Time for fig stem snapping

It may be late in some climates, and early in others. Here in SW Washington state, my fig trees are at the 4 to 6 leaf stage.

I originally read about pinching the stems on a New Zealand website that is defunct. I saw on other websites that people did this too, or cut with scissors, or pruners, or fingernail.

When the growing tip is removed from fig stems, fig production is stimulated in the proximal leaf nodes. I assume that happens because the growing tip produces hormones that inhibit growth at the nodes, and removal of the tip dis-inhibits that growth.

Regardless of the reason, I find that in my short summer, cool climate, stimulating early fig formation gives me an earlier crop. I remove the tip growth when there are about 4 to 6 leaves per stem.

Bend the growing tip.

The stem tip is brittle. It snaps off at about a 90 degree angle.

Soon figs will form at each node.

I find several benefits from using the snapping method.

:ok_hand: No tools are needed. I don’t have to remember a tool.
:ok_hand: There is no cross contamination of plant virus from one fig tree to another.
:ok_hand: I don’t get fig latex under my fingernails.

The benefits from removing the growth tip.

:ok_hand: Early and more prolific production of figs. Again, in my climate.
:ok_hand: Tree growth is controlled. The tree size remains smaller, and branches ramify lower, easier to reach, and the tree is easier to cover to protect figs from birds.
:ok_hand: Containerized trees also remain smaller, with more, shorter branches.



Thanks for the reminder. I started doing it last year. This is the time for me, too.

My problem is getting my figs to ripe in time before it’s too cold. Last year, I brought potted figs outside a little too late. Several figs did not ripe in time.

This is maybe something I shoud try. My Hardy chicago seems to be growing well but I do not see any trace of fig productions. I’D be happy to get one ripe edible fig this year.


I did that to my Chicago Hardy last year. It really worked. I was just late bringing my potted figs out from my basement last year. CH had several figs but none ripe in time :frowning:

Very intriguing idea. Thanks for posting about this, Bear. :sunglasses: I think I will apply it this week to my young BT (in bottomless container) which is a bit leggy to date.

How big does a fig need to be for this to work? Has anyone tried it with a first year fig grown from a cutting? I’ve got a few that are showing good growth and I’d be happy to keep them small while I decide where I might plant them.

Very nice informative instructional post, Bear. The photos helped make the instructions very clear.

Zendog I usually wait until the cutting has reached 3 or 4 feet, then top the young tree so it has low branches.

Pinching fig tips appears to be a location specific activity. In my locale figs continue to bear until first frost, so we prune to maintain size and shape as needed. Smaller more well behaved varieties such as VdB and Black jack require very little care in general. We just let fig trees go here for the most part.

Bear, I plan to pinch my fig tips once my trees’ roots are better established. The trees are still young and suffered die-back this past winter.

Here is a video about fig-pinching that folks might find entertaining. It was shot at Edible Landscaping Nursery in Virginia:


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I found Michael much less informative than the other man in the video. I’m not sure his statements were correct either- I’ve heard that windchill is not a factor for plants beyond the dehydration factor. I also disagree completely, based on experience here and in S. CA, that figs need high heat to ripen. At both places we harvest figs well into cooler weather and in Malibu I’d harvest them into Nov. as I recall. Even in the base of Topanga Canyon with the cooler nights there I’d harvest figs well into the fall.

Bear, thanks for posting the info on spring pruning, that is not something I’d given thought to. The last couple years my figs have ripened quite early denying me Oct figs which I love most- with the stonefruit harvest all but over. I probably don’t need to accelerate ripening to get more fruit but I’m thinking I will use it on parts of trees to spread the harvest.

I’ll let you know how pinched and unpinched scaffolds perform comparatively. It could be a good idea for me because I store my trees in a crowded well-house and they are getting too big anyway.

Here, in a relatively cold spot in S. NY, I’ve never had a fig that froze to the ground ripen its fruit- they can do that in warmer spots not far away, some seasons. I have a couple in the ground now that I didn’t bother bringing in last winter that I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get to fruit even with pinching. They only showed first growth a couple of weeks ago. I may try some pinching once the are further along just to see what happens.

@alan, you’re right. I harvested figs into December last year. Our first frost can come pretty late some years. Tip pinching here based on a set of rules removes potential fruiting wood. Fig branches can grow and push fruit very quickly.

Matt that’s an interesting video. It demonstrates the importance of location for fig trees. I have experienced challenges getting figs growing at my new place, 30 miles from my old place, due to freeze damage. That is despite only about 1or 2 degrees difference in temperature. I am hopeful this year will be a turning point but we will see.

I’ve learned a lot about growing figs outside in cooler climates. The first thing I would mention is keep them inside the first couple of years until the roots are very large. I’ve planted them outside before and the roots cannot get deep enough the first year for them to survive winter. My brown turkey should produce some fruit next year using the top pinching method. I cut the top off this year and have the scions in the refrigerator. I may wind up with some new fig plants.

Here in SE NY I have no opportunity to do this. I dig them up every year which dwarfs them just enough that I get no rampant vegetative growth- just enough spur growth to keep them fruitful.

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Figs don’t fruit on spurs, except maybe a few breba. In fact figs don’t have spurs like other fruit trees. All those “spurs” can be removed and the main crop will be unaffected.

Here in Omaha Z5, I buried the figs a foot below the soil level of the original potted figs when first planted them in the ground. I pruned them to 1 1/2 feet tall and covered them up with a 2 feet bark mulch for Winter protection in the middle of November. They re-sprout faster this way in late March.


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All of my figs are in the garage right now. Is it a good time to take cuttings in order to prune the trees down a bit?

They look like spurs, short knobby pieces with little growth that produce fruit.


Just poking a little at our best gate keeper of truth and facts… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

The spurs will produce breba on some varieties. But all the main crop comes on new wood.