Shaping a Fig Tree

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This article will teach you how to prune a fig tree and how to espalier a fig tree.
by Brooks Wilson · Zone 7A · 0° to 5° F to Zone 10B · 35° to 40° F · Pruning · 0 Comments · August 29, 2010 · 138,014 views

Tree Forming A Fig

Where winters are mild, you can train your figs to grow as a tree. To develop a single or multi-trunk tree, the process must be started when the tree is very young. Choose 1 to 3 trunks you would like to keep and remove the rest, cutting them off as low as possible. If you're lucky, you might find a 1- to 3-trunk fig tree already established at a local nursery and garden center. The carefully select and remove horizontally-growing lower branches that won't effect the canopy of the tree. As your fig tree grows, remove lower branches as needed to maintain a desired height and form. To keep your fig in tree form, it may be necessary in following years to remove suckers that grow from the base or secondary branches that grow downward.

EspalierFig Tree Espalier

Espalier is a technique for growing plants against a flat, vertical surface, such as a wall of a home or other building. Among the benefits is an abundance of fruit in a relatively small space. Figs are particular good for espaliering because they have flexible branches when young and produce fruit when very young.

You have many formal shapes in which you can grow the fig tree as espalier: candelabrum, double U-shape, fan shape. But a simple stack of three horizontal tiers emanating from the tree’s base is simple enough.

The espalier process is simple:

  • Step 1 - Though you certainly could build your own support structure, first-timers might simply want to buy a strong trellis with a nice design and horizontal bars. Install your trellis against a wall. Alternatively, you could attach coated wires to the wall to attach branches to.
  • Step 2 - Plant your fig in the middle of the trellis and allow it to grow.
  • Step 3 - As new branches emerge, gently bend them to the shape of your choosing and loosely tie them to the bars of your trellis using plastic tie tape available at your local nursery and garden center.
  • Step 4 - In the fall when the leaves fall off, remove any weak and crowded branches or stems. You want there to be some space between the branches you keep, unless you want a solid form.
  • Step 5 - During each dormant season therafter, continue to cut back the overgrown portions. and the top or sides of the tree to a desired shape and size.


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