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How To Prune Figtree

How To Prune Fig Trees? The Long and Short of it!

Ever wondered how that tasty fig jam, that you ate for breakfast, was made? 

Though you won’t learn ‘how to make jam in a factory’ here, you would learn about fig trees and how you too can grow them in your garden. Fig has many health benefits. Fig is high in sugars, minerals and fibers, is usually recommended for toning intestines and for weight loss. These are just a few of the many benefits which fig has to offer. If we were to list all the benefits and uses of fig, we would have to write a whole article just for this purpose. So, let’s cut to the chase. Before you decide to plant fig in your garden or maintain the existing tree, you need to know the proper way of pruning it first so that you won’t harm the tree in the process. 

Pruning is a vital process for overall health of the plant and cannot be taken lightly. As stated, pruning will really significantly improve the overall health of the plant, but how does it work for your fig tree exactly? Pruning is the cutting down of old, dead, and diseased branches of the plant to encourage new growth. By cutting off the old, dead, and diseased branches of the fig tree, you will have avoided any diseases that could have spread to the entire tree and instead even helped the tree focus its energy resources on its growth. 

These advantages alone are certainly worth the work of pruning the fig tree, but wait, there’s more! The act of pruning your fig tree also enhances the sweetness of the figgs! By pruning your fig tree the right way, you have encouraged the sugar and hormones of the tree to travel more efficiently from the roots to the branches and fruits.

Lucky for you, I have compiled this easy-to-follow stepwise guide on How to prune fig trees so that you won’t feel overwhelmed by the task anymore! 

Practical Steps for Pruning Fig Trees

When Should You Prune?

You’ve got a day off at work and don’t have much to do at home either. You look outside and see that your fig tree needs a good trim. You grab your pruning shears and walk out into the garden. Stop right there! Is it the right time to prune? If you have your gloves on, then it probably is the right time as fig tree is usually pruned in the winter when the tree is dormant. 

How to tell if the tree is dormant? Fig tree sheds its leaves when it goes into dormant state, so it’s not that difficult to tell! 

Another question you should consider is that “At which growth stage exactly do I start pruning a fig tree”? You may start pruning off your fig tree after you have transplanted it. Pruning the fig tree early on its growth stage will enable it to have an early start. Instead of spreading out energy resources in parts that are not important, it is instead given a direction on how it will grow which results in the fig tree being much more established later on. 

Though this is certainly a good outcome for your fig tree, you must practice precaution when pruning at this early growth stage. There is a risk that you will instead shock the tree instead of helping it. This scenario happens when you trim the fig tree too much immediately after you have transplanted it. This especially applies to fig trees that are not as strong as they should be. If you trust the strength of the tree, then you may prune it immediately, but if you don’t, wait until your fig tree reaches its first dormant season then you may prune it then.

When the dormant season arrives, the following tips would teach you how to prune fig trees.

1. Hard Pruning Fig Tree After Plantation

The first pruning of fig tree will be right after the plantation. It should be a hard pruning where you should prune back 50% of the plant. Hard pruning fig tree right after plantation would cause the plant to better direct its energy towards roots formation which is very essential for compactness and strength of the plant. Another result of pruning the tree at this stage is that the fig tree grows its branches horizontally. You may do this when the first dormant season of the fig tree arrives.

2. Winter Is Coming!

Don’t take the first winter pruning lightly. This is where you start thinking about the future. You would want to prune all but 4 to 6 branches. By doing this, you are promoting the growth of a few branches. These would be your fruiting wood. By pruning the first winter, you set your fig tree up for a better fruit in larger quantity. As a result of the pruning, your fruits are much more healthier and your fig tree isn’t that tall, though this is certainly nothing to worry about.

What Is Fruiting Wood on A Fig Tree?

It is the wood which would bear fruit. Fig usually bears fruit on one-year old branches. You would want to prune in order to facilitate the growth of fruiting wood.  

As time goes on, the fruiting wood branches would have gone older. Though these old branches are certainly still producing fruits, they are not as once as they were before, which results in fruits that are not as healthy. Therefore, you will need to remove these old branches to make the tree focus its energy resources towards the new branches that are producing the best fruits.

3. Consistency Is the Key

Don’t think you can just have it easy now that you have isolated the 4-6 branches as fruiting wood. Pruning in the subsequent years is just as important. You would want to prune off any dead, diseased and unwanted branches. Suckers, at the base of the tree, are to be careful of. If found, they should be pruned as they only do harm to the fruiting wood by taking essential nutrients away. 

You should also prune off any branches from the fruiting wood that are growing inward. The branches which are crisscrossing should also be pruned off as they block the sunlight from penetrating the plant.    

Finally, you should prune off any additional branches other than the fruiting wood. Continue to have 4-6 branches as your main fruiting wood for better distribution of nutrients and sunlight.

4. Prune Back the Fruiting Branches!

Once you know what is fruiting wood on a fig tree, all your efforts are then directed towards improving the growth of this wood and ensuring that it gets all the necessary nutrients and proper sunlight for the production of fruit. One key thing that can be done to further improve the fruit growth is pruning back third of the branches. This will further direct the attention of plant towards fruit growth. This will also keep your fig tree from over growing and will make it more compact.

5. Take Care of The Personal Space

Don’t let branches to grow near each other! Always maintain a comfortable distance between branches to let the maximum sunlight and air to penetrate the tree. 

Is Your Fig Tree Too Tall?  

What if you haven’t pruned your fig tree for a while and it has already grown out of control? Don’t worry! With fig tree, there’s always a chance to set things straight. 

Prevention is better than cure! So, try to follow the above steps to not get tangled up into the problem of fig tree too tall. For starters, you can remove all the damaged branches first. Then prune everything to the ground except 4-6 fruiting branches. Prune back the fruiting branches by about one third to reduce the size of the plant and to make it more compact. Follow the pruning schedule laid down for you above in the coming years and you have got yourself a fig tree with a potential of producing rich abundant crop.


If we were to summarize this ‘How to prune figs’ guide in a sentence, it would be “Regularly get rid of all the waste-of-space branches and leave only the productive ones!”

As you must have observed from this simple guide, pruning isn’t that much of a witchcraft unlike the popular opinion. It all comes down to sticking to the basics and checking up on your plant every now and then to make sure its requirements are being met. 

If you were to follow these tips regularly, and the plant is provided with enough light and water, you can expect great increase in the growth as well as fruit production of fig.

All that’s left is to pick up those pruning shears and start pruning. But make sure it’s the dormant season!

Happy growing!

Do you have any thoughts or tips you would like to share? Or any questions you’d like to ask? If so, comment below! Our website also offers other guides as well such as how to prune basil and how to prune a zucchini

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