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Do You Water a Fig Tree in Winter? A Guide to Watering Potted Dormant Fig Trees

Updated: Jan 8

Do You Water a Fig Tree in Winter?



During the months when fig trees are dormant, I’m always asked, “Do you water a fig tree in the winter?” It’s probably the most common topic I hear about; water. How much, when, and what do I recommend? And that’s fair. It’s the source of all life and we as humans tend to worry more about the hydration of our plants than our bodies. Go figure. 

New growers don’t realize that the need for water is significantly reduced without leaves and during colder periods. During dormancy, I don’t water my potted fig trees but with three caveats. It’s all about the right preparation. Additionally, overwatering can lead to root rot. I hear stories every year about growers who lose potted fig trees because they babied them too much during dormancy.

Now, you definitely can water fig trees safely during dormancy, and for trees in smaller pots, it’s beneficial. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll give you all the tips to ensure your fig trees receive the perfect amount of hydration throughout the winter months

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Preparing Potted Fig Trees for Winter Storage



Deep Soak: Before storing your fig trees, give them a thorough soaking to saturate the soil. This provides a water reserve for the dormant period.

Mulch is Magic: Apply at least a 2-3 inch layer of mulch on top of the soil. This acts as an insulator, slowing evaporation and extending the time between waterings.

Humidity Matters: Humidity plays a crucial role in soil moisture retention. In humid environments, the soil dries out at a slower pace, allowing for less frequent watering. The soil loses moisture faster in drier settings, necessitating more regular checks.

If you can follow these 3 simple prerequisites, watering during dormancy can be ignored. Take it from me, I’ve made all of the mistakes and purposely went against conventional wisdom time and time again to learn everything I can about fig trees.


What About Fig Trees in Small Pots?



For 1 or 2-gallon-sized fig trees, I would advise giving them 1-2 waterings during dormancy. Smaller pots dry out faster. If you’re growing fig trees in fabric pots or grow bags, they dry out quickly as well. Even the larger sizes.


Understanding a Fig Tree’s Root System


Myth: All fig trees have the same hydration needs during dormancy.


Fact: Factors such as pot size, environmental conditions, and tree size influence the appropriate amount of water for dormant fig trees. 


Myth: Fig trees have the same water needs year-round.


Fact: Dormant fig trees have reduced metabolic activity and therefore require less water compared to their active growth phases. For example, when the soil is warm (78F is optimal) a fig tree’s metabolism is at its highest. During dormancy, the metabolic activity is close to none. Compare that to our own bodies when we get cold or too warm.

Fig trees also have a fibrous root system prone to root rot. Even during the growing season. If the soil is saturated for too long, that slowly changes the soil to anaerobic causing the deterioration of a fig tree’s roots and eventually leading to death.

That’s why…

Watering Dormant Fig Trees: Frequency & Timing



Less is More: Err on the side of dryness. Excess moisture is far more detrimental than underwatering. 2-6 ounces is all fig trees need per watering. Check on your trees 45-60 days after placing them in winter storage.

Monitoring Moisture Levels: Use a moisture meter for accurate readings, especially in deeper pots. Alternatively, stick your finger into the soil; a slightly damp top layer is sufficient.

Emerging from Storage: Bring your fig trees out of storage 2-4 weeks before your last frost date, marking the start of their active growth phase. The first thing I do is water my potted fig trees to rehydrate the roots aiding them in their wake-up process from dormancy.


Conclusion


By following these simple tips and understanding the unique needs of your dormant fig trees, you can ensure their health and happiness throughout the winter, setting them up for a beautiful and productive harvest.

Looking for more information? I would highly suggest reading the Fig Tree Timeline. It’s a calendar I’ve created to give you all the tips you need at any point during the growing season. The perfect tool for new growers. Check it out, here.

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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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