How to prune fig trees to avoid unhealthy growth? - 4 step Fig Tree Care

The fig tree, or Ficus Carica, reaches only 10 to 30 feet in height at maturity, producing a pear-shaped brown or bronze-colored fruit. Figs grow in tropical and subtropical climates, bearing fruit twice every growing season.

Pruning young fig trees can be intimidating, but following a few simple rules will ensure you end up with healthy, productive trees. 

Are you planning to leave your fig trees unpruned?  

Leaving a fig tree unpruned is not a good idea. Unpruned fig trees tend to produce lots and lots of branches that will cross and overlap each other. All these branches will try to produce fruits, resulting in many smaller, low-quality fruits. The fig tree will have to use all its energy resources and available water to maintain the fruits.

If the weather is hot and the tree is stressed, it might even drop all its fruits to survive. Most fig tree varieties will also grow very tall, and most of the branches will be out of reach. These tall branches will receive most of the sunlight, producing more and tastier fruits. Unfortunately, only the birds will eat them, and the owner will have to settle for smaller fruits in lower branches. In the shadow of the taller branches, these fruits might not receive enough sunlight from maturing and will need much more time to ripen. You might not have the time if you are growing a late-ripening variety, in a colder area, with a shorter growing season. So, to maintain the fig tree balanced, we must remove some of the new taller growth. Trimming will also help to keep the tree lower and the fruits within reach.  

Remove unwanted branches

Removing excessive growth and overlapping branches will also allow for better light penetration and bigger and quicker ripening fruits. Start by removing any suckers which grow near the main tree. Unchecked, these suckers can grow very large and remove vital energy from the main tree. Cut all lower hanging branches. These low branches will make managing the tree more complex and lower and, in the shadow, will rarely produce quality fruits. Remove all growth that is too high to reach.  

Best time to prune a fig tree 

My fig tree has gotten too tall, and I want to cut it back! When is the best time to prune fig trees?  

When to prune a fig tree, the best time will be in the dormant (winter) season when the tree is not growing. Begin your fig tree pruning by removing any branches that are not growing out from your selected fruiting wood, as well as any dead or diseased wood. If you’re going to do extensive pruning, Severe pruning should be done in late March. The reason for waiting till the spring is late bad weather can severely injure the tree. 

When you are pruning, you can prune it to a tree form. The fig trees grew approximately eight feet from the root system because they had a sound root system. An established tree will grow eight to 10 feet sometimes. You might want to pinch the tops out to make them bush out. 

You can prune back the fig plant as severely as you would like if it is well established. You can even prune it to the ground without affecting the next season’s production. Figs can grow to a tree form only with extensive pruning. Pinching the tops of the shoots will make the plant branch out at that point. 

Prune Fig Trees for better growth! – Step by Step guide to pruning Fig Trees   

Fig branches are very flexible, and you can bend them easily.  

Step 1 

  • Cut the top vertical growth near one or two lateral branches at the desired height.
  • These lateral branches will avoid new vigorous regrowth that might emerge when heading a vertical branch. Most fig varieties only produce figs on new growth, so you can safely reduce the height of taller, isolated branches.
  • Nevertheless, avoid heading most of the one-year-old branches, in varieties that produce figs in the spring, on last year’s growth. It’s not a good idea to head all the one-year-old branches on two crop varieties if you want to eat any figs from the first  crop.    

Step 2

Remove any high or medium diameter branches that grow towards the tree’s center so that more light can get in. These will prevent most of the lower fruits from getting enough sun and developing and ripe properly.  

Step 3

  • Remove branches that are overlapping. The lower branch will not get enough light, and the figs won’t grow and mature properly. You can remove the lower branch or, the higher branch, depending on what’s best for the overall tree shape.
  • If you need to remove some larger diameter branches, don’t cut them all in the same year.
  • This step-in pruning fig trees will remove any branches that may eventually grow too close to the main trunk and not produce the best fruit.

Step 4

The last step is to cut back the main branches by one-third to one-quarter. This step-in fig tree pruning helps the tree put more energy towards the fruit produced next year, making for a more extensive and sweeter fruit.  

Pruning fig trees in the right way can help you to improve your fig crop. Now that you know how to prune fig trees, you can help your fig tree produce better and tastier figs. 

Your Tree’s Condition:

Remove the larger diameter branches if it’s in the wrong position since it might be growing towards the space between the tree rows. Cut down if you have any lower branch that has grown too large and it’s overlapping one of the tree primary scaffolds. At the same time, make sure to avoid excessive stress on the tree.  

Remove a worse positioned branch, but there is no need to do it all simultaneously. In most pruning jobs, it’s better to use a conservative approach and avoid removing too many branches in the same year. Being careful while pruning will reduce the impact of the pruning job and avoid the possibility of a cropless year due to excessive pruning. A balanced pruning job will help your tree produce more significant and tastier figs by helping the tree concentrate its energy on fewer fruits. Pruning will also allow the fruits to receive more sun and mature faster, which is essential for growing late-ripening varieties in colder areas with shorter growing seasons. 

How to protect fig trees during winter?  

Winter protection begins in late November/early December (around Thanksgiving), when leaves drop after experiencing at least two hard fall frosts (temps. below freezing, 25-31°F), indicating dormancy. At that time, potted figs can be wrapped in burlap and brought into an attached garage, or with additional protection, they can be placed outdoors against your home. More giant fruiting figs planted in the ground can be individually wrapped or laid down and covered with burlap, insulated blankets, and heavy-duty tarps. 

The three main methods of protecting figs during the winter 

  1. Wrapping
  2. Covering
  3. Caging
  • The first step is wrapping the tree entirely with were left. Wrapping will provide the first layer of insulation. Staple the burlap to itself, and you can also use straight pins or safety pins. Be very careful not to pin or staple the burlap to the tree.  
  • Once the tree is wrapped in burlap, get your heavy brown paper and some twine and surround the burlap with the paper. Once the paper securely in place, remove some soil from around the base of the tree.
  • Once you’ve dug your trench, get cardboard, surround the tree’s base with it, and then tie it securely in place.
  • Protect your tree with tar paper. Use a box cutter and cut just enough tar paper to surround the tree so that the rainwater can be deflected away from tree roots, so you have to do this in a cone shape.
  • Use your string to tie the paper in place. Now fill in the trench that you have done with soil to hold everything in place. After this, insulate the roots.
  • Do not use plastic for any part of this process because plastic will retain moisture and encourage mold and mildew, and fungus to grow. It also might rot your tree.
  • Top off the covered tree with the pail to keep out rainwater and snow to ensure the tree stays nice, warm, and dry all winter, providing juicy figs for many years to come.
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How to prune fig trees to avoid unhealthy growth? - 4 step Fig Tree Care