Pruning and Growth Habits
of the Common Fig
in the Northeast Florida Landscape
Growth Habit of the Common Fig in the Northeast Florida Landcsape:
Figs are a moderate to fast growing fruit tree, most often grown in a bush – like form with the central leader removed to force the tree to open up into a multi stemmed tree. This helps to increase the amount of sunlight and air to the branches and foliage, and pruning to open up the center of the tree also decreases the likelihood of exposure to fungus as the foliage can dry quickly after our Northeast Florida’s frequent summer rains.
Pruning Requirements for the Common Fig Tree in the Northeast Florida Landscape:
You may have wondered why it is hard to find information on pruning fig trees. That’s because there really is no need to prune them. Sound too good to be true? Here’s what the The University of Florida has to say in their publication “The Fig” by Peter C. Anderson and Timothy Crocker…” Fig trees do not require pruning to be productive. Sometimes fig trees are pruned to a central leader or to a modified central leader, but such pruning is usually futile since these trees are often frozen back and regrow in bush form.) They really are care free plants that you can allow to just grow. But there may come a time when your tree needs a little extra care maybe after storm damage or an unusual frost, or just periodic removal of older dead wood instead of waiting for it to fall off on it’s own.
Here are some quick basic guidelines for choosing what to prune and what to leave unpruned if you decide to give nature a little help.
*Remember to prune just after you harvest your fresh figs in late summer to give your fig tree time to regrow new wood. Some varieties of fig need those new branches to grow and harden off before the tree goes dormant for the winter,it will bear the first crop of ‘Breba’ figs the following spring. If you prune too late you can remove that ‘one year old overwintered’ wood that will produce the smaller crop of ”Breba’ figs. If you prune to late you will still be able to harvest your treesmain crop of figs that it will bear on the new growth for the season.
I live South of Jacksonville and within a mile of the river so the winter doesn’t prune my young fig trees for me. I like to prune my fig trees’ central leader out much like you would an apple or peach or plum tree to open up the center of the tree. Remove the central leader ( the tree trunk growing straight upward in the center of your tree down to a side branch at the height you prefer) I don’t like my fig trees to look like a fig bush so I don’t prune them out really low to the ground, but it seems to be a common pruning process for figs and I have included a link at the bottom of the page that details pruning figs into a bush form habit. So I prune my central leader out just about chest height. Tthat allows for the branches to be within relatively easy picking reach for harvesting. But you can choose whatever height you would like.
Once you have done that, remove any dead or damaged branches as well as any growing at a close angle to the trunk. It is recommended to remove everything with an angle more narrow than 45 degrees off of the trunk. I like to l try to leave 4-6 main branches evenly spaced out on the trunk (not closer than 4-6 inches from each other on the trunk) so that you have a nice branch growing out in all directions away from the trunk in a circle.
Now the final step will be to remove any secondary branches (branches growing off of those branches that you have chosen to leave on the main trunk) that are growing at an angle closer than 45 degrees to the main branch.
When purchasing larger container grown trees here at S & J Nursery that initial pruning into a multi – stemmed patio tree has most often already been done, but you may want to do it yourself on the smaller one or three gallon size trees if nature doesn’t do it for you after a freeze.
Often here in North Florida nature will do that pruning for you as our trees are slow to go into dormancy due to our mild winter season and are often still actively growing when the first freeze hits making the younger newly planted sapling fig trees susceptible to cold damage that they would not have suffered if they had already gone dormant for the winter.
It’s no secret you can get frost bite over your sunburn here in Northeast Florida | Jacksonville and St. Augustine areas in the winter! Well, ok, you cant get frostbite in Florida, but chapped lips to go with that sunburn is a definate possibility. It’s just a fact of life that we have grown accustomed to, 80 degrees today and 32 tomorrow. Sometimes temperatures can vary greatly her in winter, but for plants who rely on a more consistent temperature change it can cause problems, and fig trees are no exception. Often newly planted sapling or younger trees suffer cold damage from rapid temperature drops here in North East Florida that would not have occurred if we had a more gradual decrease of fall to winter instead of summer today and winter tomorrow and summer again next week that we experience here in Northeast Florida.
To help avoid this problem be sure not to fertilize after August and prune immediately after you harvest your figs for the summer to avoid having new growth that hasn’t hardened off that will be more susceptible to damage by an unconventional frost.
More Fig Tree Help From S & J Nursery
S & J Nursery’s How to Water and Fertilize Your Fig Tree for the Common Fig, Help for growing figs in the Northeas Florida Jacksonvill and St. Augustine area landcape
S & J Nurserys Growing Tips and Challenges for the Common Fig Tree, help for Northeast Florida, Jacksonville and St. Augustine area home orchards on fig trees.