how to grow Fig trees: grow and enjoy these productive, easy care trees

Fig trees make me happy. Learning how to grow fig trees is easy.  They are basically a plant it and forget it plant. 

  • What else could you ask for in a fruit tree? Not only do they have wonderful fruit, but after they are established they take very little care. That's what makes me happy.

They are drought tolerant. They don't have to be fertilized or pruned. But they give you a bounty of sweet, delicious fruit each year. Sometimes they fruit twice a year, depending on the variety and where you live.


  • Fig trees may used in the landscape. They are attractive with their smooth grey bark and large tropical looking leaves. Older trees can get a gnarled looking trunk that is very attractive in the winter landscape.

Fig tree provide dense shade, but they are known to have aggressive roots. The aggressive roots are what help them survive drought conditions. So when you are learning how to grow fig trees, don't plant them near sewer lines.

Learn all about how to grow fig treesFig trees are very productive
Image by Simon from Pixabay

the fig tree history

  • Fig trees have a long and interesting history. They are native to Europe and western Asia. They have been cultivated for centuries. They have naturalized in some locations.

The Spanish missionaries brought fig trees to California in the early 1500s. They spread in use and popularity across the United States. 

  • The Mission Fig is what I grew up eating in California. That is my favorite variety of figs.

Archeologists have found remains of fig trees dating back over 11,000 years old. Amazing - the fig tree has quite a history!


how to grow fig tree varieties

Fig trees are self-pollinating, so you only need one plant.

Brown Turkey has bronze colored fruit. This is the most popular fig variety in the United States. It makes a small tree in zones 6-10.

Italian Everbearing has reddish-brown fruit. It makes a large bush in zones 7-9. It produces well even if it has winter damage.

Kadota figs are called 'white figs', but they are actually a light greenish-yellow. It has a tough skin, so it is used for canning as well as eating. It makes a tree in zones 7-9. It will grow in protected areas in zones 5 and 6, good to 15 degrees.

Mission Fig has dark purple fruit. It is the largest growing fig tree and it grows in zones 7-9. It will grow protected in zones 5-6.

Chicago Hardy Fig has mahogany colored fruit. It will grow into a tree in zones 5-10. The tree is hardy to 10 degrees and the roots to -20 degrees.

Dried figs from the store are Calimyrna or Smyrna figs. These figs are pollinated by a special little wasps. They are not recommended for the home garden.

The Kadota fig and Mission figs are resistant to Oak root fungus.


The edible fig is in the botanical family Moraceae, the same family as mulberries, specifically figs are Ficus carica.

A couple of well know house plants are different species of figs, the Rubber Plant and the Weeping Fig.


how to grow fig trees in cold climates

Figs are fast growing deciduous trees that will grow to 10'-30'.

In cold climates where the fig freezes back, it will grow back each year. But in that case it is more of a shrub than a tree.

  • In very cold areas, grow your fig trees in a container that can be moved to a protected area during the winter. Container figs can be maintained at 6'.

In cool climates grow your figs on the south side of the house, next to a wall that receives plenty of sun. Figs may also be espaliered against a south wall or a fence.

In very cold areas fig trees in the ground will need to be wrapped for winter protection.


how to grow fig trees in your garden

CHOOSE YOUR PLANTING SPOT

  • Fig trees thrive in full sun, but they will also grow in part shade.
  • They grow best in a good loam. Actually they will grow in any type of soil, if you add plenty of organic matter.
  • They require good drainage.


PLANTING

  • Plant in the early spring, while the plant is still dormant.
  • Cut the tree back to about half it's height. This will allow the fig tree to establish its root system, before supporting a large amount of top growth.
  • Water the fig tree about every 10 days or when the top one inch of soil is dry. Don't over-water, they don't like soggy roots.
  • The fig tree should not require fertilizer, if you added a good amount of organic matter before planting.

HOW TO GROW FIG TREES - YEAR 2 AND BEYOND

  • Remove any winter protection when the temperatures get to 30 degrees. And move container figs outdoors when freezing weather is past.
  • While the fig is still dormant, prune any broken, crossing or otherwise damaged branches. Prune any limbs out of the way of people traffic.
  • The established fig tree is drought tolerant. Water it deeply during windy and/or dry conditions. Container figs require regular watering when to top 1" of soil is dry.
  • Figs normally don't require fertilizer.

But if it grow less than 1 foot in a year, give an application or two of 10-10-10 fertilizer in the spring to stimulate growth. Keep in mind that too much nitrogen will only grow leaves and not produce fruit.


Fig trees produce a sweet, delicious fruitAs the figs ripen, pick them every day or two.
Image by kolaoltion from Pixabay

the happy part of how to grow fig trees is harvest

In warm climate you probably may get two harvests. One in the early summer on last year's growth. And a second harvest on the current season's grow in the late summer into fall.

  • The fruit is ready to harvest when it is soft. It will detach easily when it is bent back toward the branch.
  • The figs will not ripen anymore after they are removed from the tree.

The tasty, sweet fruit will only keep for a day or two on the counter or 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

Figs make great jam. A fun thing to do is to place a fig in each place in an empty egg carton, then freeze them.

Then place the frozen figs in a zip-lock bag or a covered container. On those hot summer days, just grab a couple of frozen figs out of the freezer for a cool treat.


How to grow fig trees include fall cleanup. Before winter sets in remove any fruit left on the tree and pick old fruit up off the ground.

  • Fig trees have been known to live 200 years.

So you know how to grow fig trees, you can look forward to another season of delicious, happy fruit. And so can your great grandchildren!


enjoy your gardening!

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