Three Ways to Encourage a Fiddle Leaf Fig to Branch: Pruning, Notching & Pinching

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!

Three ways to encourage a Fiddle Leaf Fig to branch | Dossier Blog

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.

Three buds growing into branches | Dossier Blog

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.

Finding a bud on a Fiddle Leaf Fig stem | Dossier Blog
How to prune your Fiddle Leaf Fig to help it branch | Dossier Blog

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.
Spotting a dormant bud where a leaf meets the stem | Dossier Blog
An example of how to notch a trunk | Dossier Blog

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.

How to pinch the growing tip | Dossier Blog

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.

Energy Levels

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.

Guide to Branching a Fiddle Leaf Fig | Dossier Blog

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!

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29 Comments. Leave new

  • 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!!

    Reply
    • 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 🙂

      Reply
  • 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

    Reply
    • 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! 🙂

      Reply
  • 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!!

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • Hi Emily,
    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!

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
      • 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

        Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
    • 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. 🙂

      Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
    • 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! 🙂

      Reply
  • 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

    Reply
    • 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 🙂

      Reply
      • 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

        Reply
  • Hi 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!!

    Reply
    • 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. 🙂

      Reply
  • 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.

    Thank you!

    Reply
  • Hi Emily,
    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.

    Reply
    • 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 🙂

      Reply
  • Hi Emily,
    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.

    Reply
  • 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?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • 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 🙂

      Reply

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