- Rooting Figs – How To Propagate Fig Trees
- Methods for How to Start a Fig Tree
- Propagate a Fig Tree From a Cutting
- How to Transplant a Fig Tree
- Root Prune a Fig Tree Before Transplanting
- Getting the Fig Tree Out of the Ground
- Replanting the Fig Tree
- Planting or Transplanting a Fig Tree
- Anna, how are you rooting your fig cuttings?
Rooting Figs – How To Propagate Fig Trees
The fig tree has been around for a long time; archeologists have found evidence of its cultivation that dates back to 5,000 BC. They are a small, warm climate tree that can grow almost anywhere, with some fig varieties surviving in temperatures down to 10 to 20 degrees F. (-12 to -6 C.). Fig trees will produce well for about 15 years.
If you enjoy figs (whether fresh, dried or in preserves) and if your tree is getting old or your generous neighbor’s tree is getting old, you might be wondering how to propagate fig trees as opposed to buying a replacement. Fig propagation is an economical way to continue or increase production.
Methods for How to Start a Fig Tree
How to start a fig tree from fig cuttings is a simple process that can be accomplished in one of three ways. Each of these methods of rooting figs is simple and straightforward, and your choice will probably depend on the dormant season weather in your area.
Layering for Fig Propagation
The first method in how to propagate fig trees outdoors depends on dormant season temperatures that never fall below freezing. Ground layering is a way of rooting figs by burying a portion of low growing branch with 6 to 8 inches of the tip showing above ground and allowing the buried portion to root before severing it from the parent tree. While this is the simplest method of fig propagation, it can prove awkward for ground maintenance while the branches root.
Rooting Fig Cuttings Outdoors
A more popular method of rooting figs outdoors is through fig cuttings. Late in the dormant season, after the danger of frost is past, take fig cuttings from small branches that are two to three years old. They should be about ½ to ¾ inches thick, about the width of your pinky, and 8-12 inches long. The bottom end cut should be flat and the tip cut on a slant. Treat the slanted end with a sealant to prevent disease and the flat end with rooting hormone.
When learning how to start a fig tree by this method, it’s best to use six to eight shoots to allow room for some failures. You can always give away multiple successes!
Plant the rooting fig’s flat end 6 inches deep in hole 6 inches wide and about a foot apart. Water well, but don’t over water. In one year, your fig cuttings can grow 36-48 inches. The new trees will be ready to transplant the following dormant season.
Rooting Figs Indoors
The third method of fig propagation is about how to start a fig tree indoors. This method is good for an early start if your spring weather is unsettled. Follow the method above for taking fig cuttings. Line the bottom of a 6-inch pot with newspaper and add 2 inches of sand or potting soil. Stand four of your treated cuttings upright in the pot and fill around them with soil. Water the pot thoroughly and place a 2-liter bottle with the bottom cut off over the cuttings.
Keep the fig cuttings warm and in a bright (not direct sun) window. Don’t water unless the soil becomes very dry. Wait a week after you see new growth to remove the makeshift greenhouse.
When you see vigorous growth, plant your rooted fig cuttings in larger pots or outdoors when the weather allows. Keep the transplants moist for the rest of the summer and watch them grow.
As you can see, how to propagate fig trees is a simple process and when done properly, is a satisfying and economical experience. Happy eating!
Propagate a Fig Tree From a Cutting
There are several ways to propagate fig trees. Some methods are easier and have a higher success rate than others. For example, growing from seeds is very hard and often results in failure. Growing cuttings taken from a healthy fig tree, on the other hand, has a 50 percent or higher success rate. This entire process will start in the late winter or early spring and last until the following fall.
Step 1 – Choose Your Tree
There are several things to consider when collecting your cuttings:
Know the variety of the fig that you are taking your cuttings from. Be sure that it is well suited to growing in your area. There are many varieties of fig, each with their own climate and conditions that they flourish in. A fig tree that grows superbly in Texas, for example, likely won’t grow at all in California, and vice versa.
Should you want to purchase a new fig tree from a nursery and take cuttings, keep in mind you should wait about 2 years before taking any cuttings. This will give the tree a chance to establish strong, vigorous, and healthy growth.
Step 2 – Choose Your Cutting
Take your cutting from a vigorously growing stem. They should be rather woody and not entirely green. Softer, greener stems are more likely to rot. The cutting should be about six to eight inches in length, and about the diameter of a pencil. Cuttings are best taken when the plant is dormant.
TIP: Expert gardening advisor, Karen Thurber adds, “Cuttings are best taken when the plant is dormant. However, if you take a cutting when the tree is not dormant you can fool your cutting by putting it in the refrigerator for a few weeks prior to rooting.”
Step 3 – Pot the Cutting
You can dip the cuts into a rooting hormone, but some growers advise against it, and it is not required. Figs root readily without rooting hormone. Place the cuttings in a plastic pot, about four inches in size and completely filled with a light, airy soil. Moisten the soil and cover the cutting to hold in moisture. A two liter pop bottle with the bottom cut off and the cap still on makes for easy moisture insulation.
Don’t water the cutting again until it is dry. Place it outside in mild sun, or under the shade of a mature fig tree.
TIP: Karen suggests, “Do not place in direct sun or it will overheat.”
Step 4 – Harden off the Cutting
In time, you’ll see vigorous growth with newly formed leaves as well as roots growing. Wait until a complete root system is formed, then you can begin to harden it off. Start by removing the lid on the bottle, if the plant starts to wilt replace the lid. Once you can leave the lid off, bring it outside uncovered for several hours a day and bring it back inside at night. It will take about two weeks to fully harden off and become accustomed to its new climate.
TIP: Karen advises, “Occasionally, new leaf growth begins on the cutting before it has established roots. Be sure to check the roots before hardening off your fig. Rooting your fig in a clear container allows you to see the roots without disturbing them.”
Step 5 – Transplant
Once a fig tree has hardened off, it is possible to transplant it permanently outside. However, allowing the plant more time to grow in the container leads to less transplant shock and better success. Waiting until spring to plant the fig outdoors is a good idea.
Propagating a new fig tree from a cutting is simple and has a high success rate. Just follow these steps, and before you know it, you’ll have a wonderful new fruit tree in your backyard!
Figs are a popular Louisiana fruit, and many people want to propagate them. Rooting cuttings is the most appropriate and widely used method, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings.
Although the best time to take cuttings is in late fall or winter at pruning or when a tree is fully dormant, fig trees can be propagated during summer when trees are actively growing by using misting with a process called softwood cutting propagation, Owings says.
Misting is a technique for preventing the plant from drying out by intermittently wetting the foliage of cuttings that are being rooted.
Figs root readily under mist, Owings says. Using softer wood, rather than mature hard branches, place cuttings about 6 inches long in a suitable rooting medium, such as sand, peat or mixture of both, with about 3 inches of the cutting above the top of the medium.
A rooting hormone will encourage root development, though most figs root readily without added hormones.
Keep the leaves damp but don’t let the medium become soggy, Owings says. Cuttings should develop a strong, extensive root system within three to four weeks when mist propagation is done properly.
After cuttings have developed roots, gradually adjust their environment by reducing the frequency of misting, then move the plants to a shaded or partially shaded location for a couple of weeks before placing them in full sun.
A preferred time for propagation is when trees are dormant. At that time, take hardwood cuttings that are 3/8 to 1 inch in diameter and 8 to10 inches long and contain several nodes or “joints,” which are the areas where roots develop.
The bottom cut should be just below a node. Cuttings should be planted upright 8 to 10 inches apart.
“Make sure at least one node is above the soil line because this where leaves develop,” Owings says.
And make sure the bottom end of the cutting is in the soil. The scar where a leaf was previously attached should be below the bud at each node when the cutting is oriented correctly.
Fig cuttings may be taken in late fall or early winter when the trees are dormant and stored in moist sand or sawdust under cool conditions until the weather is suitable for setting them out in the late winter or early spring. These cuttings must not be allowed to dry out during storage and must not be taken until the tree is dormant.
Deep, well-drained, well-aerated soil is necessary for good results. Cuttings should be watered periodically to prevent drying out. Storing cuttings in inverted position appears to retard shoot development during storage.
Got a gardening question? Write to [email protected]
How to Transplant a Fig Tree
Transplanting a fig tree is a process that takes an entire year. Before you can move the tree, you must establish a root ball must be established, so that shorter roots develop, which can take in nutrients until the tree gets settled. This means that in the seasons before the tree is moved, you must make preparations for transplanting.
Root Prune a Fig Tree Before Transplanting
Determine the size of root ball you’ll need to preserve by measuring the diameter of the trunk. The root ball should be one foot wide for every inch of trunk thickness. For a trunk that’s three inches thick, for example, you’ll need to prune a three-foot root ball.
Remove the sod or grass from the area by slicing into the soil along the surface. This will ensure that nothing else is competing for the nutrients and moisture in the soil beneath the branches.
Begin the root pruning process in the spring, one year before you plan to transplant. Press a shovel 10-12 inches deep into the ground, a few inches smaller than the root ball you intend to create. Circle the entire tree making a dashed line of cut and uncut sections, so that half of the tree’s roots are cut through and the rest are left to anchor the tree.
Cut the remaining sections six months later, in the fall. Allow the tree to overwinter in the same ground, until the following spring.
Getting the Fig Tree Out of the Ground
In the early spring, just before you’re ready to transplant, prune the branches back up to one-third of their length, to a healthy bud. This will ensure that the tree isn’t growing vigorously on top while the bottom is recovering.
Cut into the ground with a shovel, six to eight inches wider than the root-pruned area, to be sure you don’t sever new root growth. Dig down and inward to create a conical shape.
Cut the taproot, the longest part of the roots, that grows straight down from the trunk last, and the tree will tip over in the hole. Use a tractor or the muscle power of your sturdiest friends to heave the root ball and tree onto a plastic tarp.
Wet down the root base thoroughly, and then wrap it in plastic from a tarp or use plastic landscaping material. Peat moss may be used to help keep the roots wet.
Replanting the Fig Tree
Dig the new hole to the same size, or a little larger, than the root base of your fig tree.
Place the tree into the new hole, being careful not to disturb the root ball or dislodge soil from around the delicate root fibers.
Fill in the empty spaces with a sandy soil and press it down to be sure that there are no air pockets. It’s OK if the tree’s soil surface is a little lower than the surrounding ground level.
Water thoroughly and do not fertilize the first year.
Planting or Transplanting a Fig Tree
Question from Margaret:
I am being offered a fig tree. I live close to the coast in in Southern California, probably Zone 24, and am not sure of the variety. That being said, can you tell me what is the best month to move it from
my friend’s home in the same town where I live to mine?
Loved your remarks when I heard you speak at a garden club meeting last week.
Answer from Pat:
Fall is a fine time for planting and transplanting all shrubs and trees except for tropicals. Edible fig trees (Ficus carica) are Mediterranean plants so October or November is a good time for transplanting them, but I don’t recommend transplanting fig trees. One reason is that fig trees hate having their surface roots disturbed. It is not good to cultivate under them. To transplant a fig tree from a friend’s garden to your own might also necessitate a lot of back-breaking work and hiring a couple of men to help you do the job. In order to transplant any tree successfully you need to get as many roots as possible and wrap the rootball in burlap. The root ball might weigh several hundred pounds. You would also need to cut back the top of the tree drastically, at transplanting time in order to reduce the foliage and wood on the tree, thus balancing the top with the greatly reduced roots. I would also recommend sending away ahead of time for humic acid for soaking the root ball when transplanting the tree in order to stimulate root production. Once the tree is transplanted it will then spend several years getting established. By that time a tiny stick of a tree, purchased bare root for far less than you paid the men to help you would be twice as big as the transplanted tree.
Good nurseries offer fig trees for sale in 5-gallon cans that you can plant now or bare-root at reasonable prices every January and these trees are for the most part exactly the right ones for one’s local climate. The best fig variety for Zone 24 is ‘Brown Turkey’. Home garden fig trees need no pollination and bear crops twice a year. A final caution: If there is anything a gopher loves it’s the roots of a fig tree, and many coastal towns in Southern California are infested with these industrious little burrowers. When you plant your fig tree I recommend you plant it inside a big wire basket. This is another reason not to begin with a transplanted tree. However you can use wire instead of burlap to wrap around the roots but it’s a tricky job to simultaneously make it into a secure basket with no holes large enough for a gopher to penetrate.
Anna, how are you rooting your fig cuttings?
I know some of you guys are working with a cutting you bought or just have, but if the tree is nearby you could just bend one of the longer branches over and pin it to the ground with some rocks, about 8-10″ from the tip. This works better with bushier plants. Also, it speeds it up if you push a bit of soil over the part you’re pinning so it really has good contact to make roots. This works really well with roses!
Another thing I have found, in general is that those branches that shoot straight up are less attached to the tree so they are more willing to root for you. You’ll see them in stressed out, or unnaturally shaped trees. Interesting tidbit, they do that because they know they are structurally unsound so they are making little them’s to help support themselves, and as a contingency for continuance if they break up and can’t get to the reproducing bit of life. Same for sucker sprouts . You can just slice them off with a shovel and call it peachy. When neighbors have a tree that tends to do this, I like to offer to snip them off for them. You get good neighbor points and a tiny tree!
Then you just have to keep it nice and moist. If the branch is to big for a baggy you can get those really big produce bags at grocery stores that they have for lettuce. Just make sure you have something to keep it off of the actual cutting cause it can be a place for water to rest against the plant. So a bent willow branch or something works with it planted in some moss or shredded paper. I wouldn’t go much bigger than a foot. The ratio of wood to root needs to be right or it just gives up, so don’t give it to high of a wood ratio to meet. Oh and making the bottom be a diagonal cut exposes more meristematic tissue which can grow to be the roots.
Trying at maple cuttings pretty soon here. Good luck with the figs!