Updated: Feb 2
Fig trees have been enjoyed for their delicious fruit for thousands of years. They are also prized for their beauty, versatility, and ease of care. Whether grown in a garden, in a pot or indoors, fig trees make a great addition to any landscape.
If you're interested in growing your own fig tree, this article will provide answers to some of the most common questions about how to care for, propagate, plant, and harvest fig trees. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or just starting out, this article is packed with tips and advice to help you get the most out of your fig tree.
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2. How to care for a fig tree
Fig trees are relatively low-maintenance plants, but proper care is key to ensuring a healthy and productive tree. Here are some tips for caring for your fig tree.
How to water a fig tree:
The best way to water a fig tree is to provide a consistent amount of water every day rather than a deep, thorough watering once or twice a week. A consistent watering schedule that keeps the soil ‘moist’ is the key to improving fruit quality and reducing the occurrence of splitting.
The soil should be kept moist but not waterlogged.
During the fruit-bearing season, it's important to provide consistent watering to prevent the fruit drop and splitting.
Do fig trees need a lot of water?
Figs trees do not need a lot of water. They are drought-tolerant, but regular watering will ensure better growth and fruit production.
For all the details on watering fig trees, check out this article, here:
How to make a fig tree grow faster:
A fig tree will grow faster by providing consistent water, nutrients, and sunlight. Water is the ‘on or off’ switch of fast growth.
Provide adequate sunlight, water, and good drainage.
Avoid overcrowding by pruning and removing any competing vegetation.
How much sun does a fig tree need?
Fig trees prefer full sun or as much sunlight hours as possible but they will tolerate light shade.
At least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day is recommended for optimal growth and fruit production. Some fig varieties require more, like the Smith fig so do your research when choosing a fig variety to grow
Improve your pruning and staking skills to provide the tree with better sunlight penetration into the canopy.
For more on the importance of sunlight and how it's related to production, click here:
3. How to fertilize fig trees
Fertilizing your fig tree is important for promoting healthy growth and maximum fruit production. Here's what you need to know:
The best fertilizer for fig trees:
The best fertilizer for fig trees is a well-balanced fertilizer that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (such as 20-10-20). Fig trees also want higher quantities of sulfur, magnesium, calcium, and silica. These nutrients are ideal for fig trees.
Consider getting a soil test to determine if your soil is missing any key nutrients. Fix those deficiencies immediately.
Avoid frequent applications of high-nitrogen fertilizers, as they encourage fruit cracking that leads to lower fruit quality.
For a more detailed look at fig tree fertilization, click here:
How fast do fig trees grow?
Fig trees grow very fast and can grow 6-15 ft larger in one growing season. They’re one of the fastest-growing species of fruit-producing trees, vines, and shrubs.
Regular watering, fertilizing, and winter pruning can help the tree to grow faster.
Remember to always follow the manufacturer's instructions for fertilizing your fig tree and adjust the frequency and amount of fertilizer based on the tree's size and age. Over-fertilizing can lead to problems such as leaf burn, stunted growth, and even death.
4. Growing a fig tree in a pot
Can I grow a fig tree in a pot?
Yes, Fig trees can be grown in pots, making them a great option for those with limited outdoor space. They’re truly one of the best fruiting plants to grow in containers. Keep in mind that container-grown fig trees should be re-potted every 2-3 years to prevent overcrowding.
The best soil for fig trees in pots:
Fig trees prefer well-draining soil, so a mix of peat moss and perlite called ProMix is ideal.
You can also create your own potting mix. I like to use:
Vermiculite, pine bark & rice hulls.
You can also add some native soil, compost, and worm castings to your mix to give your container-grown fig trees some additional life.
Make sure to use a pot with good drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.
The best fertilizer for fig trees in pots:
The best fertilizer for fig trees in pots is a balanced fertilizer of 20-10-20 that covers the macronutrients while additionally covering the necessary micronutrients and trace minerals that potting soils don’t contain.
Fertilize regularly during the beginning of the growing season, but avoid over-fertilizing which can lead to leaf burn and stunted growth.
Growing fig trees in pots can be a great way to enjoy fresh figs from your own yard. Just make sure to provide proper care, including adequate sunlight, water, and fertilizer. And remember to re-pot the tree every few years to keep it healthy and productive.
5. How to care for a fig tree indoors
Can you grow a fig tree indoors?
Yes, fig trees can be grown indoors, providing fresh fruit and ornamental beauty to your home, but if given the option, don’t be afraid to move your fig tree outdoors for the spring, summer & fall.
Fig trees do require adequate sunlight, water, and proper care to thrive indoors. Miss any one of these crucial pieces to the puzzle and your tree will struggle or die like any other houseplant.
Place the fig tree near a sunny window and under artificial light for at least 12 hours a day.
I recommend getting a timer that’s hooked up to grow lights.
Your grow lights should be full-spectrum and placed at the appropriate distance away from the fig tree for optimal photosynthesis and fruit production.
Don’t overwater your fig tree. Fig tree roots are particularly prone to root rot.
Watering a Fig Tree Indoors:
Keep the soil evenly moist, but not waterlogged.
Water when the top inch of soil is dry, and make sure to drain any excess water to prevent root rot.
Consider mulching the top of the soil. This can help regulate soil moisture found within your containers.
Growing a fig tree indoors can be a great way to enjoy fresh figs and add greenery to your home. With proper care, your indoor fig tree can produce fruit and provide beauty for years to come.
6. How to prune a fig tree
Pruning is an important part of maintaining the health and productivity of fig trees. Here's what you need to know:
Can I cut the top of my fig tree off?
Yes, the top of a fig tree can be cut off to control its height and form its important branching structure called scaffolds. This technique is called topping or pinching.
Topping can be done in late winter or early spring before the tree begins to leaf out.
You can also top or pinch your fig tree during the growing season to encourage the branching that you desire.
Topping during the growing season will lead to the desired form and mature size of a fig tree in a shorter period of time.
For a detailed look at fig tree formation, click here:
How to prune a fig tree:
Remove any dead, diseased, or damaged branches, cutting back to a healthy shoot or bud.
Thin out crowded or crossing branches to increase airflow and sunlight penetration.
Trim out long shoots to control the tree's size and shape.
For a detailed look at fig tree pruning, click here:
Taking a cutting from a fig tree:
Fig trees can be propagated from cuttings that are taken in winter or summer.
When taking fig tree cuttings during the summer, cut 6 or more inches from a healthy branch, and remove most of the leaves. Stick the cutting in a moist rooting medium and keep it warm and moist until roots form.
When taking fig tree cuttings during the winter, put 6 or more inches from a healthy branch and store in it plastic in your crisper drawer until you’re ready to root it outside or until your indoor rooting environment is set up.
Pruning is important for the health and productivity of fig trees. Regular pruning can help control the tree's size, and shape, and promote healthy growth. With proper pruning techniques, you can ensure your fig tree remains productive and attractive for years to come.
7. How to propagate fig trees
Propagating fig trees is a great way to create new trees and share your love of figs with others. Here are a few ways to propagate fig trees:
Growing a Fig Tree from Seed:
Obtaining viable fig tree seeds can be difficult as they need to be taken from a female fig of your choosing that was pollinated by a male caprifig.
Fig tree seeds should be planted in pots.
Keep the soil moist, warm, and in a sunny location until seedlings emerge.
Transplant seedlings into larger pots or in the ground once they are large enough.
Rooting Fig Cuttings:
Score the end of the fig cutting and dip the cut end of the branch in rooting hormone and plant it in a moist and well-draining rooting medium.
Keep the cutting in a warm, bright location outdoors, or use strong full-spectrum grow lights and mist it regularly to keep the rooting medium moist.
Grafting Fig Trees:
Grafting is the process of attaching a scion of a mature fig tree variety that you enjoy eating and growing onto a young rootstock that’s not suitable to your preferences.
A few common grafting techniques include bud grafting, whip grafting, cleft grafting, and approach grafting.
Air layering Fig Trees:
Air layering is the process of rooting a fig tree branch while it is still attached to the parent tree.
Make a shallow cut in the branch, girdling the branch to remove the cambium and exposing the white hardwood.
Apply rooting hormone to the girdle if you desire.
Wrap the branch with a container that’s cut down the side or a plastic bag that is filled with moist sphagnum peat moss.
Wrap the air layer with tin foil to keep the air layer from drying out in the sun.
8. Planting Fig Trees
Planting a fig tree is a great way to enjoy indescribably tasty fresh figs and is a way to add a touch of nature to your landscape. Here are some tips to help you plant a fig tree:
Choosing the Right Location:
Fig trees need full sun, at least 6-8 hours a day. The more sunlight the better.
Choose a warm location to simulate your tree’s natural habitat. You can determine your warmest micro-climate by watching where the snow melts first or by taking soil temperature readings throughout the day.
Don’t be afraid to plant your fig tree near a structure. They will not harm your foundation. Take it from me, I have literally 100s planted within 6 feet or right up against my home.
They prefer well-drained soil, so consider planting your tree on higher ground in a berm or on a mound.
Consider the size of the fig tree when it is mature when choosing the location.
Planting the Fig Tree:
Fig trees can be planted in the ground or in pots.
Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball.
Place the tree in the hole, backfill it with native soil, and water it well.
Add soil amendments to the top of the soil if needed.
Mulch the tree to conserve moisture and reduce weed growth.
How big do fig trees get?
Fig trees can grow up to 40-70 feet. They can grow to be quite large, but their size can be easily controlled through pruning.
How long for a fig tree to bear fruit?
Fig trees can bear their first fruits in only 6 months. The exact timing depends on the variety, conditions, and location. In their first year when your fig tree is grown from cutting, it’s likely that your tree will ripen its first fruits during that first growing season.
In terms of full fruit production, fig trees typically start bearing heavily within 3-5 years of planting.
How long do fig trees live?
Fig trees are long-lived and can thrive for many decades or even longer. The lifespan of a fig tree can vary greatly, but with proper care and protection, some fig trees have been known to live for over 100 years, making them a great addition to a long-term homestead or garden plan.
Planting a fig tree is a great way to enjoy fresh figs and add a touch of nature to your landscape. With a sunny location and well-drained soil, you can grow a productive and healthy fig tree.
9. Fig Tree Winter Protection
Can fig trees survive winter?
Most fig trees are hardy to about 10F and will survive cold winter temperatures with no issues. Others can like Chicago Hardy can survive 0F without protection, but for those of us in zones 6B-7A, winter protection will be necessary.
How to protect a fig tree during winter:
Mulching and limb bending - Bend branches towards the ground and cover them with insulative materials like mulch. This is an effective way to help to insulate the roots and protect the branches from freezing temperatures.
Wrapping - If temperatures are expected to drop below 10°F, consider wrapping the fig tree in burlap, tarps, and other insulative material to help protect it from the cold.
Relocating pots: If you are growing a fig tree in a pot, consider moving it to a protected area such as a garage, shed, or greenhouse during the winter months.
For more detailed information and other creative methods of winter protection, click here:
How to wrap a fig tree for winter:
Step 1: Consider pruning your fig tree to make the size of the tree more manageable to wrap. Then string up all of the branches & trunks to bring them in close with twine or bungee cords.
Step 2: Then I wrap the branches and trunks in burlap, housing insulation, moving blankets, bubble wrap, pipe insulation, or fleece row cover.
Step 3: Cover the frame or wrapped up and insulated branches with a tarp, concrete blanket, tar paper or roofing felt and string it up tightly again with twine and bungee cords to make it as airtight as possible.
Step 4: Add a heavy-duty empty plastic container or trash can on top. Fold the tarp or outermost layer of wrapping downwards and place the trash can on top to seal the top so that the top of the wrapping can be more insulative.
Step 5: Mulch around the base of the wrapping to trap in the heat from the earth so that not a lot of cold air is getting in the wrapping from underneath.
For more detailed information on wrapping, click here:
10. Identification & Harvesting
What does a fig tree look like?
Fig trees are easily recognizable by their unique leaves, which are typically large and lobed. The tree attains a round crown and is either trained as a tree or will naturally grow as a bush. The fruit of the fig tree is also distinctive. They’re usually pear-shaped with ribbing and soft, jam-like flesh and a unique sweet taste.
What does a ripe fig look like?
A ripe fig cannot be determined solely by eye, but instead by touch. The best way to tell if a fig is ripe is if it has a soft neck. Figs ripen from the bottom up so if the neck is soft, you know that the whole fig is ripe.
Look for fruit that is plump, drooping, and the appropriate color that your variety turns.
The skin could also be slightly wrinkled and cracked and there may be a drop of solidified fig nectar leaking from the eye.
After picking you can confirm that your fig is ripe by looking at where the fig detached from the tree. Is any white sap present? None should be.