How to Prune a Brown Turkey Fig to a Topiary


Brown turkey fig is a popular species of edible fig with a long ripening season and a dark reddish brown skin, hence its name. The natural growth form is a large shrub shape that reaches from 10 feet up to 30 feet in height at maturity. The straight, single trunk can produce branches as low as a foot or so from the ground. Many fig trees have their lower trunks shorn of branches so they more closely resemble a traditional topiary tree shape and not a shrub. Fig trees can also be shaped and resized for aesthetic reasons. Though topiary pruning will reduce fruit harvests, it does not harm the tree if done properly with clean, sharp tools.

Step 1

Cut off the branches, foliage and suckers that emanate from the bottom quarter or third of the fig trunk. Use loppers for small branches and a fine hand saw for larger branches more than 1/2-inch in diameter. Place the cut just outside the slightly swollen branch collar and do not cut into the wood of the parent branch, as this will impede healing of the cut wound.

Step 2

Establish a new tree-top height or shape if desired by cutting the tips of the branches with your loppers or hand saw. Once the trunk and top are pruned, shape and resize the perimeter of the canopy if desired. Work around the tree as you cut, inspecting your work before placing the next cut to ensure a symmetrical, finished shape. Place all cuts just above a leaf node or bud.

Step 3

Conduct maintenance pruning in the fall to refresh and continue the topiary shape once per year or as needed. Refrain from removing more than 1/3 of the fig tree bulk when conducting maintenance pruning to reduce stress on the tree and threat of shock. More frequent, less invasive annual pruning is preferred over heavy hard pruning every few years. Remove dead, cracked or diseased branches down to the point of healthy wood.

Things You'll Need

  • Loppers
  • Pruning hand saw
  • Gloves
  • Long-sleeve shirt


  • Texas A&M University: Home Production of Figs
  • Purdue University: Fig
Keywords: prune brown turkey fig tree, create topiary tree from brown turkey fig, shaping a brown turkey fig tree

About this Author

An omni-curious communications professional, Dena Kane has more than 17 years of experience writing and editing content for online publications, corporate communications, business clients, industry journals, as well as film and broadcast media. Kane studied political science at the University of California, San Diego.