Cleaning Up A Ficus Retusa

Sometimes when we import trees they have a rough time in transportation. With one batch of Ficus Retusa (Tiger Bark Ficus) we got about a month ago, the trees had been bare-rooted and de-foliated. In those situations all you can do is pot them up and wait to see what happens! We potted the tree in a mix of lava rock and fir bark. After about a month in the tree has leafed out quite nicely and is putting out new growth.

It was also a chance to see which branches had died. Once the tree is actively growing, if a branch has not leafed out then it’s probably dead. A good final test is to try to break the branch. If it SNAPS and is dried out, it’s dead. If it bends/breaks but doesn’t snap, then it may be alive. Another test is to make a small scratch on the bark. If it’s green underneath and not dried out, then the branch is probably alive.

If the branch is still alive, for (most) any tropical or deciduous tree you can cut it back to try to trigger new growth to break. If it’s an evergreen conifer you’re probably going to have to grow a new branch or wait for the tree to decide on its own.

In the case of ficus, they grow new branches very quickly and readily, even from old wood, as you can see from this video. The longest branches will have the most energy and become dominant. If that is not what you want, trim them back a bit to reduce their vigor!