Someone in our house put a ficus benjamina onto a staircase, which basically means 'thrown away'. The tree is in moderate or poor condition. I think it will not have enough light in this place (there is only a small window to the east), the pot is apparently too small for a tree of that size, so I'm considering taking it to my flat. It is currently about 150-170 cm in height. The tree looks healthy, but there's not much foliage on it.

Is it possible to make it more dense, bushy and good looking?

How much should I prune out of it in case of pruning?

What is an optimal pot size for a tree like this?

Any advice for a good care and rejuvenation is welcome. Thanks!

Update: The tree does not have any signs of scale infestation on leaves, so I brought it home. I turned the plant out of the pot and figured out that it was not pot bounded at all, root system was weak compared to my smaller ficus. I decided to keep it in its own pot for now. Its size is around 8-9 liters (25 cm in diameter, 23 cm in depth). Do I need a larger one later? Tree height is 160 cm. enter image description here enter image description here

1 Answer 1


If you want to create a bushier plant with more foliage lower down, you probably will need to cut it back down to about 2/4 inches on each branch. The best time to do that is in spring, and it should preferably be done either outside, or indoors, sat on newspaper for a day or two till the white sap it will drip stops coming. It obviously won't look great until it recovers from hard pruning, but it will recover and put out new growth. That would also be a good time to repot, just before you cut back, with new potting soil. Although the pot does appear a bit small for a plant that size, it's hard to comment because it's not possible to see how deep the pot is from top to bottom. If you can add a photo showing the pot and some of the lower stems, that would be helpful, although turning the plant out to see if it's pot bound would decide whether it needs a bigger pot.

If you don't want to cut it back, or want to wait till spring to do so, assuming the pot is not that deep or the plant is pot bound, then repot into something a bit bigger with drainage holes, using new potting soil and water in well. A shot of houseplant fertiliser would be helpful,but don't repeat more often than once in winter, increase feeding in spring. You may find leaf loss occurs - these plants tend to react badly to environmental changes, but it should recover.

Before you decide to bring it into your home, inspect it carefully to make sure it doesn't have a scale infestation, which might be why it was put out on the stairway. It will need a relatively bright daylight situation without direct sun, away from any possible draught and away from heat sources.

  • Thanks for the answer. The pot is really shallow and small, just about 25-30 cm deep, about 7 liters or so. It looks like that it experienced severe droughts and many big branches were cut. So, I believe it was never repotted, really and did not experience much care. Oct 16, 2020 at 14:28
  • I wouldn't call 25-30 cm deep shallow, to be honest, that's a very reasonable depth for a houseplant pot. Best to check whether its actually pot bound or not before upsizing...
    – Bamboo
    Oct 16, 2020 at 14:50
  • So, scale infestation was not an issue. I brought the plant home. See the updated post. Oct 27, 2020 at 12:23
  • I take it the original pot has drainage holes? Was there a lot of soil wiithout root material in it? Did the roots that were present look heatlhy (not blackened or soggy)?
    – Bamboo
    Oct 27, 2020 at 20:33
  • Yes, the pot has the drainage holes in it. Also, there is a layer of clay pebbles in the bottom, so I guess soil drainage is good. There was actually a plenty of soil without roots. They looked healthy, but were quite sparse. Oct 28, 2020 at 12:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.