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How to Prune Fig Trees in Central Texas

Many home gardeners in central Texas grow figs successfully, although most fig varieties fare better on the Gulf Coast. In central Texas where winter temperatures sometimes dip well below freezing, the hardy cultivars like Celeste and Brown Turkey have the best chance of producing a good crop. Because of its cold hardiness and ability to set fruit on new growth even when old limbs are winter-killed, gardeners in central Texas choose Brown Turkey most often. With correct pruning and some cold protection, yearly harvests are possible.

Prune fig trees for bush growth, not a tree shape, for the best yields in areas like central Texas where figs often suffer winter damage. Plant the fig in late fall to allow roots to grow over winter. In late winter before the tree shows any green growth, cut the leader back by 30 percent of its overall height to force production of sucker shoots from the roots and trunk.

Select five stout suckers to become the lead stems of the tree. Choose suckers several inches apart, since their mature diameters will be 3 to 4 inches. Prune competing suckers back to the ground in midwinter.

Prune the leaders back by 30 percent again in early spring just before new growth begins. Cutting leaders back puts more energy into the development of side branches with fruiting stems. Cut out any overlapping or damaged limbs.

Thin competing branches with pruning shears to allow light and air to reach ripening fruit. Older Texas fig bushes without winter damage may need very little pruning from year to year. If fig trees stop producing, severe pruning causes a burst of new growth and increased fruiting.

Cut out any winter killed branches each spring. Remove dead wood to within a half inch of living tissue. If the fig dies back to the ground, cut back all stems to 3 or 4 inches from the ground and select leader shoots from the new sprouts. Replace broken stems by cutting them close to the ground and allowing new suckers to grow.


Celeste figs will not fruit on this year's wood--heavy pruning could remove all the fruiting wood which grew in the previous season. Severe winter kill accomplishes the same thing. Brown Turkey blooms on new growth, producing some fruit even after severe pruning or freezing damage.

Give figs winter protection to increase chances of good crops. Planting on the south side of a building provides winter warmth and shelter from north winds. During severe cold, smaller bushes benefit from a deep cover of straw. Figs also grow well in large containers, which can be taken indoors in the worst weather.

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