How to plant figs

Fig Tree Maintenance – How To Grow Figs

Many people wonder how to grow figs. These fruit trees are among the easiest of the fruit trees that can be grown. They grow happily in both the ground or containers, making them perfect for all kinds of gardeners. Let’s take a look at when to plant fig trees and how to care for your fig tree.

How to Grow Figs

When it comes to fig tree care, you should know that growing fig trees requires well-drained and fertile soil. The best soil for growing fig trees would be loamy soil that has plenty of organic matter cut through it. Also, be sure the area gets plenty of moisture. The perfect pH for growing fig trees is a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5.

When thinking about how to grow figs, you should know that they should be protected from cold winter winds and direct winter sunlight. Unseasonably warm temperatures can cause your fig trees to grow. If this happens too early in the season, and then another freeze sneaks in, your growing fig trees will be damaged.

When to Plant Fig Trees

For good fig tree care, remember that a northern exposure keeps your fig trees dormant until the time comes that they should be blooming. You can set your dormant, bare-rooted trees out in late fall to early spring. For easy fig tree maintenance, you should choose fig trees that are free of root-knot nematodes.

Fig tree maintenance is not a lot of work. Fig trees like full sunlight and adequate room for growth. You can plant your growing fig trees about 15 to 20 feet apart. If you are going to train your trees to be bushes instead, plant them 10 feet apart. Either way, there is little fig tree care you will have to administer.

Fig Tree Care

Be careful not to have too much nitrogen in the soil. You can fertilize the soil at a rate of one pound of 8-8-8 each year of age of the tree, or each foot tall the tree is. This is to a maximum of 12 pounds and then you would maintain the same rate each year.

With regard to fig tree maintenance, you should fertilize your fig trees annually. If you have heavy soil, fertilize the tree when the buds swell. If you have loamy soil, you can fertilize with half the amount required when the buds swell and the other half can go down in late May.

Good fig tree care requires some pruning. However, fig trees don’t require much. You should prune in late winter just before growth begins so you don’t injure the plant.

Harvesting your figs can be done as soon as the fruit is softening. Figs are not tasty until they are ripe, so you will need to let them stay on the tree until fully ripe. Figs will stop ripening once they are removed from the tree. You can store them in the refrigerator for a week or two until you are ready to use them in recipes or eat them.

Fig Trees

SERIES 30 | Episode 07

Figs (Ficus carica cv.) are a brilliant fruiting tree for home gardens, but they are renowned for throwing out suckers – vigorous stem growth that pops up from the roots, often some distance away from the trunk of the tree. As Tino tells us, it’s ideal to remove this for a few reasons, namely:

  • They make the tree messy, and can make accessing and harvesting the fruit difficult
  • They can be pest highways, allowing pests to move freely from the ground to the new canopy foliage
  • Suckers can divert precious nutrients and energy away from the main part of the tree, impacting fruit quality and yield

Fig trees root readily, and where cuttings or stems come into contact with the ground, they will begin to put out roots. This makes them a great practice cutting for novice gardeners – take a clean cutting from a fig flush with the stem, and place into a shady spot. Leave for a day or so, and they will be ready to pot up – the will come away very readily and very quickly.

There are three different types of cuttings that can be taken from a fig tree:

  1. Soft, thin, strong growing tip –
  2. Longer cutting with root nodes
  3. Thicker “truncheon” cutting

To place these cuttings into a pot without damaging the roots, Tino recommends

  • Filling the pot 1/3rd of the way with potting mix
  • Make some shallow holes in the potting mix
  • Lay in the thicker two of the cuttings
  • Backfill the pot until almost full
  • Gently insert the softer cutting
  • Top-up the pot with potting mix and tap down
  • Water in – and you’ll be munching on figs in no time.

Tips for Growing Fig Trees

Figs arrived in the Western Hemisphere in the 1560s when the Spaniards planted them in Mexico. Two hundred years later, missionaries planted California’s first fig tree at San Diego de Alcala, the main mission in San Diego.

Fig fruits grow on fantastic trees with huge lobed leaves. In fall, the leaves drop, revealing gnarled and twisted branches covered in pale white bark that shines against the blue winter sky.

Fig trees are very easy to grow. They need full sun but take almost any type of soil. Once established, they thrive with very little water, though they grow faster and fruit better with a bit more water. A single application of all-purpose organic fertilizer in early spring is plenty.

Because fig trees grow fast, start with a small tree. Bareroot fig trees are easy to work with, affordable and widely available in nurseries this time of year. They’re dormant so, at this point, they look like bare sticks. But don’t be put off, once the weather warms, they’ll sprout leaves.

Dig a hole just big enough for the roots to fit in without bending. Notice the soil line on the trunk? That’s as deep as you want to plant.

If you live in gopher country, line the planting hole with a layer of hardware cloth or purchase a gopher basket to place in the hole before you plant. Tree roots can get through the wire mesh but gophers can’t.

Toss a few handfuls of worm castings into the planting hole, then refill with unamended soil. Cut the trunk back to about 2 feet tall. Why? This practice encourages the tree to form low branches, which translates to easy-to-reach fruit.

To keep the trunk from sunburning, paint it with a mixture of half white acrylic house paint and half water. Make an irrigation basin around the base of the tree and water deeply after planting. Mulch around the outside of the basin.

A fig tree can grow 20 feet tall and wide. However, there’s no reason to allow it to reach full size. I prune all my fruit trees small so fruits are easy to reach. Fig wood is so soft that it’s by far the easiest to prune. If pruning is needed, do so immediately after harvest. If you wait, you’ll cut off the buds for next year’s crop.

Fig trees are hardy to about 15 degrees. Branches may die back but even trees that freeze or are cut to the ground typically resprout from the roots.

Pick figs when they’re so soft that they almost fall apart as you pull them from the tree. Don’t harvest under-ripe fruits. They will not ripen off the tree.

In the nursery, you’ll typically find “Mission” or “Brown Turkey,” both dark colored figs with deep pink flesh. You might see yellow “Genoa” or green-and-yellow striped “Panachee” whose flesh is the color of raspberries. All are wonderful.

Nan Sterman is author of “California Gardener’s Guide Volume II.” She is a gardening expert, communicator and designer who has long grown an organic garden of plants that both feed her family and beautify her garden.

Celeste Fig Tree

Celeste Fig (Ficus carica ‘Celestial’) is one of the most widely planted Fig trees in the United States and with good reason. This Fig tree produces such sweet and delicious fruit that it often goes by its nickname, the “Sugar Fig”.

It earns its nickname each summer with scrumptiously sweet fruit that has a rich, buttery-smooth flavor and texture. The fruit is not only delicious – it’s beautiful, too.

The fruit features edible, violet skin and rose-colored, strawberry-like flesh inside. Celeste Figs can be eaten fresh for a delightful treat. No need to peel, you can eat the skin and all! The fruit also dries perfectly for long-term storage and easy snacking.

The tree itself makes an impressive specimen. You’ll love the distinctive, deep-green lobed Fig leaves that grace the tree all summer long. The leaves have such a wonderful, tropical shape and the branches have a nice-looking structure.

Celeste Fig is one of the easiest fruit trees you can grow. Here’s why:

It’s a self-pollinating tree, so you only need one tree. It’s a medium-sized tree that doesn’t need a lot of pruning. It will stay small enough for you to easily harvest your crop.

This is a ‘closed-eye’ variety, which means the little eye on the bottom of the fruit stays tight. This helps it resist pests, splitting and souring. This is especially welcome in those long, humid summers of the Deep South.

Celeste Fig is disease resistant. It’s also heat tolerant, versatile and adapts beautifully to most climates. Well known to be a vigorous grower in the more humid climates of the South, Celeste shows itself to be a more compact grower in the drier climates of the Western and Southwestern United States. This tree produces well in coastal areas. It even performs well in large containers.

While this tree will produce fruit as a single tree, you’ll enjoy a larger crop with two or more trees. For a grove of Celeste Figs, plant them about 10 feet apart. You’ll measure from the center of one trunk to the center of the next.

Overall, growers love this easy-peasy, sugar-sweet Fig variety. Order yours today!

How to Use Celeste Fig Fruit

Celeste is a prolific producer. You’ll have plenty of Figs on hand to make luscious fig preserves. We recommend trying a mix of fully ripe and still-firm Figs when making your preserves. What a treat on crusty bread over farm fresh butter!

You’ll know when Celeste Figs are ripe when they start turning purple on the tree. They’ll also soften up on the tree.

Figs can dry in a dehydrator, or you can leave them hanging in the tree to dry on their own in the sun. Chop them with almonds, cashews, dates and cinnamon to create healthy fudge, or use as a mainstay sweetener in homemade energy bars. Of course, you can also enjoy these fabulous natural desserts all on their own as the perfect way to end a healthy meal.

Want an easy gourmet appetizer? Slice figs and stuffing figs with a artisan goat cheese. Then add a wrap of bacon (or prosciutto, if you can find it!) and place on the grill for a few minutes or bake about 10 minutes. Yum, now that’s a perfect late summer treat.

You’ll feel good about these nutrient-dense, fiber-rich snacks loaded with calcium, potassium and magnesium. Figs are great for bone strength and to improve digestion. The taste? Think Fig Newtons without the mealy, cakey coating. Fresh or dried, Figs are a nutritional powerhouse for your whole family.

#ProPlantTips for Care

Hardy from USDA Growing Zones 10 to 6, please give Celeste a planting location in full sun and well-drained soil. Once established, it will require very little supplemental watering except in the hot interior valleys of the Central Valley of California.

Very easy to grow, Figs can be trained in a number of different ways. Grow it with a single trunk as a standard tree or allow multiple trunks to grow and create a shrubby tree. No matter how you choose to use it in your landscape, it’s simple to keep the plant to an “easy picking” height with regular pruning.

Figs are one of the best plants to train as an espalier tree, or to grow in containers. In Zone 6, remember to insulate the root from winter cold with burlap or other protective materials. For winter protection, move your container plant to a well-lit covered patio area and cover with a frost blanket. You can also move the container into an unheated shed or garage once it’s dormant to overwinter it.

Want to grow Figs in Zones 5 and colder? Try Chicago Hardy Fig for best results.

When growing in a container, please select a deep container that has plenty of drainage holes in the bottom. Drill a few more, if you need to. Give container-grown fruit regular water, but don’t use a saucer under outdoor containers. You won’t want to let Figs sit in standing water, allow the water to drain fully.

Figs are one of Nature’s perfect foods. Celeste is one of the best of the best, with an exceptional flavor and ease of care.

Celeste does set a small early – or Breba – crop, but this variety is all about the high quality of the late season main crop. This fruit is an exceptional variety for drying.

The Celeste Fig from Nature Hills will be true to type, so find a location in your yard for this very special age-old favorite and begin enjoying figs as soon as next year. Order yours from us today!

Growing Fig Trees in Containers

Why should your fig trees struggle with harsh winter weather? Grow fig trees in containers! See our how-to guide for fig trees on wheels.

Fresh figs are some of the tastiest and easiest fruits you can grow, and fig trees are incredibly attractive with their uniquely shaped green foliage even when they trees aren’t fruiting. Fig trees, when compared to other fruit trees, have one of the shortest wait times before you should expect fruit: usually 1-2 years after planting. However, even with all the perks, fig trees have a reputation in northern gardens (zone 6 and colder) for not being winter-hardy enough to try.

Fortunately, you don’t have to struggle and fight with the harsh winter weather when you grow fig trees in containers.

We offer varieties like the Brown Turkey Fig and Chicago Hardy Fig here at Stark Bro’s – fig trees perfectly suitable for container growing. The young trees are shipped in our temporary 4″x4″x10″ Stark® EZ Start® pots, and these trees are ready for planting in containers as soon as they arrive. That way, when the nights start getting cold and frost becomes a threat, you can simply move your container-grown fig tree into an unheated area indoors, like a basement, garage, shed, etc.

Planting Fig Trees in Containers

Find the right container:

  • The container you use can be made of any material (wood, clay, ceramic, recycled materials, etc.) just be sure there are plenty of drainage holes to let excess water escape.
  • Try to avoid heavy decorative pots, since they may be difficult to move once they are filled with soil, water, and a fig tree.
  • Don’t waste space! Start small and move up to a larger container size as the tree roots fill the current container. For example, you may start out with a 5- or 7-gallon container and move up to a 10-gallon container when the tree’s roots fill the previous container size.
  • Your tree may eventually end up growing in a container as large as 2.5 feet in diameter, like a half whiskey-barrel, but these are heavy and difficult to move, so make sure you can manage the container size you choose to plant your fig tree in.

For a unique growing experience:

Consider a container on wheels for your mobile convenience! Before putting the tree into the container, place the container on a wheeled plant stand, which can be purchased at almost any garden center, hardware store, or nursery. This will make your life a whole lot easier when you get ready to move the container around for the winter season.

Planting Tips:

After planting your fig tree in its container, water it well, then add a layer of mulch. The mulch will keep the soil from drying out too quickly. 

Put the fig tree in a sunny spot in your yard, and keep well watered. During hot summer weather, your fig tree may need more frequent watering, possibly even daily. Observe and respond accordingly to your tree’s environment. Note: If your tree’s leaves begin to yellow, chances are it is being over-watered.

Pruning your fig tree. Unlike most other fruit trees, fig trees typically don’t require routine pruning, but you can prune them to a size that works for your space. Depending on the variety, fig trees naturally mature around 10- to 15-feet tall or larger! Many fig-tree growers find that keeping them between 6-8 feet tall is most manageable, especially in a container environment. Some fig trees have a natural bush-like appearance if allowed to grow naturally. If your fig tree has more of a “bushy” shape and you’d prefer one main trunk, you can prune the additional low growth out until you are left with one main trunk.

In autumn, when the leaves start to turn and fall (ideally before the first killing frost), it is time to move the fig tree to an unheated basement, garage, or shed where the fig tree will go dormant. Check occasionally during the dormant period for soil moisture. Be sure to allow the soil to become dry to the touch 2-3 inches below the soil surface before watering. Dormant roots don’t take in much water, but the moist soil keeps the roots from drying out. Avoid drenching or overwatering your dormant fig trees; this will avoid root rot and other water-related issues.

As warmer weather approaches and the days get longer, move the fig tree out to the yard for a few hours every day. This will help acclimate it back to its favored warm weather. Take it back indoors in the evenings. When the last frost date has passed for your area, move the fig tree back to a sunny spot outdoors. In no time, your healthy, vigorous tree will produce sweet and luscious fresh figs for your snacking, cooking, and drying pleasure.

Read about growing other fruit trees in containers here!

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Figs

Native to the Mediterranean, the edible fig (Ficus carica) has been cultivated and enjoyed for centuries. Figs ripen on the tree and don’t ship well, so the best way to truly enjoy a fresh fig is from your local market, or better yet, your own fig tree. Luckily, Florida offers the right growing conditions and figs are fairly easy to grow in north and central Florida.

Characteristics

Figs are members of the Mulberry family, Moraceae, which is one of the largest woody plant families. This family includes other fruit-bearing trees like jackfruit, breadfruit, and of course mulberry.

Edible fig is a deciduous plant that requires about 100 hours of chilling temperatures to grow and set fruit. Although the tree can reach 50 feet, it rarely grows that tall in Florida. The leaves are large, deeply lobed, and colored a bright dark green. Their upper surface is covered with a pubescence that gives them a rough, fuzzy feeling. Common fig produce small, insignificant flowers.

There are four types of fig, but only common figs are recommended for Florida, as these trees do not require pollination for fruit production. Common figs are parthenocarpic, meaning the fruits form without fertilization. The remaining three—Caprifigs, Smyrna, and San Pedro—rely on a specific wasp for cross-pollination, a wasp not found in Florida. When choosing your common fig tree, look for cold-hardy cultivars adapted for the south. Three recommended cultivars are ‘Celeste’, ‘Brown Turkey’, and ‘Ischia’.

Planting and Care

Bare-root figs can be planted anytime during the dormant season, but late winter or early spring is best; container-grown plants can be planted any time of the year. Fruit ripens between July and October and their size and taste varies according to the variety.

When planting, choose a location that receives full sun all day. Be aware that fig trees will often shade out competing vegetation below the tree canopy. Figs will not tolerate excessively wet soil, but need plenty of water during the fruiting season. Using mulch will help retain soil moisture. It will also deter root-knot nematodes; this pest is a major threat to fig production in Florida. Fig rust disease can also be a problem.

Since the fruit forms on terminals of wood from the year before, prune your fig only to maintain the preferred size. If you choose to prune, do so only after the fruit ripens, early in the summer; a heavy winter pruning has the potential to eliminate the next year’s crop.

Figs tolerate temperatures down to 18 degrees. If your tree suffers from freeze damage, it will regrow in bush form. Freeze-damaged wood should be pruned away once when regrowth begins.

For more information on growing figs in your landscape, contact your local county Extension office.

UF/IFAS Publications

  • The Fig

Also on Gardening Solutions

  • Mediterranean Gardens

Elsewhere on the Web

Texas AgriLife Extension has an excellent article that goes into further detail on fig propagation, “Figs” (PDF).

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