Fig Tree Pruning

blakeas(6 OH)September 28, 2006

I moved into a home a few months ago and I just noticed that the tree to the left side of my home is a fig tree! I got some fruit off of it a couple of weeks ago but I also noticed that it is pretty big - I wanted to prune it and wanted some suggestions. I live in Atlanta, ga - here are some pictures.

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gene_washdc(zone 5a)

Figs are pretty forgiving when it comes to pruning, so you can do pretty much whatever strikes your fancy. I'd suggest cutting out the center to let more light in, and to promote the shorter bushy growth to make it easier to harvest and protect from birds.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2006 at 10:23AM
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blakeas(6 OH)

OK - So that 20 to 30 foot tall shoots I should just take a chainsaw to and hack off? I was thinking of some of the limbs around the bottom so I could get something by into my backyard - Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2006 at 3:31PM
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gene_washdc(zone 5a)

If it's obstructing a pathway, by all means trim it back to allow a person to get by.

Please forgive the simple drawing, but A is a better shape than B for figs, though B may look prettier. The lower structure allows for gathering fruit, and throwing a net over to protect from birds. It also allows light to enter the center of the bush. Over time you'll need to continue pruning so the branches won't get too tall. The fig will replace what's pruned with new growth.

After this one time major pruning, summer pruning is probably best. Do this in early to mid summer when the tree has already put out at least 3 to 4 new leaves per stem. Pinch off the tip of each branch to discourage new growth. This will help to slow down the vegetative growth and redirect the energy to the fruit. Herman has posted a few threads on this topic that may help explain further.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2006 at 4:53PM
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blakeas(6 OH)

So I should cut off the center now or wait until next summer? Or were you saying just the minor pruning needs to be done in the summer from now on after this major one?

And who is herman by the way? Is their a website?

Thanks for the drawing! That does help alot!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2006 at 5:11PM
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blakeas(6 OH)

Also, can anyone tell me what type of fig tree I have? It also seems like ants really like the fruit. They are almost all eaten by the time I want to take some off!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2006 at 5:14PM
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gene_washdc(zone 5a)

Herman is another enthusiast on the fig forum, who has posted in the recent past on the subject of pinching the growing tips during the summer as a way to promote successful fruiting. You can use the search engine at the bottom of the fig forum to search for these posts by entering keywords such as "pinching" and "herman".

The major pruning can be done any time, and pinching is done in the early to mid summer.

There are hundreds of varieties, so it's hard to say what you have by just looking at a picture of the leaf. Brown Turkey and Celeste are two very common varieties in the South.

You can avoid the ants by wrapping the base of the trunk(s) and applying Tanglefoot or something similar.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2006 at 6:24PM
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Link to Herman's pruning technique:

Here is a link that might be useful: pruning technique

    Bookmark   September 29, 2006 at 11:40AM
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Four years ago I planted two fig trees in my urban back yard (i.e., small!). The trees bore some fruit last year, but have been prolific this year, with good sized and deliciously sweet fruit. However, the trees are taking over! I am especially worried that the tops have grown in between the telephone and cable lines belonging to my neighbor. How ruthless can I be in pruning? I read something on one Web site that said mature fig trees should NOT be pruned, but that just doesn't sound right!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 12:18PM
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I hope this thread isn't dead...

I have a massive fig tree. This house belonged to my grandmother, and she wasn't able to keep it pruned for the last 15 or 20 years, so it has grown up incredibly.

It's in the neighborhood of 40'-50' tall and 30' wide. I want to prune it back to about 1/4 of that. From Fig Tree

Is this possible?

When should I do it?

How drastic can I be without killing this tree that I've known my entire life? From Fig Tree

Adam aka mudman

Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of My Tree

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 12:49AM
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It's actually quite hard to kill a fig tree; in colder climates they often freeze back to the ground, then regrow from the roots. The bark is easily sunburned, though - if you radically prune a fig, they recommend that you whitewash the entire tree to protect it from sunscald.

The fruit is produced at the tip of the previous year's growth, so the best time to prune is right after the crop is harvested. That way the new growth will have time to mature before autumn, and you'll get a full crop next year.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 7:26AM
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Aloha, I don't have ants on my figs but I did on my citrus. My landscaper friend suggested I put ant bait in a plastic screw top medicine bottle. Then poke a hole in the bottom & put in the bait. Screw on the top & set beside the trunk.
We have NO ANTS on our citrus!

Looking to cut off the lowest branches (some actually touch the ground) of the "wide growing" fig, but there is full foliage and some fruit starting. It is mid April on Maui, above 2000 ft. Will see about cutting out the center, as well.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 4:49PM
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July 7, 2011 --- I have a four foot fig tree in a large pot with several figs forming. I live in zone 5. How do I care for the tree and keep it a managable size/mobility come fall and winter?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 5:34AM
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We just bot a house last year with a massive fig tree in the back yard. It also has a lot of shoot at the base of the tree. I want to prune it to maybe half the size as it is preventing the fruit from ripening. Can someone advise how we should go about it and when? I dont want to hire someone but want to learn so I can take care of this beautiful tree.

Best Raj

    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 12:00AM
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wertach zone 7-B SC

I'm bumping this Raj, So maybe it will get attention from the experts. I'm not an expert.

I also have a massive fig tree. From what I have read you can prune 1/3rd, preferably the center for the first pruning. Mostly anytime. I plan to prune mine when it goes dormant in a few weeks.

I don't know your zone or how cold it gets there. but i read that if you have winter die back it self prunes. Where I live, upstate SC, mine doesn't die back.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 3:44PM
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harvey12(z7 NC)

Blakeas: I believe that your tree is a Celeste, for several reasons: You live in Atlanta, and these, and Brown Turkey are the dominant varieties of "heritage" fig trees in that area. It has a high percent of three lobed leaves (instead of the more common five lobed) leaves. My Celeste figs have this characteristic. ID of a fig from its leaves alone is treacherous at best. If I am right, your tree should produce its crop early in the season, (Celeste is my earliest fig), and the fruit should be brown in color and small to medium in size, with a very sweet taste.
I have two large mature Celeste trees, which were about the same size as yours until I began to whack away a year ago, to bring them back to manageable size. I chose some large center branches and sawed them off to a large lateral branch two or three feet from the base. I wish I had sawed them off to the ground, because the result is a ragged appearance. I will finish the job this winter. The result is that the trees put out multiple new shoots, and the fig crop was not nearly as large as before. I plan to keep one or two of the new shoots and trim the rest off. The point is, it is very hard to kill a fig tree, and a mistake can be corrected and/or modified the next year. Consider the pruning as a multiple year project instead of one giant amputation.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 9:34PM
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About 5 years ago, I picked up what I was told was a Kadota fig tree - about 24 inches tall. It sort of hung in there until this past summer when it made a huge growth leap. I figured out that it had managed to push through the pot it was in and was sucking up some good composted soil. BUT - it has become so tall, I probably won't be able to do much to protect it when we have a few of our freezing nights. I'm considering cutting it from it's pot and replanting it - if the roots aren't already too deep. I wouldn't want to cut the main or tap root.
Considering I'm located in NE Florida, between the river and the intracoastal, would this be a bad time to plant my fig tree? I could protect the roots easier if it was in ground. Ideas and suggestions?
TIA Cora

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 5:57PM
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Most fig trees are hardy to zone 8 and will do fine with a few nights below freezing, even down to 15 or 20 degrees. There are many people who grow figs in ground north of where you are. So I think you should be fine and won't need protection. There may be a small amount of dieback but this can be cut away in the spring and the plant will flourish.

Your tree was almost certainly grown from a cutting, and not from a seed, and therefore does not have a true tap root, per se. So even if you cut off some roots, it will grow more and do fine. Since your plant has not grown much for a few years, it's likely the container it is currently in is too small, so it would probably benefit greatly from being put in the ground.

Planting now should be fine. It's already been outdoors and has had a chance to gradually go dormant. In fact, it may be better off in the ground because the roots are more sensitive to cold and will be underground and therefore protected from freezing temps.

So I say put it in the ground, it will be much happier, and might actually produce some fruit next year or the year after. And when it gets cold, don't get stressed. My sister has a couple fig trees in Tallahassee in the ground and they are huge, produce a ton of fruit, and don't seem to be bothered by the cold nights there.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2011 at 11:56AM
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Hello Ya'll, I live in Atlanta and have a mature Celeste Fig Tree. It is winter here and I have not pruned my tree, can someone please tell me the best time to prune back the growth from last year? I know about pruning during the growing season, when should I cut back last seasons growth? Thank you.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 1:34PM
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Hi, everyone. I'm new to Garden Web, struggle with gardening in California, and often could use advice. Like now.
We are in a bad drought here and frequent watering is not an option. I just pruned our Petite Negra fig tree quite drastically and it just dawned on me that perhaps that was a mistake. It is about 15 years old and was split in half about 3 years ago by a huge falling Black Oak limb. (We are in mostly woods.) It came up from the roots and now is multi-trunked. Last year we pruned it way back to shape it and yet we got figs last summer/fall.

I'm wondering if I should not have pruned it back to the main trunks like last year. There are 5 of them and they were pruned back to be 8 to 9 feet tall last time. Buds have already formed but it didn't bleed sap that badly. Do you think it will be in worse trouble without watering very much? Will we get fewer figs than last year do you think?

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 7:43PM
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