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Ficus trees are one the most popular trees kept indoors. These trees are incredibly versatile, easy to care for and make for great bonsai trees. Now and then, you will likely run into problems in the care of your Ficus. One of the most common that I have experienced is how do you straighten a Ficus Tree?
To straighten a Ficus tree, plant a stake/bamboo on the opposite side of the bend. Move into position and attach with copper/aluminum wire. Leave for a few weeks for the root ball to strengthen and until the Ficus stands straight on its own.
So what are the different methods of straightening a Ficus Tree? And do these methods work for all species of Ficus and Ficus bonsai? Keep reading to find out more!
Just a quick heads up, over the past three years of running Plantpaladin, hundreds of people have asked for product recommendations. As such, You can find my favorite indoor bonsai tree here (link takes you to Bonsaiboy), my favorite outdoor bonsai tree (link takes you to Bonsaiboy), or have a look at all the products I recommend here.
How do you straighten a Ficus Tree?
With well over 850 known species, it’s fair to say that if you own indoor plants, it’s likely that Ficus trees are a part of your collection!
While these trees are generally easy to care for, they can occasionally present several problems.
With these trees growing indoors, one of the significant challenges associated with these plants is bent trunks or these trees not growing upright or straight.
I have experienced this with my Ficus trees and got in touch with a few experts.
I visited my local botanical gardens, tried correcting the problems with my trees, and even did a quick survey of Plant Paladin readers to find out how to straighten a Ficus tree.
All done to ensure you had the best resource if you ever ran into the same problem.
To summarize then:
How do you straighten a Ficus Tree?– Quick facts
- Ficus trees will commonly grow bent or tilted during their life.
- The leading causes of this are a lack of sunlight, whereby the tree’s branches and leaves will grow tilted/bent to compensate for the lack of this light.
- Other causes can include a weakened root ball/roots and general erosion over time.
- In most cases, Several methods can correct tilted/bent Ficus trees.
- The most common method is to plant a stake, bamboo stick, or pole of some kind in the opposite direction of the bend, manually attach it via wire and then hold it upright until the tree starts to grow upright.
- Other methods include simply moving outdoors into a space with more sunlight, topping up the potting soil of your tree, adding airflow near your tree, or repotting your tree.
- Leaving your Ficus to grow tilted can eventually cause the roots of a Ficus tree to become unstable, damaged, and unhealthy and, in severe cases, shorten their life.
- Tilted growth can lead to a greater chance of breakages, mold or bacteria infection, and insect infestation.
- If a Ficus has a tilt of more than 15 degrees, these bends will need corrective measurements.
- The larger a Ficus tree, the more significant the impact a bend/tilt will have on the tree’s health.
- Ficus tree species with larger leaves, such as Fiddle Leafed Fig trees, will be more susceptible to tree tilt.
Let’s go into the different methods of straightening a Ficus tree.
How do you straighten a Ficus tree – tools needed
So before we go into the exact methods to straighten out a Ficus, I find that it is always helpful to take note of the tools needed.
While most of you will have these around the house, if you do not, the following will work best – All of the links will take you to Amazon:
- A wooden stake, bamboo, or tube to straighten the Ficus.
- Copper/aluminum wire to hold the Ficus together
- Branch or concave cutters to trim excess heavy branches
- Root cutters and root hooks for repotting/trimming down lop-sided roots.
- Artificial lights – if keeping your Ficus indoors
- Potting soil
- A fan
How do you straighten a Ficus tree – The methods
The first method is the easiest on this list and will likely work for most of your Ficus trees.
Move into sunlight
While Ficus trees are fantastic indoor trees, one of the things we often forget as Ficus owners are just how much sunlight these trees require.
Ficus trees then will typically require between 4 and 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
If you keep your Ficus indoors in a room without any light, your tree will naturally want to grow its leaves and branches where it gets what little light it can.
Excessive tilted branch growth happens in office spaces where Ficus trees are often left on desks away from the sunlight they require.
As Ficus then grow between 12-36 inches per year, depending on the species, it’s only a matter of time before the branches and trunk of your tree start to tilt.
How to use this method
As mentioned, luckily, this method is an easy one to follow.
Gently pick up your Ficus tree in its pot, and move it next to a window sill if kept indoors.
Ideally, this window will be south-facing, where it will get the most light.
After a few weeks, you should start to notice the tree gently straightening out if this is the reason for the tilt in the tree.
Alternatively, if you live in a space where outdoor temperatures exceed 60 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the day, consider moving your Ficus tree outdoors for 4 hours per day.
Keeping your tree outdoors will help give it all the necessary sunlight for the photosynthesis process and should help straighten out your trunk.
Now for many of you living in apartments, you might not have the space to move your tree next to a window sill or outdoors.
If this is the case, consider investing in an artificial grow light.
Aim for an LED grows light for best results with the full-color spectrum.
Leave this on between 5 to 6 hours per day, and your tree should receive the adequate light it needs.
Plant a stake in the ground
Now in an ideal world, the first method will work like a charm, and your Ficus will now have straightened itself out.
Sadly, however, the reality for many of your reading is that we have to use the stake method to ensure our Ficus tree stays upright.
This procedure is undertaken to resolve severe tilts more than 15 degrees when the trunk and branches excessively lean over one side.
While not recommended by many people in the gardening industry due to the potential damage to trees, it can be an effective method.
Tilting of trees requiring the stake method again is caused by lack of sunlight, so you will have to use this second method in conjunction with the first on most occasions.
Staking your Ficus tree is commonly used for Ficus trees with more minor, weaker root structures.
If the roots of your Ficus are too small compared to the heavy branches and trunk of your tree, it can potentially uproot your tree as the roots are sometimes too small to help support the weight of these excess branches.
How to use this method
First, trim back excess branches pushing the Ficus in one direction.
You can use a sharp pair of shears or branch cutters for this.
Cover these cuts with putty or another protective adhesive.
Then gently place a stake, bamboo, or pole of choice on the opposite side of the bend of your tree.
This steak should be 1 to 3 times the size of your Ficus.
In my experience, for most small to medium-sized Ficus trees, a 1 to 1.5-meter stake will work best.
Then gently move your Ficus that is bent into position to stand upright.
Attach copper or aluminum wire to these branches and wrap around the stake – this will help keep your Ficus upright without you needing to apply any pressure.
Move your Ficus gently next to a window or areas where it can get plenty of sunlight.
After a few weeks, the tree branches and trunk will start to grow upright, your root structure will strengthen to the point where you can cut away the wire, and your Ficus will continue to grow upright.
Repot your roots
While most of you are reading this will have small to medium-sized Ficus trees growing in pots, some will have plated larger Ficus trees outdoors in the ground.
During storms or excessive rainfall, it is not uncommon for roots to become uprooted.
If this happens, it’s only natural that your tree will start to grow lop-sided or tilted as it tries to compensate for the lack of roots in the ground.
For larger trees, this can prove more challenging as the weight of your tree can lead to significant damage.
While this type of tilted Ficus is more familiar with more giant Ficus trees, uprooting can happen if small Ficus trees are kept indoors in pots – especially if the tree has a small root ball/root structure and is unearthed through the potting soil of your pot.
How to use this method
To straighten a Ficus tree that unearthed roots have caused, first, ensure that some of the roots are still in the ground or potting soil.
Typically this should be between 1/3rd and ½ of all the tree’s roots.
If too many roots have been unearthed, you can’t recover your tree.
Then using a shovel or trowel, remove the soil from under the exposed roots on the tree.
Once removed, gently lift and straighten the tree.
Lifting the tree can be done relatively quickly if your tree is small but if you have a large Ficus, consider getting some help as this can be incredibly heavy.
Replant the roots of your tree below grade level, and then cover with potting soil of your choice until tightly packed and in the ground.
Once completed, apply 2 to 3 guy wires and place them about 2 to 3 trunks diameter away from the trunk of your tree.
For example, if your tree trunk measured 1 meter across, place your guy wire 3 meters away from the trunk.
If you have a smaller Ficus tree or Ficus bonsai and your trunk only measures 10cm across, then move your guy wire about 20 to 30cm.
Repot your tree
Like almost all trees, Ficus trees need to be repotted as time goes on.
Repotting is especially common when growing Ficus trees in pots.
Over time the roots of the Ficus will grow to the point where they will be too large for their pots.
The pot will then push back against the roots, which can cause the roots to uproot the tree, making the Ficus tree grow tilted/bent.
How to use this method
I have written a post about this topic here in more detail.
To summarize quickly, however:
- Use the root hook to go around the edge of your pot, loosening up the soil.
- Gently remove your Ficus from its pot and trim and excess roots.
- Fill a new pot with potting solid and thread through the wire at the bottom to hold your tree in place.
- Place your Ficus tree in its new pot and keep it together with wire.
- Maintain correct aftercare.
Wiggle the trunk
While the above four methods are the best, I have tried a few other things that have helped straighten my Ficus tree.
First, and as funny as it sounds, consider wiggling your Ficus tree.
With Ficus trees being kept indoors, they do not get a lot of airflows. Wiggling your tree then will allow your tree to mimic the condition of natural wind and grow vertically.
How to use this method
Gently hold your Ficus trunk between your thumb and index finger if you have a small trunk, or use both hands if you have a wide Ficus trunk.
They move the trunk from side to side for about 10 minutes per day.
Repeat this process one to two times per day, and after four weeks, your Ficus will start to straighten out.
Use a fan
Finally, similar to the last method, this works surprisingly well at straightening up the Ficus tree.
Indoor Ficus trees get lazy when they don’t have resistance such as the wind.
Grown indoors, they don’t face any resistance and so doing something as simple as turning on a fan can kick start your Ficus from being a slouch into an upright tree.
How to use this method
Place your fan in the same room as your Ficus tree.
Gently turn this on for 10 minutes per day in the first week.
Aim the fan at the Ficus, using its oscillate function.
After a week, you can increase the setting on your fan to provide more wind and increase the time from 10 to 20 minutes of airflow.
Using a fan will further increase your Ficus’s strength and move it into an upright position.
Just be sure that the indoor departures do not drop below 60 to 65 degrees with the fan on, as Ficus trees do not like cooler temperatures.
Why do Ficus trees need straightening?
Ficus trees often need straightening to prevent damage to branches, trunks, and the tree’s roots. If left unchecked, this can weaken the tree, making it more suspectable to breakages, causing bacterial, fungal, and pest infestations.
What causes a Ficus to bend?
The leading causes of Ficus bend are lack of sunlight, upturned roots caused by flooding or heavy rainfall, or a small root structure that is unable to maintain the giant branch and leaves of some Ficus species.
To summarize then:
Lack of sunlight
The biggest reason for root tilt is just a lack of sunlight.
Ficus trees love bright sun and need at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight every day.
When kept indoors away from sunlight, the leaves and branches of a Ficus will grow in the direction where they get as much sunlight as possible.
Lack of sunlight will express itself as a tilt or bend in the tree.
Uptrunred roots are also another common reason for a bent Ficus tree.
These roots cause instability in the rest of the tree.
Your tree will start to bend to overcompensate for the uprooted roots.
Small root structure
Another reason for a tilted or bent Ficus tree is that trees sometimes have a smaller root structure.
If a Ficus tree then has a smaller roots structure or rootball but larger leaves, this can mean that the roots struggle to compensate for the size of these branches and roots.
The leaves and branches then force the roots towards the potting soil.
These branches and leaves will then bend out of place due to this.
What Ficus species need to be straightened?
Ficus trees with larger leaves, such as Fiddle Leaf Fig or Ficus Elastic (Rubber Fig), tend to grow bent the most. Straightening these trees is required to ensure they grow upright.
Ficus trees that are also larger in stature and fall into larger size classification are more likely to need straightening.
Ficus trees that are also younger in the first one or two years also commonly tilt or grow in a specific direction until they start to mature.
The table below will highlight some of the most common species of Ficus and if they need straightening:
Does it need straightening
Fiddle Leaf Fig
Do Ficus bonsai trees also need to be straightened?
Ficus trees used in bonsai, such as Ginseng Ficus, are also susceptible to bending branches and trunks. These will need to be straightened if styles such as sumo or upright formal would like to be achieved.
Are Ficus trees that grow tilted ever any good?
For some styles of Ficus bonsai tree, such as cascade, informal upright, or semi-cascade, having a Ficus tree that grows at an angle or tilted can be beneficial for the aesthetics of the tree.
When should you straighten a tilted Ficus tree?
If a Ficus tree tilts more than 15 degrees, consider straightening up the tree. While some degree of bend is natural in the growth of a Ficus tree, should it exceed more than 15 degrees, it can start to create damage and breakages in parts of the tree.
How do you straighten a Ficus tree – What do the experts say?
To ensure that I have the best post possible for you on how to straighten a Ficus, I visited my local botanical gardens.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens has over 7000 plants from across the world, many of which are Ficus species.
On a local trip, I asked one of the employees what they do for their Ficus when they start to tilt.
“When Ficus tilts, it’s usually because of lack of sunlight, so the best option is to get them more sun. if not, try straining them with a steak or pole in the ground.”
Survey on how do you straighten a Ficus tree
Finally, I asked 20 plant paladin readers who also keep Ficus trees what their method of choice for straightening a Ficus was:
Many of you will want some general care tips on a Ficus tree, so hopefully, the table below will help!
Ginseng Ficus Bonsai tree Requirements
Once per day in the spring-summer or if kept indoors. Once per week if kept outdoors during the winter. Only water if dry to touch.
4 hours of direct sunlight in the summer. LED grow light can also be used.
Between 60 degrees F and 100 degrees F
Fertilize 18 times per year, twice per month between spring and summer. Once per month in the fall and winter
Once every 2 to 3 years in the first 10 years. You can then report once every 5 years
Can be placed outdoors in direct sunlight or indoors in a bright spot.
Both copper and aluminum wire can be used.
Time to grow from scratch into maturity
8 to 12 years to reach full maturity
An inorganic Akdama, volcanic ash soil mix works best.
Slow growing, averaging 3-5 inches per year
Average store-bought trees are size is one or two-handed bonsai trees - 3 to 10 inches in size, 2 to 8 inches wide
50 to 150 years
Now if you have a Ficus tree, you might find the following posts useful:
- Do Ficus trees like coffee grounds?
- How long do Ficus trees live?
- Is Ficus toxic to cats?
- Do Ficus trees have berries?
- Does Ficus produce seeds?
My top picks for the gear you will need!
So like I mentioned earlier, over the past three years of running PlantPaladin, hundreds of people have asked me for my recommendations on the best bonsai gear on the market.
Having spent thousands of dollars on bonsai items these past few years and tested at least 100 bonsai-specific products, I’ve listed my favorite products below – All of which I highly recommend and think you can get great value.
They can purchase directly by clicking the link to take them to Amazon.
Bonsai Tool Set: One of the significant challenges I’ve had is finding a toolset that was not only durable but didn’t break the bank. SOLIGT has recently developed a fantastic bonsai tool set that covers all the tools you need to trim, prune, and repot your trees. – You can grab it here.
Complete Bonsai Set: Many of you will want to grow your bonsai trees entirely from scratch, but finding the varicose seeds, pots, and other items in one place can be challenging. Leaves and Sole then have created a complete bonsai set that I’ve personally used that ticks all the boxes. You can grab it here.
Bonsai wire: The number of times I’ve run out of wire for my bonsai or purchased cheap bonsai wire that doesn’t do the job is embarrassing for me to admit. After a lot of trial and error, I found that using Hotop’s aluminum bonsai wire is one of the best options on the market. This can easily be used for both indoor and outdoor bonsai. You can grab it here.
This post was written by Fehed Nicass who has been passionate about bonsai for over 3 years. He currently resides in the UK and works in sales.