Pruning Fig Trees

 Fig, Ficus carica - pruning -

WHY If they are grown for table figs, they are headed low, usually about 18 to 24 inches from the ground.  Trees grown for dried figs are permitted to have a longer trunk, so that the tree can be kept smooth and clean beneath, since the figs are usually allowed to ripen and fall and are gathered from the ground.  A higher trunk makes this operation easier.

WHEN The shoots that bore fruit the previous season are cut back to two eyes or bud scars.  If the tree is in good health, each of the bud scars will send out a shoot in the spring growth upon which figs will be produced.  These new shoots in the dormant period are again cut back; thus, pruning is carried on season after season.  Fig trees tend to "bleed" when cut; so prune only during the dormant period.

HOW Fig varieties are listed in terms of color, as White, Brown and Black.  Since flower productions is of two distinct classes, pruning technique must be regulated accordingly.  In the first system of pruning, which is applied to the White and Brown Fig varieties, the process is one of cutting back severely, since the flowers are borne on the season's new growth, as described under class I.    The framework of the tree should originally be started with a low head, about 24 inches from the ground and permitted to have no more than three lateral branches evenly spaced. The second type of pruning is applied to the Black variety of figs.  The fruit is borne on wood that is one year or more old.  Start the tree with a low trunk, unless the tree is to be used also for shade, and permit the tree to develop three basic laterals the first year.  After that, pruning consists only of thinning and removing poor branches and retaining a well balanced, evenly spaced top. 

Since fig trees (Ficus carica) bleed badly, it is important to prune them only during their dormant season.  White and brown figs bloom and bear only on new wood, so the usual practice is to cut these back severely each year for better production.  Prune black figs more like other fruits, by cutting back the wood that is over one year old.

Figs grow from 25 to 40 feet tall.  They can stand heavy pruning and make good espaliered trees.  When you're growing them for an attractive landscape effect, keep them in balance by snipping and pinching.  Don't allow them to branch as close to the ground as they would if being grown for their fruit.  Root pruning is sometimes necessary to promote fruiting if they are growing in overfertile soil.  In fact, fig trees do better when the soil isn't too rich.

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