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This is a fig tree which has been pruned with a chainsaw down low and with normal secateurs up high. Down the bottom on the left you can see the nodule where a limb about 13cm (5 inches) in diameter has been severed.

The idea here is to encourage this fig into a canopy which can provide shade in summer and not be all prickly with when you venture under the tree. The shape of the tree is more important to us than abundance of fruit

  1. What should I do to the sites of the severed limbs to discourage any resprouting from them. Are there any tricks to this or should I just leave it alone?
  2. The other thing is, given the explicit aim here, should I cut off the far left and far right limbs that are still on it to emphasise upward growth rather than bushiness?

Ficus carica

NB: Acknowledging preexisting question about pruning a fig that doesn't cover my question here: What is the proper way to prune a Fig Tree?

Update: I don't know if this is the right way to describe it, but do I need to "cauterise" the large cut sites by painting something on them to protect against infections and "seal the wound". (I really don't know what I'm talking about, feel free to edit this!)

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Q1. What should I do to the sites of the severed limbs to discourage any resprouting from them. Are there any tricks to this or should I just leave it alone?

Leave alone & just shape the tree with "proper" pruning practices eg:

  • Never prune off more than ⅓ in a pruning season (per year).
  • Keep the tree balanced ie Don't prune one side "heavily" & the other "lightly".
  • Only prune at the correct time of year (for your tree).
  • Exception to above point: Remove damaged limbs immediately.
  • Remove limbs that cross (rub against each other) ie Remove one of the limbs, so that two limbs aren't rubbing against each other.
  • Nowadays it is not considered necessary to treat the cuts with any kind of sealant. This is especially true if the cuts are made correctly, the tree should be able to heal itself naturally.

Q2. The other thing is, given the explicit aim here, should I cut off the far left and far right limbs that are still on it to emphasise upward growth rather than bushiness?

That really is your call to make, after all, you have a picture in your mind as to what you want to finally achieve/see...

That said, I wouldn't take them off this pruning season if you have already removed ⅓ of the tree mass.

Additionally, you may find the following video from the University of Illinois Extension of some interest:

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Ficas carica (Common Fig) grows to a height of 7-10m, so unless you are trying for a bonsai approach (and Ficus does not strike me as an appropriate tree for bonsai!), then you are probably best letting it grow its own canopy when it wants to do it.

If you want a "dwarf" tree, then some fruit trees (e.g. apples) can be grafted onto "dwarf" stock. The root stock limits the size of the tree, and the grafted plant defines the main tree - type of fruit, etc. Of course that would require the removal of your existing tree - which I doubt is an acceptable solution, but it is something worth investigating if you wish to plant future trees.

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In my experience, a fig grows large and unwieldy but doesn't have any space underneath where you could sit (or place decorative items or other shallow-rooted, shade-tolerant plants, etc). So perhaps I've worded this badly, but I'm trying to veto all foliage and new shoots below 1.5m (5ft) or thereabouts. –  Lisa Jul 26 '11 at 12:49
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I'm not sure how you'd go about "veto"ing all shoots under 5ft other than to remain diligent and rub off any new emerging shoots below that level for several years. By that time the upper canopy may be so dense that the tree doesn't put off any lower growth. –  Tim Clymer Jul 29 '11 at 16:08

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