Fig trees are deciduous trees that can achieve heights of up to 50 feet tall, but more often grow between 10 and 30 feet. They have twisting, muscular branches that spread out to the sides. The wood tends to be weak, however, and decays quickly. The large leaves are bright green and there are tiny flowers that are hidden. The fig crop is ready for harvest in the spring and the fall. Many people allow fig trees to grow as a multibranched shrub. Pruning them keeps them healthy and creates a more desirable shape.
Know that fig trees are productive whether or not you heavily prune them. However, pruning in the early years is essential to a successful tree.
Prune fig trees immediately after the fruit is harvested. Heavy winter pruning will cause the loss of next year's crop because the figs are borne on the previous year's wood. If your crop ripens late in the season, consider pruning half the branches in the summer and the rest the following summer.
Make all pruning cuts at the V-shaped connection the branches share with other limbs. Cut as close to the collar as possible, which is the thicker part of bark at the base of the branch. This will allow the cut tissue to heal quickly.
Cut off all but three or four of the branches in the fig tree's first year of growth. Leave behind lateral branches that are 6 to 12 inches apart and facing opposite direction around the trunk. They should also form angles greater than 45 degrees.
Prune branches that appear weak, diseased or broken. Use the opportunity to thin out crowded branches, too. Remove them at their point of origin to allow light and air to get to branches below.
Pinch back new stems in the summer that have grown too long. Remove the top half-inch of them to encourage branch development.