Pruning fig trees is easier than most people think. You just have to do it at the right time and prune in moderation. More specifically, you need to avoid over-pruning. It only leads to excessive regrowth and a reduction in fruit production.
Nobody wants that. So, here is how and when to prune fig trees. We have also added some tips for looking after your fig tree.
When to Prune a Fig Tree
Winter is the best time for pruning fig trees (UK). There are three reasons for this. Firstly, you won’t have to struggle with dense foliage because the tree will be dormant. Secondly, the tree will recover faster and the resulting new growth will arrive with the next growing season. Thirdly, it is easier to identify weak branches. The cold will expose them, especially by late winter.
Therefore, winter is when to prune fig trees (UK). Only young and unstable fig trees are exempted from this rule. It’s better to prune them in spring or summer.
How to Prune a Fig Tree
Follow these four steps:
1. Prepare Your Gear
You need two categories of equipment when pruning fig trees. Category one includes pruning tools like shears, secateurs, loppers and saws. Each tool must be sterile and sharp.
Category two includes protective clothing like gloves, goggles, jackets and boots. They will protect your skin from the sap bleeding from the cuts (you make) on the fig tree.
2. Prune the Following Branches
Here are the cuts you need to make when pruning fig trees.
- Prune dead, damaged and diseased branches
- Prune shoots growing at the base of the tree
- Prune branches growing at less than 45 degrees to the main trunk
- Cut back branches that cross and obstruct other branches
- Cut back branches that crowd and choke the centre of the tree
- Cut back non-fruiting branches by about two-thirds of their length
3. Retain as Many Fruitlets as Possible
Fruitlets are those pea-sized microfigs that grow at the tip of annual shoots. These fruitlets are the ones that will mature into full-sized, ripe figs in the next growing season. So, you need to protect them.
Don’t cut branches or shoots that have fruitlets. If you have to, make sure the fig tree still has enough fruitlets to produce enough fruits next year. This is possibly one of the most important things you need to know about pruning fig trees.
4. Remove Old, Unripe Figs in Autumn
Some fruits won’t ripen alongside the others, usually because they just developed during this growing season. Only the fruitlets from last year, which we said you shouldn’t prune, will ripen. The rest will remain unripe even as the growing season ends and the fig tree prepares to go dormant for winter.
Their condition won’t improve. Therefore, they are useless. They are only there to eat up energy that the fig tree should store for winter. Help your fig tree out by removing those unripe figs. Do it with your hand.
How to Prune a Fig Tree That Has Become Unstable or Out of Control
You must treat this as a long-term project because hard pruning will only lead to excess regrowth and poor fruit production. Besides, cutting off more than 25-30% of any tree in a single pruning session is a bad idea. Give yourself 3 to 5 years to renovate this unstable or out-of-control fig tree.
You can prune it every March, June and August until the desired result is achieved. These are spring and summer months, contradicting our original advice to prune fig trees in winter, but that’s okay. Young and unstable fig trees are the exceptions.
In fact, pruning fig trees in spring and summer is more effective for the effect you want to achieve this time around. That effect is to get that tree back under control by removing as much energy as possible.
Winter pruning removes minimal energy because trees conserve energy in their main branches and trunks during this period. That’s why active growth stops and dormancy occurs. This changes in spring as energy flows out again and active growth restarts.
Therefore, pruning fig trees in spring allows you to cut off more of the tree’s energy. This is more efficient for training the tree and getting it under control. For even more efficiency, focus on the strongest-growing branches.
How to Look After a Fig Tree
Here are other ways to care for a fig tree.
Plant Your Fig Tree in a Sunny Spot
Fig trees love warmth and sunlight. So, plant your fig in direct sunlight. It also helps if you have a south-facing garden. They get the most sunlight in the UK.
Protect Your Fig Tree From Winter Cold
Fruitlets are delicate and vulnerable to cold. So, wrap your fig tree in fleece during winter. Another option is to move it indoors.
Give Your Fig Tree a Root Barrier
This will control the tree’s size, stopping it from growing out of control. It could also encourage the tree to focus more energy on fruit production instead of only growing bigger.
Pruning fig trees keeps them healthy and fruitful. It’s a crucial aspect of their maintenance here in the UK. However, pruning fig trees is also not as difficult as many people think because they (fig trees) are resilient enough to recover from both under-pruning and over-pruning.
There are consequences for both pruning mistakes but the tree will recover. It may just take a while and some work. So, follow the instructions in this article and everything should work out fine.