Fig trees are fast-growing fruit trees that are rather easy to grow and care for. They can be grown outside in warmer climates or set in containers to be brought in during the cold of winter in colder climates.
Known for the tree’s rich-tasting fruit and gorgeous billowing leaves, they are a spectacular addition to any backyard garden or food forest. Find out all that you need to know about planting figs and enjoy a bountiful harvest of robustly flavored figs.
Types of Figs and Pollination Requirements
There are four primary types of figs, but only one of them is traditionally grown by home gardeners, and that is the ‘Common Fig’ variety. It is most agreeable for backyard planting because this variety produces its fruit without the need for fertilization from other trees. The other three varieties-Caprigfigs, San Pedro, and Smyrna, have fertilization requirements that are very specific and complex.
Caprifigs produce exclusively male flowers and are nonfruit-bearing trees. Their sole purpose is to pollinate female fig trees like Smyrna.
Smyrna fig trees bear exclusively female flowers. They require pollination only by a caprifig tree.
San Pedro fig trees produce two distinctive crops. One requires pollination by a male bloom and requires no pollination whatsoever
Common figs do not need another tree for pollination, and they are less susceptible to damaging diseases.
Recommended Varieties of Figs
‘Celeste’ is an early-season small to medium-size purple to brown fig. It grows into a prolific tree and is a favorite among gardeners.
‘Hardy Chicago’ is a hardy variety of fig tree that yields medium-sized fruits.
‘Black Mission Figs’ produce a beauteous deep blueish purple fruit with a stunning pink flesh. It’s super sweet and delicious.
‘Alma’ figs are not quite as eye-catching when compared to its cousins, but it yields a late-season showstopper when it comes to flavor.
‘King’ is an excellent option for regions of the country that have colder climates. Its tree produces medium-sized figs that have a sweet, full-bodied flavor.
Bare-root fig trees can be planted at any time throughout the dormant season, but early spring is best. The great part about fig trees is that they can also thrive in containers. Container-grown trees can be planted just about any time of the year. Fruit from fig trees ripens between the months of July and October and comes in a variety of sizes, color ranges, and unique flavors.
First, choose a planting site that provides your fig sapling with full sun, excellent drainage, and protection from harsh conditions like frost pockets and harsh winds. When planting any tree, it is essential to remember that your young tree will become a large mature tree. For fig trees, this can mean a tree that soars to between 20 and 30 feet high and equally as wide, so be sure to take that into account when you choose your planting site.
Dig your hole two inches deeper than the plant’s root ball and two to three times its width. If the plant looks to be root-bound, gently loosen the tightly wound roots and clip some of the roots to aid in loosening them. Place the root ball into the hole and fill in the hole with fertile soil, pressing firmly with your boot as you go until all air pockets are gone, and the soil base is firm and level with the ground.
Spacing is essential when it comes to planting young trees. Trees need room to stretch out their branches as they grow toward full maturity. Proper spacing can also keep fungal diseases to a minimum. Due to the expansive potential of fig trees, they should be planted at least 20 feet from any obstruction.
Not sure if your fig tree should be planted outside or in a container? As a rule of thumb, fig trees should be planted outdoors only in USDA Zone 8 or higher. In USDA Grow Zones where winter temperatures plummet to less than 12 degrees, Farhenheit, fig trees are better candidates for container planting, so that they can be brought inside easily during harsh winter months.
Fig trees are not picky about their soil and can grow in a variety of soil types. Soil should be well-draining and enriched with a good amount of organic material. Fig trees enjoy a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5, so it’s best to obtain a soil test and amend your soil accordingly.
Young fig trees require regular watering for an average of two to three times per week as the sapling gets established. As time goes on and the tree takes hold in the ground, the young tree should be watered-in well on a less frequent basis, soaking the soil generously once a week especially when grown in dry climates.
Fig trees that are grown in pots require regular fertilization that is rich in nitrogen. If your outdoor tree is growing too slowly, you can also add a nitrogen amendment to your soil in late winter through mid-summer.
There are some common pests that may seek out fig trees. Gardeners should keep a close eye out for leaf spot, root-knot nematodes, mites, carpenter worms, darkling ground beetles, dried fruit beetles, earwig, thrips, and rust.
There is no guaranteed organic treatment that will completely eradicate every pest on this list, but your best defense is a good offense. Good planting, cultural practices, and a discerning eye can make all of the difference in combatting fig tree pests. Companion planting marigolds near your fig tree can help with pesky nematodes and other pests, while organic horticultural oil sprays can help smother others. If you notice damage to a limb, it is important to act quickly and prune the diseased portion and dispose of it far from the tree.
Pruning Fig Trees
Unlike most fruit-bearing trees, fig trees are pretty low maintenance. They require very little pruning for the amount of reward that they deliver. Pruning should take place during the dormant season when any diseased, dead, or gangly branches should be cut back to encourage rejuvenation and new growth.