Fig trees are becoming increasingly popular – but few amateur gardeners know how to properly prune the exotic fruit trees. With these instructions it succeeds.
The true fig (Ficus carica) is an exotic fruit species that is also gaining more and more fans in this country. The shrubs can even tolerate a few sub-zero temperatures and can grow in the garden in mild regions in locations with a favorable microclimate – for example, the fig variety ‘Violetta’, which is considered particularly robust. Optimal for the plants is a wind-protected sunny place on a heat-retaining wall. The fig usually grows as a multi-stemmed tree, but is also offered as a single stem. In cooler regions, it hardly grows larger than a shrub, as it freezes back severely each year.
To keep it growing healthily, it’s important to avoid a few mistakes when caring for figs. Therefore, like most fruit trees, you should prune a fig tree regularly. The woody plants form their fruits on the previous year’s shoots and also on the new shoots. However, the latter do not ripen properly in most regions because the growing season is too short.
Nevertheless, it is important that you encourage the formation of strong new shoots for next year’s harvest by pruning. At the same time, the crown must remain airy and loose enough for the fruit to soak up plenty of sunlight on this year’s fruiting wood and ripen optimally.
When to prune a fig tree?
It is best to prune your fig tree in early spring – from mid-February to early March, depending on the region and weather. It is important that after pruning, no more prolonged periods of frost are expected.
Remove frozen shoots
First remove any shoots that froze over the winter. These can be easily identified by briefly scratching the bark: If the tissue underneath is dry and yellowish, the branch is dead.
Either cut the dead wood back to the living portion or remove the shoot in question altogether. If the branch is inconveniently positioned anyway or the crown is too dense at the point, it is best to cut it off right at the branch ring so that no new wood grows back at this point. A branch that is merely cut back, on the other hand, will always sprout again in several places.
Thinning out the crown of the fig tree
After the deadwood has been removed, take care of any stronger branches that are growing into the crown or are simply too dense. They often take away the light from the ripening fruit and should therefore also be cut off at the branch ring. As a rule, you need to use pruning shears or a pruning saw for this purpose.
Reduce branches at the shoot ends
Branches on figs are often very dense at the ends of the main shoots, so these branch sections should all be thinned out. In most cases, you can remove every second to third side shoot.
You should also shorten the ends of each main shoot or divert them to a side shoot that grows outward. Very long side shoots are also shortened to an outside eye. In the end, the fig tree or shrub should not be too dense and the remaining fruiting shoots from the previous year should be well spaced. As with apples, the “airier” the crown, the larger the figs will grow and the better they will ripen.
Heavy pruning is possible with figs
Few amateur gardeners know that a fig can be pruned back very far into the old wood – even to just above the ground if necessary. The plants have a very high rash capacity and reliably sprout new shoots again. However, you will then have to do without the delicious fruit for a season. Severe pruning is only necessary in rare cases – such as young plants with insufficient winter protection that have frozen back to the ground.
Listen in now: How to grow figs in the garden
Want to harvest delicious figs from your own garden? In this episode of our podcast “Grünstadtmenschen”, MEIN SCHÖNER GARTEN editors Nicole Edler and Folkert Siemens tell you what you need to do to ensure that this heat-loving plant also produces lots of delicious fruit in our latitudes.