A question for Dan Gill: I have a 40-plus-year-old fig tree that is about 12 feet tall. I would like to cut back the high branches and reduce the height of the tree so I can pick the figs easier. When would be the best time to do this pruning? Or should I remove the old tree and plant the latest variety of fig tree? — Sammy Poche
Answer: Feel free to cut back your fig tree in February. Trim it as far back as you like. After a hard trimming, though, fig trees often produce a smaller crop the first year after the pruning. As you prune to reduce height, try to cut the tree back to strong horizontal side branches as much as possible. This will train the tree to be lower growing and spreading. If you just shorten a vertical branch, the new growth will shoot straight up again. If this tree is still healthy and is still producing good crops of figs, I don’t see the need to replace it.
Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter. Email questions to [email protected] or add them to the comment section below. Follow his stories at www.nola.com/homegarden, on Facebook and @nolahomegardenon Instagram.
- How to Transplant Fig Trees
- Home Garden Figs
- Site and Soil Requirements
- Purchasing Plants or Propagating Your Own
- Fruiting or a Lack of Fruiting
- Soil Preparation and Planting
- Training and Pruning
- Fertilization and Watering
- Fig Diseases
- Additional Information
- Fig Tree Maintenance – How To Grow Figs
- How to Grow Figs
- When to Plant Fig Trees
- Fig Tree Care
- Fig Tree
- PRUNING & TRAINING
- IN WINTER
- Selecting Fig Trees
- Growing Figs in Containers
- Planting and Caring for Fig Trees
- Keeping Fig Trees Healthy
- Harvesting Figs
- How to Prune A Fig Tree
- Pruning a Brown Turkey Fig
- Why A Fig Tree Is Not Producing Fruit
- Reasons for a Fig Tree Not Producing Fruit
How to Transplant Fig Trees
Cereales Killer, August 10, 2005
Available in several types and many varietals, fig trees are actually perennial fruiting shrubs. They thrive in full sun, particularly morning sun, and rich well-drained soil that is moist but never consistently wet. While fig trees benefit from fertilizer, you should wait a least a month after transplanting before fertilizing. Transplanting should take place in the fall, well before frost, or just as winter dormancy breaks. For very large or mature fig trees, an extra pair of hands will be useful.
Prune the tree, removing up to one-third of its foliage, in preparation for transplanting. Called “heading back,” this reduces stress on the tree and roots by reducing water loss through the foliage.
Dig out the fig tree very carefully in order to not damage the root system. Start trenching in a circle at least four feet out from the trunk with a shovel. Dig down until you can get under the bulk of the root ball and use a shovel or shovels as levers to lift the tree up and out of its hole. For very large or mature Fig trees, a mechanical excavator may be required to lift the tree out of the hole.
Set the extricated root ball down on several layers of burlap fabric large enough to wrap around the entire root ball and be tied at the trunk with rope to secure. Water the burlap and root ball down so that it does not dry out during transport or while the new location is readied.
Dig a new hole in a sunny location with well-drained soil. The hole should be at least twice the size and depth of the tree’s root ball or container in which it resides. If the soil at the bottom of the newly dug hole isn’t moist, water it well.
Place the fig tree into the hole so that the top of the tree’s root ball rests two to four inches below the level of the surrounding soil. This is somewhat unique to fig trees and is something you would never do with most plants.
Back fill the displaced soil and tamp down around the root ball firmly to ensure good soil to root contact. Water the fig well, filling in additional soil as needed to fill collapsed air pockets. Keep the soil uniformly moist an inch or two down into the soil, but not overly wet.
Home Garden Figs
Circular 945 View PDF picture_as_pdf
G.W. Krewer, Extension Horticulturist
Floyd Hendrix, Plant Pathologist
- Purchasing Plants or Propagating Your Own
- Fruiting or a Lack of Fruiting
- Soil Preparation and Planting
- Training and Pruning
- Fertilization and Watering
- Fig Diseases
- Additional Information
Most people are fond of figs and rightfully so. They are very tasty and can be eaten fresh, preserved, or used for baking and making desserts like ice cream. Figs will do well in most parts of Georgia except the mountainous areas (see map.)
Sections of Georgia Suitable for Fig Culture
Site and Soil Requirements
Figs will grow in many types of soils, but they need a site free of root-knot nematodes. Contact your county agent for information about testing your soil for nematodes. In the colder areas of the state, the ideal site is the south side of a building. Cold injury will be further reduced if the fig does not receive direct sunlight early in the morning or late in the evening during the winter months. However, the site should receive a minimum of eight hours of sunlight daily during the growing season.
Purchasing Plants or Propagating Your Own
Fig trees from nurseries may be grown in the field and sold bare-rooted or grown in containers and sold in the container.
Because considerable confusion exists about fig variety names, order fig plants only from reputable nurseries in the Southeast. Never purchase or attempt to grow the kinds of figs grown in California. They require pollination by a tiny wasp that cannot survive under Georgia?s climatic conditions. The only types recommended in Georgia are the common ones that produce only female flowers and set fruit without cross-pollination.
Figure 1. Figs propogated from hardwood cutting six months after cutting.
Fig trees are easy to propagate, and a home planting can be started at very little expense. The simplest and easiest method of propagating figs is by stem cuttings from an older bush. Make cuttings in late February. The cutting should be 8 to 10 inches long from 1-year-old wood. The upper end should be cut just above a node. Tips and soft growth do not root satisfactorily. Set the cuttings directly in the nursery row in well-drained and well-prepared soil. The cutting length governs the planting depth. Cuttings should be planted so only one bud is exposed and spaced 10 inches apart in the row (see Figure 1). In case of dry weather, watering will aid the growth of the cuttings. These cuttings root early, grow rapidly and make good trees for permanent planting in the fall.
Figs may also be propagated by rooted side shoots. Shoots below the ground?s surface frequently root; they may be separated from the parent bush and transplanted.
Figs can also be propagated during the growing season by rooting leafy cuttings under mist, or by air layerage. The use of these procedures, however, is seldom warranted.
To make an air layer, a ring of bark ¾ inch wide should be removed from a large twig or small branch. Moist sphagnum moss should be placed over the wounded area and covered with polyethylene film, and the film should be tied at both ends.
Fruiting or a Lack of Fruiting
If you look for blossoms on your fig tree, you probably won?t find them — they are inside the fruit.
A number of conditions may cause the fruit not to ripen or to drop prematurely. The following are the most common in Georgia in order of importance:
- Young, vigorous plants and over-fertilized plants will often produce fruit that drops off before maturing. If the plants are excessively vigorous, stop fertilizing them. Quite often, three or four years may pass before the plant matures a crop because most figs have a long juvenile period before producing edible quality fruit. If the distance between the nodes (leaves) on the current season?s shoots is more than 3 inches, the plant is probably excessively vigorous.
- Dry, hot periods that occur before ripening can cause poor fruit quality. If this is the case, mulching and supplemental watering during dry spells will reduce the problem.
- The variety Celeste will often drop fruit prematurely in hot weather, regardless of the quality of plant care. However, it is still one of the best varieties.
- An infestation of root-knot nematodes can intensify the problem when conditions are as described in items 2 and 3 above.
- You could have a fig plant that requires cross-pollination by a special wasp. If this is the case, then it will never set a good crop. The best way to resolve this is to replace the plant with one from a rooted shoot of a neighbor?s plant you know produces a good crop each year. This is a rare problem.
Soil Preparation and Planting
Soil preparation should always include a preplant soil test. If your soil pH is low, adjust the pH to 5.5 to 6.5 with dolomitic limestone. Spread the limestone evenly over the entire area where the figs will be planted, then till the soil. If possible, till at least a 6-foot by 6-foot area where each bush will be planted at least 8 inches deep.
Figs grown in the bush form may be set as close as 10 feet apart in the row and 15 feet apart between rows. Figs grown in tree form should be set 15 to 20 feet apart in the row and 20 feet apart between rows. Plant fig trees while they are dormant. In warm areas, bare-rooted trees can be set out in fall or early winter. In middle and northern Georgia, it is best to set them out in spring after danger of hard winter freezes have passed. Container-grown plants can be transplanted later than bare-root plants.
Before planting a bare-root tree, prune about one-third of its top, unless it was topped by the nursery. Container-grown plants can be transplanted without being pruned; just remove them from the container, spread their roots, and set them in the planting hole.
Set trees in the planting hole 4 inches deeper than they were in the nursery to encourage low branching for bush form. Fill the hole with soil; water heavily enough to settle the soil around the roots. Do not apply fertilizer in the hole at planting.
There are many varieties of figs available, but only a few are well adapted to Georgia. If you want to try to grow figs in the mountains, select a protected site and try Celeste or Hardy Chicago. In addition, some varieties such as Brown Turkey will produce some figs on the current season?s growth after being killed to the ground by a freeze. In the Piedmont, Celeste, Hardy Chicago, and Conadria are fairly well adapted. South of the Fall Line, any of the varieties listed can be grown, but Celeste and Conadria are two of the best. If you would like to extend the season with a late ripening variety, plant Alma.
|Fig Varieties for Georgia|
|Variety||Color of Fruit||Size||Quality of Fruit|
|For Fresh Use||For Preserving|
|Alma||Greenish brown||Small||Very good||Good|
|Celeste||Lt. brown to violet||Small||Very good||Excellent|
|Green Ischia||Bright green||Medium||Good||Good (seeds objectionable)|
|Hunt||Dull bronze with white specks||Small to medium||Good||Excellent|
|Kadota||Bright greenish yellow||Small to medium||Fair||Excellent|
|LSU Purple||Reddish to dark purple||Medium||Good||?|
|Magnolia||Bronze with white flecks||Medium||Fair||Excellent|
Training and Pruning
Although fig plants can be trained to either tree or bush form, the tree form is not practical for the Piedmont area of Georgia. In this region, fig plants are frequently frozen back to the ground, making the tree form difficult to maintain.
Bush form is generally recommended for other areas of the state as well. In the bush form, more of the fruit will be closer to ground level and easier to pick.
Begin training to bush form at the time of planting by cutting off one-third of the young plant. This forces shoots to grow from the base of the plant. Let these shoots grow through the first season. Then, late during the winter after the first growing season, select three to eight vigorous, widely spaced shoots to serve as leaders. Remove all other shoots.
Be sure the leaders you select are far enough apart to grow to 3 to 4 inches in diameter without crowding each other. If they are too close together, the leaders cannot grow thick enough to support themselves and their crop, and they tend to fall over or split off under stress of high winds. If this happens, remove the damaged leader and select a new one late the next winter by choosing one of the many suckers that arise annually.
If more branching is desired, head back the bush each spring beginning the second year after planting, after danger of frost is past but before growth has started. Do this by removing about one-third to one-half the length of the last year?s growth.
Also, prune all dead wood and remove branches that interfere with the leaders? growth. Cut off low-growing lateral branches and all sucker growth that is not needed to replace broken leaders.
Do not leave bare, unproductive stubs when you prune. These stubs are entry points for wood decay organisms. Make all pruning cuts back to a bud or branch.
Fertilization and Watering
Recommendations for South Georgia
Fertilizing: Fig trees grow satisfactorily in moderately fertile soils with limited fertilizer. But fertilizer is needed in soils of low fertility or where competition from other plants is heavy.
Although nitrogen is usually the only needed plant nutrient, other nutrients may be lacking in some areas. If your soil is not very fertile, follow these general guidelines:
- Use a fertilizer with an analysis of 8-8-8 or 10-10-10.
- Apply fertilizer three times a year to bushes you are trying to bring into full production: early spring, mid-May, and mid-July. Mature bushes can be fertilized just once a year in the early spring.
- Fertilize newly set bushes with about 1½ ounce of fertilizer at each application. Spread the fertilizer evenly over a circle 18″ in diameter with the bush in the center. On second-year bushes, increase the amount of fertilizer to 3 ounces at each application and the diameter of the circle to 24″.
- On bushes 3 to 5 years old you are trying to bring into full production, apply 1/3 pound per foot of bush height per application. If the fruit are not reaching maturity and ripening properly, excess fertilizer or drought may be the problem; fertilization should be reduced.
- Mature bushes 6 years and older should be fertilized once a year in early spring. On bushes spaced 10 feet apart, apply ½ pound of fertilizer per foot of height, up to 5 pounds per year. On bushes spaced 20 feet apart, apply 1 pound of fertilizer per foot height, up to 10 pounds per year. Scatter the fertilizer evenly under and around the bush. A satisfactory amount of shoot growth for mature plants is about 1 foot per year.
Watering: For highest yields, figs need watering throughout the summer. The frequency and the amount of water depends to a large extent on the soil. As a rule of thumb, 1 to 1½ inches of water per week from rain or irrigation is adequate. Yellowing and dropping of leaves may indicate drought.
In lawns, the grass beneath fig plants may wilt in the heat while the rest of the lawn does not. This indicates the figs need water. Figs grown with lawn grasses may require one or more waterings a week during hot, dry periods.
Mulching: Figs respond well to mulching with organic materials. Mulch may reduce the effects of nematode problems.
Recommendations for North Georgia
Winter injury in figs is directly related to the amount of vigor. A vigorous, fast-growing plant is easily killed by low winter temperatures in the Piedmont. If figs are frequently winter injured in your area, halve the fertilization recommendations.
If you are attempting to grow figs near the mountains, limited fertilizer should be applied to make the plants as cold hardy as possible.
Root-knot nematodes are the leading killer of fig trees in South Georgia. Root-knot shares this honor with cold damage in North Georgia. An on-the-spot diagnosis of root-knot infection is possible. Dig up a few roots and look for the characteristic galling caused by the nematode (Figure 2). There is NO other similar problem in figs.
Root-knot nematode infected fig trees CANNOT be cured with chemical treatment. Pruning the tops to balance with the weakened root system and attentive watering and fertilization may prolong the life of root-knot infected fig trees. Usually, however, they will die sooner or later regardless of the care they receive.
In planting a new fig tree, select a site as far as possible from any old garden sites. Take a nematode sample in this site. If root-knot nematodes are present, do not plant figs.
Fig rust attacks the leaves, usually in late summer. Severely infected leaves turn yellow-brown and drop. The underside of the fallen leaves will have numerous small, somewhat raised, reddish brown spots. These spots are often covered with a dusty golden-yellow mass of rust spores.
Fig rust is usually not fatal, but repeated epidemics will weaken the plant. In any given year, heavy leaf drop from rust will reduce size and quality of the fruit.
Gather all infected leaves from the ground under the bushes in the fall and remove them from the area.
Fig fruit souring is caused by yeasts spread by insects. Souring becomes noticeable as the figs begin to ripen. A souring fig will often show gas bubbles, scummy masses oozing from the eye, or both. These figs will give off an offensive fermented odor. Souring cannot be controlled with chemical sprays. The only control is to grow fig varieties that have a tight or closed eye that prevents insects form entering the fig fruit.
Pink blight appears as a dirty white to pale pink velvety growth on dying and dead twigs. It usually occurs in the interior of the tree. Remove infected branches and prune the tree to allow good air movement within the tree.
Leaf Blight (Thread Blight)
Leaf blight is another fungus disease that attacks leaves and fruit. Infection may start as a semicircular brown spot at the base of the leaf. Some leaves shrivel and die; others may be covered with brown spots that break out to leave irregular holes. During hot, wet weather, leaves can die and drop very quickly. Dead leaves are often matted together and held to the tree by threadlike strands similar to spider webs.
A good source of information for fig enthusiasts is North American Fruit Explorers, 1716 Apples Road, Chapin, IL 62628.
Status and Revision History
Published on Apr 01, 1999
Unpublished/Removed on Feb 24, 2009
Published on Apr 20, 2009
Published with Full Review on Apr 25, 2012
Published with Full Review on May 25, 2017
Fig Tree Maintenance – How To Grow Figs
Many people wonder how to grow figs. These fruit trees are among the easiest of the fruit trees that can be grown. They grow happily in both the ground or containers, making them perfect for all kinds of gardeners. Let’s take a look at when to plant fig trees and how to care for your fig tree.
How to Grow Figs
When it comes to fig tree care, you should know that growing fig trees requires well-drained and fertile soil. The best soil for growing fig trees would be loamy soil that has plenty of organic matter cut through it. Also, be sure the area gets plenty of moisture. The perfect pH for growing fig trees is a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5.
When thinking about how to grow figs, you should know that they should be protected from cold winter winds and direct winter sunlight. Unseasonably warm temperatures can cause your fig trees to grow. If this happens too early in the season, and then another freeze sneaks in, your growing fig trees will be damaged.
When to Plant Fig Trees
For good fig tree care, remember that a northern exposure keeps your fig trees dormant until the time comes that they should be blooming. You can set your dormant, bare-rooted trees out in late fall to early spring. For easy fig tree maintenance, you should choose fig trees that are free of root-knot nematodes.
Fig tree maintenance is not a lot of work. Fig trees like full sunlight and adequate room for growth. You can plant your growing fig trees about 15 to 20 feet apart. If you are going to train your trees to be bushes instead, plant them 10 feet apart. Either way, there is little fig tree care you will have to administer.
Fig Tree Care
Be careful not to have too much nitrogen in the soil. You can fertilize the soil at a rate of one pound of 8-8-8 each year of age of the tree, or each foot tall the tree is. This is to a maximum of 12 pounds and then you would maintain the same rate each year.
With regard to fig tree maintenance, you should fertilize your fig trees annually. If you have heavy soil, fertilize the tree when the buds swell. If you have loamy soil, you can fertilize with half the amount required when the buds swell and the other half can go down in late May.
Good fig tree care requires some pruning. However, fig trees don’t require much. You should prune in late winter just before growth begins so you don’t injure the plant.
Harvesting your figs can be done as soon as the fruit is softening. Figs are not tasty until they are ripe, so you will need to let them stay on the tree until fully ripe. Figs will stop ripening once they are removed from the tree. You can store them in the refrigerator for a week or two until you are ready to use them in recipes or eat them.
A fig can be planted at any time of year as long as the ground isn’t frozen. You can keep the tree in its pot for a season if need be but be sure to water well. Dig a hole twice the size of the root-ball, spreading the roots as you refill the hole to the base of the stem. Press the soil down with the heel of a boot. For the first few seasons it’s wise to provide a sturdy stake to support the establishing trunk and encourage strong root growth.
Figs thrive in any soil with good drainage, they’ll be happiest in free-draining and moisture-retentive soil in the sunniest position possible. A warm and bright location is vital because the fruit needs warm sun to ripen.
Tradition has it that a fig tree should be planted in a Gladstone bag. The theory behind this bizarre idea is actually very sound, as fig trees will produce more fruit if they have a restricted root run. We recommend digging out a lined planting pit or growing figs in containers standing in a sunny spot, or sunk into the soil. Prepare a planting pit by digging a hole 60 x 60 x 60cm and lining the sides with vertical slabs. Add a layer of rubble or crocks 20cm deep in the base to ensure that the roots do not become waterlogged.
Water deeply and regularly throughout the summer whilst the figs swell and ripen but do not water erratically as this may cause the fruit to split. Container grown plants will require more careful watering and can rapidly parch in hot weather, especially in terracotta pots. They may also more easily become waterlogged so should stand on pot feet to allow water to drain away. All figs should be watered more sparingly throughout winter.
In early spring the tree will appreciate a feed with a balanced general-purpose fertiliser followed by a mulch of well-rotted manure or compost. Once the fruits appear in early summer, you can encourage them to flourish with an application of liquid tomato fertiliser each fortnight until they begin to ripen. Container grown figs should be repotted every three years when dormant in winter. Choose a pot which is about 5cm larger each time.
PRUNING & TRAINING
The branches can be trained into an attractive fan shape against a sunny wall to ensure your fruit receives lots of sunshine in order to ripen fully. Figs in more exposed positions will benefit from a stout support system to prevent branches snapping in gales when wind catches their large leaves. In the first few months of each year when the tree is dormant you may wish to prune back any awkwardly placed or long and leggy branches to 5cm stubs to create a more productive and attractive shape. Remove any suckers appearing from the ground. In late August remove any figs larger than pea-sized that haven’t ripened properly, the tiny embryo fruits that remain will develop into your main crop next year.
Despite their Mediterranean origins, fig trees are surprisingly hardy but for young trees and during particularly freezing weather it’s sensible to provide a little protection to prevent frost damage. The bare branches can be wrapped in horticultural fleece or packed with dry straw. Remove protection by the end of April. During their dormant months potted figs may be wrapped in fleece in a sheltered spot or overwintered somewhere cool and sheltered such as a porch, shed or unheated greenhouse. Keep the compost slightly moist throughout the winter months, and return the plant to its sunny garden position when all danger of frost has passed.
When you start to notice little cracks appearing on the skin of your fruit you know it is fully ripe but be quick because peckish birds will be only too happy to help themselves. It might be wise to cover your tree with netting to prevent theft. A bumper crop of figs can be easily dried so that even in the darkest winter months you can still enjoy a little taste of summer. Simply cut the fruit in half and lay skin side down onto a baking sheet, then gently dry for about 12 hours within the oven with the oven door slightly open on the lowest setting possible. In the unlikely event that we have a particularly dry, warm summer they can be dried outside.
If you’d like to try growing an unusual fruit crop that’s delicious and nearly trouble free, consider figs. These trees will grow well unprotected in zones 8 to 10, and also in colder areas if you choose hardier cultivars or give plants proper winter protection.
Selecting Fig Trees
More than 200 fig cultivars grow in North America with a broad range of fruit shapes and colors. It’s important to select a variety adapted to your climate, such as Brown Turkey, Chicago, or Celeste for colder areas. Look for self-pollinating cultivars, as some figs are pollinated by tiny, specialized flies native to the Mediterranean and won’t set fruit without them. (Reputable U.S. nurseries sell only self-pollinating figs.)
Growing Figs in Containers
Because figs are tricky to grow in the ground where temperatures drop below 10 degrees, it makes sense to grow your figs in containers if you live north of zone 7. Use a large container (such as the planters nurseries sell for patio fruit trees), preferably plastic to control the weight.
Use regular potting soil and plant figs at the height they grew at the nursery, top-dressing the container with compost if you have it. Water when the soil is dry an inch below the surface; if you let containers dry out completely, the figs may lose their leaves. (Leaves will regrow, but it stresses the plant and lessens fruit production.)
Set pots in a sunny part of the patio, deck, or yard. You can use foliar sprays or water with liquid seaweed (kelp), compost, or manure tea monthly to give plants a boost.
Planting and Caring for Fig Trees
Plant trees as you would any young tree. Figs need a sunny spot that’s protected from winter winds. Mulch trees well with compost and apply foliar sprays of seaweed extract at least once a month during the growing season.
If temperatures drop to 10 degrees or colder in your area, and you’re growing cold-hardy figs outdoors in the ground, you can protect them with a cylindrical cage of hardware cloth filled with straw for insulation (don’t cover it with plastic, which can overheat).
Chicago Hardy Fig Tree amazon.com $24.95
Never try to grow figs in the ground north of zone 6, and even there, plant the most cold-tolerant cultivars. Instead, grow your figs in containers and bring them indoors for winter. Keep them in an unheated garage, shed, or other protected area where temperatures don’t dip below 20 degrees. The figs will drop their leaves and go dormant, but you should still water them when the soil dries. Figs will stay green all winter in a greenhouse, and may even bear fruit in the warm, sunny climate. Make sure you water them regularly, and watch the undersides of leaves for greenhouse pests like aphids. In either case, bring plants back outdoors when the weather warms and the last frost date is past.
Figs don’t require formal training; just thin or head back as needed to control size. Use a shovel to disconnect suckers that sprout from the roots throughout the growing season; replant or share them with friends.
You can propagate figs by taking cuttings, but the easiest way is to bend a low-growing branch down and secure it to the ground or the soil in a container with a U-shaped wire; cover lightly with soil (and a rock if it resists staying buried) and check for rooting. Once the stem has rooted, sever it from the mother plant with pruning shears and it’s good to go.
Keeping Fig Trees Healthy
Generally, figs do not suffer from insect or disease problems in North America. Keep birds away with netting; spread wood ashes around the base of trees to keep ants from climbing up to fruits. Keep plants well watered to avoid leaf drop, especially when they’re growing in containers.
In warm climates, you can harvest twice — in June and again in late summer. In colder areas, expect one harvest in late summer or fall. Make sure you know the color of your fig’s fruit when it’s ripe. Some figs turn brown when ripe, while others are gold or even green. Check trees daily for ripe fruit in season. Ripe fruits are soft to the touch; skin may begin to split.
Figs will keep up to one week in the refrigerator, but spoil easily. Cook figs by simmering them with a dash of lemon and honey for about 20 minutes, mashing them as they cook. Then puree in a food processor, blender, or food mill. The puree freezes well and makes an excellent cookie filling, sauce for ice cream or poached pears, or spread for toast. You can also dry figs in a food dehydrator for nutritious snacks.
Photo: Phil Dudman
Warning: The sap from figs can be irritating to some people so wear skin protection when pruning or handling pruned material and pruning tools.
Edibles figs are dormant and leafless in winter which offers the best time to get in and prune them. It’s easy to see what you’ve got, and the pruning you do in winter will set the trees up for the fruiting season ahead.
Fig tree are very forgiving when it comes to pruning. They bear most of their fruit on new growth, so even if you prune like a chainsaw masochist, the tree will bounce back with new growth followed by some sort of edible return. In fact, if you’ve got a big old tree that is too tall to treat and harvest, a good chop could well be in order. Knock it back by at least 2/3. You won’t be sorry!
If you’re happy with the current size of your tree, a lighter and more calculated prune will return a higher yield. Start by pruning off any growth that doesn’t come off the main branches of the tree’s framework… especially unwanted suckers at the base. That will clear a lot of congested growth. Also, remove any dead, diseased, weak, and crossing branches as well as shoots that grow across the centre. This will keep the canopy open to allow airflow and sunshine into the centre. Lastly, cut back the remaining branches – including the main and secondary branches – to a height that is easy to maintain and harvest.
If you’ve got a young tree, use the time to train a good shape for future production. Aim to create 3-6 evenly spaced low-growing branches and clear out any inward growing shoots.
First published: July 2013
How to Prune A Fig Tree
Pruning a Brown Turkey Fig
This pruning guide was written specifically for Brown Turkey fig trees but it will also apply to most of the other members of the family Ficus carica grown in the UK.
To maximise crop size free standing and pot grown figs are best grown as bushes and their early pruning is therefore along the same lines as that of a young apple tree. They grow faster than apples however so the pruning stages can be compressed into a shorter time period.
Your objective here is to create an open, goblet-shaped head. This basic framework lets air and light into the fruiting areas of the tree helping keep them healthy.
There are three main “prunings” your fig will need – in March, May and June – and it will not fruit well without. So we suggest you diarise them each year.
- February: (but delay until March in the North) cut out rubbing, crossing and damaged branches as well as any that get in the way of your “goblet” head. You can also cut long, fruitlet-less branches back very hard (to about 2-3”). Not too many though; you do not want to kill the poor tree. It is a good idea to deal with suckers at the same time. Try to tear them off the root from which they have grown rather than cut them.
- Late May: there should be a fair bit of new growth on the tree now. If not, wait a couple of weeks. Prune all these new branches back to 5 or 6 leaves.
- End June: You can deal with any laggards the same way at the end of June. No more pruning this year, please….
The fourth of the three prunings is not a pruning, but in:
- Early September: pick off the larger unripe figs – they will never be edible now. Take care to leave as many of the little fruitlets (they should be about the size of a decent garden pea) as possible.
Renovating an old fig tree
Without the regular pruning outlined above, figs have a tendency to produce long relatively leafless and fruitless branches. The fruit only ripens on last year’s wood, so what fruit you get will be at the end of long bare stems.
- In February in the South and March in the North prune out about 25% of the worst/barest/oldest branches down to 2-3″ from the main trunk.
- This will cause new growth during the summer. If the tree is overcrowded and you do not want so much new wood, then prune some of the branches right back to the trunk.
- In about July, with the framework of the tree in mind, keep the best new growth and cut out the rest, flush with the trunk.
Tags: pruning Fig ficus
Why A Fig Tree Is Not Producing Fruit
Fig trees are an excellent fruit tree to grow in your garden, but when your fig tree does not produce figs, it can be frustrating. There are many reasons for a fig tree not fruiting. Understanding the reasons for a fig tree not producing fruit can make this a little less frustrating.
Reasons for a Fig Tree Not Producing Fruit
First, in this article we will be covering information on why a fig tree will not fruit. Read our article on fig trees dropping fruit if you are looking for that information.
When a fig tree is not fruiting, there are a few reasons that this could be happening. The age of the tree, too much nitrogen and water are the three main reasons for a fig tree not producing fruit.
Fig Tree Not Fruiting Because of Age
The most common reason for a fig tree not producing fruit is simply its age. Trees, like animals, need to reach a certain maturity before they can produce offspring. Fruit is how a fig tree creates seeds. If the fig tree is not old enough to produce seeds, it will also not produce fruit.
Typically, a fig tree will not fruit until it reaches two years old, but it can take some trees as long as six years to reach the right maturity.
There is nothing you can do to speed up the rate a tree matures at. Time and patience are the only fixes for this.
Fig Tree Not Producing Fruit Because of Too Much Nitrogen
Another common reason that a fig tree is not producing figs is because of too much nitrogen. This commonly happens when you are using a fertilizer that is too high in nitrogen. Nitrogen causes the plant to have lush growth in leaves and branches, but very little, if any, fruit.
If you suspect that your fig tree may not be growing figs because of too much nitrogen, start using a lower nitrogen fertilizer or add some phosphorus to the soil to counter the nitrogen.
Fig Tree Will Not Fruit Because of Watering Conditions
If a fig tree is suffering from water stress caused by either too little or too much water, this can cause it to stop producing figs or never start producing, especially if it is a younger tree. Water stress will send the tree into a survival mode and the fig tree will simply not have the energy needed to invest in making fruit.
If your fig tree is getting too little moisture, increase the water. Remember, fig trees in pots will need daily watering when the temperatures rise above 65 degrees F. (18 C.) and twice daily watering when the temps go above 80 degrees F. (26 C.).
If your fig tree is getting too much water, either cut back your watering or improve the drainage in the area or in the pot. Don’t let fig trees grow in standing water.
These are the most common reasons that fig trees will not make fig fruit. There are many other less common reasons that are mostly tied to the nutrients in the soil. If you feel that the above reasons are not what is affecting your fig tree, have the soil tested and amend according to the results of this test.