Answer: The shape and size of a fig tree is largely a matter of personal preference combined with growing environment. Although fig trees mature into large, beautiful shade trees in the far south and western states, here on the east coast figs are more popularly grown as small trees or large "bushes".
Some folks like all their fruit trees to look the same and want their figs to be a single trunk with a standard canopy. This is just fine and the fig will do well. Many prefer a broad, multi-stemmed tree that creates its own environment underneath a ground-hugging canopy.
Whatever shape you choose, pruning is best done during the dormant season. Figs regrow rapidly and will replace cut wood each season. Most varieties will produce figs on new wood, so often there is no reduction in harvest as a result of moderate pruning.
Pruning is best done when the tree is dormant, during the winter when it is leafless. Even during the spring and summer, however, you can start by removing all branches and stems that are obviously dead.
The rest depends on how your tree is growing (single trunk or multi-stemmed), what kind of results you would like (how large, small or what shape) and how long the tree has been unpruned. Our rule of thumb is to go by thirds. Remove about a third of the wood that you would eventually like to have gone. Let the tree rest for the summer and see what new growth appears. You can do the drastic pruning in the winter. We recommend keeping fig trees small enough that all the fruit can be easily reached from the ground but the final shape and size are up to you.
Try to use the basic "4 D" pruning rules: take out anything Dead, then anything Damaged or Diseased. Finally, stand back, evaulate your tree and site and begin pruning for Design.
Best wishes with your fig tree!
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