Fig trees are one of the easiest trees to get started growing for home fruit production. They grow well in containers and are very forgivable when it comes to care and pruning.
However, it can be confusing about when is the best time to prune fig trees. If it’s the summer and your fig tree looks overgrown, has sick branches, or is getting too leggy, you might be wondering if it’s okay to prune it now or wait until the colder months.
Generally, while you can prune fig trees in summer, heavy pruning is recommended for late winter or early spring before bud break (shoots begin to grow again). Pruning fig trees in late winter is less stressful for them and also reduces risk of infection or pest damage while they heal.
When Is the Best Time to Prune Fig Trees?
The best time to prune fig trees is when they’re dormant in late winter or early spring before the shoots begin to grow again.
Pruning fig trees while they’re still dormant both reduces stress on the plants and reduces the chance of contracting diseases. While dormant in late winter, cuts to the branches will heal more quickly, leak less sap, and avoid exposure to insects which can spread diseases to your fig trees.
There is also a practical reason for pruning fig trees in late winter or early spring: bare branches allow you to easily see where to prune and plan out the shape of your fig tree.
Can Fig Trees Be Pruned in Summer?
Figs are very forgivable plants, so even if pruned in the summer or fall, most fig trees will recover. So, while you can prune fig trees in summer, and light pruning in early summer is sometimes encouraged, pruning (especially heavy pruning) is best left for dormant months.
If you do decide to prune fig trees in summer, one thing to note is that fig trees produce fruit on new spring growth as well as the previous year’s new growth. What that means is that if you prune back the new growth in the summer, you will have fewer figs the following year. If you have an overgrown fig tree that needs pruning and don’t mind a smaller harvest next year, you can still prune your fig trees in summer, but late winter and early spring pruning is recommended.
In addition, light pruning such as removing dead and injured branches, or cutting back part of the new growth in early summer (June) to encourage more branching of your fig tree should not cause a problem and is sometimes advised [archived link] to manage the overall shape of your tree.
How Far Back Can You Prune a Fig Tree?
Fig trees can handle very heavy pruning, down to a stump if rejuvenating an overgrown, unproductive fig tree. However, if pruning your fig tree heavily, you will have greatly reduced fig production the following year. Hard pruning should be done in late winter or early spring.
As mentioned in the previous section, fig trees produce figs on new growth or the previous year’s growth. So, expect few to no figs the following year.
However, if your fig tree is overgrown and not producing, with mostly leggy, bare branches, pruning heavily will reduce your crop the next year but could lead to a stronger, lusher tree the year after with an even more bountiful harvest.
The most extreme form of pruning is called renovation, renewal or rejuvenation pruning, which involves pruning the fig tree to a stump or down to a few lateral branches near the ground.