Q&A: Trimming Back a Fig Bush

How to keep your fig bush going strong all through winter.
Fig Bush

Fig Bush

Along with their unique attributes, heirloom plants have the power to bring generations together. My grown children learned to make fruit preserves from their great-great-grandmother’s fig bush, and now they each have a “start” of the original tree in their own gardens.

Q: I purchased a fig bush two years ago. The first year it died back at the first frost. The second year, to my surprise, it came back bearing two figs, sending out branches below the dead part of the trunk. This is its third year, and it's bearing more figs and is quite healthy and bushy. There are many branches close to the ground. When and how do I trim it back? I live in the high desert.
— D.S., Rosamond, Calif.

A: Since it sounds like getting the shrub in shape takes priority over fruit production at this point, let's start with that. In late fall or winter, cut back stems to their bases, thinning growth to the desired shape. Remove the obvious branches first (those that are broken, weak or crowded). Once the fig is in shape, you can prune to encourage fruiting when you want it. Prune in the fall/winter period for fall production, or prune a little in both fall and summer to get a little in each season. Some folks don't prune at all and get two full crops. If frost and hard winters are an annual event in your area, protect your fig with burlap wraps after leaves have fallen. Most figs can produce two crops of fruit per year, one on the previous season's growth as well as on the new growth of the current season. Hope this helps!

— National Gardening Association

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