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Fig Tree Container Size | Choosing the Right Pot for You

Updated: Aug 9, 2023



I'm always asked regarding potted fig trees, "What container size is best?"
Well, this article will give you all the information you need to make the right decision for you. From choosing from the sizes I recommend, to what pot materials you may like, to what soil to use. It's all here.

And don't forget, feel free to subscribe to the Fig Boss monthly newsletter for more fig-related content like this.

This may be obvious, but first...

Can I Grow a Fig Tree in a Pot?


To put it simply, yes. Fig trees can be grown in a pot. Not only do I vouch for this method based on my years of experience, but there are thousands of growers successfully growing fig trees in containers. In my early gardening days, I experimented with numerous fruiting plants in containers, concluding that the fig tree is one of the best fruit trees and fruiting plants to grow in a container.

Do Fig Trees Grow Well in Pots?


Absolutely. Fig trees grow well in pots. Based on my experience, a fig tree’s productivity in relation to its container size and the level of care required is ideal. A fig tree in a three or five-gallon container, which by the second or third year can produce between 50 to 75 figs. This yield can be increased by choosing a larger container, like a 10 or 15-gallon pot, which can potentially produce anywhere between 100 to 200 figs in a season.


Why Opt for Container-Grown Fig Trees?


  • Climate Concerns: For those residing in colder zones (zones 4 through 7), the ground might not be the best place for fig trees. Temperatures typically dropping below zero degrees Fahrenheit can be harmful, even to the hardiest fig varieties. Containers allow for mobility, protecting the plants from harsh temperatures.


For more on winterizing container fig trees, check out this detailed article, here:

  • Extended Growing Seasons: Gardeners can jumpstart the growing season by placing container fig trees in greenhouses during spring. This advantage helps not just in colder regions but also in places with shorter growing seasons.


To learn about growing fig trees in greenhouses, check out this article.

  • Space Constraints: Not everyone has the luxury of land. For those living in apartments with just a balcony, container-grown fig trees can be an opportunity, provided there's adequate sunlight.



So…

What is the Best Size Planter for a Fig Tree?


Choosing the right container size is important for your success. Too small and you may not reliably ripen high-quality fruits. Too large and you’ll never be able to move it. Therefore, the best-sized planter for your fig tree is at least a 3-gallon-sized pot, but I recommend choosing a size that's as large as possible. The larger the pot, the more fruits you'll be able to produce. However, you may need to move your tree and larger pots are difficult to lug around your yard or patio.

Here's a comparative analysis of the most common pot sizes.

1 Gallon Containers:


Pros:

  • Versatility: At approximately a 4x9 inch size or alternatively a 6x6 inch, these containers are perfect for rooting cuttings. They serve as an ideal introductory pot for young fig trees.

  • Mobility: Given their compact size, they are easy to move around, which is essential for ensuring optimal sunlight or for winter protection.

  • Shipping & Distribution: Their smaller size makes them lighter, which is advantageous for shipping across the country.


Cons:

  • Limited Growth: These pots tend to confine the tree's growth, limiting its height to about a foot and a half to two feet. This size constraint impacts the tree's fruit-bearing capabilities.

  • Short-Term Solution: These containers are not ideal for long-term growth. They're more of a transitional pot before the fig tree needs a larger space.


2 Gallon Containers:


Pros:

  • Transitional Growth: At an 8x8 inch size, these containers are perfect for transplanting younger trees and preparing them for either ground planting or another, larger container.

  • Initial Fruit Production: Trees of this size have the capability to start producing fruit, albeit in limited quantities.


Cons:

  • Increased Maintenance: Given the tree's growing maturity and still limited space, there might be a need for more frequent watering and monitoring.

  • Intermediate Productivity: While it can produce fruits, the yield is limited, making it an intermediate solution for those seeking a robust harvest.


3 Gallon Containers:


Pros:

  • Enhanced Productivity: Sized at roughly 10x10 inches, these pots can surprise gardeners with their productivity. A well-maintained tree in such a container can produce up to 50 figs annually.

  • Flexibility: These containers strike a balance between substantial productivity and mobility, making them a popular choice for many gardeners.

  • Space Considerations: As one approaches the larger end of the container spectrum, space, and weight become considerations, especially for those with smaller gardens or patios.



Cons:

  • Regular Maintenance: Despite being easy to move and heavy fruiters, these will still require root pruning or repotting every few years.


Larger Containers: Benefits and Challenges


For many gardening enthusiasts, the concept of "bigger is better" often rings true. In the world of fig tree cultivation, the container's size directly correlates with the tree's productivity, but it also comes with its own set of challenges.

Benefits:

  • Increased Productivity: A significant benefit of opting for a larger container is the noticeable jump in fruit yield. A five-gallon container (12x12 inch) has the capacity to produce an impressive 75 figs, given the right conditions. And for those with a bit more space and strength, the ten-gallon container can double that number, boasting a potential yield of up to 150 figs.

  • Root Space: The expansive volume of a larger container provides fig trees with ample room to stretch their roots. This not only ensures the potential for more nutrients but also means the tree will take longer to become root-bound, giving gardeners more time between necessary repotting or root pruning.

  • Stability: Larger containers, due to their weight and volume, offer more stability against strong winds or external disturbances. This can be particularly useful in areas prone to frequent storms or in bustling urban environments.


Challenges:

  • Mobility Concerns: One of the primary challenges with larger containers is their weight, which makes them cumbersome to move. Ross, with his extensive experience in fig tree cultivation, has personally set a limit at the 15-gallon size, emphasizing the difficulties of relocating pots beyond this capacity. This concern becomes even more pronounced for individuals who need to regularly shift their plants, either for seasonal protection or to optimize sunlight exposure.

  • Winter Protection in Colder Zones: For fig tree enthusiasts living in zones 5 to 7, winter can be a formidable foe. These larger containers are challenging to move to sheltered locations during the frosty months.

  • Space Limitations: While the increased yield of a larger container is tempting, it's essential to consider the available space. Especially in urban settings or smaller gardens, a ten or fifteen-gallon pot might simply be too imposing.

  • Difficulty when Root Pruning: While these larger trees require root pruning less often, they are a difficult job when performing the act due to their heavy nature.


Choosing the Right Pot for Your Fig Tree: A Material Comparison


Growing fig trees in containers offers flexibility and adaptability, but one crucial decision is choosing the right type of pot. The material of your pot can influence your tree's growth, health, and overall maintenance requirements. Let's delve into the pros and cons of some popular pot materials.

Fabric Pots or Grow Bags:


Pros:

  • Air Pruning: One of the standout features of fabric pots. As roots reach the edges of the pot, they encounter air which causes them to naturally prune themselves, promoting a healthier root system without the circling of roots.

  • Portability: The handles on many grow bags make them easy to move and adjust.

  • Affordability: Grow bags are generally cost-effective and available in various sizes.


Cons:

  • Durability: Over time, especially when exposed to the elements, fabric pots can degrade and may need replacement.

  • Moisture Control: Fabric pots can lead to faster evaporation, which might require more frequent watering. They also become saturated easily during heavy rains. Consistent soil moisture is the key to higher-quality fruits.

  • Soil Health: My personal experience is that the soil health of young fig trees in fabric pots has been found to be inferior to some other pot types.


Plastic Pots:


Pros:

  • Longevity: Plastic pots tend to last longer than fabric pots and can withstand the elements better.

  • Affordability: Like fabric pots, plastic pots are also pocket-friendly.


Cons:

  • Root Pruning: Trees in plastic pots can become root-bound, requiring root pruning every 1-3 years.

  • Environmental Concerns: Plastic pots don't biodegrade easily, posing an environmental concern. Plus, there are concerns about the potential impact on human health due to the chemicals in plastic.


Terracotta Pots:


Pros:

  • Natural Look: Offers an aesthetic, timeless appeal.

  • Biodegradable: Being natural clay, they will eventually break down and return to the earth.


Cons:

  • Weight: Terracotta pots can be quite heavy, especially when filled with soil and a plant.

  • Moisture Maintenance: The porous nature of terracotta can make moisture control challenging, often leading to faster soil drying.

  • Root Pruning: Trees in terracotta pots can become root-bound, requiring root pruning every 1-3 years.


Half Whiskey Barrels:


Pros:

  • Durability: These barrels are built to last and can serve as plant containers for many years.

  • Biodegradable: Being wood, they'll eventually break down naturally.

  • Natural Look: Offers an aesthetic, timeless appeal.


Cons:

  • Weight and Size: Their size can make them difficult to move and may not be suitable for all spaces.

  • Root Pruning: Trees in half whiskey barrels can become root-bound, requiring root pruning every 1-3 years. Due to their larger size, root pruning may be a difficult job.


The Influence of Container Color on Fig Tree Growth


When selecting a container for your fig tree, it's not only the material that counts but also the color. Surprisingly, the hue of your pot can significantly impact the soil temperature and, in turn, the overall health and productivity of your fig tree. This is especially true for fig trees, which flourish with an optimized soil metabolism around 78°F (25.6°C).


Black Pots: Beneficial for Cooler Climates


Pros:

  • Heat Absorption: Black pots are known to absorb more sunlight and retain heat, which can help increase soil temperature. This warmth can be beneficial in cooler climates where soil tends to stay on the chillier side.

  • Promotes Fruiting: Cooler soil often results in a delay of fruiting for fig trees. Black containers can alleviate this by maintaining a warmer soil environment, nudging the fig tree to fruit earlier.


Light-Colored Pots (especially white): Ideal for Warmer Climates


Pros:

  • Reflects Sunlight: Lighter-colored pots, especially white ones, tend to reflect sunlight rather than absorb it, helping to keep the soil cooler.

  • Prevents Summer Dormancy: Soil temperatures above 95°F (35°C) can push fig trees into a summer dormancy phase where growth halts. Light-colored pots can mitigate this risk in hotter climates by ensuring the soil doesn't get too hot.


Points to Consider:

  • Optimal Soil Temperature: While it's essential to factor in the external climate, always aim for that golden mean of soil temperature – around 78°F. At this temperature, fig trees perform their best, ensuring robust growth and healthy fruiting pattern.

  • Monitoring: It's wise to periodically check the soil temperature, especially during peak summer or winter days, to ensure it remains in the optimal range. There are affordable soil thermometers available that can help in this endeavor.

  • Consider Tin Foil & Mulch: Another alternative to light-colored pots may be simply using mulch. Mulch regulates the soil temperature while also promoting soil life. Tin foil wrapped around the sides can make a black pot reflect the sunlight allowing it to stay cool.


Choosing the Best Soil for Fig Trees in Pots


The success of your fig tree is deeply rooted in the soil you choose. Given the foundational role soil plays in providing nutrients, water, and essential microbial life to the tree, getting the mixture right is crucial. This is especially true for potted fig trees, which rely on the limited soil volume they have access to.

Understanding Fig Tree Roots: Fig trees boast an expansive and fibrous root system. This network necessitates a soil structure that both nurtures the roots and permits efficient airflow and water movement. Hence, your choice of soil should be well-draining but also have slightly larger particles than typical potting soil to support the tree's unique root characteristics.


Popular Soil Ingredients:


  • Compost: Provides essential nutrients and beneficial microbial life.

  • Worm Castings: A rich source of organic matter that boosts soil fertility.

  • Peat Moss and Coco Coir: These act as great moisture retainers.

  • Vermiculite and Perlite: Improve soil aeration and drainage.

  • Shredded Bark or Rice Hulls: Introduce larger particles to the mix to increase airflow around roots.

  • However, a word of caution: while compost, peat moss, coco coir, & worm castings create a nourishing base, they can be dense. This density can sometimes lead to over-retention of water, a condition that poses the threat of root rot. The remedy lies in striking a balance by mixing in elements that foster aeration and drainage.


Achieving the Perfect Balance:


When you water your fig tree, the soil should retain adequate moisture, letting any excess easily drain away. This balance ensures that the roots stay healthy, preventing them from drowning or rotting. A popular commercial blend that meets these requirements is Pro-Mix. But if you have a green thumb and a knack for experimentation, don't shy away from crafting your own mix using the suggested ingredients.

Q&A: Potted Fig Trees - Your Questions Answered


Q: Do fig plants need big pots?


A: While fig trees can start in smaller pots, as they grow, they'll benefit from larger containers. A more spacious pot allows for robust root growth and can support a larger, more fruitful tree. However, the optimal pot size depends on the specific fig variety and how big you intend the tree to grow.

Q: Can you grow figs in a 5-gallon bucket?


A: Yes, you can! A 5-gallon bucket is adequate for fig trees to grow in over the long term. However, as the tree grows, it will require root pruning or transplanting into a larger container to provide room for its expanding root system and to ensure optimal fruit production.

Q: Do fig trees need deep pots?


A: Fig trees do not need deep pots, however, it can be helpful. Fig tree roots tend to go outwards more than downwards. When starting young fig trees, a deep container can be beneficial. Afterward, I prefer wider pots to help avoid them blowing over in high winds.

Q: How long does it take for a potted fig tree to bear fruit?


A: A potted fig tree, given optimal conditions, typically starts bearing fruit within the first 6 months to 3 years after starting from cutting. In most cases, fig trees fruit in their first growing season. However, factors like tree variety, soil quality, sunlight, and overall care can influence this timeline.

Q: Do fig trees have large roots?


A: Fig trees are known for their expansive, fibrous root systems. While they can spread extensively in open ground, in containers, they'll conform to the available space. This characteristic is one reason why periodic repotting or root pruning is essential to maintain a healthy potted fig tree.

Q: Is it better to grow figs in the ground or in a container?


A: Both methods have their advantages. Ground planting allows fig trees to grow larger and spread their roots more extensively, often resulting in larger harvests. However, container planting provides more flexibility, especially in cooler climates where figs are not hardy. With containers, trees can be moved indoors during harsh winters, or to achieve earlier fruiting by extending the growing season.


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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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