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Growing Figs from Cuttings: How to Master the Art of Rooting Fig Cuttings

Updated: Jan 18



Discover the ins and outs of rooting fig cuttings with my easy-to-follow guide, packed with expert tips, foolproof methods, and essential tools. I’ll walk you through the entire process.

Say goodbye to failed attempts and hello to lush, healthy figs as you delve into the art of propagation and transform your garden into a fig lover's paradise!

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

Taking Fig Cuttings


Taking cuttings from a fig tree is the first step when trying to propagate a new tree.
The best time to take fig cuttings is in winter or when your tree is dormant. This allows you to take hardwood cuttings, which are more likely to root successfully and don’t require a misting setup like softwood cuttings would. See the section of the article below about rooting green softwood cuttings.

When it comes to selecting wood to prune off of your own fig tree, there are no hard and fast rules on size, shape, or lignification level. The key to success lies in maintaining the right soil moisture and rooting environment. However, hardwood cuttings taken from in-ground trees that have healthy growth and no visible signs of fig mosaic virus (FMV) are preferable, as they often have more stored energy and can produce better results.

If you’re not going to root your hardwood fig cuttings immediately after pruning, it’s important to store them properly to prevent them from drying out until you’re ready to root them outside or until your indoor rooting environment is set up.

However, you want to make sure that you’re storing them properly for longer-term storage. When stored properly, I’ve rooted cuttings that were taken a whole year prior and I regularly root my own cuttings that were taken 4-6 months prior. After trying just about every storage method, I recommend that you store them in 2 layers of plastic that are both 90% of the way closed and placed in your crisper drawer.


Materials to Gather Before Rooting:


  • Pruning shears: For pruning and scoring the bottom of the cutting.

  • Rooting hormone (optional): Although optional, I would highly recommend using Clonex as it can help form a strong root system before too many leaves are formed without the support of a root system.

  • Parafilm or buddy tape: For wrapping the cutting to maintain moisture.

  • Soil mix: A well-draining mix with materials like rice hulls, shredded bark, perlite, vermiculite, pro-mix, coco coir, peat moss, or even worm castings and compost.

  • Treepots (4 inches by 9 inches): For the direct potting method.

  • Plant tags: For labeling your cuttings. Use vinyl blinds and a pencil. There’s nothing more affordable and longer-lasting.

  • Ziploc bags (6 inches by 14 inches, 2 millimeters thick): For the Fig Pop method.

  • Rubber bands or file bands: To seal the bags for the Fig Pop method.

  • Grow lights or heating mats (optional): To maintain the ideal temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit for rooting fig cuttings and to help fig cuttings grow indoors.

  • Fertilizer: A diluted fertilizer well balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer to help support the fig cuttings' growth and health later in their development.


Rooting Fig Cuttings


My top tips to ensure a high success rate when rooting fig cuttings:

Soil Moisture


Excess soil moisture is the biggest reason for failure. This is why a well-draining medium is critical. It holds less water making overwatering more difficult. Learning to control soil moisture is absolutely critical. Here’s a foolproof method:

Use a scale. Weighing your rooting medium to have an exact weight with and without water will help you determine when and if water is needed. Typically you want a 4 or 5:1 ratio of soil to water.

Don’t Start Without the Perfect Rooting Environment


For all methods of propagating fig trees, including rooting, a temperature as close to 78F as possible is critical. Whether you’re grafting, layering, or rooting, it doesn’t matter.

This is the optimal metabolic temperature for fig trees. Just like us, we like to operate at 98.6F and our bodies work hard through homeostasis to maintain that temperature through shivering or sweating. Fig trees can’t do that, but we as growers can influence the temperature artificially through grow lights, heating mats, heaters, or greenhouses.

If your rooting environment isn’t at least 70F, I would wait until you have a suitable environment. If it’s warmer than 80F, the chances of rot from excess moisture increase leading to failure.

Other pro-tips: Consider adding a fan to your indoor rooting environment for stronger plants and use greenhouses, CO2 generators, and fermentation methods to help raise CO2 levels in your rooting environment which leads to exponential benefits.

Using Rooting Hormone


Although optional, using a rooting hormone such as Clonex can increase the chances of successful rooting. Simply dip the bottom end of the cutting in the hormone before planting.

Scoring


A lot of experienced fig growers score the bottom of their cuttings to create an additional area for concentrated root formation. Scoring is the process of taking pruning shears or a grafting knife and removing a portion of the bark and cambium to expose the hardwood of the cutting. The wound heals and a callus forms creating an additional location of potential root development.

Planting the Fig Cuttings


When planting a cutting, make sure that it’s being planted the right side up and not upside down. Yes, that’s a possibility! Make sure the leaf scar (where the leaf stems attach to the branch) is below the nodes right above it.

If you planted your cutting upside down, don’t fret. The growth will shoot out downwards but eventually make its way up toward the source of light.

Don’t cut your long cuttings in half. The larger the cutting, the easier, bigger, and quicker your fig tree will mature after starting the rooting process.

Grow Lights


Spend a little extra and get high-quality grow lights. Or do your rooting outside in 2-3 hours of direct sunlight with the remainder of sunlight as bright indirect light. Too much direct light can dry your cuttings out too quickly, but as they become more established, feel free to move them into full sun.

When using grow lights, you want a full spectrum of Kelvin units. For example, one bulb of 4000k and another of 6500k. Choose proven grow lights based on reviews over light bulbs you’d buy for your home. LEDs are better, but fluorescents also work. It’s about the distance of the light from the leaves of the fig cuttings.

Fertilizer for Fig Cuttings


Go easy on the fertilizer at first, but heavily diluted fertilizer is definitely recommended and in some cases needed early into the rooting process. Particularly if you see the new growth turning pale. Applying fertilizer that isn’t diluted can burn small and sensitive roots killing your fig cutting.

Removing Figs on Cuttings


Cuttings that are taken from higher points of your tree will frequently have breba buds that form during the fall season. When a fig cutting or tree wakes up, its brebas (if present) will swell and form to a larger size.

I highly recommend removing these as the energy required to ripen these figs is nearly impossible to attain and it suppresses the growth of the roots and leaves leading to a prolonged rooting process. If the fruit does ripen, it’ll be tasteless anyway, so just remove them!

Strive for Simplicity


Simplicity is worth striving for. When learning a repetitive skill, addition by subtraction can dramatically improve your success rate. Avoid unnecessary steps that complicate the rooting process like using humidity domes or transplanting.

Depending on your rooting method, consider wrapping the top of the cutting with Parafilm or Buddy Tape. This can help you avoid the use of humidity domes.

Another way to simplify is to avoid unnecessary transplanting. Choose a larger pot to start the process in. Treepots are fantastic as they are the perfect size for a long cutting to form more root initials because more lenticels are buried below the soil.

Have Patience


Disturbing cuttings too much is a recipe for disaster. It’s better to “set and forget.”
You can expect around a 70% success rate once you've gained some experience. This number can be significantly lower if you're just starting out, which is why it is recommended to get as much cheap wood as possible to do a couple of test runs with your methods, rooting medium, and frequency of watering.

I also recommend that you get at least two cuttings, even if the option of buying one cutting is available, as this may ensure your chances of successfully acquiring a particular fig variety.

Choose the Right Method for You


Below I am going to share with you a number of well-thought-out rooting methods that all work. Choosing the right method for you involves what you feel comfortable with based on your preferences, setup, and resources available.

Some methods are just flat-out better than others, but everyone can see a high success rate if they follow the advice I have mentioned above and follow the specific requirements that each method presents.

Now onto the methods of rooting fig cuttings:


Rooting Fig Cuttings in the Ground


The “Old Italian Man Way” is a traditional method of propagating fig trees, which involves directly rooting cuttings in the ground. This technique has been used for many years and is even employed commercially today.

I call it the Old Italian Man Way because this is what my Grandfather did to spark my interest in fig trees when I was young. He took branches from my Uncle’s tree, looked for a good spot in my yard, and shoved them into the ground. Little did I know that those branches would actually turn into fig trees.

Because this process is straightforward and simple, it has a high success rate when executed correctly. This method is particularly useful when you don’t want to bother with all of the tools and unnecessary setup to create a perfect rooting environment. It’s all about timing.

It’s best to take your cuttings after the winter and plant these right after your last frost or if you’re in very warm climates, take your cuttings at the beginning of the fall when the wood is hardened and growth has ceased. That’s the perfect time to plant as the rest of the fall and winter months have more favorable and mild conditions for delicate fig trees.

To use this method, follow these steps:

  1. Prepare the cuttings: To preserve moisture, especially in hot and dry climates, use parafilm to cover the top of the cutting. To further enhance rooting, score the bark and expose the cambium at specific points along the cutting.

  2. Plant the cuttings: For better results, consider planting the cuttings horizontally in a trench, as this will provide more points for root formation. Dig a trench in the ground and place the cutting inside, covering it lightly with soil. The buds will emerge through the soil without any issues. Label the cutting using an aluminum tag, vinyl blinds, or any other suitable marker to keep track of the variety.

  3. Monitor the progress and adjust your environment: Keep an eye on the cuttings as they establish themselves in the ground. Within a few weeks, you should see new growth emerging from the cuttings. This usually means that root growth has followed.

  4. To improve your chances of success, consider covering the fig cuttings with shade cloth to make the conditions more favorable and mild. Once they’re rooted, you can take them off.


You can also create a raised bed or a well-draining bed with heavily amended soil to help with maintaining proper soil moisture and ease of digging them up at a later date for transplanting.


Can you Root Fig Cuttings in Water?


Yes, you can root fig cuttings in water, but it may not yield the best results. When roots reach about an inch in length, it's time to transfer the cutting to avoid damaging the fragile roots. To maximize success, be cautious with timing and handling.

Rooting fig cuttings in water is an alternative method for propagating fig trees. Although it may seem like a simple and low-maintenance approach, it is generally considered to be less effective compared to other methods, such as direct potting or in-ground rooting. In this section, we will discuss the drawbacks of using the water-rooting method for fig cuttings.

  • Limited nutrient availability: One major disadvantage of water-rooting is the lack of nutrients available to the developing roots. In soil or other growing media, roots have access to the necessary nutrients for healthy growth. However, in water, there is a limited supply of nutrients, which can result in weaker root systems and slower overall growth.

  • Risk of rotting: When cuttings are submerged in water, they are more prone to rot, especially if the water is not changed regularly. Infections from bacteria and fungi can easily spread in stagnant water, leading to decay and ultimately, the death of the cutting.

  • Poor transition to soil: Cuttings rooted in water often struggle when transplanted to soil. The roots developed in water are typically weaker and less able to adapt to the new environment. This can result in transplant shock, causing the cutting to wilt or die after being moved to the soil.


The Direct Potting method


The Direct Potting method is easy to follow, even for beginners, and does not require misting systems, humidity chambers, or domes. What separates this method from others is that you’re “directly potting” the cutting into a 1-gallon-sized container. Therefore, up-potting during the rooting process can be avoided.

Here's a step-by-step guide to using the Direct Potting method:

  1. Prepare your cutting: Select cuttings that have at least a couple of nodes. Make a cut approximately 1/4 inch below a bud, and create a long cut or a “score” along one edge of the cutting, where more roots are likely to form.

  2. Wrap the cutting: To prevent the cutting from drying out, wrap the portion that will be exposed above the soil with a material like Parafilm, stretching it as you apply it. This will allow the buds to easily push through the material.

  3. Prepare the soil: Use a well-draining potting mix, which can simply be a mix of 60% peat and 40% perlite. The soil should be damp but not overly wet.

  4. Plant the cutting: Insert the cutting into the soil, making sure that at least one node is below the soil level. Avoid planting the cutting too deep into the pot, as the bottom portion of the pot can become too wet and cause the cutting to rot.



The Fig Pop Method


The Fig Pop method involves placing the fig cutting in a plastic bag filled with pre-moistened soil instead of a plastic pot or cup. Similar to the direct potting method, the same steps are taken. Parafilm, scoring, making a fresh cut just below the bottom node, and rooting hormone can be applied.

The bag is then sealed at the top with 1 or 2 nodes sticking up above the bag, creating a humid environment that promotes root growth. This method has gained popularity due to its simplicity and the high success rate it offers, as the perfect moisture content is maintained throughout the rooting process.

However, one drawback of the Fig Pop method is that it requires transplanting the rooted cutting into a larger pot, which can be a delicate process. Additionally, the more steps involved in the process, the higher the chance for mistakes or complications, potentially leading to a lower success rate.


A Hybrid of the Fig Pop and Direct Potting Methods


A new hybrid method for rooting fig cuttings has emerged, combining the best aspects of the Fig Pop method and the Direct Potting method. This method simplifies the process, increasing the chances of success, and reducing the need for transplanting.

  1. First, we’ll prepare the cuttings just as we would in the two-parent methods. Wrap them in parafilm by stretching and wrapping the parafilm around any portions of the cutting above the soil line. This helps retain moisture and protect the cutting. Scoring the bottom of the cutting exposes the cambium and hardwood, promoting callus formation and root development. Optionally, you can apply a rooting hormone like Clonex to further encourage rooting.

  2. The next step involves planting the cutting in a one-gallon treepot, typically a four-inch by nine-inch pot, but a more traditional 6-7 inch container will work well also. Place a label with the cutting's details on a vinyl blind tag and insert it into the pot.

  3. Then, place the pot inside a produce bag, which helps trap humidity and maintain the ideal soil moisture like the Fig Pop method would. Secure the bag with a rubber band, ensuring a tight seal around the top of the cutting and that 1 or 2 nodes are above the bag.


With this hybrid method, the right soil moisture and humidity are maintained, and the need for transplanting is eliminated. This simplifies the overall process and increases the likelihood of successful rooting. Keep the cuttings in a greenhouse or suitable environment with a consistent temperature, and avoid watering them for an extended period.


Pre-rooting Fig Cuttings


This technique involves creating the right environment for the cuttings to begin the rooting process before they are planted in soil by wrapping the cuttings in moist paper towels and placing them in a bag in a bin with a lid to trap moisture.

The ideal temperature for this process is between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. After about two weeks in this environment, the cuttings develop root initials along the lenticels. Like other methods, pre-rooting fig cuttings is not specific to figs and can be applied to various plant species.

Once the root initials form, the cuttings can be planted directly into pots filled with soil. I recommend using a mycorrhizae powder on the roots and after further development adding slow-release fertilizer to the soil surface for optimal growth. When transplanting the cuttings, it's essential to place them in a location that is not too sunny, as they are still fragile and need a somewhat shady environment.

Pre-rooting offers several advantages over other rooting methods, such as the fig pop method or direct potting. With pre-rooting, the moisture level is more easily controlled, is perfect for stubborn cuttings, and the cuttings can be planted directly into their permanent pot size, avoiding the transplant shock that occurs when up-potting. This method also allows for a higher success rate and eliminates the guesswork.


The Lasagna Method of Rooting Fig Cuttings


The Lasagna method is an alternative approach to rooting fig cuttings that involves laying the cuttings flat in a container rather than standing them up in individual cups, containers, or bags. This method aims to mimic the natural way fig cuttings might root in the wild, such as when a branch falls off the tree due to a storm. By following the steps outlined below, you can try the Lasagna method to potentially increase your success rate with rooting fig cuttings.

Prepare the Container and Rooting Medium: Choose a container without drainage holes for this method. Begin by placing a layer of medium-fine bark or coarse perlite at the bottom of the container. Then, add a thin layer of perlite and soil mixture. The soil should consist of compost, perlite, and fine bark. Add another layer of perlite on top.

  1. Prepare the Cuttings: Select healthy fig cuttings with a thickness of about finger-sized. You don't need to have multiple nodes on the cutting, as these cuttings are being rooted horizontally. You can cut the fig cutting in half, ensuring that it is short enough to fit inside the container.

  2. Arrange the Cuttings in the Container: Lay the cuttings flat in the container, about an inch apart. It's best to keep the node side up when placing the cuttings in the container.

  3. Add a Layer of Perlite and Moisture: Once the cuttings are in place, add another layer of perlite or a well-draining soil mix, just enough to cover them. Use a spray bottle to moisten the perlite, but avoid making it soggy since there are no drainage holes in the container. Proper moisture levels are crucial for the cuttings to root successfully.

  4. Lastly, label the container with a tag or marker of your choosing. Then, cover the container with the lid of the container or plastic wrap to ensure constant moisture levels. Place the container in a location where the temperature is stable and consistently between 70-80F.


Rooting Softwood Fig Cuttings


Green softwood fig cuttings are taken from the current year's growth, which is still flexible and tender. While hardwood cuttings are more commonly used for propagation, and that’s what I’ve exclusively mentioned in the article thus far, green softwood cuttings can also be successfully rooted, albeit with some additional care. In this section, we will discuss the process of rooting green softwood fig cuttings to maximize success and ensure a healthy, vigorous fig plant.

  1. Preparing the Cuttings: Once you have collected your green softwood fig cuttings, remove the lower leaves, leaving only the top two or three. This helps to reduce transpiration. Additionally, you can trim the bottom of the cutting just below a leaf node, which is where new roots are most likely to form. To increase the chances of successful rooting, you can dip the cut end of the cutting in a rooting hormone, which helps stimulate root formation.

  2. Planting and Care: Plant the prepared cuttings in a well-draining rooting medium, such as a mixture of peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite. Make sure the cuttings are planted deep enough to cover the lower leaf nodes, where new roots will form. Gently firm the soil around the cuttings to ensure good contact and eliminate air pockets.

  3. Place the potted cuttings in a sheltered location with indirect light, as direct sunlight can cause excessive heat and stress for young cuttings. Green softwood cuttings require high humidity levels to prevent them from drying out before they can form roots. To achieve this, you can cover the cuttings with a clear plastic bag or place them in a humidity dome.



It’s highly recommended that you go the extra step and purchase a misting setup. This leads to the most consistent moisture levels to prevent the cuttings from drying out.

Monitor the moisture levels of the rooting medium regularly, ensuring that it remains consistently moist but not waterlogged. Overwatering can lead to rot, while underwatering can cause the cuttings to dry out and die. It is also essential to maintain good air circulation around the cuttings to prevent fungal diseases and mold.

When the cuttings have formed lignified roots and less wilting occurs, and strong new healthy growth is forming, up-pot them into a 1-gallon-sized pot before putting them in more soil or planting them.

You’re Ready to Root Fig Cuttings


Embarking on the journey of propagating fig cuttings can be a delightful and enriching experience for gardening enthusiasts of all levels. By exploring different rooting techniques, you'll not only expand your gardening skills but also create a thriving and bountiful fig tree.

So, don't hesitate to try your hand at rooting fig cuttings and enjoy the fruits of your labor, quite literally. Embrace the process, learn from your experiences, and watch your garden flourish with the addition of these beautiful and tasty trees.

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4 Comments


On 11/8 I planted 15 fig cuttings in 12”x4” tree pots using 60% coco coir and 40% perlite. Didn’t have bags to do the modified fig pop method. I have bags to be delivered in 2 day. My questions are how do I know when my cuttings have started rooting with the black pots and should I add a little water before placing pots in bags? I have the pots in a plastic tote with a heat mat underneath. The outside temp is in the low 70’s during day and probably mid/upper 50’s at night. Have prone tucked between pots and reads from 72 night to 77/78 during the day. Thanks in advance for any advice. Steve

SE Louisiana Zome…

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It's been almost 2 months, so I guess you've already had the results. Since " the fig boss" still haven't replied, so I guess I'd give my takes on your case.

Some fig varieties harder to root than other varieties. Another important factor is the health of the cuttings, the time of taking cuttings, how to keep the cuttings fresh after being cut. If you have healthy cuttings and rooting a " easy to root" fig varieties with good rooting conditions then you should see the roots after 2 weeks. Because figs are considered one kind of fruit tree that is easier to get rooted, comparing to most other fruit tree varieties, so if things don't go too much wrong…

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Wow, what an incredibly detailed and informative guide on growing figs from cuttings! I have always been fascinated by the idea of propagating plants, and figs have been high on my list. Your step-by-step instructions, accompanied by clear visuals, make the entire process seem so accessible and achievable.

The inclusion of personal experiences and anecdotes throughout the article added a delightful touch. It made me feel like I was learning from someone who genuinely enjoys fig cultivation and has a wealth of knowledge to share.

Thank you for putting together such a comprehensive resource for fig enthusiasts like myself. Your passion for the subject matter shines through, and it's evident that you've put a lot of effort into creating this…

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Valya
Valya
Mar 18, 2023

Wonderful information. Thank you for presenting such a clear outline of rooting methods.

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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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