I need answers for some fig questions

I’m in East Texas in 8a. I have been around fig trees all my life but none other than the brown turkey that grows in everyones back yard. I have one that is 15ish years old and about 12’ x 12’. It has always been a good bearing tree with no care other than manure or fertilizer. Last winter we had mild weather in that we only had about a total of 450-500 chill hours but in that mild winter we had 2-3 episodes of ~14 F. (not -14 F). I had damage on this tree from the cold and got no breba crop and not a lot of figs this year. The leaves fell off the whole tree after the figs ripened. There was very little new growth. There were some large upper branches that were killed off along with most of the tips up to 6-8 inches. Do I need to cut this tree back this winter and just try to refresh it? Here are some recent pictures of this tree.

So… suggestions? Cut it way back?

I’ve just this year planted a small Celeste and I have an order in for a Violette de Bordeaux. In my area with possibility of those temps do they need to be protected?


Have you checked for ambrosia beetle holes/damage? They are attracted to freeze damaged trees.

Making heading cuts to thick branches will increase growth on the buds that grow from them, but also make the crop much later and decrease cold hardiness since growth will continue later into the season. It is recommended to not remove more than 30% of branches at once on mature trees, my assumption is that is to avoid excess vigor (and lack of fruit production, as is the case with Celeste) but it you remove branches completely ie. make thinning cuts to improve structure and remove damaged growths that should not spur as much growth.

Young trees should be protected for as long as possible. If they have soft green growth it will be vulnerable to hard frost, so have a plan to cover them temporarily as well. It might be better to keep the VdB in a container this winter if you have someplace like an unheated garage where it will stay dormant to plant out in March.

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I haven’t seen ambrosia or any real damage except from the cold. One large branch at the top is dead so I know I’ve got to prune it back some and I know I’ll lose the breba crop if I prune it a lot but I wondered if it would help it in the long run. I read something years ago about not pruning figs but I’m not sure how true that is. It’s getting to be a really large tree and now not as productive.

Just wondered at what temperature actual damage occurs. We don’t usually get below about 23 F.

There’s no set temperature, a tree that stopped growing in the summer and experienced increasingly colder temperatures could survive single digits. But if the same tree starts waking up from a warm spell then mid twenties could do significant damage.

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I understand what you’re saying and we live here with widely fluctuating temps all the time. But maybe the fact that we had really mild winter temps last year and then a couple of sudden dips into the teens could have intensified the effects of the cold? It was really a strange winter.

Thanks for your advice!

I would prune it late winter after the harshest weather, and yeah some branches were probably partially damaged, and may explain leaf loss and low fruit. I doubt these branches would be productive again. @Richard cuts his way back even though he does not need to, to fit in allotted space I assume? Anyway curious as to what he thinks.


My trees took damage during the first hard frost (the vigorous ones) and then on a night with a low of 14 F in March that came after a week of warm weather, they had already seen below 10 in January.

Thanks. It’s gonna have to be cut back some just to get rid of the dead stuff. I just didn’t know if a good pruning would be beneficial or harmful. It’s been a fantastic tree for 15 years.

That’s false – I definitely need to. :slight_smile:
The breba crop is worthless here and stunts the main crop.

I’ve never had experience with a fig freezing back so I’m hesitant to offer advice here.

my guess-timate would be to leave it alone for one more growing season. I’d remove stems/branches that are already dead, but will not prune live branches even if they look bad. Deciduous trees sometimes will have early leaf-drop on certain years for no discernible reason, and the branches shown on your pic shows considerable production at many of their tips.

also, die-back after a hard freeze typically occurs on thinner stems. My take is that if you severely prune this tree, you’d have less branches to look forward to if another hard freeze occurs, since new growth all start as thin stems anyway…


My trees are not as old or as big, but are often cut way back for trades. Like to a 6 inch stub. These are amazing plants. My in ground plants die to the ground every year, and do not die, so good luck trying to hurt your tree.I just harvested figs off of one today. I once scrapped a fig in a pot left it upside down for a month for roots to dry and try to break up the root ball. It actually grew like that, so I righted the plant, put it in the ground, it’s still alive and growing.

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Your baby trees die to the ground so easily because of the excess vigor Drew. You can’t see and learn everything in one or two years.

I’d give it a good serious pruning, which will encourage much new
growth next year and a good crop. VdB will suffer die back and will
need winter protection. It may not be the right fig for you. I’m also in zone
8 and lost my in ground VdB last winter. It never grew back and I planted
another fig in it’s place, and have no plans to replace it.


The -16F temps didn’t help either.

Here’s a post from F4F you must not not have seen @Drew51, brebas no less!

Posted 07/06/11
My uncles fig tree in Sterling Heights , Michigan .
He is not sure what the variety is but says the fruit is greenish yellow with red interior and has huge breba crop that starts maturing around July 15 .
The main crop drops , so I think it might be Desert King . Anyone able to identify this ? I will try to post photos of the mature fruit when I get some.
The tree is loaded with fruit .


Posted 07/06/11
Yes it is Desert King.
Is your uncle protecting it from cold,by any means,:bury cover with blankets etc?

Posted 07/06/11
Thanks Herman ,

Yes Herman he grows the trees on a 45 degree angle and supports with 2x4s and in fall removes the 2x4 and weighs the branches down with cement blocks and covers with old carpets and a tarp.

This tree has at least 8 inch trunk

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Oh I seen it, I’m not willing to bury my trees, I just don’t have the room.
Even as he does setting them down and covering, and all the 2x4’s would look bad. I would rather just dig it up and put it in the garage for the winter, and replant in the spring, this to me is too much work also. I prefer growing them in containers. I have no desire to maintain such a large tree.
Plus that post was posted a few years ago, I doubt it survived last winter.

You have more room in your garage than your yard? This is all getting a bit confusing, I can’t find any record near as low as the one you show for last winter, which was the first (only?) one you’ve had fig trees in the ground. In fact, you posted this spring:

We got down to -1F this winter. Not that cold for here. Zone 5b/6a Fig overwintering experiment 2017 - #12 by hoosierbanana

I’ve managed to get first year trees though negative temps by pinning them to the ground, a mature tree like that… No problem.

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After winter damage, right after last chance of frost you should always prune each branch of the tree that was damaged on the tree until there is good bark. You see a green under layer of the bark. If you delay pruning that causes problems, the worst problem being an ambrosia beetle attack.

I myself like to prune all the branches to make sure that there is no hidden eternal damage.

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Yeah I’m confused too? Maybe that temp was from the previous winter? i did have some survive this year with some damage, but it’s too much work for me. A couple died to the ground although looking OK in March, strange.

The pic is labeled “temps 2015 02 16”, so I guess it was 2 winters ago, though it shows colder temperatures than wunderground.com still.

I remember you wanted to plant Florea so I sent one, along with a MBVS in 2015. Those were your first fig trees, yes? Reading your comments though it seems like you’ve been growing figs longer, using phrases like “every year”. So the confusion is not just over the weather graph, I understand that the results of one winter could technically be “every year” if it was the only year, but also think it is misleading because it implies multiple years, not just one.