How to Trim a Fig Tree – Green Thumb Tips

How to Trim a Fig Tree
19 min reading time

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on how to trim a fig tree! Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, we will provide you with step-by-step instructions and tips to help you maintain a healthy and well-shaped fig tree. In this guide, we will cover everything from fig tree trimming tips and techniques to when to trim a fig tree and fig tree maintenance.

Pruning is an essential aspect of fig tree care and is crucial for both its growth and fruit production. With the proper techniques and tools, you can easily trim your fig tree and give it the best chance to thrive in your garden. Our fig tree trimming guide will teach you shaping a fig tree, fig tree care, and pruning a fig tree.

So, let’s get started and learn how to trim a fig tree like a pro!

Understanding Fig Trees

Before you start pruning your precious fig tree, it’s crucial to understand the basic care and maintenance required to keep it healthy and strong. Proper fig tree care and maintenance practices can promote growth and productivity, ensuring a bountiful harvest.

Fig tree care primarily involves three aspects: watering, fertilizing, and protecting the tree from pests and diseases.


Fig trees need regular watering, especially during the hot summer months when the soil can dry out quickly. The frequency of watering depends on various factors such as the age and size of the tree, type of soil, and weather conditions. Generally, mature fig trees require less watering compared to younger trees.

One important tip to remember when watering your fig tree is to avoid getting the leaves wet, which can lead to fungal diseases.


Fig trees benefit from regular fertilizing, which can provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and fruit production. The best time to fertilize your fig tree is during the springtime, before the growing season begins. Addition of compost, aged manure or more organic matter is also helpful.

Avoid over-fertilization, which can lead to excessive leaf growth at the expense of fruit production.

Pest and disease prevention

Some pests and diseases can attack your fig tree, compromising its health and productivity. To prevent or manage these issues, regularly inspect your tree for any signs of damage or infestations. Common pests include scale insects, mites, and thrips that can be controlled through insecticidal soap or other treatments. Diseases like root rot or fungal infections can also be prevented by ensuring good drainage and proper care of the tree.

Applying a dormant spray with horticulture oil can minimize the risk of severe infestations, keeping your fig tree healthy and free of dangerous diseases.

When to Trim a Fig Tree?

Trimming a fig tree at the right time is crucial to ensure both the health and productivity of the tree. Knowing when to trim a fig tree depends on various factors, including its age, growth rate, and the time of year. In general, the best time to trim a fig tree is during its dormant season, which occurs in late winter or early spring before new growth emerges.

If you live in a region with mild winters, you may need to prune your fig tree earlier in the season, around December or January. However, if your area experiences harsh winter weather, it’s best to wait until the frost has passed before trimming the tree to avoid causing damage to the delicate branches.

You should also consider the current state of the tree when deciding when to trim it. If the tree has any dead or damaged branches, these should be removed immediately, regardless of the season. Similarly, if the tree is growing too large and causing overcrowding in your garden, it may be necessary to trim it back during the growing season to prevent excessive growth.

Additionally, you should avoid trimming a fig tree during its active growing season in the summer. Doing so can cause stress to the tree and disrupt its fruit production. Instead, focus on light pruning during the summer to remove any small, unwanted shoots or damaged leaves.

In summary, the best time to trim a fig tree is during its dormant season in late winter or early spring. However, you can also trim the tree during the growing season to maintain its size and shape, as long as you avoid heavy pruning and focus on removing small, unwanted growth.

How to Trim a Fig Tree: Tools Needed

Before starting the fig tree trimming process, it’s crucial to have the right tools and equipment at your disposal. These tools will make the pruning process more manageable and efficient, ensuring that your fig tree stays healthy and well-shaped. Here are the essential tools you need:

Pruning ShearsTo trim small branches and foliage.
LopperTo prune thicker branches (around 1 inch in diameter).
Hand SawTo cut larger branches (over 1 inch in diameter).
GlovesTo protect your hands from cuts and scratches.
Protective eyewearTo protect your eyes from debris and sawdust.
LadderTo reach high branches and foliage.

Make sure your tools are clean and in good condition before trimming your fig tree. Dull blades can damage the branches and invite pests and diseases into the tree. You can sharpen the blades of your pruning shears and loppers by using a sharpening stone or a metal file.

Remember to always wear protective gloves and eyewear when handling tools to avoid any injuries or accidents. It’s also a good practice to sanitize your tools after each use, especially if you’ve pruned a diseased branch.

With the right tools and equipment, fig tree trimming can be a rewarding and enjoyable gardening experience.

Fig Tree Pruning Techniques

Pruning a fig tree is a vital aspect of maintaining its health and productivity. There are different pruning techniques that gardeners use, including thinning, heading back, and rejuvenation pruning. Implementing these techniques correctly will help you achieve the desired outcome for your fig tree.


Thinning is the process of removing excess branches or stems to promote better air circulation, sunlight penetration, and fruit quality. This technique involves cutting back the lateral branches to the main trunk or removing the stem or branch entirely. It is best to thin the fig tree during its dormant period in late fall or winter. To thin your fig tree, follow these steps:

  1. Identify and mark the branches or stems you want to remove.
  2. Use a sterilized pruning saw or shears to cut the selected branches or stems.
  3. Make a clean cut just above the node, the point where the leaf or bud grows from the branch or stem, to promote regrowth.
  4. Dispose of the cuttings and sterilize the pruning tool to prevent the spread of diseases.

Heading Back

Heading back is the process of cutting back the tip of the branch to stimulate the growth of new shoots and lateral branches. This technique is useful for shaping the fig tree or encouraging branching and fruiting. It is best to head back the fig tree during its dormant period in late fall or winter. To head back your fig tree, follow these steps:

  1. Identify the branch or stem that needs to be headed back.
  2. Use a sterilized pruning saw or shears to cut the branch or stem back to the desired length, leaving at least two to three buds on the branch.
  3. Make a clean cut just above the node, the point where the leaf or bud grows from the branch or stem, to promote regrowth.
  4. Dispose of the cuttings and sterilize the pruning tool to prevent the spread of diseases.

Rejuvenation Pruning

Rejuvenation pruning is the process of cutting back older branches or stems to encourage new growth and revitalization of the fig tree. This technique is useful for mature fig trees that have experienced a decline in productivity or health. It is best to rejuvenate the fig tree during its dormant period in late fall or winter. To rejuvenate your fig tree, follow these steps:

  1. Identify the older, thicker branches that need to be removed.
  2. Use a sterilized pruning saw or shears to cut the selected branches or stems back to the base of the trunk or main branch.
  3. Make a clean cut just above the collar, the swollen area at the base of the branch or stem, to promote healing.
  4. Dispose of the cuttings and sterilize the pruning tool to prevent the spread of diseases.

Tip: When pruning your fig tree, always use sterilized pruning tools to avoid spreading diseases from one plant to another. Dip the tools in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water or rubbing alcohol for 30 seconds, then rinse them in clean water before using them.

Removing Dead and Diseased Branches

How to Trim a Fig Tree

Pruning your fig tree involves more than just shaping it to look pretty. It’s also essential to remove dead and diseased branches periodically. Not only do these branches look unsightly, but they can also harm your fig tree’s health and productivity.

Failing to remove dead or diseased branches can impede your fig tree’s ability to receive adequate sunlight and nutrients, leading to stunted growth and poor fruit production. Plus, it increases the risk of pests and diseases that can spread to the rest of your tree.

You can identify dead and diseased branches through their appearance. Dead branches typically lack leaves and have a dull, lifeless color. Diseased branches may show signs of wilted or discolored leaves, black spots, or visible damage from insects or blight.

Using pruning shears, make a clean cut at the base of the branch, as close to the trunk as possible. Avoid leaving any stubs or jagged edges, as these can create entry points for bacteria and fungi.

After removing the dead or diseased branches, dispose of them promptly to prevent contamination to other plants in your garden. Additionally, be sure to sanitize your pruning tools before and after use to avoid spreading diseases to other trees.

In addition to removing dead and diseased branches, it’s also necessary to prune any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other. These branches can create wounds, increasing the risk of disease and pests.

By removing dead and diseased branches on a regular basis, you can help ensure your fig tree’s continued health and productivity. Incorporate it into your overall fig tree maintenance routine to keep your tree looking its best.

Shaping Your Fig Tree

Pruning is not just about promoting the health and productivity of your fig tree, but also about shaping it to match your preferences. There are different fig tree shapes you can create, depending on your gardening style.

Bushy Fig Trees

If you love the look of a bushy fig tree, then there are specific pruning techniques you can use to achieve this shape. Start by removing any dead or diseased branches, as this will stimulate new growth. Next, do some selective heading back by cutting the tips of some branches to promote branching. This strategy will help to create a dense and bushy fig tree. Also, remember to thin out any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other, as they can cause damage to the tree.

Structured Fig Trees

If you prefer a more manicured or structured fig tree, then you can opt for a central leader system. Use stakes to support a single central stem, which you will keep trimmed to a level height. All other branches will need to be thinned, with selective heading back to promote branching. Keep pruning the stem to encourage vertical growth, while also cutting the branches to encourage horizontal growth. Using this technique, you can create a beautiful structured fig tree with defined branching.

Tip: When shaping your fig tree, remember to always use sharp and clean tools to avoid damaging the tree. Also, avoid cutting too much at once, as it can harm the tree’s health.

Pruning Young Fig Trees

Pruning young fig trees is essential to establish a strong framework for the tree’s growth. It should start when the tree is dormant, typically in late winter or early spring. Young trees need minimal pruning in their first year to allow them to establish their primary branches and roots.

Tip: It’s crucial to ensure that your pruning equipment is clean and sharp to prevent damage or infection to the tree.

The following steps are recommended when pruning young fig trees:

  • Determine the tree’s desired shape: Decide on the shape you want the tree to take and ensure that you choose the strongest branch to become the leader or central trunk.
  • Remove any competing branches: Remove any branches that compete with the leader trunk, leaving only those that are spaced well apart from each other.
  • Trim to promote branching: Cut back the remaining branches by about one-third, leaving only three to four buds on each branch to encourage branching. This technique is known as heading back.
  • Remove any crossing or rubbing branches: Remove any branches that grow across each other or rub against each other, as they can cause damage or infection to the tree.
  • Prune as necessary: If the tree has any other defects, such as weak or damaged branches, remove them as necessary.

Tip: It’s essential to avoid over-pruning young fig trees, as this can lead to weak or unproductive growth.

Growth StagePruning Method
YouthEstablishes a scaffold by removing extra branches, pruning back at a height of 3 feet
Year 2 & BeyondPrune at height of 5-6 feet to promote fruit growth and maintain general shape

Once you have pruned your young fig tree, it’s important to keep up with regular maintenance, including watering, fertilizing, and protecting it from pests and diseases. Regular pruning sessions will ensure that your fig tree grows strong and healthy for years to come.

Pruning Mature Fig Trees

Pruning mature fig trees is essential to maintain their productivity, manage size, and promote optimal fruiting. Unlike young fig trees, mature trees require less intensive pruning to avoid stunting their growth and impacting fruit production.

Assessing the Tree

The first step in pruning a mature fig tree is to assess its overall health and shape. Identify any dead or diseased branches and remove them before proceeding with the rest of the pruning process.

Thinning the Canopy

One of the main goals of pruning mature fig trees is to thin the canopy to allow sunlight and air to circulate throughout the tree. This provides optimal conditions for fruit development and helps prevent diseases. Start by removing any branches that are growing towards the center of the canopy, as they may cause overcrowding.

Removing Water Sprouts

Water sprouts are fast-growing vertical branches that emerge from the base of the tree or the main branches. While they can produce fruit, they often grow too vigorously and reduce the amount of energy available to other parts of the tree. Remove water sprouts as they appear, using a pruning saw to cut them as close to the base as possible.

Renewal Pruning

Mature fig trees may require renewal pruning to rejuvenate their growth and productivity. This involves removing older branches to promote the growth of new, productive ones. Start by identifying any branches that are five to seven years old or older, as they may no longer be producing fruit. Cut these branches close to the trunk or main branch to allow new growth to emerge.

Re-shaping the Tree

While mature fig trees do not require extensive shaping, you may wish to adjust the tree’s shape slightly to improve its appearance or productivity. Use pruning shears to remove any branches that are growing in an undesirable direction or that are rubbing against other branches.

Post-Pruning Care

After pruning your mature fig tree, monitor its growth and health carefully. Water the tree regularly, especially during dry periods, and fertilize it as needed to promote healthy growth. Consider adding mulch around the base of the tree to retain moisture and prevent weed growth.

Aftercare and Maintenance

After trimming your fig tree, proper aftercare and maintenance are crucial to ensure its long-term health and productivity. Keep in mind the following tips:

  • Watering: Fig trees require regular watering, especially during hot weather and dry seasons. Water your tree deeply, allowing the water to penetrate the soil to a depth of at least six inches. Avoid over-watering, as this can lead to root rot and other diseases.
  • Fertilizing: To promote healthy growth, fertilize your fig tree twice a year, in the early spring and mid-summer. Use a balanced fertilizer, high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
  • Pruning: Regular pruning is essential to maintain the shape, size, and productivity of your fig tree. Schedule pruning sessions at least once a year, depending on the age and growth rate of your tree.
  • Pest and Disease Control: Keep an eye out for common pests and diseases that affect fig trees, such as spider mites, mealybugs, and powdery mildew. Use organic pest control methods, such as neem oil or insecticidal soap, to prevent or treat infestations.
  • Winter Protection: Fig trees are vulnerable to cold temperatures and frost damage. Protect your tree during the winter months by wrapping it with burlap or frost cloth and mulching around the base to insulate the roots.

By following these aftercare and maintenance tips, you can ensure that your fig tree stays healthy, productive, and beautiful for years to come. Remember, fig tree care and maintenance require regular attention and dedication, but the rewards are worth the effort.

Troubleshooting Common Fig Tree Trimming Issues

Trimming a fig tree is a delicate and precise process that requires attention to detail and careful execution. However, even the most skilled gardeners may encounter challenges or issues during the trimming process. In this section, we will address some of the common fig tree trimming issues and provide solutions to overcome them.

1. Overpruning

Overpruning can be detrimental to the health and productivity of your fig tree. If you have removed more than 25% of the tree’s foliage in a single pruning session, it can stress the tree and reduce its ability to produce fruit. To avoid overpruning, follow a strict pruning schedule and refrain from removing too much foliage at once.

2. Improper Cutting Techniques

When trimming your fig tree, it’s crucial to use proper cutting techniques to avoid damaging the tree. Avoid making jagged cuts or leaving stubs, as they can invite diseases and pests. Always cut at a 45-degree angle, just above the bud, to encourage healthy growth and healing.

3. Disease and Pest Infestation

Disease and pest infestation can hinder the growth and productivity of your fig tree. Take preventive measures by regularly inspecting your tree for signs of infection or infestation, such as yellowing leaves or holes in the bark. If you notice any problems, promptly treat them with appropriate remedies, such as fungicides or insecticides.

4. Incorrect Timing of Pruning

Pruning your fig tree at the wrong time can damage its growth and productivity. Avoid pruning during the active growing season, as it can stimulate new growth that may be susceptible to frost damage. Instead, prune during the dormant season, when the tree is not actively growing, to promote healthy growth and fruit production.

5. Failure to Clean and Maintain Tools

Dirty or dull tools can damage your fig tree and spread diseases between trees. Regularly clean and sanitize your pruning tools to prevent the spread of diseases and ensure their proper functioning. Sharpen the blades regularly to ensure clean cuts and avoid damaging the bark of the tree.

By following these solutions to common fig tree trimming issues, you will maintain the health and productivity of your fig tree, ensuring it thrives in your garden for years to come.


Keeping your fig tree healthy and well-shaped requires regular trimming and maintenance. As highlighted in this guide, understanding fig tree care and pruning techniques is crucial for achieving optimal growth and productivity. We are hopeful that with the help of this guide, you now have the knowledge of trimming a fig tree.


When should I trim my fig tree?

It is best to trim your fig tree during the dormant season, which is typically in late winter or early spring before new growth begins.

How often should I trim my fig tree?

Fig trees generally require pruning once a year to maintain their shape and promote healthy growth. However, you may need to trim more frequently if there are specific issues or overgrowth.

Can I prune my fig tree during the growing season?

It is generally not recommended to prune a fig tree during the growing season as it may negatively impact fruit production and overall tree health. Stick to pruning during the dormant season.

What tools do I need for trimming a fig tree?

To trim a fig tree, you will need a pair of sharp pruning shears, loppers for thicker branches, and a pruning saw for larger cuts. Additionally, gloves and safety goggles are recommended for protection.

How much should I prune from my fig tree?

When pruning a fig tree, aim to remove no more than 20-30% of the tree’s overall growth. Removing too much can stress the tree and affect its fruiting capabilities.

How do I remove dead or diseased branches from my fig tree?

To remove dead or diseased branches, use clean pruning tools to make clean cuts just outside the branch collar. Dispose of the removed branches properly to prevent the spread of diseases.

Can I shape my fig tree during pruning?

Yes, pruning allows you to shape your fig tree according to your desired form. Carefully prune branches to achieve the desired shape, keeping in mind the overall health of the tree.

What should I do after trimming my fig tree?

After trimming your fig tree, make sure to clean up any debris and properly dispose of it. Water the tree thoroughly and continue with regular tree maintenance, such as watering and fertilizing.

What are some common issues I may encounter when trimming a fig tree?

Common issues during fig tree trimming include improper cuts, over-pruning, and accidentally removing healthy branches. It’s important to follow proper techniques and take your time when pruning to avoid these problems.

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