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Help me reducce the size of my fig tree (image included).

Hi all,

Hope you are well. We have a large fig tree in our garden which has got too big and slightly out of hand. It started off from scratch about 10-15 years ago and produced some good fruit. Up to a couple of years ago we got good fruit off it but last year we had virtually no edible figs. 

So two reasons. The size and the fruiting. I want to bring it down so the figs will be a lot easy to reach but also to reduce it's height and size because we have neighbouring gardens and it's got a little too big because we didn't prune it for years! 

I've already opened out the middle by cutting the large branches right off so as far as I am aware it wouldn't grown back. I don't mind it not fruiting for a year or two but I want to make sure I don't kill it. Basically I want to reduce it as low and as small as possible but keeping it alive. I've attached an image. It would be helpful if those of you in the know can tell me where you think I should start sawing and hacking away! Thank you.


  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,941
    Was it planted with a root barrier around it, in the soil?
    Utah, USA.
  • Was it planted with a root barrier around it, in the soil?
    As far as I am aware, no. My grandfather planted it but I'm not sure whether it was a very small tree or seeds but I think it could have been a cutting from his own tree. The roots have extended quite far under the soil and venture underneath the ground into the neighbours garden so I'd say no, it's been left totally free to grow including the roots.
  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,941
    I remember seeing on multiple garden programs about root restriction to increase fruit production and the overall size of the tree, and was wondering if yours had 'broken free'.  If it was never contained, that could explain why it's so large.   :)

    Did you prune out the center within the past few days?  Did the sap bleed?  Figs are supposed to be winter pruned, so you may have missed the window.  If they didn't bleed, you might just get away with it if you do it immediately.  

    I don't have one.. so perhaps someone will come along with some better advice.. 
    Utah, USA.
  •  :) 

    Yes, I completely took off quite a strong branch that was running through the centre yesterday and I took off some smaller branches that were going over our neighbours fences.

    They didn't bleed. (We are in UK. It's about 55f here now). I just wanted to know where and what I needed to cut without murdering it. The problem is, the main branches start about 4ft off the ground and the smaller branches start about six/seven foot so if I cut any lower i.e the main branches I reckon it will kill it (I have read that you can aggressively prune these things), but I have no idea whether I have to just trim a little off the top or I can go in and start hacking away and whatever I do, it will regrow.

    Any fig tree experts out there?    
  • NollieNollie Posts: 6,772
    Figs are very susceptible to frost damage to their fruit bearing shoots, so no figs following a hard winter (even here in Spain) or late frosts, so your lack of fruit could be as simple as that. They fruit on second years growth so if you prune it hard you may have to forego fruit for a year or two, but generally they respond well to a hard prune - but better in the dormant season. Also remove any very tiny unripe figs at the end of the year as if left on these will inhibit the growth of edible figs the following year. A south-facing warm sunny corner is best to allow the fruit time to ripen.

    I am no pruning expert but I think you could safely reduce its height by a third, cutting back any older wood to above a young shoot if possible.

    As Blue Onion says, restricted root growth equals more figs. I have two, one planted hard against a retaining stone wall in quite rocky ground - very prolific - and a young one struck from a cutting in a m2 brick planter with concrete base, no figs yet. My mother-in-law planted a monster from seed whose roots invaded next doors garden and damaged their patio - it had to go in the end. I am not sure if it’s possible to cut through roots and retro-fit a root barrier without killing it but if you could, that might help fruiting and hopefully avert a neighbour dispute.

    will go and take some pics...
    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • NollieNollie Posts: 6,772
    The first pic is my baby, in winter I will be reducing the height of its three main branches a bit and attempting to retain an open centre.

    The second one I inherited with the house - the photo is a bit confusing as it has a walnut tree behind it but the top branches end where the bright green shoots are. This classic vase shape, with open centre, is ideally what you should be aiming for. Might be best to tackle yours over two years, depends on how brave you are feeling!

    Hope that helps.

    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
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