Splitting A Ficus Tree: How To Divide A Large Ficus

Large Green Leaves Of A Ficus Tree
(Image credit: Chansom Pantip)

Ficus trees are frequently used as houseplants and grown in containers indoors. Often two or more ficus are sold in the same pot. It’s all too easy for these potted trees to become rootbound, a condition that slows or stops the plant’s growth. When this happens it’s time to think about ficus tree division. Splitting a ficus tree isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Read on to learn how and when to split a big ficus. 

Ficus Tree Division

You need to divide a large ficus if the plant has become rootbound. If you aren’t familiar with that term, it’s when the tree roots get heavily tangled and compacted. Rootbound plants cannot grow since the roots are not able to deliver water and nutrients to the canopy. When to split a big ficus? Ficus tree division becomes necessary when the roots outgrow container space and cause the vigor and health of the plants to suffer. 

Splitting a Ficus Tree 

Many times, several ficus trees will be combined in one pot to make the plant look fuller. The roots grow together, tangle, and fill up the pot. When you are splitting a ficus tree, you’ll need to get the tangled root ball out of the pot in a cool, shaded area to keep the roots cool. Tip the container and work the tree out of the container carefully. 

Once the root ball is out, pull soil off the root ball with your hands. Then soak the root ball in a bucket to remove the remainder of the soil. Untangle the roots by hand until you can pull the trees apart. Repot each tree in a new container filled with well-draining potting soil.

Divide a Big Ficus

If you have a truly big ficus tree that is actually two trees grown in one pot, you may need to consider root pruning. Root pruning is a technique often used by gardeners when it is necessary to transplant a large tree outdoors. 

Essentially, root pruning involves cutting a trench around (or in this case, through) the root ball to encourage small, feeder roots to grow. These roots will transplant with the tree making the transplant less traumatic for the plant. 

To root prune a large ficus, use a sharp knife to cut a trench through the root ball between the two ficus plants. Fill the trench with potting mix, water the plant, and leave it alone for a few months. Root pruning causes each tree to grow brand new feeder roots along the trench. When you go to separate and repot the trees, each will have the roots they need to supply food and water.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.