Fig trees can be left alone to grow naturally or trained to grow as a large shrub or mid-size trees of various shapes. There are specific techniques fig tree farmers might use when pruning trees, however, the guidelines below are intended for home gardeners.
When to Prune
After Transplanting: First off, there is no law that says you ever have to prune a fig tree. However, if you choose to do so, the first time you should prune is in the first early spring that comes after you have planted your young fig tree, pruning before new growth starts to emerge. In general, it is best to start pruning fig trees in a manner to produce new "fruiting wood." Figs are produced each active growth season on "old wood" (branches produced the previous season) however, to produce more fruit in future seasons you need to produce more branches. You can prune your tree back by up to half it's size during the first pruning. Doing so will help to stimulate root growth, helping your fig tree to become more quickly established under ground. Above ground, this will also stimulate growth of new branches making your tree bushier.
The Next Winter: In the next late winter, select 4 to 6 of the strongest branches growing from the main trunk(s) to be your fruiting wood / main branches and prune away the rest. As mentioned, leave the 4 to 6 strongest ones, but be sure to stagger them around the trunk. Start pruning by removing any branches that are not growing out from your selected 4 to 6 main branches as well as any dead or diseased wood. If there are suckers growing from the base of the tree, these should be removed as well. Next, remove any secondary branches (branches that are growing off the main branches) that are growing at less than a 45 degree angle from the main branches. This step in pruning fig trees will remove any branches that may eventually grow too close to the main trunk and will not produce the best fruit. When all secondary branches have been removed, cut back the 4 to 6 main branches by 1/3 to 1/4. This helps the tree, while it's still young, to put more energy towards the fruit that will be produced next year, which makes for larger and sweeter fruit.Thinning of Older Fig Trees: To stimulate new growth, thin out older trees which grow very little each year. Thinning also increases fruit size. Prune the trees enough to stimulate approximately 1 foot of growth each year. // >
Following Years: After a fig tree is established, the best time to prune will be in the dormant (winter) season when the tree is not growing. Figs are pruned very little and are productive with our without heavy pruning. Heavy pruning, as described above, is essential only during the initial years. Do not heavily prune mature trees because this reduces the crop size. Since fig fruits are produced on terminals ofprevious year's wood, once the tree is established, avoid heavy winter pruning, which causes loss of the following year's crop. For more mature, established fig trees, it is best to only thin trees a little. Thinning can be done in late winter. Remove all weak, diseased or dead limbs each season. If radical pruning is done to control the size or to rejuvinate an old tree, whitewash the entire tree.
TIP:When pruning a fig tree, always keep in mind that if you cut back too much you will not have fruit that year or maybe even the next. Take your time and don't over prune. This being said, over pruning will very rarely harm a fig tree.
See how you can shape fig trees on the next page.