How to Propagate a Ficus Tree in 7 Easy Steps
It is easy to propagate ficus trees by cutting if you have the right materials. By propagating these plants, you can create more ficus trees to plant in your indoor or outdoor garden. In this article, gardening expert Emily Horn shares the exact process you'll need to follow when propagating Ficus trees in just a few simple steps.
Why would you want to spend a minimum of $50 on a fake ficus tree when it is easy to grow one by yourself? You may be wondering how you propagate your ficus plant.
There are many types of Ficus trees. Traditional weeping figs are one of the most popular houseplants worldwide. But rubber plants also belong to the Ficus genus, with deep green leaves and red highlights. There are also fiddle leaf figs, with large violin-shaped leaves, and fantastic creeping ficus varieties, which look great cascading from a hanging basket.
Regardless of ficus tree type, propagation via cuttings is the easiest way to create more Ficus trees. If you’re thinking, “Okay, great. But how do you take a cutting?” we will outline the tools and methods needed to successfully propagate Ficus trees by cutting. Let’s dig in!
Step 1: Prep The Area
Ficus leaves and stems can be pretty messy when cut or accidentally broken. Once the outside protective layer of tissue is wounded, a white sap quickly oozes out from the cut. This sap is latex. The latex sap is very sticky and can be pretty challenging to remove from tools, fabrics, and skin.
Consider protecting the area surrounding your Ficus with a tarp, old sheet, or drop cloth before pruning. Depending on the size of the plant, either place a smaller Ficus directly on the tarp or, for larger specimens, drape the cloth around the base of the plant, extending it out under the diameter of the leaf canopy. This will allow the sap to drip on the drop cloth rather than nearby furniture, carpeting, or flooring.
Step 2: Clean Your Tools
Cleaning and sanitizing your tools is essential before you begin pruning. Unfortunately, dirty tools are one way that plant diseases can be transported among your houseplants.
Some plant families have more of an issue with plant disease than others, but practicing good cleaning techniques will benefit your houseplants equally.
Remember, you cannot sanitize your pruners and tools without cleaning them first, particularly if you use chlorine bleach as a sanitizer.
How to Clean Your Tools
First, remove any visible plant debris and soil with a stiff, dry brush. Second, immerse your pruners in a solution of mild dish soap and warm water, similar to hand washing your dishes, and scrub the strike plate and blade carefully. Rinse with clean water and pat dry.
How to Sanitize Your Tools
You can sanitize your tools easily at home with products you probably already own. The two most common household sanitizers are 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol and chlorine bleach. These two solutions are highly effective in sanitizing surfaces, are relatively inexpensive, and have a broad range of pathogens they control.
To use rubbing alcohol: Pour 70% isopropyl alcohol on a clean paper towel or cotton ball. Thoroughly wipe the blade and the strike plate so both surfaces are wet. Allow the alcohol to evaporate entirely before using your pruners.
To use chlorine bleach: Use a glass or heavy-duty plastic container to soak your pruners in the solution. Mix 1 part chlorine bleach with 9 parts water in the container. Gently slide your pruners into the solution to avoid any splashing. Allow the pruners to soak in the bleach solution for 30 minutes.
Remove the pruners from the bleach and rinse under clean, cool water. If desired, take your bleach solution and a glass of water into the garden to provide a 5-minute soak between different plants in the bleach, dipping them into the water to remove the bleach after their soak.
Discard the bleach solution after use, as it can no longer disinfect due to contamination from your pruners.
Step 3: Taking Cuttings
Cuttings are the easiest way to propagate Ficus trees. Now that your area is prepped and your tools are clean, it’s time to take your cuttings. You will want to take more than one cutting from your plant. No matter how careful or experienced you are, not all cuttings survive to become new plants.
Something inevitably happens… you go away for the weekend, and the cuttings dry out, the cat bats the cutting around like a new toy, or it just wasn’t viable. Whatever the reason, take a few more cuttings off your plant than you intend to keep.
If all the cuttings should happen to root, you can always spread your gardening prizes with others with similar enthusiasm.
Cut 4-5″ Stems From New Growth
The best cuttings come from fresh new shoots in an area of strong growth. Look for young side shoots with healthy new leaves. Cut the side shoots to about 4-5 inches in length, ensuring there are at least 2 full sets of leaves on each cutting. Any remaining plant materials can be discarded.
Propagate Ficus Trees When You Prune
Taking cuttings can also be part of your Ficus pruning routine. For example, at the conservatory where I work, we currently have a top-heavy Ficus that has to be propped up.
I’ve noticed that two new shoots have formed between the main stem and one of the branches. Because the plant is healthy, it’s best to prune off the longer shoot growing in the wrong direction. It is green, pliable, and perfect for rooting.
By removing this elongated shoot, the main plant will be balanced again and pruned into a more desired shape, and I will have the chance to root a new plant from this shoot.
Step 4: Remove Leaves
The cuttings must have healthy leaves to propagate Ficus trees because they will use photosynthesis to encourage rooting. Even when your cutting is new and has not developed roots yet, the leaves are still making food. However, too many leaves can cause your cuttings to fail.
Transpiration, or the process of water leaving the plant tissues via the leaves, will continue to happen while you root your cutting. The more leaves that are present, the greater rate of transpiration. This is because the plant has no roots to replenish any water that has been lost. Over a short time, a cutting can dry out quickly because it’s losing water and unable to replace it.
Find a balance of keeping some leaves to perform photosynthesis but not so much that your cutting dries out and dies. Keep 2-3 sets of leaves at the top of your cutting to make it happy.
If there are more than 2-3 sets of leaves on your plant, break or trim off the lower leaves where they connect to the stem. This will cause some latex to ooze at the breakage point, but it will be okay. Discard any leaves you have pinched off in the compost or trash.
Step 5: Use Rooting Hormone
The tissue of Ficus tends to be harder and thicker than other houseplants. This woody tissue will need some assistance when it comes to establishing roots. Rooting hormone is extra helpful when propagating Ficus trees because it promotes the growth and development of new roots from the thick tissue.
Plants are filled with various hormones. Hormones influence cell elongation (growth), flowering, seed germination, and fruit ripening. We can also add hormones to speed up certain processes.
Rooting hormone, in particular, comes in a few different formats: powders, liquids, and gels are readily available from your local garden center. These products are used in the asexual propagation of plants worldwide.
How To Apply Rooting Hormone
To apply rooting hormone to a cutting, pour a small amount of liquid hormone or gel into a container. Do not stick your cutting directly in the original bottle, as this can contaminate it and may expose any future cuttings to pathogens.
Dip the ends of cuttings into the small container of liquid, ensuring numerous leaf nodes are covered in the solution. Stick the cutting into a pre-prepared hole in the pot containing your dampened media. Gently push the soil back around the stem cutting to make sure the stem is making direct contact with the soil and to stabilize your cutting.
If you are using the powdered rooting hormone, hold your cutting over the trash can and lightly shake your rooting powder over the stem, coating the leaf nodes. If desired, you can dip the stem into a glass of water and then sprinkle on the rooting powder to help adhere it to the stem.
Tap the stem carefully to remove any excess powder, and stick your cutting into the dampened media inside your pot, trying not to knock off the powder while placing it into a pre-prepared hole. Press the soil up against the plant stem to ensure contact between the two and to stabilize your cutting.
Step 6: Maintain Cuttings
Regularly check on your cuttings to ensure they progress. Check the soil moisture and maintain damp, but not soaking wet, soil conditions. Until roots are developed, the leaves can dry out rather quickly since they are unable to replace any water that has been lost.
If your living conditions are dry, consider misting Ficus leaves with plain water to increase the humidity around your cuttings. Higher humidity will decrease the transpiration rate. If desired, place a dome or plastic bag over your cutting to maintain more humidity around the cutting, but try to keep the cutting from making direct contact with the dome or bag.
Resist the temptation to dig around in the soil to see if any roots have started forming. Little root hairs on the roots are very delicate and easily damaged. Instead, use the “tug test.”
After 4-6 weeks, very gently pull upwards on your cutting while it’s in the pot. A rooted cutting will have some resistance when pulled upward. A cutting without roots will easily slip out of the soil into your hands. Just don’t tug too hard! You can damage any roots that might be there that are still too little to hold the plant in place. Remember, patience is essential to propagate Ficus trees.
Step 7: Transplant Carefully
When your cuttings have established strong roots, you can move them into a larger container to grow to their full glory. The primary thing you want to remember when it comes time to transplant your cutting into its final container is: Do not disturb the root system.
When transplanting, you don’t want to shake off the soil entirely from the roots. Yes, some soil is bound to fall off while maneuvering the plant around, but removing all the soil from the roots of a healthy plant is unnecessary.
Leaving some of the soil or rooting media intact will help keep the root system damp while the plant transitions into its pot. When you remove all the soil from the roots, you risk damaging the root hairs on your newly established cutting. This damage can stunt your cuttings’ growth and cause transplant shock. That’s not how you want your plant to start its life!
Propagating a Ficus tree from cuttings can be fun and a little exciting. It is empowering to create brand new plants by taking a portion of an existing plant. Follow proper cleaning and sanitizing techniques, take multiple cuttings, and be patient!