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Expert Tips on Pruning a Fig Tree in Australia

If you’re growing a fig tree in your garden, you’ll want to know how to prune it correctly to get a bumper harvest.

When I was a child, we had a large fig tree growing in the backyard. I have happy memories of sitting under the tree and munching on those delicious figs.

I also grew a small fig tree in my last garden that did produce a few delectable fruits after I moved it to a better position and I have one that has self-seeded in my current garden.

This is because my neighbour has two fig trees growing right next to the fence and the birds like to feed on the figs and then drop the seed as they fly over. I’ll be interested to see if this one will produce fruit!

When should you prune a fig tree?

The best time to prune your fig tree is late winter. This is because the tree will be dormant and its leaves will have dropped off. This makes it easier to see the general framework of the tree. 

Time your pruning to just before the tree starts to grow its new leaves and after the coldest part of winter is over.

How to prune your fig tree

Fig tree pruning is not that difficult once you understand the basics. Make sure you wear good garden gloves because fig trees tend to produce a sap that can be irritating to the skin.

pruning fig tree | Plant care

The important thing to remember is that fig trees produce their main crop on new growth.

This means that you really don’t have to worry if you make a mistake while you’re pruning.

How to prune your young fig tree

It’s important to prune your tree well during its first 2 years of life in order to establish a good framework.

In fact, as soon as you plant your tree, you should cut it back by about fifty percent to allow the tree to develop a good root system.

At this stage, you want to have around three to six branches that are low-growing and evenly spaced out.

When winter comes around and the tree is dormant, you can give it another prune. At this stage, you want to leave around 6 to 8 branches that are well-spaced and remove the rest.

These branches are what is referred to as the fruiting wood and these should be maintained for the life of the tree.

How to prune your mature fig tree

Once your tree has reached maturity, it’s relatively easy to keep pruned because you’ve already set up the framework for a successful fruiting tree.

pruning fig tree 1 | Plant care

Here’s what you want to do during winter to prune your mature fig tree:

  • Remove any suckers that are growing from the base of the tree
  • Remove any branches that are growing from the trunk below your established framework
  • Cut off any branches that are dead, dying or look diseased
  • If any of the fruiting branches that you established during the first two years are overly long, you can cut these back to shorten them
  • The last thing you want to do is remove any branches coming from the trunk that are not part of your fruiting branches

If you happen to find that you need to remove one of the original fruiting branches because it’s dead or diseased, just remove it and select another strong branch growing from the trunk to replace it.

Fig Pruning FAQ

Can I cut the top of my fig tree off?

If you want to restrict the size of your fig tree, you can cut the top. Just remember to keep at least 6 to 8 strong growing branches that are evenly spaced along the trunk. This will ensure you get plenty of fruit.

How tall should a fig tree be?

A mature fruiting fig tree should generally be up to 3 metres tall. However, if left unpruned, the tree could grow much larger than this and this will make it difficult to harvest the fruit. Therefore, you want to restrict its size by cutting it back while young.

What is the lifespan of a fig tree?

Depending on its growing conditions, a fruiting fig tree can live for around 200 years or more and continue to produce fruit.  

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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2 thoughts on “Expert Tips on Pruning a Fig Tree in Australia”

  1. My fig tree has figs at the upper end of branches, when I prune this tree do I take off the branches with fruit on the or do I allow them to grow longer???

    Reply
    • Hi George

      I would be inclined to cut back those branches by about a third to encourage new growth that will produce fruit lower down the tree.

      Reply

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