New fig pruning advice

Sounds like it needs more sun or some other environmental issue might need to be addressed. Got pictures or a more complete description of the growing conditions?

If all things are as they should be (mostly lots of sun), I have no problem cutting a fig trunk down to the height that you want. For me knee height or 15"-18" is good for a fig trunk.

I had a kadota that did that. After more than a year, it was apparent that it was never going to branch on its own. So, I lopped off its head. The stubborn thing still sent out just one branch from a few notches below where it had been cut. I thought that maybe the apical dominance was just too strong in that one. So, I kept it in a pot and laid it down on its side. Ta da! That finally did the trick. I’m absolutely certain that the issue was not insufficient sunlight.

I’d imagine the nursery trees are like that because they are grown all packed together. So they shoot up for light. The plant will eventually send out low shoots from the base even if you do nothing. As mentioned cut it back and you’ll get lots of shoots.

The ones I see here are the same way.

They also grow them that way, because they’re easier to ship. Most
figs grow naturally as a bush. They’re pruned into a tree form, so as
many have mentioned, cut it low and root what you’ve cut and you’ll
have multiple plants. The plant will send up suckers from the roots
and will form a bush.

Thanks everyone! Here’s a shot of this year’s version next to a shovel for scale. It’s just starting to leaf out at the very top.

The tree from last year looked pretty much identical to this one except at the end of the season there was a basketball sized clump of leaves at the very top.

If I wanted a low branching shrub, should I just cut it back to 3 inches above the soil line or is that too low?

Yeah that is way too tall, not sure on where to cut? I’m a recent fig grower myself. With other plants, I like to leave at least 3 nodes. See what others with more experience say.

My parents used to have a fig tree that they cut completely to the ground every year. Every spring it grew back into a nice espalier style bush.

I get the impression figs are pretty indestructible if grown in the right climate.

I think 3 inches is too low. 8-10 would be better.

I’ll second @rayrose , 8-10". If you cut too hard it may not fruit this year.

Last year I bought a chicao Hardy and it looked exactly like that. I cut off about 1 foot and rooted it in a separate pot. I now wish I had cut it back even more. The tree ended up branching out and growing very well. Its been in a pot for a year. I think I will plant it in the ground this weekend and live with what happens to it. Figs in pots are too much maintenance for me. Especially in larger pots. I unfortunately have way too many. I think I’m going to plant one in ground for each variety I have once they mature and probably give the rest away.

Thanks all!

Should I wait until it’s leaved out more or just hack it back now?

If you do it earlier the energy stored in the roots can go toward the new growth on the remaining part instead of being focused on the topmost portion.

From your picture, you’re already late.

I just got a fig a couple days ago and planted it yesterday (4/28). The roots were OK but not strong, but today I can tell that some of the leaves are struggling. I’ve included a photo so the ones who know can say ‘too late’ or ‘go for it’ based on as much info as I can come up with. It was a potted specimen, about 2.5 feet tall above the ground, and well leafed. Should I balance it by removing the top…or more than the top? Any suggestions? (I’m brand new to orcharding, figs included.)

Looks like you have a breba in that top section. I would not cut, if it struggles really bad you can clip some leaves instead of taking off wood.

If it gets hot and wilts Surround WP can help, anti transpirants too maybe but never tried any. Fig trees can wilt a little, as long as the leaves are not drying to crispy and the soft green tips are firm it is just expressing its displeasure with the weather.

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I like to look at the stalks of the leaves. Yours look OK not great. If they weep more, the plant is not happy. Is the plant ready to be planted out? If greenhouse grown it might need acclimating to full sun.

Thanks, Drew. I brought it from whatever situation it was in…no idea, and it never occurred to me to ask. One thing about W. Oregon in Spring is that it’s generally pretty mild and still raining often. I did think today that maybe I should make a sun shield of some type, and you and Hoosier B. (no breba, just a little leaf bud) both mentioned the concept. I guess removing a bit of the top was the big concern for me since the roots were kinda weak, but after that, the sun block is easy and certainly a good idea. One good thing is that it didn’t seem to get any droopier as the day went by, so I’ll hope for the best.

It’s just going through typical transplant shock, and should
recover on its own, just don’t let it dry out. I’d also get rid of
the weeds and mulch it heavily.

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Done and done! I cut it back as suggested and just stuck the top into a glass of water on the kitchen counter and lo and behold, little roots started forming, so I potted it early this week. Thanks for the tip!

With the resurrection of this thread, I was going to comment that the original plant that I cut in half and left outside hadn’t done anything at all yet and I was worried that I somehow killed it, but I just checked this morning and finally (a full month later) little leaves are sprouting from the original plant.

2 for 2 !


Hi @Bart - Wondering how this performed for you? I am in exactly the same situation. Got a Dave Wilson Nursery VdB plant and it looks identical to your “whip” of a fig. I just potted it up today and am wondering if I need to cut it to about a foot or foot and a half off the ground so that it branches out.