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How to Prune a Mission Fig Tree

By Brenda Priddy
The mission fig tree produces dark purple or black fruit.
fig image by saied shahinkiya from Fotolia.com

The mission fig tree is actually classified as a fruiting shrub. The mission figs have black or purple colored husks when the fruit is ripe. Inside the figs is a reddish fruit that can be used for many recipes including jam and cookies. Mission fig trees grow best in full sunlight, and need watering at least once a week to remain healthy. Mission fig trees grow best in U.S. hardiness zones 7 to 11, and prefer a dry climate similar to their native Mediterranean environment. Mission fig pruning is simple, and should be done once a year in the summer.

Pruning for Disease

Prune the tree in the late summer or early fall after the last crop has been harvested. Prune as close to the harvest date as possible.

Cut away any dead, dying or diseased branches. Prune branches close to the tree base, leaving little or no stub.

Prune all diseased branches at one time, even if it cuts away all new growth. You will not get a healthy fruit crop from diseased branches. Pruning diseased branches will prevent the spread of disease.

Pruning Young Trees

Prune the top branches of the tree to create the shape that you want the tree to grow in. Many fig growers have success with the low crown pruning method, which is pruning the tops of the branches to encourage the tree to grow out rather than up.

Prune away branch tops that reach above 8 to 10 feet. This encourages the fig tree to produce lower lying branches, which makes it easier for harvest.

Prune back half the branches one summer and the other half the next year if heavy pruning is necessary. This will enable you to have a fig fruit crop on half of the tree.

Pruning Mature Trees

Prune the tree differently starting in year three to encourage fruit growth. Figs are produced on the previous year's growth, so never prune away all of the new tree growth.

Prune away any branches that interfere with the sun exposure of lower branches. The sunlight should be able to reach all fig branches.

Spray the entire tree with whitewash if you prune more than just a few branches. Place some whitewash paint into a paint sprayer. Wear gloves, goggles and a respirator when working with spray paint outdoors. Pay special attention to cut branches. The whitewash deters insects from attacking the cut areas of the tree.


Things You Will Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Tree saw
  • Whitewash
  • Paint sprayer
  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Respirator mask
  • Ladder


  • Cutting in the summer or fall gives the tree a chance to produce additional growth on its branches and heal from the pruning. If you must prune in the winter, remember that you will have a reduced crop of figs the following year.

About the Author


Brenda Priddy has more than 10 years of crafting and design experience, as well as more than six years of professional writing experience. Her work appears in online publications such as Donna Rae at Home, Five Minutes for Going Green and Daily Mayo. Priddy also writes for Archstone Business Solutions and holds an Associate of Arts in English from McLennan Community College.