Nice Nebari, Ugly Canopy - F. Too Little

Colorado Josh

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Here is a ficus too little that I acquired in 2001. My guess is the tree is about 35 years old. It was left at my parents for a number of years, and grew quite ugly as you can see. It currently sits at 30" tall, root collar is 1.5". Pot is 12" and 1.5" deep.

I'm looking to give this tree a makeover. My first thought is to air layer the leggy growth and start over at the fork. In anticipation of this, I trimmed the tips of the new growth in the upper canopy to encourage back budding down low. I have also been fertilizing heavily the past 2 months to get the growth going again. There's an ugly scar near the fork that I am thinking about grafting a small branch to cover up. It's also worth noting that up until the past couple of years, I really had no idea what I was doing.

What are your thoughts on where to go next?

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Carol 83

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It looks like a big snake is curled up in the pot, it kind of scares me a little.
 

canoeguide

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Those roots are fugly, and I'd just embrace them at this point and focus on getting the canopy in order. This is one idea if you pardon my crappy virt.... I like getting the canopy wide on this, which would probably take a few years.
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Colorado Josh

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Those roots are fugly, and I'd just embrace them at this point and focus on getting the canopy in order. This is one idea if you pardon my crappy virt.... I like getting the canopy wide on this, which would probably take a few years.
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Thank you. I hadn't thought about going wide. But I think that will be my new goal.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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Hold off and wait until the tree is rapidly growing in the early middle part of summer to do any work. FOr Colorado, probably June to beginning of July.

Ficus benjamina and all its varieties like 'Too Little' are irregular, reluctant or unpredictable about back budding when chopped to a trunk with zero leaves. You might have to cut back in steps to get it to back bud as low as you might like. Each major branch or trunk should have at least a few leaves after cutting back.

You can root cuttings from the top portion you remove. I suggest starting at least a couple as "heir and a spare" in the event a overly severe trunk chop results in lack of response. Especially if done after the weather has warmed, June or beginning of July in Colorado, you should have good results, but you never know. 'Too Little' is probably the least vigorous of the many Ficus benjamina cultivars.
 
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