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10 Fig Varieties | The Best, Worst, Sweetest, Largest & Most Productive



Grow the right fig tree, you'll want to plant another:


90% of the information on fig trees and fig varieties on the internet is either regurgitated or in some form incorrect. That's why I created this blog. To set the record straight and educate the masses on this very special fruit.

Fig varieties come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, each with its own unique flavor and texture. And with so many fig varieties to choose from, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for you. In this guide, we'll take a look at some of the most popular fig tree varieties and their unique characteristics, to help you choose the perfect one for your backyard.

As always if you want more fig-related content like this, feel free to subscribe to the Fig Boss newsletter at the top of the page.

Let's get the basics about fig varieties out of the way


Q: Do all fig varieties taste the same?


A: No, not all fig varieties taste the same. Does a Gala apple taste the same as a Granny Smith apple? Like apples and every other fruit, each fig variety has different flavors and textures.

Some figs are sweeter and juicier, while others are more acidic and taste like berries. Others taste like honey straight from the jar while some have the texture of jam, meat, or even cake! Yes, you read that right.


To see a detailed breakdown of the different flavors and textures found within fig varieties, see the detailed fig flavor profiles article, here:

Why do some fig varieties have different shapes, colors, and sizes?


Fig varieties have different shapes, colors, and sizes because of their genetics. Just like us, our characteristics are largely determined by our genetics given to us by our parents.

We are also evolving, mutating, and changing constantly! Even if you can't see it, plants and fig trees are no different. They have evolved to adapt to different climates and conditions.

Take the Panache fig aka the Tiger fig for example. It's got stripes! This is what's called a rimada fig, which occurred from a chimera mutation. A single branch of a fig tree mutated and started to display different growing characteristics, variegated wood, and variegated figs.


That branch was then cut from the parent tree and was propagated to grow on its own to continue on as a mutant fig superhero. Feel free to chime in with any clever fig superhero names.

Why choosing the right fig variety matters


Choosing the right fig variety can make all the difference in so many positive or even negative ways. A variety that is well suited to your climate and taste preferences will ensure that your getting the fig experience that you deserve.

It's heartbreaking when you put years of work into a tree to finally realize that it's just not suited to your location because it will rarely produce high quality figs and in some cases, may never produce fruit that's even edible!

Fig varieties are very location specific because they're so highly subjected to their environment while they're ripening. Unlike many other fruits, the fig can be destroyed in its final ripening stage. It's a soft fruit that can absorb water into its skin causing cracking, splitting, mold & fermentation all because the inside of the fruit gets exposed to the outside elements of nature.

An apple has a hard covering. A persimmon has a hard covering. Berries and other soft fleshed fruits are also susceptible to bad weather conditions, but they have a short window of time in which they're soft and ready to be picked. Figs can be soft hanging on the tree for 5, 10 or even 15 days!

How to choose the right fig variety for your climate


When choosing a fig variety, it's important to consider the climate in your area during the winter, summer and fall.

  • Some fig varieties are more tolerant of cold weather and others can be grown in climates that have mild summers because of their reliable breba production or their early main crop harvest period.

  • Others are better suited for humid climates because they don't need to hang as long on the tree and they have a skin that acts like a waterproof jacket. The water just slides right off.

  • Others are better suited to warmer climates and have the ability to taste incredible even in 100-110F temperatures.



The varietal characteristics for high quality figs in humid & mild climates can be found here:

10 of the best, worst and commonly found fig varieties and why you should or shouldn't grow them


Black Mission Fig (Ficus carica 'Black Mission') - This fig variety is known as one of the most commonly grown varieties in the world. Specifically, for commercial production as it has above average drying capabilities and thick skin.

  • Fruit characteristics: A medium sized purple skinned fig with a light red colored flesh. The fruits taste of mild berries, honey and dried fruit. This variety can crack and split in times of high moisture. This fig would not be my recommendation, but it is better suited for those in hot & dry climates that want an average tasting and reliable fig.

  • Cold hardiness: Zones 6-10

  • Ripening period: Midseason

  • Climate preferences: Hot & dry

  • Other unique facts: This variety produces a nice breba crop, so locations that have mild summers and falls may want to consider this fig as an option.



Brown Turkey Fig (Ficus carica 'Brown Turkey') - This is one of the worst fig varieties that you could choose. It is a poor performer in most locations in the US. I would highly recommend many other fig varieties over this one.

  • Fruit characteristics: A large sized brown or red skinned fig with a light red or brown colored flesh. The fruits have a hollow cavity inside with simple flavor and high sweetness. The figs are known to have an open eye and a skin that absorbs water during times of moisture. While this can be a good choice in dry places, there are much better tasting and performing figs in those locations. It is not for the backyard fig grower.

  • Cold hardiness: Zones 7-10

  • Ripening period: Midseason

  • Climate preferences: Hot & dry

  • Other unique facts: This variety is commonly mixed up all of the time. There's only one true Brown Turkey that hails from Turkey and is now widespread all over the world for its large size and commercial qualities. But others you may hear of is an English Brown Turkey called Olympian and a fig called Southern Brown Turkey.



Hardy Chicago (Ficus carica 'Hardy Chicago') - The most well known hardy fig variety in the world. It can withstand temperatures of 0F.

  • Fruit characteristics: A small to medium sized purple skinned fig with a dark red colored flesh. The fruits are quite tasty because of their interesting strawberry, cherry or blueberry like flavor. They are sweet, earthy, well balanced and boast a nice eating experience in addition to its exceptional hardiness. Perfect for any northern zone 6 or 7 climate that needs an extra bit of hardiness.

  • Cold hardiness: Zones 6-10

  • Ripening period: Early

  • Climate preferences: Well adapted to every climate

  • Other unique facts: Contrary to the regurgitated and incorrect information all over the internet regarding fig trees, this fig can only withstand 0F without protection. Very few varieties if any can survive a lower temperature unprotected.



Violette de Bordeaux (Ficus carica 'Violette de Bordeaux') - Like the name suggests, Violette de Bordeaux is originally from the Bordeaux region of France, and is now widespread all over the world. It's known for it's reliable and complexly flavored main crop and breba production.

  • Fruit characteristics: A medium sized black skinned fig with a red colored flesh. The fruits are known to have a complex blueberry or strawberry flavor with high sweetness. It's overall one of the best fig varieties in existence that will perform well everywhere. Black Mission is a similar fig in many ways, but I would highly recommend choosing Violette de Bordeaux over it for home growers.

  • Cold hardiness: Zones 6-10

  • Ripening period: Midseason

  • Climate preferences: Well adapted to every climate

  • Other unique facts: Produces a quality breba crop that rivals in quality to the main crop. My other choice for a fantastic breba producer is Desert King, which is mentioned below.



Celeste (Ficus carica 'Celeste') - The standard for fig varieties when grown in humid climates.

  • Fruit characteristics: A small sized brown, blue or grey skinned fig with a light red to dark red colored flesh. The fruits have a combination of sugar and mild berry flavors similar to concord grapes and blueberries. The perfect fig for very humid climates like the South and Northeastern US.

  • Cold hardiness: Zones 6-10

  • Ripening period: Early

  • Climate preferences: Well adapted to every climate

  • Other unique facts: Celeste is also called "sugar" fig for its sweet flavor and has become the posterchild for its own category of the fig flavor profiles that I created called Sugar figs.



Desert King (Ficus carica 'Desert King') - The most well known producer of reliable & tasty breba crop figs. The classic San Pedro type fig.

  • Fruit characteristics: A medium sized green skinned fig with a light red colored flesh. The fruits have a combination of berry and honey flavors that ripen early due to its ability to reliably ripen a breba crop. Perfect for mild locations like the UK, San Francisco or parts of the PNW.

  • Cold hardiness: Zones 7-10

  • Ripening period: Early

  • Climate preferences: Well adapted to every climate

  • Other unique facts: Desert King known as the "king of fig" also produces a very tasty main crop when pollinated. The only fig on this list requiring pollination of the main crop.



LSU purple (Ficus carica 'LSU Purple') - My choice for anyone looking for unique fig flavors.

  • Fruit characteristics: A medium sized purple skinned fig with amber colored flesh. The fruits are a unique mixture of mild berry flavors, sugar flavors and honey. It also has a spicey or bitter skin that can be a turnoff for some. Perfect for Florida as it is root-knot nematode resistant.

  • Cold hardiness: Zones 6-10

  • Ripening period: Early

  • Climate preferences: Well adapted to every climate

  • Other unique facts: One of the official releases from the LSU breeding program of the 1950s. Originally bred with Celeste.


Kadota (Ficus carica 'Kadota') - The first commercial fig grown during Roman times for its excellent drying abilities and thick skin. Very popular in Italy and among old-school Italian Americans for its classic honey fig flavor.

  • Fruit characteristics: A medium sized yellow skinned fig with amber colored flesh. The fruits are very sweet, with simple flavors and it produces a lot of fig nectar that resembles honey, hence the name honey fig. Perfect for those who grew up with this style of fig.

  • Cold hardiness: Zones 6-10

  • Ripening period: Early

  • Climate preferences: Hot & dry

  • Other unique facts: This fig goes by the name Peter's Honey, Dotatto, White Texas Everbearing and many others.



Smith (Ficus carica 'Smith') - My choice for anyone wanting a superb eating experience in a humid climate.

  • Fruit characteristics: A medium sized grey skinned fig with a dark red colored flesh. The fruits have a well balanced and strong berry flavor that has a fantastic ability to shed water instead of absorbing it into its skin. Its biggest downfall is its low hardiness rating. Perfect for the South and Northeasteastern US.

  • Cold hardiness: Zones 7-10

  • Ripening period: Midseason

  • Climate preferences: Well adapted to every climate

  • Other unique facts: Originally from Croatia, the Becnel family started growing this variety in France eventually moving to the Southern US and bringing Smith with them where they started a fruit tree nursery and sold this fig variety all over the South for many years.



Black Madeira (Ficus carica 'Black Madeira') - Well regarded as the best tasting fig variety. A fig that most of you reading should try and go the extra step to grow.

  • Fruit characteristics: A medium sized black skinned fig with a dark red colored flesh. The fruits are intensely berry flavored and very sweet with a thick skin that allows it to withstand temperatures of 100-110F. It's worst quality is that it will split in times of moisture or high humidity making it difficult to achieve a high quality fruit reliably in humid places. Perfect for dry locations like Southern California, Arizona and West Texas.

  • Cold hardiness: Zones 6-10

  • Ripening period: Late

  • Climate preferences: Hot & dry

  • Other unique facts: The best tasting fig out of 100s of fig varieties that hobbyists have grown from the entire USDA fig repository at UC Davis.



Tips for Fig Tree Care and Maintenance:


Fig trees are relatively easy to care for, but here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that they thrive:

Make sure that your fig tree is planted in well-drained soil and in a location that gets plenty of sunlight.

  • Full sun is ideal for fig trees, but some varieties require less sunlight to set their fruit buds. Another critical fig variety feature to determine when choosing your own.

  • Water your fig tree regularly to keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged.

  • Fertilize your fig tree with a balanced NPK fertilizer in the spring that covers all of your micronutrients to promote healthy growth and fruit production. Correct deficiencies immediately.



Pruning is also important for fig trees, as it helps to keep the tree healthy and productive:

  • Prune fig trees in late winter or early spring before new growth appears.

  • Remove any dead, diseased, or crossing branches and thin out the canopy to allow sunlight and air to reach the interior of the tree.



It's also important to keep an eye out for pests and diseases that can affect fig trees:

  • Common pests include fig beetles, scale, and aphids. The fruits themselves can be affected by wasps, fruit flies, slugs and many other insects and critters while their ripening.

  • Common diseases include fig rust & fig mosaic virus (FMV). FMV can easily be lessened with a technique called Rejuvenation pruning.


Frequently Asked Questions


Q: Where can I buy lesser-known varieties of fig trees?


A: Lesser-known fig varieties can be purchased on this website (during May-November), or on FigBid.com - FigBid is a place where many people like myself who are deeply interested in figs, gather to sell trees and cuttings from their special varieties.

Q: How many fig varieties are there?


A: There are thousands of different fig varieties, each with its own unique characteristics determined by its unique genetics.

Unfortunately the world of fig varieties can get confusing because of the 1000s of different names. There's a lot to learn! And a lot of them are what are called synonyms of other varieties.

A synonym in the world of fruit are varieties with different names, but they're pretty much identical genetically.

A simple breakdown and list of fig variety synonyms can be found, here:

Q: What are the best fig varieties?


A: The best fig varieties depend on personal taste preferences and your growing conditions. The best fig in your yard is going to have a great eating experience, but ripen at a high quality consistently to give you the flavors and textures you desire.

In my yard, one of the most well regarded and best tasting fig varieties called Black Madeira does not ripen at a high quality consistently. Even though it has the potential to taste the best, it rarely does in my orchard due to weather conditions.


Q: Explain more about fig taste & fig flavor?


A: Fig varieties can produce a wide range of flavors, taste and textures. Some taste like berries, others are classified as a sugar figs and some are known as honey figs.

  • Berry figs for example can taste more like the berry they resemble than the berry itself! Some fig varieties taste more like a blueberry than a blueberry!

  • Each 'type' of fig is quite unique from another, which I've separated into categories or what I am calling flavor profiles to make understanding fig flavor a lot easier. You can read about the fig flavor profiles here:

  • Lets not forget about texture as some have quite a meatiness to them. While others are like jelly, jam, are juicy, syrupy and some of my favorites resemble a pastry. They're truly one of nature's most amazing fruits.



You're ready to grow some indescribably tasty fig varieties


Fig trees are a delicious and easy-to-grow addition to any backyard. With so many different varieties available, there's a fig tree out there to suit every gardener's needs. By understanding the unique characteristics of each variety and providing the proper care and maintenance, you can enjoy fresh figs from your own backyard for years to come.

I hope that this guide has provided you with the information you need to choose the perfect fig tree variety for your backyard and care for it properly.



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Hi, I'm in Hawaii at about 500 feet elevation. I just started Black Mission and Violette de Bordeaux 6 months ago. We get around 60-70 inches of rain a year. Which type of fig would do best in this area?


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Great article. I live in La Porte, Tx and just bought a house with a fig "bush) less than two months ago. It has multiple main branches and has grown at least 5 X it's original size since we moved in. Looks more like a large bush than a tree. How can I tell what variety it is? I am bookmarking your site.

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Ross "The Boss" is The Man. I've been growing and propagating figs for nearly a decade, and I only found out about him this year. Had I done so ten years earlier I could have saved myself a lot of unnecessary work and. had better results.


I'm starting about 80 trees this year from cuttings. 4 different varieties. Mostly for local friends and neighbors. I review his sites and posts a lot lately. Lots of variables. Lots of ways to do this, and getting it right makes a HUGE difference.


Thank You Ross.

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Hi Ross I'm fairly new to fig growing and now live in Pittsburgh area PA. Which varieties would you recommend that would do well in ground and/or in containers.


Also is there anyway to identify a fig tree with unknown name?


Thanks

Paul in PA

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Shakti Shakti
Shakti Shakti
2023年8月30日

Which nursery do you recommend to buy quality figs from?

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ross raddi_edited.jpg
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I'm Ross, the "Fig Boss." A YouTuber educating the world on the wonderful passion of growing fig trees. Apply my experiences to your own fig journey to grow the best tasting food possible.
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