Pruning a Fig Tree: 3 Tips

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What You'll Need
Pruning shears

Fig trees will blossom and produce fruit without heavy pruning. Pruning the fig tree is not difficult once you understand where the fruit is produced on the tree.

TIP: Expert gardening advisor, Karen Thurber adds, "If you prune an older tree heavily to rejuvenate it, white washing the trunk can help protect if from sunburn."

When to Prune

When to prune your tree depends on the variety of fig. Some figs produce only a crop on the previous year's growth. This is called a breba crop. Other figs produce a main crop on the new growth. Most varieties produce both a breba and a main crop, with the breba crop being earlier than the main crop.

If your variety produces only a breba crop, then the next year's crop depends solely on the previous year's wood. A fig tree should be pruned immediately after the main crop is harvested. You can also choose to prune half of the branches one summer and the remainder the following summer. This helps ensure that you get a crop every year.

TIP: Karen advises, "If your variety produces a main crop, pruning can happen in the dormant season. If you live in an area with cold winters, frequently the fig will die back to the roots and be "pruned" by the cold temperatures."

How to Prune

During the first years a fig tree should be heavily pruned to shape the tree. Cut all but about four of the best branches from the stem. Leave the strongest ones, but be sure to stagger them around the trunk. Once you've established this pattern, the only pruning you'll need to do is thinning out branches and removing deadwood.

TIP: Karen suggests, "When pruning, make a clean cut at a bud or branch. This will eliminate small dead stubs which can be entry points for disease and insects."

Training Your Tree

Figs can be trained and pruned to grow in a few shapes, such as a fan. Attach wire horizontally against a building, trellis or fence at 15-inch intervals. Plant the tree under the wire and let it grow. As new branches emerge, loosely tie them to the wire with plant ties in the shape of a fan, spacing the branches so they are 12 to 15 inches apart. Tie all the shoots to the wire during the first summer so the tree can become well established. In the fall when the leaves fall off, remove any weak and crowded shoots. Each summer, continue to cut back the overgrown portions and prune the branches that point the wrong direction.

Most mature figs require only a light pruning, after the harvest for a breba crop, or in the dormant season for the main crop. Follow these tip, take your time, and don't over prune!

TIP: Karen recommends, "Train your fig to be a low growing multistem tree or a small bush. This makes it easier to care for the tree and harvest the fruit."