Pruning Fig Trees

Pruning fig trees is especially important when the tree is less than five years old. Pruning fig trees when they're young serves to help shape the tree as it matures. Once the shape of your fig tree is established, pruning should only needed to remove dead or diseased wood.

Pruning Fig Trees For Form

The best time for pruning fig trees depends on their flowering habits. White and brown fig trees produce flowers on new growth and should be pruned while the tree is dormant. Black figs, on the other hand, produce flowers on last year's growth and should be pruned right after harvest to reduce the risk of damaging developing flower buds. When you're ready to prune, these tips will help you do the job right:

  • The right tools. By-pass pruning shears and loppers cut with two blades, much like a pair of scissors. Anvil pruning tools, on the other hand, use a single blade that presses against a flat metal surface. Anvil pruning tools have a tendency to crush instead of cut and should be avoided when pruning fig trees. Also, make sure to dip your tools in a solution of water and bleach (4 parts water, 1 part bleach) between each cut. Clean blades will limit the spread of infectious material.
  • Tough love. When you first plant a fig tree, it should be cut back to about half it original height. Low fig trees are easier to harvest and this severe pruning will help promote lateral growth. If you're trying to rein in an established tree, don't try to do this type of "heading" all at once-space the operation out over two or three pruning seasons.
  • Out, not up. For the first several years, you'll want to prune upward growing branches short, while leaving outward growing branches long. Again, you're trying to promote lateral growth to keep the overall height of your fig tree down.
  • Suckers and sprouts. Diligently removing all suckers (growing out of the base of the trunk) and watersprouts (growing straight up out of horizontal branches) will help your fig tree focus it energy on productive growth.
  • The big cover up. Any pruning cuts larger than 1" in diameter should be covered with a protective wound-healing compound to limit the spread of infection. Protective covering should also be used if you're performing a major heading to reduce the height of your fig tree.
  • Preventive maintenance. Once you've established the size and shape of your fig trees, pruning should be limited to remove dead or diseased branches and removing any branches that grow in toward the trunk of the tree.
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