Ficus Nitida in South California. Please, advise!

Never had shrubs before. Planted them 2 months ago when they were about 5' tall. They grow very fast, but the trunk is still very week, so as a result the top just collapses down.
1. My question is: can i cut the top off to make the trunk stronger first? Or it will affect it in some different way?
2. And second question: what are those brown thingies on the branches? Are those some sort of parasites?
Thank you!


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I wouldn't consider Ficus microcarpa 'nitida' a shrub. Some people prune them like a hedge or topiary but they grow to be large trees with pretty adventitious root systems. Leaving a nursery stake on the trunk doesn't allow the trunk to move weakening the trunk. Those are scales being farmed by Argentine ants ✌️
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