Unusual Ficus petersii

I got this cool little ficus as a gift a few years ago and its pretty easy to grow. Every winter it drops its leaves and goes dormant until about now. As the buds elongate the strongest always take all the energy. I usually let them grow and harden off and do a post flush pruning but the internodes tend to get very long. I’m not very familiar with ficus as it is a tropical tree so if there are any members with more experience here your feedback is welcome. I’m wondering if there is a technique such as removing the strongest bud or pruning before it hardens off.

Pictures below.

Thanks in advance.

Hi Cam, let the branches grow until they have 5 or 6 leaves then cut back to 1, 2 or three depending what you are trying to achieve with each branch. This will increase ramification and eventually reduce node length. Depending upon where you are in the world you may be able to do this at least twice but possibly three times during the growing season. Do you put it outside at all?
All ficus can be put outside in temperatures above 10 C and providing there’s not more than 5 C difference between outside and where you have it. This is the same for when you return it indoors and avoids thermal shock. Ensure it is kept draught free if you place it outside until it acclimatises.
I see you have done a trunk chop. Ficus struggle with healing large wounds (more than 1/3 of the trunk diameter) as the wood of the ficus is very soft and fibrous and very often rots, leaving a hole. You may be able to create a feature if this happens.
That being said, ficus do enjoy a thorough pruning (less than 1/3 of the trunk diameter) and will respond favourably by sprouting lots of buds close to the area of the cut. Try, if possible to leave a twig or two below the cut to prevent sap withdrawal if possible.

Hi Keith

Thanks for the info, I do bring it out to my garden in the summer months, and where the chop is was actually die back before I received it. I’ve been trying to heal it but no luck.

When I do my pruning I usually wait until the branches harden off. Do you think it would be fine if I was to prune it sooner while it is still green and fleshy ?

Once the leaves have hardened off you should be able to go ahead and prune again as long as it is still healthy. If you are going to do this you need to make sure it is fed very well.
As the first set of leaves are about to come out now, then you should be able to let them harden, start transitioning the tree for outdoors (if it’s warm enough) and once settled prune late April / early May. You should then be able to get a second prune in August and have the leaves harden off before moving it indoors for winter (depending on the severity and length of your winters). It may be possible to squeeze a third prune if it enjoys the summer sun, but if I were you I’d stick to two which allows it sufficient time to recover, unless of course the leaves have hardened and growth gone mad, plus there is sufficient time for them to harden off again. If you do this every year the ramification will increase dramatically.
I am not sure what to suggest with regards to the large wound. I think it will continue to rot but as long as the tree remains healthy the hollow trunk it may create can be turned into a stunning feature at a later date.

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