I am often ask about defoliating ficus in Colorado. If you look at the blogs of people in their native range they defoliate a lot. Often they defoliate before wiring and even a couple times a year.
My usual response is I don't defoliate as standard practice, but sometimes I do and the best time is in the middle of summer when the tree is growing vigorously. This is an example.
The first four pictures span the time from August 21st through September 20th. Not exactly the middle of the summer, but there was still (I thought) 6 weeks of recovery time outdoors before the cold weather set in.
The first two pictures are before and after defoliation on August 21st. I removed all the foliage and some of the larger branches and shortened all of the long branches. I then placed it in full sun. I reason that all new growth will be acclimated to Colorado sun and doesn't need protection.
The next two pictures show the new growth by September 20th. The first shows all the growth before pruning and the second after removing all the new grow growing up and down and cutting back original branches to 2 or 3 sets of new growth. Examples of the latter at the end. I moved the tree indoors under lights on September 20th.
First example of branch pruning on September 20th.
After large branch on right completely removed and smaller branch on left shortened
After long branch on right shortened. There is a small shoot on the left leaving 2 shoots
After long branch on right shortened and stub on left removed. I probably should have cut the left back to the shoot half way down.
After shortening the branch in the middle
Fifth example. This is difficult piece to work. That big knot in middle is a result of a branch (going out the back on the right) and an aerial root from the branch that wraps around the trunk (going out the back on the left). And there is another branch that comes off the bottom of the knot going left. Eventually the whole thing may be cut off. I have been trying unsuccessfully to preserve the aerial root but now that it has bonded with the trunk I can probably remove the knot.
After shortening the branch coming off the bottom of the knot and cleaning up some of the remaining new foliage.
Great results David! Thank you for sharing!
Here is an update as of 12/26/21. It is a little denser and some of the branches have grown out. I did some mild pruning after the photo cutting off the longer wild hairs and thinning out some of the sprouting branches I don't need.
Here is an update after 6 weeks indoors. It has been inside under lights in a room where humidity stays above 40% and temperature stays in the 70s. I pulled it out to do some light pruning. After 6 weeks I figure any leaves that drop because of the move indoors have done so. So I can pruned to eliminate more of what isn't needed.
Nice work! Its super helpful, I cant wait to have a few ficuses of my own
Thanks for detailing the thought process as well as providing the "before & after" photos. Very helpful!