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Rejuvenation Pruning Fig Trees to Eliminate Fig Mosaic Virus | Its History, Benefits & Uses

Updated: Feb 14, 2023



Looking for a way to boost the health and productivity of your fig trees and eliminate pesky diseases like the Fig Mosaic Virus? If so, rejuvenation pruning may be just the technique you've been searching for!

Fig trees are a beloved fruit tree among gardeners and food enthusiasts for their sweet, juicy fruit and striking appearance. But, just like any other plant, they can be susceptible to disease, including the dreaded fig mosaic virus (FMV).

FMV causes an irregular mosaic pattern of light and dark green patches on fig leaves, leading to decreased fruit quality and yield. But, with the power of rejuvenation pruning, you can cut away infected growth and promote healthy new growth from lower buds, resulting in a healthy and thriving fig tree!

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Understanding Fig Mosaic Virus (FMV)


This disease can cause visible symptoms like mottled, discolored leaves and deformed growth.

Although most experienced fig growers consider fig mosaic virus to be a minor problem, I have found that severely infected trees can underperform for several years and fail to fully recover from the disease, leading to a long-term reduction of their growth and productivity.

It should be noted that almost all fig trees are infected with the virus, but not all have a severe case of it. If your tree is showing a lot of the visible symptoms of FMV and you believe that it’s affecting the growth and production of your fig tree, consider doing some rejuvenation pruning to combat the virus.


What is Rejuvenation Pruning?


Rejuvenation pruning is the process of cutting away heavily infected growth to promote new, healthy growth in its place. By pruning out unwanted unhealthy growth, specifically the unwanted buds, rejuvenation pruning can help fig trees perform more optimally.

Rejuvenation pruning is a pruning technique that Monserrat Pons mentions in his book, “Fig Trees of the Balearic Islands.”

He mentions the following, “The goal is to revive the vegetation and productivity of the fig tree when it begins to decline and become old.

The most common form, when the trees are very old and decrepit, is to cut the trunk at ground level or deeper, excavating 20-40 cm around the trunk leaving the roots exposed. Then, new soil is put on top of the roots and in a short time new shoots begin to sprout quickly and vigorously. If the best new shoot is left, a new fig tree will quickly develop.

Another method of rejuvenation is crowning, a severe topping, which is to cut the trunk at a variable height depending on the kind of bearing desired for the tree.”

While he is specifically talking about old in-ground trees, my idea was to see how this technique could be applied to potted or young fig trees. It turned out that it was extremely beneficial.


The Benefits of Rejuvenation Pruning


Rejuvenation pruning can offer several benefits to fig trees, including:

  • Eliminating or significantly reducing the severity of FMV

  • Rejuvenation pruning can promote strong, healthy growth in fig trees from lower buds.

  • By promoting new growth, rejuvenation pruning can help increase tree productivity, leading to higher fruit yields.

  • Saving time and money. Instead of starting over completely with a new tree, rejuvenation pruning can be a more cost-effective and efficient way to rejuvenate an existing tree.


Tips for Performing Rejuvenation Pruning


When rejuvenation pruning your fig tree, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the right time: It is best to perform rejuvenation pruning during the dormant season or during the beginning of the growing season, typically in late winter or early spring.

  2. Use the right tools: Use sharp, sterile pruning shears to make clean cuts and avoid spreading disease.

  3. Cut away unwanted growth: Identify the unwanted, unhealthy growth on the tree and cut it away. Cut back to healthy wood, and avoid cutting into the main trunk if you’re not removing it completely.

  4. Monitor new growth: Once the tree has been pruned, monitor new growth and provide appropriate care to help the tree recover and thrive.



My thoughts & experience:


I was pretty skeptical when I read about this renewal process years ago. Simply due to the fact that you're essentially cutting your tree all the way back to almost nothing. What I found is that this method can be extremely helpful for trees that are stagnant growers, have severe cases of FMV, or have low productivity. It can be helpful for a whole host of problems.

I see the technique as a cure-all to get your fig variety performing the way its genetics say it should. That sounds pretty extreme, doesn't it? The elixir of life for fig trees?

As I’ve discussed before in topics regarding plant hormones, when fig trees are pruned heavily during dormancy or they get killed by the winter cold, they resprout very vigorously and are much healthier than before.

What I’ve learned is that every bud on a fig tree has different hormonal components, and carbohydrates stored within, some may have even mutated and others have varying levels of Fig Mosaic Virus.

If every fig tree that is propagated is started off on the right foot with a healthy vigorous trunk as its base and the heavily infected buds removed, you're giving your tree the best chance to perform the way it was meant to.

In fact, this technique has become my standard practice the following year after rooting or planting. Please note: some discretion must be taken into consideration when dealing with young fig trees. There is a bit of skill involved to get this technique right every time. Feel free to contact me with photos if you have any questions.

Rejuvenation pruning definitely beats starting your fig tree over completely. A lot of growers give up their trees. Either it's too old in its pot or it just doesn't perform correctly.

Use air layering as an example. The results of air layering the top of a fig tree is clear. It usually results in a brand-new fig tree that’s performing the way it should. Rejuvenation pruning is no different.

You’re ready to Rejuvenation Prune your Fig Tree


Rejuvenation pruning fig trees can be an effective way to eliminate FMV and promote healthy growth. By cutting away unwanted, unhealthy growth and promoting strong, new growth, rejuvenation pruning can help fig trees perform more optimally, leading to higher productivity and fruit yields.

If you have a fig tree that is underperforming or struggling with FMV, rejuvenation pruning may be a technique worth considering.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I'm Ross, the "Fig Boss." A YouTuber educating the world on the wonderful passion of growing fig trees. Apply my experiences to your own fig journey to grow the best tasting food possible.
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