By Jennifer Poindexter
Figs are a delicious fruit that are high in fiber and filled with flavor. You may use figs for everything from making preserves to cookies.
If you’re interested in producing your own figs, you’re in luck. Figs are grown on trees, and they’re relatively low-maintenance.
I’m going to share a few tips of what you should know when growing a fig tree. Then you can use this information to determine if this is the right fruit tree for you.
Here’s what you should know about caring for fig trees:
What You’ll Learn
- The optimal seasons to plant your fig tree to ensure healthy growth
- The specific growing conditions that favor fig trees, including the best soil type and sun exposure
- How to choose between planting in the ground or using a container, and the respective care processes for each
- The importance of space and proper placement when growing fig trees to avoid future complications
- Essential maintenance tips including watering, mulching, and fertilizing needs based on your growing method
- The pruning process to keep your fig tree in good shape and boost its productivity
- How and when to harvest figs to enjoy the freshest yield
- Methods to propagate new fig trees from a mature tree
- Ways to protect your fig tree from common pests and diseases and maintain its health
Tips on Caring for Fig Trees
Providing proper care to any plant is vital to its success. Here are a few ways you can encourage optimal growth from fig trees:
1. Plant Your Fig Tree at the Right Time
There are multiple ways to add fig trees to your garden or landscape. No matter how you start your fig tree, you’ll still need to transplant it at some point.
If growing your fig tree outdoors, ensure you plant it at the right time. Fig trees should be planted during the spring or fall while dormant.
It’s best to give the plant time to acclimate to a growing location before it begins worrying about producing. By planting at a time of dormancy, it gives the plant time for establishing its root system.
2. Provide the Right Growing Conditions for Your Fig Tree
Like all plants, fig trees have specific growing conditions which should be met to encourage greater health and production.
Fig trees prefer to grow in a location with full sunlight and soil that’s both nutrient dense and drains adequately.
Expect fig trees to remain hardy in planting zones eight and higher. If you live in a growing location below zone eight, it may be wise to consider different gardening methods for overwintering your plant.
3. Know the Best Gardening Method for a Fig Tree
Fig trees may grow in the ground, but they can also be grown in containers. I live in planting zone 7b and grow my fig trees outdoors in the ground.
I have no problem overwintering them this way. Yet, if you live in a colder climate, your trees may not survive winter.
In this case, choose a growing container that drains adequately and is large enough to support the tree’s root system. Fill it with well-draining soil and place the container in full sunlight during summer.
As winter approaches, move the container indoors. Be sure to keep the soil damp while the tree is inside.
4. Provide Adequate Space for Fig Trees
Fig trees become larger. They typically range in height from ten to thirty feet tall. Therefore, it’s important to give them plenty of room.
If growing the tree in a container, you can move it to where the tree isn’t bumping into things as it grows.
Yet, when trees are grown in the ground, it’s important to provide 20 feet of space between each tree or between a tree and the closest structure.
In my case, I inherited a fig tree that was already growing on my property when we bought it. This tree is planted against our home, and it seems to do fine.
We’ve actually tried to remove it over the years (since we have other fig trees on our property), and it keeps coming back larger each time. I don’t recommend planting a fig tree close to structures as you don’t want the roots to cause an issue for the structure it’s planted against or to cause issues for other plants growing nearby.
5. Provide the Basics for Your Fig Tree
Like most trees, over time the fig tree establishes deep enough roots that it shouldn’t need continuous watering from you if grown in the ground.
If grown in a container, you should check the soil to know when the tree needs more water. You should also be mindful of when the tree needs fresh soil or a larger container. Add fresh soil or provide a larger planter if the fig tree ever seems to struggle.
When growing fig trees in the ground, it’s important to water the plant deeply during the first two years to encourage deep roots.
As the tree matures, you should only need to water it during periods of severe drought. Ensure you pay close attention to the basic needs of a fig tree based upon the growing method selected.
6. Learn the Rules of Mulch and Fertilizer for Fig Trees
When growing a fig tree, be sure to only fertilize it with a balanced fertilizer if the tree is grown in a container. When grown in the ground, fig trees shouldn’t need this additional boost of nutrients.
However, it will need mulch. This is a great way to keep moisture in the soil around the tree, and it also keeps weeds down.
You don’t want weeds growing around your fig tree as this creates competition between the tree and weeds for nutrients and water. Plus, weeds provide a hiding space for pests and diseases.
When mulching around the tree, be mindful that you don’t pile it up the trunk. This is called volcano mulching and leads to rot within your tree. Keep these tips in mind when applying mulch to your fig tree.
7. Prune Your Fig Trees
Fig trees do enjoy a good pruning at the end of each growing season. Wait until the tree is dormant before you begin pruning.
From there, remove any parts of the tree that are dead, weak, or diseased. This helps your fig tree keep its shape.
However, pruning should also help your plant have a more productive season during the next growing period.
8. Harvest Your Figs at the Right Time
What’s the point of providing quality care to your tree if you can’t enjoy the harvest? It’s important to understand the rules of harvesting figs when growing this type of tree.
The first question most gardeners have is, how long does it take fig trees to produce? Most fig trees should produce a harvest within three to five years.
From there, expect figs to ripen between August and September. In some warmer climates, you may receive two harvests from your fig trees.
Figs should only be harvested when ripe. Be careful that you don’t allow them to become overly ripe as this attracts insects and makes picking the figs tricky.
Yet, you don’t want to pick the figs early as they won’t ripen once disconnected from the tree. Once picked be sure to store them in your refrigerator and consume them within two to three days. You may also freeze or dehydrate them for long-term storage.
9. Understand How to Propagate Fig Trees
What if you grow a fig tree and decide you want more? You don’t have to purchase another one. Instead, you can create more fig trees from the mature tree you already have.
Begin this process by removing a six-inch cutting from a dormant tree. Dip the cutting in rooting hormone and fill a planter with well-draining soil.
Place the cutting in the container and keep the soil evenly damp. You may wrap the container in plastic to create a greenhouse effect.
Keep the planter in a warm location with bright, indirect lighting. In approximately one month, the cutting should form roots. Continue to provide care until the tree becomes sturdy enough for transplanting outdoors or it can be transplanted into a larger container, if using this gardening method.
10. Protect Your Fig Trees From Pests and Diseases
The last thing you should do when providing adequate care for your fig tree is to protect it. Figs are known for having issues with rust, leaf spot, and thrips.
You may treat thrips by spraying the tree with an insecticide. Be sure to treat them at first sight to avoid a larger infestation.
If you see problems with rust or leaf spot, remove any damaged foliage from the tree. You should also spray the tree with a fungicide and, when pruning over winter, thin the branches of the tree for better airflow.
You now have ten tips for caring for a fig tree. Pick the growing method which works best for your situation.
From there, utilize these tips to keep your fig tree healthy and productive. Hopefully, you’ll be able to enjoy a fresh harvest of figs in the coming years.
- Plant your fig tree during its dormant period in spring or fall to allow proper root establishment
- Fig trees thrive in full sunlight and well-draining, nutrient-dense soil, with specific requirements based on your geographical location and planting zone
- Fig trees have versatile planting options including in-ground and container planting, each with its own set of guidelines for overwintering and space allocation
- Proper maintenance including adequate watering, mulching, and fertilizing is pivotal in nurturing a healthy fig tree, with distinct practices based on the growing method
- Pruning is an essential end-of-season care tip to maintain the tree’s shape and enhance its productivity in the subsequent growing period
- Harvest figs at the right maturity stage, typically between August and September, to enjoy a fresh and delicious yield
- Propagation of fig trees is possible through cuttings, allowing you to cultivate more trees from a mature one
- Be vigilant of pests and diseases such as rust, leaf spot, and thrips, and adopt timely measures including spraying insecticides and fungicides to protect your fig tree
- Knowledge about fig tree care equips you to successfully grow and enjoy a fresh harvest in the coming years, with a personalized approach based on your growing conditions and preferences
Fig Tree Quick Reference Growing Chart
|Growing Stage||Fig Tree Quick Growing Tips|
|Propagation||– use spring divisions or summer cuttings for propagation|
– root suckers can be planted in spring
– pliable branches can be pegged to the ground and tip rooted
|Soil and Location||– sunny, protected spot with a south-facing aspect|
– soil pH between 6.0-6.5
– use compost or well-rotted manure into the soil before planting
|Planting||– plant in spring after frost or in early fall|
– space plants 6-8 feet apart
– cut back the top to encourage lateral growth
|Maintenance||– prune out ground suckers and dead/weak wood each spring|
– protect from voles in winter
– watch for rust, leaf spot, and thrips
|Overwintering||– outdoor plants: protect with burlap, tarps, or insulating leaves|
– container plants: overwinter in the garage
|Container Growing||– full sun and water regularly|
– try cultivar ‘Petite Negri’ recommended for container growing
|Harvesting||– harvest from mid-September through frost|
– netting to protects from animals