this post on soil & repotting! 🙂
I pinched my fiddle and a white liquid came out. Is that normal?
It’s sap! Totally normal 🙂
thanks emily! i went ahead and put in a few notches in the middle of the trunk. After repotting, the leaves have significantly drooped 🙁 I didn’t water the soil as I was afraid of overwater and by touch, the potting soil seems most. Any recommendations to save my poor baby? Also, if there is part of the leave that has browned from root rot, would suggest cutting that part off from the individual leaf or would that kill the leaf entirely? every plant is different so I have no clue! THanks again!
Hi Emily! Thank you so much for this post! I’m a new owner of a beautiful FDL but sadly, during transport and getting acclimated to my new home (and a bit of overwater I’ve just learned), I’ve lost some leaves in the past couple of weeks either by falling off on their own or being removed due to root rot (browning). My tree is looking sad and bare with a lot of the trunk now exposed. I’ve cleaned some of the rotten foots and repotted back in the container with proper drainage (gravel) and some new potting soil. I haven’t watered it at all to let it dry out a little bit. I’m afraid of the FDL becoming top heavy – can I notch the trunk of the tree to encourage lower branch and leaf growth? Thanks so much!
Hi Liya – yes you can definitely notch lower down the trunk to encourage branching 🙂 Keep in mind that for best results the plant needs to be quite healthy and in the growing season is the best time to try! The most effective way to get branches is pruning or pinching the top, so if it is a bit top heavy you could consider pruning it down a little which will help too. All the best!
Hi Emily, I came to your article trying to figure out what’s happening to my FLF. It’s about 4 feet tall and after buying it, it dropped a couple leaves as expected and experienced some browning after fertilizing it (whoops). I thought it was dying but now it’s sprouting several leaves at the bottom, the very base of the tree by the soil. There’s about 8 leaves rapidly growing – but at the wrong place. Is that bad?
Hey Alli, it can be common for FLFs to put out small growths from the lower part of the plant, or even coming out at soil level. There’s no harm to this! I’m sure it will put out new growth from the top when it is ready 🙂 If you don’t want the lower growth, you can always cut it off and try propagating it.
My tree is already a lot taller than I think it should be where it branches. Does the stem still need to be green where I prune or can I prune the brown thicker part of the stem? How far down can I prune and still propagate as well?
Hey Rachel – you can prune wherever you like, it doesn’t matter if the stem is younger or more mature. You can either prune multiple smaller cuttings to propagate in water or air layer a section if you want to keep it in one large piece. Here’s a post on propagation with more info 🙂
My FLF got left outside for too long. Now, she is sunburned. It makes me sick to my stomach. She has some leaves that are really bad but her bottom leaves still look really good. What’s the best way to save her?
Hey Britney! If any leaves are over 50% damaged, it’s best to prune those ones off. Otherwise they’ll still be creating energy for the plant and it’s better to leave them on the plant. There isn’t a lot you can do apart from that about the burnt ones! They can be in direct light but do need to be slowly acclimatised if you’re wanting to put them in sunlight again.
I was given a fiddle fig plant and it was almost dead so I have been trying revive it and so far I have new leaves that came in from the bottom but all the top leaves fell off. What can I do to bring back the top leaves?
Hey Marie! Unfortunately leaves won’t grow back once they’re lost – you may find that the new growth are actually the start of branches, which grow from dormant buds along the stems 🙂 of you’re finding there’s nothing growing on the top half, you may need to prune the stems back to a point where there is still sap in the stem (this is a sign of life). All the best!
I saw on someone else’s question that the best time to notch is mid spring, is that the best time to prune as well? Or can you do that at anytime? My husband just found some very tall healthy ones at our Lowe’s, but tall and skinny isn’t my favorite look!
Mid spring is always best for changes like pruning, notching, repotting etc! It’s when the plant has the most energy stored so it will be able to respond most favourably at this time by growing multiple branches, surviving dramatic change etc 🙂
When is the best height to notch the fiddle tree? Mine is about 3 ft height for now.
It really just depends on where you’d like it to branch, so it’s personal choice 🙂 If yours is only 3ft, just check if the stem is thick and woody (not young and green), as notching is really only successful on mature trunks.
My fiddle leaf fig is about 3.5 tall. It looks healthy but all the leafs are pointed down. How do I get them to stand up?
Sometimes they won’t stand upright after pointing down for some time, unfortunately! Making sure it’s getting enough water and sometimes lighting them from above (like a grow light) can help too.
Hello! I repotted my fig today after reading your blog. I rinsed all outer soil off and got probably 30% of soil off the main root ball and loosens as much as I could with fingers. I have had him for 3 years and I repotted him 18 months ago but didn’t loosen the soil so I am hoping this helps. In the last 2 years his growth has slowed a lot and he has pale leaves. No brown spots. And he’s been living on my balcony for the last 4 months so I think it’s lack of fertilizer.
My question is, given I have just repotted him how long do you think I need to wait before notching. I have tried previously with no success but I think it was not cutting deep enough and plant not healthy.
I am based in Brisbane so hoping to see some growth when spring sets on..
Hey Auri, the best time to notch is always around mid spring as this is when the plant should have the most energy stored, is actively growing and should give you the best chance of success 🙂
Goodmorning Emily, my FLF has mostly Drooping leaves. What am I doing wrong ? Please help. Thank you for any help.
Hi Mary, drooping leaves can often be a sign that the plant is thirsty! A big water should help them perk back up. However sometimes they will stay droopy if they have been left too long or have been through some shock. In this case there isn’t a lot you can do, the plant will still be fine though 🙂
I purchased a fiddle leaf fig in 2017. One branch continues to grow, the other is stunted. I will follow your advice for getting the other branch to grow. My question is for fertilizer. I purchased “fiddle leaf fig” fertilizer thru Amazon. It’s 16-5-11. Do I need to find a different one?
Hi Julie, I’m sure that fertilizer will be fine for your FLF 🙂 It’s also natural that plants will have a leading or dominant branch that grows more than the others. If you’d like your plant to be more even and for the other branches to grow more, it might pay to prune the leading branch back to lower than the others. This should redistribute the growth hormone and hopefully you’ll see some growth on the other branches.
My fig was sick at one point but it’s been growing for a while now. It’s been outside on a covered porch in hot temps in SC. My problem is that it has a very skinny trunk about the size of my pointer finger and it’s about 4 feet tall; However, the 10 leaves are all clustered at the top and it looks silly. Is there any way to encourage leaves to grow Underneath the cluster of leaves? Thanks.
Hey! Notching is generally the best way although it sounds like your plant may not be mature enough for it to be successful – so you may need to wait until the stems turn woody & brown. Otherwise you can prune it low to get a bunch of new growth!
This is a very helpful post with a lot of great information. Thank you!
My question for you that I’m hoping you might have some insight to, is that my FLF tree has 3 branches, however one of them seems to have stopped growing leaves. I’ve noticed this for about a month. It’s summer time here in Cali and it’s located in the same spot it always has been with good amount of light (SE facing window). The other two branches are already in the second cycle of growing new leaves. Is there anything I can do to encourage this branch to grow new leaves? I don’t want it branch out any further. I appreciate any help you can offer!
Hey Randeep – its pretty normal that plants will have ‘leader’ branches that grow more than others. You might be able to encourage more growth on the third branch by facing it into the light, so it’s closest to the light source or by using a grow light directed on that branch. You can always prune the other branches back if they grow too far, too 🙂
Hi I live in Toronto Canada and wondering if I should wait to notch my FLF. Currently plant is in a west facing window but in 6 weeks I will be moving so it will be in a south facing window. Should I wait until the move and let it settle in
Hey Daniele, Fiddle Leafs don’t like change so I think you would probably get better results with the notching if you wait until its settled into the new place 🙂
Hey Emily! Thanks for your tips 🙂
I have 1 established FLF and 3 babies that I have propagated successfully from it (so satisfying!)
With my propagated babies, they grow quite thin trunks and then often only have leaves up the top or bottom. Should I notch in the centre of the trunk where I want it to grow? Or is it a matter of patience given they’re only young 🙂
Hey Kayla, if you’d like branches in the middle then your plant will probably need to be encouraged to grow them there with notching, as they don’t often naturally branch like this. Keep in mind if your plants are young, that the trunks do need to be quite mature and woody for notching to work, so you may need to wait for the plant to mature for it to be successful!
Thanks so much for your help Emily! That totally makes sense 🙂
Great Article! Purchased our Fiddle several weeks ago, and there has been no new growth, or signs of growth. The top looks like brown “claws” and the leaves feel very hard to the touch. Is this normal? Would you recommend that I pinch off the top?
Hey Amanda, it’s normal for the top bud to be covered in a sheath which appears brown and crispy. Fiddles generally go through ‘bursts’ of growth, and its normal for them to take a while to grow especially after being brought into a new environment. I don’t think you need to to anything – it will grow once its settled and provided it has enough light! 🙂
Thank you so much for your second response to my question. It makes so much sense. A few months ago when I discovered FLFs I went on line and read everything I could find to make sure I didn’t kill the three I bought.
I watched the video of Claire Akin FLF Plant Resource and saw that she recommended her products that she had formulated, both food and fertilizer.
The fertilizer is 3-1-2. I ordered both but have only used the plant food, because I realized that I was probably going to be duplicating if I gave both. So it sounds like I should use the fertilizer monthly and maybe just use the food for other plants. Will it be ok to use it that way? I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but I truly want to succeed with my FLF and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your help.
Thanks so very much,
Hey Myra, from what I can see, Claire has a specific Fiddle Leaf Fertilizer product and then an ‘indoor plant food’ product for general house plant use. I would stick to a fertilizer that has the 3:1:2 ratio for your FLFs – they won’t need any other type of fertilizer on top of that 🙂
Can you discuss use of FLF plant food versus FLF fertilizer. Should I use both? I’m confused and don’t want to burn my plants. I have been using plant food only thus far at approximately every two weeks.
Hey Myra, fertilizer and plant food are terms that are used interchangeably and in this case, there’s not really a difference between them except that plant food sounds a little fancier! The most important thing to keep in mind is the 9:3:6 (aka 3:1:2) ratio that Fiddle Leafs need, and the one I recommend also contains all 17 micronutrients that plants use. You can read more about fertilizer for Fiddle Leafs here.
I’ve bought a FLF a while ago and he did good at the start. after a while he started losing a lot of leaves only the top ones are still alive, is there a way to stimulate the spots where the fallen leaves were?
Hey Linoy, you can try notching if the trunk is woody and brown to get new growth lower down. Keep in mind they can’t regrow single leaves where they’ve been lost, they can only activate dormant buds that will become branches. 🙂
Thanks a lot! Can I maybe mail you pictures of mine for some advice I’m a bit lost..
Hello Emily, I have had my fiddle leaf fig for a year now. It was about 80cm when I bought it, now it’s about 1.2 metres, and over the year it has put on approximately fourteen leaves. I am very pleased with how well it has grown. About a month ago, I noticed that a new branch started to form all on its own. That branch now has three leaves and seems very established. Is this usual?
Hey Beverley, it sounds like your Fiddle Leaf is very happy! Fiddle Leafs can grow branches on their own but generally they need some ‘encouragement’ in the form of pruning or notching. I would think that the fact that yours has done it all on its own means it is healthy and happy! 🙂
Dear Katie, Thanks very much for your message. This morning I had a good look at my plant. On the main stem on the opposite site of the branching, I saw a small bud. It looks like the buds in your piece above. I am hoping I have another branch forming. 😊
My FLF looks more like a vine than anything else. I mean, it’s growing and gets new leaves but it’s one long vine. Should I cut it off at an appropriate place to encourage a stronger trunk and branching? Thank you.
Hey Cathy! If its quite viney and has lots of space between the leaves, it sounds like it needs more light. Pruning will definitely help the trunk to strengthen as it won’t be so top heavy. Its also the best way to encourage branching if that’s what you’re after! 🙂
I’m a little confused about pinching and how often we can do it. I plucked the top bud of the tree a few months back and there have been 2 new leaves that have grown from it. Do i keep pinching the bud that’s there now to promote more leaf growth? It’s been awhile and i just haven’t seen new leaves growing from the top.
Hi! It’s up to you how much you want to pinch the top buds out. It just means that the plant will be forced to create new buds that should turn into branches. So if you’re after more branches, you can continue to pinch them out. Pinching doesn’t necessarily speed up growth and its normal for fiddles to grow in ‘bursts’, so if you haven’t seen any new leaves for a little while, that’s ok.
I bought my first FLT about a week ago at Home Depot and i love it. I want to know what should I do next.,I got a pot for it but It will need more soil. Which one should I buy? I think my FLT loved my home because it has a new leaf in just 1 week, growth super fast, I just want to do the best to keep it pretty as it is now. What do you recommend me to do ?
Hey Sara, unless its root bound you probably don’t need to repot it straight away! Here’s a guide to soil & repotting that has all the info you might need if you do repot 🙂
My Fiddle Leaf is getting rather tall, too tall for the table it sits on, so I’d like to prune it back to encourage some branching out…I’ve been reading what you’ve been saying about it and understand…but I’d like to take the top part that I cut off and root it to be another plant….what is the best way to get it to produce roots and can I plant it in the same pot as the plant that it’s been cut from, when it does root…how long should roots be before it’s planted into soil?
Hey Marie, this post about FLF propagation will have all the answers you need. You could plant it back in the same pot once it has roots, however the newly propagated piece may have slightly different water and care requirements until it gets established. I would recommend planting it in a seperate small pot for a season or so and then potentially replant both of them into another pot, if that’s the direction you’d like to take 🙂
Thank you very much…that’s exactly what I needed to know.
My fiddle is about 8ft tall. The top 3ft are very healthy but the bottoms 5ft have lost all their leaves. There are 3 trunks. Can I prune all 3 beaches back to 3ft and start over? Thanks!
Hey Chelsea – yes you can! it is a little bit of a risk doing this but I have seen many FLFs grow back from a hard prune, even when they have no leaves left. Keep in mind that when you do this, you may need to adjust your watering as the plant will be using less with no leaves left. Would love to hear how you go! 🙂
Emily, I bought my flf about 6 years ago as a relatively small plant. The trunk had been cut off at about 16” from the soil line and had branched out into two branches from there. Now each of these branches are about 41/2’ tall. They are pretty thin and lanky and are having a hard time growing upwards. I have repotted this plant once about two years ago and it did fine. It is in a southeastern window and does ok but could use more light I’m sure because there is quite a bit of space between the leaves in places. I will try to get it outside this summer. I want to prune my plant because of this lankiness but I’m not sure where to do it since the “y” branching out starts so close to the soil line. It seems like I would be left with a short stubby tree?? Is there anything I can do to help this situation? Thank you!
Hey Susan! The best advice I could give with pruning your plant is to keep in mind how you’d like it to look in the long term. Pruning down closer to the fork may mean you’ll have a short stubby tree temporarily, but keep in mind that pruning does encourage branching. So try to envision how your plant would look with more branches growing out from the place where you prune. Aesthetically, I think it would be better to prune within a foot of the fork. But this is up to you! It can be scary to prune for the first time but it is actually healthy for plants. Make sure the plant is getting lots of light and a regular fertilizer for the best chance of multiple branching and strong, healthy trunks! All the best!
Thank you SO much for all the great info!! At the beginning of last winter, I found & rescued a FLF that someone had abandoned while walking my dog. It has done amazingly well towards the top but I currently have it propped to support the weight of the leaves. It’s close to 5′ but has a branch stem about 2′ up that I cut back as it had lost all the leaves when I brought it in. That branch is about 6″ long and appears to be dead but not sure. That branch also had two smaller branches and there are 3 other areas that also had branches but were cut back. My question is regarding notching & exactly where on the trunk I should try it. There are a few dormant brown buds on the side of the trunk, right below those? Any possibility that a new branch would grow if I cut off the 6″ dried up branch? I dont want to stress the tree too much so I’ve just left that small branch but it definitely needs growth further down. Help me help my rescue!!
Hey Ash, notching is generally best done just above dormant buds. Although its best to try multiple notches, in all different places, as notching doesn’t have a 100% success rate. It will also depend on how much light the plant is getting, how healthy it is and if it is actively growing. Keep this in mind – if the plant is still recovering, it may be best to wait until it is more healthy.
When you cut the 6″ branch, was there sap from the cut? This is a sign that the branch is still alive. Branches won’t grow in the same place if you cut one off, although it may help to activate nearby dormant buds.
I think the best thing would be to allow the plant to recover and if you do want to prune or notch, mid spring (when they generally have the most energy stored) is a good time to make any changes 🙂
I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and info on FLF’s. Thank you! My tree is thriving and growing new leaves. The roots are growing in circles around the outside of the pot (they were already when I purchased in the fall, so I was waiting for spring to repot). It took several months to grow new leaves, but it was winter and a new environment — so I’m excited now to see it’s happy! I’m thinking I’ll wait a little longer to repot until spring is here and we have some more daylight hours (NW US). I plan to repot in a pot 2-3 inches bigger. What’s the best soil to use for good drainage and how much should I unwrap and disturb the roots? How worried should I be about any of the roots breaking when disturbed? How cool of air can an FLF tolerate at night? We live in a high dessert, so the days are warm and sunny, but the nights are cool. And our air is dry… Thanks so much in advance! Natalie
Hey Natalie, that pot size sounds like it would be perfect for repotting. It’s also best (especially if they’re root bound), to remove as much old soil as you can when repotting. You can sit it in water or use a hose to carefully remove the soil. Obviously it’s best if the roots don’t get broken but a little breakage is often unavoidable when repotting. A well draining soil is best, or you might want to mix a cactus soil with some extra horticultural charcoal and bark chips to help with drainage.
Generally FLFs don’t like temps lower than about 60-65, although they can do some adjusting. Extreme temps can cause leaf drop but I don’t think there’s cause for concern for your FLF! 🙂
Hi there! I’ve got a FLF that nearly bit the dust shorty after I bought it…almost all of the leaves fell off! I did some reading and moved it to a different location, watered less, and now it’s doing beautifully!! Well, the top foot is doing beautifully…the lower three feet is simply a trunk. Do you think notching would encourage any growth at this point? I know tree like fiddles are “in” right now but I’m concerned that it’s going to be way too top heavy to support itself..,.and mine isn’t very tree like yet..more like a skinny trunk with a little burst of green leaves!!
Hey Jessica! Notching could definitely help fill out the lower trunk if that’s what you’d like to do. As long as the trunk is mature and woody you could give it a go. Here’s a post on strengthening FLFs – it should help with top heavy Fiddles to ensure it can support itself. Their trunks are generally skinny but can get surprisingly strong with a few simple steps 🙂 hope that helps!
Thanks, Emily! And just to make sure, notching is ok even if there aren’t any leaves where I need to notch? I can see where the leaves used to be so I’d notch above that?
That’s exactly right! Just above a leaf or where a leaf used to be is a good spot 🙂
Thank you Emily for the great content! I’ve had one of my fiddles for a couple years now. It’s one long trunk and has grown to about 7 feet! (Wish I could send you a pic). I would like to prune it so it grows more branches instead of one long one. Is it possible to do this? And if so, what technique would you recommend? The leaves begin about 2 1/2-3 feet from the soil. It’s starting to lean because of the weight up top.
It may also be time to repot it, should I do the repotting and pruning at the same time in the Spring?
Thanks for your thoughts!
Hi Aubri! Because your FLF is so tall, I would recommend pruning it to encourage branching. Think about how high you’d like the branches to start (from about 4 ft generally looks good) and prune at that spot. This will also help with the leaning because it won’t be so top heavy. It it needs to be repotted, I would do this first in early spring and then prune a few weeks later. This will help the plant adjust to being repotted before pruning.
I’ve had my FLF for about 3 1/2 months now and it hasn’t grown at all. Not one but! There is a brown bud on the top but it has yet to do anything and I think the bud has dried up and died. Should I pinch it off and hope a new bud comes through? I’m more confused than anything because the plant is not getting worse, just painfully the same! I thought it would be getting new leaves by now for sure! I used a FLF slow release fertilizer about a month ago that recommended only using it twice a year. And it’s on my window sill that gets medium light. Any info would be much appreciated!
Hey Lindsey, I have found that FLFs seem to grow in bursts but that is a bit of a long time with no growth! It is common for the top growing bud to be brown and crispy, so I wouldn’t worry about that, it sounds normal. It also depends what season it is where you are – if you’re in winter, I wouldn’t expect any growth until spring. However if it’s summer where you are, I would maybe try giving it some more light to help it grow.
It sounds like you’ve got it already in an ideal position, but light is key to growth so it’s possible it needs a little boost to get actively growing again. If you have a brighter spot, or somewhere that gets a little bit of direct light (gentle & in the mornings is best), that might help it.
Also check the roots. If it is visibly rootbound (roots circling the outer edge of the pot), that could be why its not growing. In that case, I’d suggest repotting into a slightly larger pot. Hope that helps!
Thanks Emily! Very helpful. I bought it in late Fall so maybe I got it just as it was slowing down for the winter. (I’m in NYC so yes, it’s very much in the thick of winter here). I took your advice and moved it to a sunnier spot. It was reported it about a few months ago so I’ll just try and wait it out for warmer days. Thanks so much! -Lindsey
Hi! I have a very tall FLF. I was waiting for the hight that has right now to make it branch, so I want to use the pinching technique. But I was wondering, the part that I’m supossed to pinch has to have a small leaf? Or before it turns into one? At what stage does it have to be exactly? Thank you!
Hey Francisca, it shouldn’t matter what stage it is at for pinching. If you are unable to pinch it because there’s a new leaf starting, you can just cut the tip off with pruning scissors. If you wanted to wait until the top grew out more, you could then prune it underneath the new growth at the height you would like it to branch and propagate the top piece! It’s up to you. 🙂
my FLF (indoor)is growing very fast,I see five new leaves on,it’s winter time in Turkey,is it normal?is it dormant time?19-21C temperatures my room,thanks your answer.
Hi Berna! That’s great that your FLF is growing even during winter. In very cold climates they can appear to go dormant during winter. But they don’t have to – if the environment is good they will continue to grow! 🙂
Hi Emily, thanks so much for this content. Your fertiliser post has helped my grow giant leaves on my two trees. Over this summer I pruned both plants and for some reason I only get one branch stemming off… I tried again two weeks ago and again only one new branch. Any tips on how to get more than one branch growing back. I also successfully propagated from the cutting thanks for the tip! I can send you photos to show you where I’m cutting (very close to multiple dormant buds) x
Hey Michelle! So glad to hear your FLFs are doing well with the fertiliser 🙂 I have experienced just one new branch growing from pruning too, but have recently pruned one of my FLFs and it looks like there’s three new buds growing on two branches of the same plant (six altogether)! So I’ll share what I think has helped to get more branches:
-Light! FLFs need enough energy stored when pruned to push out multiple new growth. If they don’t have the energy, it can result in not as many branches. My FLFs get a few hours each day of direct light, which I think really helps their growth.
-Putting it outside. Outside is the best environment for FLFs in terms of light levels, fresh air and wind. These not only help to strengthen them but also help it have the beset conditions possible to grow multiple branches.
-Season – the growing season is crucial for pruning and getting good results as this is when (again) they’ll have the most energy to put towards branching.
Because I wanted to get multiple branches when pruning, I put my FLF outside a few weeks before I pruned. It is summer here in Australia, so the timing is right and the plant gets fresh air and good light too. I’m not planning on keeping it outside forever, but while I want it to create lots of branches, the time outside is definitely helping!
So if you can, set aside a couple months or so when you can have your FLF outside in bright light (doesn’t have to be direct) in the growing season to give it the best possible chance of multiple branches. Keep fertilising during this time and it should help with the new growth! Would love to hear how you go 🙂
Thanks so much! I’m in Aus too, so will pop both outside before I attempt another prune. I’ll let you know how it goes thanks again xx
I notched one of my fiddle leaf fig. I also pinched off the top. There’s definitely new growth at the top with new leaves. My question is ,where I notched it ,I discovered it appears to have air roots coming out of the notched area. One of them has a lot of them. What would cause this and will a new limb growing out of these notched areas?
Hi Donna, it is possible that notching will create roots – its kind of like an adaptation. FLFs are epiphytes in nature, so they often have aerial roots that help support them by growing on other trees. I would think that it probably won’t grow a branch where the roots have grown, but can’t say 100% for sure. Notching isn’t always successful in creating a branch so it’s best to do multiple notches at a time in the hopes that at least a couple will branch 🙂
Thank you for your reply.
I did a total of four notching’s. Three of them developed air roots ,so do I just leave the routes there?
Last year I travelled overseas with my university and my boyfriend forgot to water my beautiful fiddle leaf. The tree was reasonably tall so all the lower leaves died and fell off. I managed to keep it alive but now the plant is so top heavy, it reminds me of a palm tree to look at..with its long skinny trunk and large luscious leaves up top! Please help me!!
Hey! Notching is definitely a good way to get some growth on the lower branches. Or, if you don’t mind it taking time for your FLF to grow back, you could even hard prune it back to where you’d like it to start producing leaves again. This sounds severe but FLFs are quite resilient and can grow back from even having zero leaves. Hard pruning will basically activate a whole bunch of dormant buds and the new growth will eventually be lush and full again. 🙂
Hi Emily, I have had my FLF for 4 months now and it has done some significant growing, it has 2 trucks coming out of the pot but I fear the trunks are too flimsy to support more growth. I am just wondering how I can change this or some steps I can take to get some sturdier trunks.
Hey Emma, FLFs do have quite thin trunks that can be prone to bending with their large leaves! I’ve actually got a post all about it, which you can read: How to Strengthen a Leaning Fiddle Leaf Fig. It has some tips for ensuring the trunk grows strong and straight. Let me know if you have any more questions after reading! 🙂
Sorry, some of my wording in my previous email were missing. I wrote to you about the main stem of my fiddle leaf plant drying up and starting to progress downward. Should I cut right below the dry stem? So far the new grown at the base of the main stem is still healthy.
Hey Judy, I think it’s a good idea to cut off the dead part of the stem. I would cut it off to the point where the stem drips sap, then you know that that part of the stem is still living. Any stem that is dried out and doesn’t have sap is no longer living. Hope that helps 🙂
I’ve had my fiddle leaf for over a year. At one point all the leaves fell off. I thought it was because of root rot so I dried out the roots and replanted with new soil. After also feeding with fertilizer, new growth of 2 stems started growing I’ve noticed lately that the top of the main stem started out and now progressing down. The newest top branch off of the main stem is dying too. Should I cut back the dried part of the stem? There’s new grown at the base of the stem/plant with healthy leaves. Thanks.
Emily, I’ve had my FLF for about 4 months and it is growing like crazy in my sunroom. I have a question about the leaves that were on it when it was purchased. They are smallish and dry looking compared to the very healthy new leaves that seem to be growing weekly.
Can I prune the old leaves off?
Hey Sharon, it should be fine to prune any unwanted leaves off, as long as there’s still enough left on the plant to keep it healthy & producing energy! Keep in mind that it’s unlikely new leaves will grow back in their place, so if you are ok with the bare trunk look, that’s totally ok! It sounds like your Fiddle is loving it’s new home 🙂