How to Prune A Fig Tree

Pruning a Brown Turkey Fig

This pruning guide was written specifically for Brown Turkey fig trees, but it applies to most of the other varieties of Ficus carica grown in the UK.

To maximise crop size, freestanding and pot grown figs are best grown as bushes and their early pruning is therefore along the same lines as that of a young apple tree. They grow faster than apples, so the pruning stages can be compressed into a shorter time period.

Your objective is to create an open, goblet-shaped head. This basic framework lets air and light into the fruiting areas of the tree. 

There are three main “prunings” your fig will need - in March, May and June. Put them in the diary! 

  • February: (delay until March in the North) cut out rubbing, crossing and damaged branches as well as any that get in the way of your “goblet” head. You can also cut long, fruitlet-less branches back very hard (to about 2-3”). Not too many though; you do not want to kill the poor tree. It is a good idea to deal with suckers at the same time. Try to tear them off the root from which they have grown rather than cut them. 
  • Late May: there should be a fair bit of new growth on the tree now. If not, wait a couple of weeks. Prune all these new branches back to 5 or 6 leaves. 
  • End June: You can deal with any laggards the same way at the end of June. No more pruning this year, please….

The fourth of the three prunings is not a pruning, but in:

  • Early September: pick off the larger unripe figs - they will never be edible now. Take care to leave as many of the little fruitlets (they should be about the size of a decent garden pea) as possible.

Renovating an old fig tree

Without the regular pruning outlined above, figs have a tendency to produce long relatively leafless and fruitless branches. The fruit only ripens on last year's wood, so what fruit you get will be at the end of long bare stems.


  • In February in the South and March in the North prune out about 25% of the worst/barest/oldest branches down to 2-3" from the main trunk.
  • This will cause new growth during the summer. If the tree is overcrowded, and you do not want so much new wood, then prune some branches right back to the trunk.
  • In about July, with the framework of the tree in mind, keep the best new growth and cut out the rest, flush with the trunk. 
Tags: pruning  Fig  ficus 
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