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When and how to prune ficus benjamin
The pruning of ficus benjamin must be performed in the spring months: it is an operation aimed at limiting the growth of the foliage, ordering it and making it more balanced and harmonious. In the event that large branches are present, however, it is advisable to also proceed with winter pruning, since in these months the milky substance that is emitted after cutting is present to a lesser extent. Equally important is the topping, which consists in removing the newly hatched buds, and which is put into practice to allow the plant to grow more compactly, developing a sufficiently thick crown. Since the ficus benjamin not only grows the foliage, but also the roots extend, if they are too large for the pot in which the plant is located, a partial pruning of the root system must also be performed; alternatively, repotting can be done by moving the ficus into a slightly larger pot. The roots develop very quickly when the plant is young, so it is necessary to control the root mass once a year. Over time, however, interventions may be more sporadic. The pruning of ficus benjamin requires the use of appropriate tools and equipment: in fact, shears must be disinfected, to avoid the risk of infections and attacks by animal and vegetable parasites. Not only: the blades must be perfectly sharpened, so as to make sharp and clean cuts, without fraying. The wounds must then be repaired with healing mastic, which among other things is an excellent barrier against pests.
Usually pruning is a means used to make fruit plants more productive and less susceptible to diseases and parasites. Surely for a houseplant like ficus benjamina the purpose of increasing productivity is not there. However, as with all ornamental plants, it is replaced instead with the aim of obtaining an exemplary looking, healthy and less prone to health problems. To master the pruning techniques it is certainly necessary to acquire information on the physiology of the plant, on its particular needs and on the dangers it can run if it is not maintained in the best way. But we also need to acquire a certain experience given by the many attempts and certainly by the ability to observe the plant and understand, independently of everything, what this asks of us in that specific moment, possibly what we want to achieve and what is the best way to go to reach it.Equipment
In order to perform this delicate operation in the best way, it is necessary to have the right equipment and maintain it in an optimal manner.
The absolutely necessary tools are:
• scissors for thin branches
• garden shears, capable of cutting branches of at least 3 cm in diameter
• loppers and / or hacksaws (if we have large specimens)
Having tools that are always well maintained is very important so as not to damage the plant. The shears must always be very sharp in order to make very precise cuts and above all without fraying. These in fact could cause the penetration of pathogens directly into the most tender parts of the plant and cause their rapid deterioration.
To obtain and maintain a good sharpening a good method consists in removing the tool by unscrewing the bolt with a wrench, removing the spring and separating the shears. In this way it will be possible to proceed by sharpening the wire with an oiled stone (making sure to keep it away from us). In the end we can dry it and put it back together.
To prevent rust from forming on our tools, we can place them in a container with river sand mixed carefully with a little oil.
When to prune?
The ficus benjamina can theoretically be pruned at any time of the year, especially when it comes to light pruning with the sole purpose of eliminating maybe some small damaged branch or maintaining its shape. If instead we have to proceed with more important pruning, containment, rejuvenation or training (and perhaps at the same time carry out repotting) it is absolutely best to proceed at the end of winter-beginning of spring. In this period in fact there will be less danger of hindering the normal physiological progression of the specimen because there is a lower production of latex and the plant is still at least partially in a period of rest and the sap has not yet begun to "push" excessively in the direction of the quotes.
Why prune and what types of pruning can be done?
The first two or three years of the plant's life are the most important in this respect. In fact in this period we proceed with what is called "training pruning". It is in fact a technique that helps to develop the branches and the shape of the plant in a harmonious, healthy and appropriate manner to our requests.
It will therefore be necessary to decide which final form to give to our specimen.
We can choose to maintain the bush's natural shape: in this case we will activate only by eliminating the crooked branches or going in directions that are not very harmonious. The ideal is to create a rather open structure, which gives air inside the foliage, especially in the center. Instead, let us try to keep the branches thicker by forking them several times: this gives an overall appearance that is fuller and healthier. To obtain this it is good, during the first years (which are also those of faster vegetative growth) repeatedly "tear" the lateral branches.
It should be noted that, especially during spring, plants tend to grow more on the tips. In fact in this period the phytohormones push a growth that is called "apical". Consequently, if no action is taken, we will have plants with very long branches and very open. The general appearance will be rather bare and also the quantity of leaves will be affected.
To counter this tendency it is important to carry out frequent (in the first few years at least twice every vegetative period) "topping": in practice the main branches must be cut leaving only a few buds. The treatment will stimulate the plant to produce innumerable side branches (less vigorous and therefore easier to maintain) and giving a more pleasant appearance. The topping can also be repeated on these secondary branches so as to obtain, finally, a compact and well-structured specimen.
If, on the other hand, we want to obtain a tree-like specimen, for example, we will have to commit ourselves for some time (and in any case continue for the whole life of the plant) by eliminating all the branches that should have appeared from the main trunk (and possibly also from the base). We will decide at what height we want the hair and on this we will work with repeated topping so as to obtain (and always keep) a rounded shape.
Pruning for maintenance
Once we have obtained the form we desire, we will need to intervene to keep it as much as possible. However, it should be pointed out that the ficus benjamin grows very vigorously during the first few years, but then undergoes a strong slowdown and consequently the interventions could prove necessary even only once every two years.
On adult plants, in the absence of serious problems, it will only be necessary to cut damaged or broken branches, dry ones or even those that go in directions not suited to our needs. The branches that appear to be less vigorous should also be eliminated. Let us remember that the elimination of these parts stimulates the plant to produce new, healthier vegetation. It is therefore important not to hesitate when seeing parts that are not vigorous.
It may happen that the plant is attacked by pests or fungal diseases. If the problem were to be consistent and the branches strongly damaged it could be useful to resort to a cut, even drastic. This will clearly need to be followed by an important intervention on the roots so that the apogean and hypogean part are balanced and the specimen is able to recover in the shortest possible time. Let us remember, however, that we also resort to appropriate therapy for the condition and for at least a few months do not stress the plant with excessive fertilizations and too sunny exposures.
Instead, it may be useful to use reconstituting products or possibly specific plant hormones to be distributed by irrigation or (even better) by foliar spraying.
As we have already said, it is very important to use sharp tools. It is equally essential, however, that these are cleaned and disinfected. In fact, pruning can transmit diseases and parasites from one plant to another and therefore it is necessary to proceed with extreme care and rigor.
The ideal is to sterilize the shears every time you switch from one plant to another. A good method can be to pass the blade several times over a flame. An excellent liquid disinfectant is the common bleach. To be very effective it would be necessary to leave the tool for 15 minutes in a solution of water and sodium hypochlorite. If we don't have the time, we can just spray it pure.
If we cut branches of a certain thickness (over 3 centimeters in diameter) it is good to cover the area with a layer of mastic for plants. In this way we will promote healing and avoid the penetration of pathogens.
However after pruning it is always a good idea to spray the plant with a copper. But if we want something that does not alter the aesthetics, we can resort to a broad-spectrum fungicide. They usually have more neutral colors than, for example, the Bordeaux mixture.
Pruning Ficus benjamin: Repotting
As we have said in some cases (especially when intervening for important pruning) it is essential to balance the whole plant working also on the roots.
The repottings may however be necessary even if the roots are still excessively grown and begin to come out of the drain holes or from the edge of the container.
In any case it is good to proceed in the spring. In the previous weeks we leave our plant rather dry so that then we can extract the whole earth bread, without breaking it.
Once this operation has been carried out, we will be able to greatly reduce the amount of roots, shortening them and eventually eliminating the atrophied ones, which are completely devoid of small lateral roots (which are the ones that give more nutrition to the foliage).
We carefully restore the draining layer on the bottom of the container, insert fresh soil and then our plant. We compact well and irrigate abundantly. If we want for a few weeks we can distribute a product based on propamocarb or fosetil aluminum in order to avoid the occurrence of pathologies in the freshly cut roots.
The best containers for these vegetables are those in terracotta which allow good root transpiration. It would therefore be advisable to always use them, even if the plastic ones are cheaper and lighter.
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