Pruning Fig Trees

Tips on Pruning Fig Trees

Fig trees bring a piece of ancient history into modern day, but for many people the art of pruning fig trees escapes them.  Without proper pruning during the early years, the picturesque tree can experience limited fruit production.

Presence of fig trees has been documented back to around 5,000 B.C.  Native to western Asia, the fruit tree is believed to have been carried by humans from their natural home to areas throughout the Mediterranean.  It found ideal conditions in the Mediterranean, where the climate tends to be dry and warm.  Arid climates are generally required in order to attain a good harvest, as the fruit tends to split if moderate to heavy rainfall occurs during its development. 

The tree itself is an amazing sight to view.  Twisting and erratically shaped branches reach out at an impossible length; often to spreads exceeding their height.  They are such captivating plants that they are often containerized when small, used as one would grow a bonsai.  Grown in outdoor conditions, however, the tree can achieve magnificent heights of up to 50 feet.  If a gardener has planted a tree for the purpose of harvesting its delicious fruit, these heights will prohibit the gleaning of the tree’s full harvest.  Learning the proper techniques and procedures for pruning fig trees will keep the tree at a manageable height in order to realize the full harvest.

It is important to note that, with or without pruning, fig trees will still produce fruit.  When allowed to grow to its full potential, there will be a substantial crop loss since much of the fruit will be unreachable.  Training the tree while it is young is the best way to manage its growth.  It will also need to be known what variety of fig tree that is growing; white fig, brown fig or black fig.  Both the white and brown varieties will flower on new wood while black fig flowers on wood that is one year or older. 

After planting the young fig tree, allow it to grow undisturbed for the first season in order for the roots to become established.  The following year during the winter season, decide which of the branches you wish to keep for cultivation; keeping the number of branches down to only three or four.  The chosen branches should be growing lateral, between 6 inches to 12 inches apart, point in different directions and have more than a 45 degree angle.  All other branches should be pruned away.  When this procedure has been followed on a black fig tree, only weak or thin branches need to be cut back.  Also, consecutive years of growth will follow similar patterns, requiring little to no additional pruning.

White or brown fig trees should be pruned each year for optimal results since the fruit develops on new growth.  Check the tree for shoots that were produced and fruited the previous year and cut back in either late winter or early spring while the tree is still dormant.  New growth will occur at these sites, bringing forth a new fig crop.  When the next dormant season arrives, cut back these growths to two buds to set the stage for the next fruiting season.  Continue this procedure from year to year.

Growing a fig tree for ornamental purpose only in the home can be pruned if desired to improve the overall appearance of the tree.  The best time for this action is before it begins to develop new growth; evident when new shoots emerge.  Try to keep with the tree’s natural shape, forming a “Y”.

Keeping a fig tree at a manageable size and shape will encourage the best harvest and the best appearance for the gardener.



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