Fig trees are a popular choice for home gardens because they are easy to grow. As with any tree, pruning is necessary. Pruning removes branches, leaves and buds to maintain a healthy tree and encourage a good quality fruit harvest. With fig trees, the pruning process varies depending on the age of the tree. Young fig trees should be pruned when they are first planted, while a mature tree should be pruned once a year to remove dead or diseased branches.
Young fig tree pruning
Cut back all branches by half. This ensures that the tree trunk grows strong and roots are firmly established in the ground.
Select three to six fruiting branches that will remain on the tree. Prune the remaining side branches. Keeping only a few branches promotes a good growth of fruit in terms of size and taste. When determining which branches to keep, choose those that are spaced 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) apart, grow on opposite sides of the trunk and form wide angles of 45 degrees or larger. Prune during the winter, the year after the tree was first planted.
Remove weak and damaged branches as the tree grows. Prune branches that cross over or rub against other branches. Remove side branches that grow at narrow angles, or less than 45 degrees from the trunk of the tree.
Pinch back new stems by about 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) if they are growing too long. This prevents the young tree from becoming tall and thin.
Thin out branches that grow into the centre crown of the tree. This allows sunlight to enter the top branches and flow down to the rest of the tree.
Mature fig tree pruning
Trim back the branches that bear figs each season. Leave about two buds so new fruit-bearing shoots can grow next season and produce fruit.
Prune away branches that are no longer growing, as well as any diseased branches. If you need to remove a fruiting branch, select another branch to replace it as one that will bear fruit.
Pull out any suckers that are sprouting up from the base of the tree. Suckers take nutrients away from the tree.
Prune away branches that are growing less than a 45-degree angle away from the main branches on the tree. Removing these secondary branches will prevent them from growing too close to the trunk of the tree.
Prune back the main branches of the tree by about a fourth. This allows the tree to store up nutrients it needs for the next growing season.
Prune mature fig trees during their dormant season.
When pruning, remove branches that are not producing the best fruit, or are preventing fruit-bearing branches from growing properly.
Cut back the main branches of the fig tree so they always remain smaller than the trunk of the tree.
Never allow your fig tree to grow more than one main trunk.
A full, bushy fig tree is not going to produce a good yield of fruit because too many branches take away important nutrients that the tree needs to bear fruit.
Seal any large cuts made to a fig tree with a wound-healing compound.