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 Weeping Fig 
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Joined: Mon May 02, 2011 11:32 am
Posts: 7
Post Weeping Fig
A friend of mine has an old (15 yrs?) fig tree (guessing Desert King - green skin/strawberry interior) in SW Clark County, WA. It is about 25 ft tall and somewhat wider. Most of the scaffold and larger lateral branches have a very pronounced downward arch, giving it a weeping form, probably due to abundant fruiting over the years and maybe ice loading as well.

A couple of questions for the fig-knowledgeable out there:

1) How should the terminal buds react as they are now the lowest point on the branches, rather than the highest. There is some suckering or water sprouting, but not a lot.

2) What is a good pruning methodology, especially regarding those large downward arching branches? (I'm thinking this dormant season we'll remove dead, broken, rubbing branches and do some light thinning of congested areas. Next summer, we'd like to perform some serious cutting back so fruit is more obtainable.)

Thanks, Steve


Fri Dec 09, 2011 11:44 am
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1162
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: Weeping Fig
Figs will continue to produce with ‘bent branches.’ Usually the tips will attempt to grow upward. They’re an interesting and productive tree; I’ve got seven of them, five Desert Kings and two Brown Turkeys.

I’ve allowed my figs to form clumps of about 6 to 10 ‘trunks’ emerging from the ground as separate ‘branches.’ I continue to allow new (root) sucker shoots to grow, maybe gaining only 4 feet per season, but as I remove the largest ‘trunks’ when they get too tall, the understory shoots of 3 or 4 years fill in perfectly. This was ‘taught’ to me by a passed friend (Helen Webb of Yamhill) who grew massive ‘clumps’ of various varieties. She claimed it also allowed them to survive the worst freezes, as not all of the trunks (for lack of a better term) would die back.

I’ve pruned ‘stand along’ fig trees, which is the way most folks train them; basically leaving one ‘shoot’ while constantly cutting off all root suckers. *Figs are not grafted, they are too easily started from cuttings, so every shoot emerging from the ground is the same material as the plant above – unlike apple trees, who’ve been grafted to specific root stock and whose ‘root suckers’ are worthless for fruit production. You can always convert an established fig tree to a ‘clump’ simply by leaving several root shoots.

My recommendation regarding pruning what you’ve got is to take out the tallest branches. Though you can fairly easily ‘bend them over’ at harvest time (I wonder if they’re related to Rubber Trees?), when the fruit gets too high to safely reach it generally goes to the birds :roll: And like all fruit trees, removing the upper portions allow the lower branches the light they need to grow and they’ll soon fill the void. It’s difficult to describe ‘which branches’ and ‘which cuts’ would be necessary. But always remove an up-right branch back to the branch from where it came. Remove them, stand back - and see if any others would be a good candidates for removal, too.

Figs produce fruit on last year’s growth, so you’re always going to be removing potential fruit. But the rotation of wood and height control is necessary and, as mentioned, the lower branches will often fill the void with stronger vegetative growth and fruit production. Do not simply ‘cut back the shoot ends,’ as can safely be done on many fruit trees. By removing a ‘certain amount’ from each fig stem you’re actually removing next years crop. Thin instead.

You don’t have to wait until next summer to do the serious material removal, but figs are subject to tip dieback around here so I’d wait until serious spring to cut into them. If you wait until summer, you’re simply removing the energy that’s pushed into that seasons growth, thus wasting it. By pruning just before the serious growth begins, that stored energy will flow into whatever you leave – making it healthier and its fruit larger.

Love my Figs :mrgreen: …though they’re a very underutilized fruit in this region :|

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Sat Dec 10, 2011 6:05 pm
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