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Summer Pruning Fig Trees | The Cheat CODE for Training & Shaping Fig Trees QUICKLY

Updated: May 20, 2023

I wanted this blog post to act as a way of pushing back on what some growers believe to be an inferior way of forming a fig tree and instead allow them to look at formation from a different viewpoint. A lot of growers are closed minded to pinching, summer pruning, tipping or topping (whatever you want to call it) for form. They believe that one of the consequences of pinching is that you produce oddly shaped and weak branching that forms as a result. In the video below, I've clearly demonstrated the opposite to be true on young trees establishing their form.

In fact, by topping your tree at the desired height during the summer, you allow your tree to reach the right form a whole year earlier than the common alternative method. Not only do you reach the desired form quicker, but you also have a much more successful 2nd season in terms of the quantity of fruits, ease of setting the fruits, earlier fruits and even a higher fruit quality. This does come with some caveats of course and lets also look at the alternative other growers argue for:

  1. 1st year from cutting: The fig tree cutting roots and it's grown out as a single stem whip for the entire length of the growing season. During that winter, a cut is made along the whip at the desired height.

  2. 2nd year: The tree wakes up from dormancy and then 3-5 permanent scaffolds are formed.

  3. 3rd year: Heavy fruit set is reached.

Below is a photo a tree after its second growing season. The first season it was a strong single stem whip that was winter pruned to the desired height. 5 scaffolds were formed and staked to maximize photosynthesis.

Here's my quicker and more productive alternative:

  1. 1st year from cutting: The fig tree cutting roots and it's grown out as a single stem whip or a bush. During the summer when the branches are showing strong growth and have formed large & appropriate sized leaves, those particular branches are topped. After topping we continue watering and potentially continue fertilizer to encourage permanent scaffolds to form. It may be appropriate to tip the scaffolds to form more branching on those scaffolds. A heavy fruit set after topping will not yield the desired growth. It may be worthwhile to remove some fruits after topping, so that there is a surplus of energy for the tree to continue growing.

  2. 2nd year: The tree has already formed 2-5 permanent scaffolds in the first year. Very minimal winter pruning was performed if any. The scaffolds should be staked and now heavy fruit set is reached.

Below is a photo of a tree that was topped in the summer and has just finished its first growing season. It formed 5 scaffolds. 3 of them grew strongly and 2 of them did not because of a lack of dominance. No staking was performed yet, but the 3 that have shown strong growth will be staked away from each other and bent to roughly a 30 degree angle to allow the other 2 scaffolds to gain some dominance next season and to maximize photosynthesis.

Why is there a difference in the 2nd year?

First of all, the first example is forming scaffolds in the 2nd year while the second example has already formed scaffolds and instead is forming fruiting branches.

It's also because of the apical buds. Every bud on a fig tree has a different hormonal component, carbohydrates stored within and even varying levels of fig mosaic virus. The hormonal component can be seen quite clearly. Suckers from the base have a very hard time fruiting because their hormones are out of balance. These shoots love to grow and even in one season they can reach 10-15 ft from the soil level. The new growth from the apical buds act in the opposite way. They grow much slower, fruit heavily and the fruit on that new growth forms easier and earlier.

A similar statement could be made about the lateral buds. These are the buds just below the apical bud. They have less carbohydrates stored within than the apical buds, but they still retain the right hormonal balance. If you were to prune the single stem whip in the winter and remove not only the apical buds but also the lateral buds, you will have a much more difficult time seeing fruit the following year. Why? Because all that's left are what you could call vegetative buds. It is of course possible in higher light locations to see the desired fruit set on these buds, but the "vegetative" buds below the apical and lateral buds have a more difficult time producing fruit the following year.

Again.. it's about their hormonal and carbohydrate component. The more carbohydrates, the stronger the growth will be the following season and the earlier the fruits will be. This relates to fruit quality. The better our buds are in hormonal balance, the easier they'll have fruiting. Even in lower light conditions.

I want to make it clear that I'm not saying that the first method is bad. The end result is fantastic in that 3rd year, but I want to inspire more growers to try this method that I have refined.
4,076 views3 comments


Joanne Chichester
Joanne Chichester
Apr 22, 2023

what varities do you have - prices?


Nov 07, 2022

Enjoyed hearing once again, Carlos’ methods for his phenomenal success. Unfortunately, my property is now surrounded by wonderful old trees and so I must grow my figs in the sunlight available. Perhaps you can put together a single video or blog for those of us with older gardening areas who are collecting those fig varieties which thrive with less than 12 hours of unobstructed sunlight each day.

Carlos not only has the sun, but the heat from the buildings, his ground covering ,AND the reflected light from both. His environment has it all as far as fig production goes👍

Ross the Fig BOSS
Ross the Fig BOSS
Nov 07, 2022
Replying to

My yard doesn't get 8 hours of sunlight.

ross raddi_edited.jpg
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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