Fruit growing

Pruning fig trees in pots

Last updated on March 14th, 2022

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Figs are part of the Ficus genus, a group of plants that have made a name for themselves throughout history. In fact, there is mention of figs and fig trees cultivated in the most famous gardens throughout history, particularly those across the Ottoman Empire, Europe and the Mediterranean.

Fig trees can produce fruit as long as you give them adequate light and protection against severe cold, and if grown in a greenhouse they will often produce two sets of fruit a year. Given the range of varieties, there are plenty of figs you can grow in containers, with the most popular variety probably being the ‘Brown Turkey’. Like most fruit tree varieties that you grow in containers, you will still have to maintain them, with watering being a big part. This also includes properly pruning your fig trees in pots and something to note is that they grow much less vigorously in pots than those grown in the ground so generally need minimal pruning.

Growing in Pots

Fig trees grown in containers will thrive if you can move them indoors for the winter, and they can even be grown in the home as a houseplant. It is important that you find a fig tree variety that is suitable for where you live, especially if you live in a colder area that is more prone to very cold wet weather. If you want the tree to actually produce fruit you also need to pick a self-pollinating plant to make things easier. When grown in containers you need to offer well-draining soil and moisture retention to the plant whilst ensuring the container is a large enough size for the plant to mature. To encourage additional fruit you can fertilise in the spring. You can also maintain a strong frame for your tree by pruning, as we will now discuss below. 

Pruning fig trees grown in pots in early spring.  Remove shoots to keep the desired shape ensuring you have 4-6 main fruiting branches

Pruning Fig Trees in Pots

You should prune after your fruit has ripened, something that typically happens in the middle of summer. This gives your fig tree enough time to harden off the fresh growth that will be stimulated by the pruning process. Younger trees will respond quite positively to light pruning in order to produce stronger branches. Given the fact that fruit is grown on branches from the previous season, you don’t want to prune the main fruiting branches. 

When grown in pots the aim of pruning is to form a well-balanced open crown so that the light can get into the centre of the canopy because this will help ripen the fruit.

In early spring remove any branches that spoil the overall shape as well as any branches that are damaged, diseased or crossing branches. In early summer you can also pinch out the tips of new growth but do not do this any later than June.

Finally, in autumn remove any fruit that hasn’t ripened but don’t remove the tiny small fruits because these will form the following year’s figs.

A set of pruning secateurs should be properly cleaned so that you do not accidentally transfer bacteria or fungus when you make your cuts. For the younger fig trees, you want to remove any suckers that are coming up from the main root structure around the base. You also want to trim any excess branches so that you only have four to six very strong peripheral branches.

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