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How to Trim Fig Trees: A Step-By-Step Guide to Healthy Pruning

Planting a fig tree is an easy way to have access to fresh, delicious fruit. Eaten raw or made into candied treats, you can’t go wrong with figs.

To get the most out of your fig tree, it’s important to care for it by pruning properly.

In this post, I’ll go over how to trim fig trees, both young and mature. Let’s dive in!

New growth on the end of a trimmed fig branch. Knowing how to trim a fig tree is critical for the best harvest.

Why Trim a Fig Tree

Improve Tree Health

Trimming a fig tree is a sure way to improve the tree’s health. By removing dead and damaged branches, you’ll be allowing the tree to focus its energy on new growth.

New growth is often much more productive than old growth. That’s why it pays to remove branches that are no longer actively producing.

You’re also making space for limbs to grow with less crowding and added air circulation.

Stimulate Fruit Production

Man picking figs from a tree.

With stimulated foliage and limb growth comes improved fruit production. If your fig tree didn’t produce a great harvest last year, try pruning.

You’ll often see an increased amount of mature figs by the end of the season.

What You’ll Need

Trimming fig trees requires a few supplies to remove unwanted branches safely.

Here are the top products I recommend:

When to Prune a Fig Tree

There are two appropriate times per year for pruning a fig tree – late winter and summer.

Winter Pruning

A bare fig tree in winter.

Winter pruning is done while a tree is still dormant before spring growth appears. You’ll do the bulk of fig tree pruning at this time, which we’ll discuss in further detail.

Late winter pruning increases a tree’s productivity for the upcoming growing season.

This is especially important if your fig tree just finished its first growing season. But it’s a good idea to get into the routine of winter pruning every year.

Summer Pruning

Pruning a fig tree in summer is specifically meant to stimulate fruit production.

After the tree produces more than five leaves, you can trim the tips back to promote fruit development.

This will encourage the tree to move its focus from growing foliage to producing mature figs.

How to Trim a Fig Tree in the First Year

Immediately After Planting

Person planting a fig sapling.

Trimming a fig tree after planting is a great way to encourage a strong root system.

Soon after planting the tree, you should cut all the main branches back by half.

Fig trees are normally planted during dormancy, so this should take place during late winter or early spring.

This pruning will divert the tree’s attention to root growth. It will also stimulate fruit production in the coming seasons.

When pruning a fig tree, make sure always to use sharp pruning shears or loppers. Poor or dull cuts leave trees susceptible to disease in the future.

The First Winter

After your fig tree’s first growing season, you’ll also need to do a heavy pruning in late winter.

At this time, you should prune out every other new limb that developed during the growing season. The goal is to keep about five to six main branches.

This will give your young fig tree a beneficial shape with added airflow and light.

It will also allow the fig tree to narrow its focus on producing large, healthy fruit.

How to Trim a Fig Tree After Maturity

New growth on a fig tree branch.
New growth of fig tree.

Starting in your tree’s second winter, you should get into the habit of a routine pruning.

Let’s go over what exactly needs to be removed during the winter.

Prune Damaged Branches

First of all, you should prune out any diseased or damaged branches. This will improve your tree’s health and appearance.

This includes any limbs that appear discolored or barkless.

It may also be helpful to tag any branches during the growing season that aren’t producing fruit. This is a sure way to know which limbs need to go.

Remove Suckers and Shoots

Do you see all those small shoots coming off the lower trunk of your fig tree? Those should be promptly removed.

These shoots aren’t productive and only use up the energy needed for the main branches.

Since these are so small, you can usually use pruning shears to remove them.

Thin the Tree

To thin out your fig tree, you’ll need to remove some of the secondary branches. These are the branches that grow off of the main five or six branches.

Remove any secondary branches that are angled too close to the main branch.

Secondary branches should have an angle of 45 degrees away from the main branch. Remove any secondary limbs that are growing parallel with the main branches.

Shape the Tree

Although it may seem counterproductive, you can also trim back some of the fruiting branches.

These are the main branches of the tree that you rely on to produce fruit every season.

Using your shears or loppers, remove about one-fourth to one-third of the branch.

This keeps branches from becoming too bulky and breaking from excess weight. It also keeps the tree more compact for easy harvesting.

Trim Tips in the Summer

Pruning a fig tree in the summer is quick and simple.

After the fruiting branches have developed about five leaves, you can pinch the very end of the branch off. This is called the apical bud.

This isn’t required, but it can encourage the tree to begin developing fruit earlier. And it’s a good way to time your harvest every year.

Tips for Pruning Your Fig Tree

Man cleaning garden pruners.

Clean Your Tools

Properly cleaning your tools is one of the most important parts of trimming a fig tree.

Having dirty shears or loppers can lead to a couple of things. The first risk is the spread of disease.

After pruning diseased branches, you could potentially spread that disease to other trees with your shears.

Dirty shears can also cause a build-up of dirt and sap on the blade. This makes for dull cuts that can damage your fig tree.

To properly clean pruning shears and loppers, wash the blades in warm, soapy water. This will loosen and remove most dirt and buildup.

For tough buildup, let the blades soak for about 10 minutes. You can also use a wire brush to help remove dirt.

Once you’ve cleaned the blades, rinse and dry them completely to avoid rust.

Use a Graft Wax or Sealer

After trimming large limbs from your fig tree, apply a pruning sealer or graft wax. This will seal the wound and prevent disease.

It often speeds up the wound’s healing, and it stops moisture and sap from leaking out.

Apply a Winter Treatment

Multitask your winter to-do list.

After pruning a fig tree this winter, you can apply a winter treatment. This will help control pests and diseases for the upcoming growing season.

Horticultural oil can be used in a fruit tree’s dormancy to prevent common pests and fungal diseases. It’s organic and doesn’t have a strong odor.

Frequently Asked Questions

A young fig tree with an unripe fruit on it.

Do I have to trim my fig tree?

Trimming a fig tree is essential to productivity.

Overgrown fig trees will produce fewer and fewer mature figs over time. That’s commonly due to overgrowth and damaged branches.

You may also see an uptick in diseases as your tree is crowded with limb and foliage growth. This will severely limit airflow.

Make it a habit to prune your fig tree every winter.

Can I over-prune a fig tree?

Yes, you can over-prune a fig tree. If you remove more than one-third of a fruiting branch, it may not produce fruit in the coming year.

Luckily, your fig tree will most likely make up for that quickly. You may just have to wait a couple of growing seasons to see another bountiful harvest.

How long will it take for my tree to produce figs?

You’ve planted your fig tree, and you’re ready to see the fruits of your labor.

Unfortunately, most fig trees take approximately three to five years to produce a good harvest. Just continue to give your fig tree the proper care and maintenance it needs.

The fruits will be worth the wait!

Wrapping Up How to Trim Fig Trees

Closeup of figs on a branch, some green, some ripening to purple.

Learning how to trim a fig tree is the best way to get the most out of your tree. It may take a couple of growing seasons, but you’ll be harvesting delicious figs in no time! Just remember to stay consistent with your pruning, and your tree will reward you.

Are you interested in learning more about fig trees? Visit the Fig Trees page on the website to learn all you need to know about growing this popular fruit tree!