Pruning Figs in containers



I planted figs in containers last spring, kept them cool and dormant over the winter, but I didn’t prune them when I took them out this spring. Now they’ve grown long spindly branches and big leaves and I read that if I prune them now, they will “bleed” out a milky substance and essentially bleed to death. Is this true? Is it too late to prune them? Thank you very much for your help!


Thank you for question.  I assume that the fig is Ficus carica, the edible fig.  Figs require organically rich, moist, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade.  The most common cause of etiolation (leggy growth), or the long spindly branches on your fig, is lack of sufficient light.  You may wish to consider whether your figs are in a location with sufficient sun exposure.  Alternatively, the figs may have developed the growth if they broke dormancy early in a dark location.

Figs do indeed bleed a white sap when cut (this sap can also be an irritant so wear protective gloves when pruning).  Although the tree is unlikely to bleed to death, significant sap loss can weaken and very rarely lead to the death of a tree or shrub.  Exposed wounds from pruning can also increase the risk of disease.  Although it does not specifically refer to figs, this article from the RHS is helpful.  If you can wait, I would recommend that you do only light pruning now and do any significant pruning of the trees next year in the spring before they break dormancy.  In the meantime, you may wish to address the cause of the unsightly growth by giving the tree plenty of light.

Good luck with your fig!

June 1, 2022