How to Grow Figs



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Days to germination: Figs are started from seedlings
Days to harvest: Two years
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Adequate, even dry during the summer
Soil: Well-drained
Container: There are dwarf varieties for containers

Introduction

Figs are a Mediterranean fruit, and can only be grown in very earm areas such as zones 7 through 11. A potted tree that can be sheltered during the winter may even survive as cold as zone 4b. Their large leaves make figs excellent shade trees and they are very attractive in any yard.

Many people are familiar with dried figs, but they are more delicious when eaten whole and fresh. Either way, they are extremely high in fiber as well as potassium and manganese.

Starting Your Tree

Figs are self-fertile, meaning they will produce a healthy crop of fruit even if you only have one tree. If you do plant several, keep them at least 10 feet apart. As for total space, the average fig tree will be around 15 to 20 feet tall and their canopy usually spreads out wider than that. They will severely shade anything around them, so plan your location accordingly.

Choose the sunniest spot you can for your fig tree and keep it well away from any underground fixtures like septic systems or pipes. Figs have very tough roots that will damage anything underground near the tree.

Do your planting in early spring, and cut the tops of the seedling back after planting to minimize stress on the roots. If your seedling has a large root ball to start with, this may not be necessary. When you dig the hole, set the seedling about 2 inches deeper in the soil than it was originally. Mix a little compost in with the soil, and water well.

Tree Care

Figs are different from most other fruits, in that they do better in dry weather when they are producing fruit. If your trees are watered too much during the summer, you will have weak-tasting fruit at harvest time. You can always cut back on your own watering but the rain is out of your control. Regions that get heavy rains in the summer are not great for growing figs.

That doesn’t mean you should let your trees get parched either. A long dry spell should still prompt you to water your trees once every 2 weeks. If the leaves start to yellow, it needs water.

Pruning is not a real issue when growing figs. Look for dead branches, and occasionally trim the central branches down to keep the tree short.

Feeding with fertilizer each year is very helpful, and a low-nitrogen mix is best so that your tree doesn’t get overly leafy (and low on fruit). Each spring, you can give your trees a generous sprinkling of lime to help in fruit production.

Containers

There are varieties of dwarf fig that make great container plants, and allow you to grow figs in areas that would otherwise be too cold for this tropical fruit. A potted fig tree can be moved to a sheltered location during the winter, even indoors. If you do bring your plants right indoors, it will still need lots of light during the day to thrive until next spring.

You can look for figs like Violette de Bordeaux or Lattarulla. Even with a dwarf, you will need a pot that is about 3 feet across and 2 feet or more deep. Give your tree a feeding each year with a low-nitrogen fertilizer. A little pruning can keep it small but it’s not that necessary.

Pests and Diseases

Nematodes (microscopic roundworms) are one of the biggest threats to fig trees, and they are unfortunately hard to get rid of once they become a problem. They live underground, and attack the roots causing large swellings or knots. If you have nematodes, your tree will start to wilt and drop leaves for no visible reason.

Your first step is prevention when you buy your fig seedling. Take the plant out of its pot and take a good look at the roots. Wash off a little soil if necessary. If you see any knots in the roots, do not buy the plant.

Even with a clean seedling, they can still migrate to your trees through the soil. If you suspect nematodes, you can either have your soil tested or gently dig up some of the roots and check for lesions yourself. There are products you can treat the soil with (nematicides) and you can also add a very heavy load of organic mulch around your tree. Nematodes prefer poor quality soil and the added nutrients can actually kill them.

Larger pests can also attack your new fruit. You can protect your trees from birds with a large covering of net or mesh over your tree. Make sure it’s not too fine or it will shade the tree.

Harvest and Storage

You can tell your figs are ripe when they start to soften on the tree and their color has completely changed (not all varieties have the same color at maturity). They should come of the stem with just a slight tug. If there is any sap still in the stem, your fruit is probably not quite ready yet.

And speaking of sap, you should wear gloves when working with your fig trees because the sap will irritate your skin.

Your tree will start to produce figs at about 2 years of age, and they usually are ready in late summer. Depending on your immediate climate, you may even get two crops of figs from your tree. If the winter weather is warm enough, the new growth at the end of summer may result in a small crop of figs in the spring as well as the main crop towards the end of the growing season. Early figs are sometimes called brebas, and they will be smaller than the regular harvest later on.

Figs will not ripen any further once you’ve picked them, so you need to do your harvesting at just the right time. You can store your fresh figs in the fridge for about a week. Figs are good candidates for drying, and they can be dried by a few days out in the sun or several hours in a dehydrator. They will last for several months if thoroughly dried. A dry fig is still pliable, not hard to the touch.

14 Responses to “How to Grow Figs”

  1. John  Says:

    I have a fig tree in a pot. I live in Maryland and brought it inside for the winter. Much to my chagrin, by January it started getting leaves on it. By the end of February it looked beautiful! Now it is almost april and almost time to go back outside, but the tree is losing it’s leaves and looks ragged. What should I do? It is still a bit cold to put outside, should I put it out and let it go dormant again or just wait it out and hope that once it is nice out again it comes back to life? thoughts?

  2. Tami  Says:

    There is a hugh fig tree in my back yard, with about 50 leaves and about 20 small figs (dime size) then fall off. I do not think that this is normal, as the tree is basically naked. I think that perhaps in order to help this fig get back to its potential, that perhaps I should cut it all back and provide some sort of protection until the spring. I wish I could attach a picture, anyway, any suggestions?

    Thank you, Tami Stephen

  3. Georgina  Says:

    I live in Australia (NSW north coast) and have a fig tree with many figs growing. Could you please advise me about how to best net a fig tree? The birds ate many of my figs last year once they started to ripen. Also a neighbour recommended chilli or garlic spray (home made) to keep pests away from the leaves. Do you know about these solutions and how effective they are?

  4. jennie  Says:

    Ive seen people put a fake crow on the top of the tree which could help to deter other birds from munching on your figs.

  5. Eric  Says:

    My fig tree produces an abnormal amount of figs starting around early march through around October. Sometimes having 2 or 3 figs fused together. It probably produces around 1 thousand figs or more(guesstimate). The problem i am having is that my figs begin to turn yellow and dry out. I probably get around 15 good figs out of the whole tree!! Now take in mind that it produces over 1000 figs. What can i do to stop this? I’ve never seen so many figs on a tree. Theres sometimes 15-20 figs at the base of 1 leaf. I NEED HELP NOW :(. The figs all grow to the correct size. But all turn yellow and get wrinkly. When I open them up They are all white on the inside and Dry.

  6. Eric  Says:

    *please disregard the part about the abnormal amount of figs. i just realized i put firtelizer on my fig tree last year. the year prior to that the fig tree had a normal amount of figs but they were still dry and white on the inside and yellow and somewhat wrinkly on the outside. please tell me what i can do so i can get good juicy figs. it is a white fig tree.

  7. dre  Says:

    I would like to get 1000 fig too.
    So can you tell me exactly which brand and ratio(NPK) and amount of fert to tree and fert to water any info you give would be really helpfull, was it fert spikes or slow release liquid

  8. M acon  Says:

    Soneone gave me a fig cutting in spring. I rooted it then put in small pot. I am in md and dont really have sunny location inside. I have 2 other fully mature trees.. My question is for th cutting in the small pot is it too late to plant out the ground now?

  9. ReneW  Says:

    To keep birds away from your figs just tie some old CD’s or DVD’s in the tree, high up. Birds don’t like the reflection these discs make.

  10. Nora  Says:

    I have a potted fig I bought at the being of spring, why
    are the leaves turning brown? there’s all kinds of need shoots growing I don’t understand.

  11. Don  Says:

    How may I guard my figs on the tree from squires?

  12. Jill  Says:

    Our unripened 2nd crop of brown figs on opposite sides of our property are turning white/moldy looking and falling off the trees. I’ve seen this to a small extent over the years but this year it’s worse. What is it? Is there a cure/control? I’m sure the enormous amount of rain we’ve gotten of the past few months has not helped the problem but we had some the past few years and the rain was not present.

  13. Jade  Says:

    I bought figs in late september, before I read on how to take care of them. Are they going to die now?

  14. Paula Procyshyn Chomko  Says:

    I have two fig trees in my all day sun backyard. This winter has been very cold here. As of yet, no leaves are on the tree. Could they be dead, or just taking longer to come out? The trees ore over twenty years old .

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