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How to Prune a Fig Tree: Your Step-by-Step Guide

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How to Prune a Fig Tree: Your Step-by-Step Guide

Figs are a delightful addition to any garden. Plant them in a sun-soaked, sheltered corner, and they’ll grace your space with their luxurious foliage and delectable fruits. If you don’t trim them regularly, they’ll turn into these massive, unruly trees that are a real handful.

Fig trees and their fellow “sap-bleeding” companions like acers have a winter or early spring preference for pruning. This prevents them from shedding excessive sap. Pruning at the wrong time can lead to a flow of tears. To keep your tree happy and healthy for a long period, you’ll need to master how to prune a fig tree the right way. We are here to guide you through the process. We’ll go through:

  • when to prune a fig tree
  • what tools you’ll need
  • how to prune a fig tree step-by-step
  • and even what to do after the snipping is done

When to Prune a Fig Tree

Timing is everything, even in the world of fig trees. When it comes to pruning, knowing when to make those snips is crucial.

Late Winter or Early Spring: This is prime time for some fig tree pruning action. Right before the new growth begins, you want to trim away any dead or diseased branches, those that cross over each other (nobody wants a fig tree wrestling match), and any unruly growth.

Early Summer: If you’re a fan of summer pruning, it’s all about maintaining your fig tree’s shape. This keeps the branches in check and helps with airflow, preventing diseases. Don’t go too crazy; just a little tidy-up will do.

Pruning a Fig Tree for the First Time

For all you rookie fig tree owners out there, the first-time pruning is essential. To encourage strong root development, you need to trim about 50% of the tree after its first winter. You’ve got to be a bit gentle after transplanting because hacking away too much at once can give your tree a real shock.

Trimming Back: First, let’s talk about trimming back. As mentioned above, your young fig trees need to develop strong roots. Trim the smaller branches and any that look weak or damaged. Think of it as decluttering your fig tree’s wardrobe.

Pruning for the Upcoming Winter: It’s all about prepping your fig tree for the chilly season. Once the leaves have fallen, remove any branches that grew too tall, and the ones that could possibly grow inwards later, so they can get more sunlight later in the growing season.

Tools You’ll Need

To prune like a pro, you’ll need the right tools. Here’s your shopping list:

  1. Pruning Shears: These are your best friends. They’re great for smaller branches and more delicate work.
  2. Loppers: For those thicker branches that require a bit more muscle.
  3. Pruning Saw: When you’ve got some serious cutting to do, this saw will be your go-to.
  4. Gloves: Protect your hands from thorns and rough branches and also from the irritant sap of the fig tree.
  5. Safety Glasses: Don’t forget to shield your eyes, especially when you are pruning a larger fig tree. Safety first!
How to Prune a Fig Tree: Your Step-by-Step Guide

How to Prune a Fig Tree Annually – A Step-by-Step Guide

As you already know, fig bushes and trees should be pruned twice a year. Let’s take a look at both occasions.

Pruning Fig Trees and Bushes Early-Spring

  1. Tend to Damaged or Weak Branches: Trim back any frost-damaged, crossing, or weak branches, cutting them down to 2.5cm (1in) stubs to encourage fresh shoot growth. Look to keep branches with small fruitlets at their tips.
  2. Eliminate Crowded Branches: In areas where branches get crowded, remove them entirely without leaving stubs.
  3. Manage Overly Long Bare Branches: On more mature fig trees, prune back one or two excessively long bare branches, leaving a 5–8cm (2–3in) stub to stimulate new growth.
  4. Remove Unwanted Regrowth: In situations where regrowth is unwanted, such as in the center of the bush or where branches are overcrowded, remove the entire branch without any remaining stub.

Pruning Fig Trees and Bushes Early-Summer

  1. Early Pinching for Young Shoots: Now, let’s get down to business. Begin with selective pruning. Trim the branches that are growing too close to one another, especially if they’re crossing over. You want to maintain a good balance in your fig tree’s canopy.
  2. Ceas Pruning by Mid-Summer: Don’t prune any new growth by mid-summer, just as the embryonic fruitlets for the next year’s crop start forming at the shoot tips. Pruning after mid-summer will definitely hinder your tree’s fruit yield for next year.

Fan training Fig trees

Fan training is a stylish and fruitful approach for training a fig tree against a sunny wall or fence. To do this, attach horizontal wires spaced 30cm (1ft) apart, spreading the branches in a fan shape for optimal fruit ripening. Remember, fan-trained figs require pruning twice a year to stay at their best.


You’ve made it through the pruning process, but don’t pack up your tools just yet. Aftercare is crucial to ensure your fig tree thrives.

Mulching: Add a layer of mulch around the base of your fig tree to help retain moisture and keep the roots happy.

Feeding: Fig trees are hungry little things. Feed them with a balanced fertilizer to keep them strong and healthy. This fruit tree fertilizer on Amazon can work wonders on your fig tree as well!

Monitoring: Keep an eye on your freshly pruned fig tree. Check for any signs of pests, diseases, or new growth that needs attention.

How to Prune a Fig Tree: Your Step-by-Step Guide

And there you have it! Pruning your fig tree isn’t as daunting as it may seem. With the right timing, tools, and know-how, you’ll be well on your way to a figgy paradise in your backyard. Happy pruning!

Frequently Asked Questions

When to prune a fig tree?

You should prune your fig tree twice a year: once in early to mid-spring after the last frost, and again in early to mid-summer. For safety, wear gloves and start pruning from the base upwards to prevent sap irritation.

Should I cut the top off my fig tree?

If you want to encourage branching, you can definitely cut off the top of your Fig Tree. Remember to avoid pruning more than a third of your plant a year, because going over this can reduce the fruit yield.

Should I cover my fig tree in winter?

While planting figs against a south-facing wall can aid in winter survival, an extra layer of protection involves wrapping them in burlap and fallen leaves in late autumn or early winter to prevent severe dieback in cold weather.

Why is my fig tree yielding so few figs?

If you’re wondering why your fig tree is producing very few figs, it might be related to the timing of your pruning. Avoid pruning any new growth after mid-summer since this is when the embryonic fruitlets for the following year’s crop are forming at the shoot tips. Pruning after mid-summer can significantly impact your tree’s fruit yield for the next year.