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Potted Fig Tree Care: A Guide to Growing Fig Trees in Containers

Updated: Mar 29



Figs are delicious and rewarding to grow, but not everyone has the space for a full-fledged fig tree. Fortunately, fig trees thrive in containers, allowing you to enjoy fresh figs even on a balcony, patio, and even in cold climates. After all, fig trees are only hardy to zone 7 without winter protection. Growing them in pots allows you to move them away from damaging cold.

That’s why I decided to create a guide that will cover everything you need to know about potted fig tree care. Take it from me, I’ve grown 1000s of fig trees in containers. Let's set the record straight on what you need to know to enjoy a large harvest of figs, even when growing them in containers.

For example, did you know that a fig tree growing in a 5-gallon-sized pot (12x12 inches in size) can produce 75 figs each growing season? And if you choose a larger pot, your fig tree can produce even more figs.

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.


Fig Tree Pot Size: Choosing the Right Container



The ideal pot size for your fig tree depends on its age and desired mature size. Here's a general guideline:

For young fig trees (1-2 years old), stick with the 3-5 gallon-sized pots until they become root bound: In the 2nd or 3rd growing season, a 3-5 gallon-sized fig tree can ripen around 50-75 figs.
For mature fig trees (2+ years old), you can opt for a 10-15 gallon-sized container or larger: At maturity, this added growing space can help a fig tree produce 150-200 figs each growing season.

KEEP IN MIND: While larger pots offer more space for root growth and fruit production, they can also be heavy and difficult to move. You can plant figs in whiskey barrels, 55-gallon plastic drums, or even a raised bed, but consider your available space and strength when selecting. Lastly, drainage holes are a must to allow excess water to escape.

Common pot materials include:


To read more about choosing the right pot size for fig trees, check out this detailed article here.

If a fig tree can produce 50-75 figs in its 2nd or 3rd growing season, can they fruit in the 1st year?

Fig Tree Growing Time: From Planting to Harvest



The good news is that fig trees are known for their very quick fruit production. They fruit earlier than 95% of the other fruiting plants you can grow. Trust me, I’ve been growing them all for years. Not just fig trees.

In fact, you can expect to see some ripe figs within six to eight months of rooting them from a cutting, potentially enjoying your first harvest within the first growing season. However, the fruit quality is frequently lower than it’s expected to be in subsequent years.

Is your fig tree mature and it’s not fruiting? This guide will explain the 4 major reasons why it’s not fruiting and how to fix it.

Another common misconception I hear about growing fig trees in containers is advice on the recommended fig varieties meant for pot culture.

Fig Varieties for Containers



Contrary to all of the incorrect and regurgitated information on the internet about fig trees, dwarf fig trees are not more suited for containers than non-dwarf fig trees. That’s a marketing gimmick. To make matters worse, the fig trees most websites claim as a dwarf option, are not.

The container size and proper pruning are the biggest factors that control the size of your fig tree and after growing over 500 different varieties of figs from all over the world, dwarf fig trees take longer to establish and you’ll run into more problems in the short term. They also naturally produce smaller-sized fruit.

To read more about dwarf fig trees, check out this variety list here.

I would strongly advise the opposite. Grow a vigorous fig tree in a container. Not a dwarf. And more what’s more important is to choose the right fig variety for your climate and location. That will dramatically affect how enjoyable your fig-eating experience can be.

Another great piece of advice is to choose a fig variety based on your flavor preferences. There are so many flavors and textures within Ficus Carica. Why grow one that you won’t enjoy eating? I’ve done the hard work for you and created a breakdown of fig flavor profiles. There are sugar, honey, and berry figs with all kinds of profiles in between. Check out that guide, here.

Still don’t know which fig variety to choose? This guide is a great start. It describes the 10 most common fig varieties and why you should or shouldn’t choose some of them.

Let's move on to repotting or planting your new or old fig tree in a larger container.

Planting a Fig Tree in a Container



The optimal periods to plant a fig tree in a container are during early spring or early fall. Repotting during these mild seasons provides favorable conditions for the tree to establish its roots and transition easily into its new pot before winter or the heat of the summer. If repotting in the summer, take precautions by thoroughly watering the tree before and after the process, placing it in a shaded area post-planting for a few days to aid acclimation, and closely monitoring for signs of shock or stress.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Prepare Your Supplies: Gather a new, larger pot, well-draining soil mix, gloves, and fertilizer.

  2. Prepare the New Pot: Fill the new pot with enough soil, leaving space for amendments and mulch.

  3. Remove the Fig Tree from its Current Pot: Tip the pot sideways or upside down to let gravity assist. Avoid yanking or pulling to prevent root damage.

  4. Inspect and Tease the Roots: Check for signs of root-knot nematodes. Gently tease apart tangled or circling roots without touching them.

  5. Place the Tree in the New Pot: Position the tree with the top of the root ball about an inch below the pot rim.

  6. Backfill With Soil: Add soil around the root ball until it reaches the previous soil level.

  7. Firm the Soil: Firm the soil for good contact while maintaining a loose texture for water and air movement.

  8. Water Thoroughly: Water the tree generously, letting excess water drain through the pot's bottom holes.

  9. Apply Fertilizer: After watering, apply slow-release fertilizer around the tree's base. Consider micronutrients like Silica, Sulfur, Calcium, Magnesium, and trace minerals.

  10. Add Mulch: Top the soil with mulch to retain moisture, keep roots cool, and encourage healthy soil life.

  11. Monitor the Tree: Keep the tree in a shaded area for the first few days after repotting. Watch for signs of transplant shock, such as wilting or dropped leaves.


To read more about repotting fig trees to ensure success, check out this detailed article here.

One common question I get is...

Are Fig Trees Better in Pots or Ground?



Now, let's talk about proper fig tree care when growing fig trees in containers.

Fig Tree Care



Fig Tree Soil Requirements for Containers


When it comes to nurturing a healthy and thriving fig tree in containers, the foundation of success lies in its soil. It’s simple, provide your fig tree in containers with well-draining soil that supports its extensive fibrous root system that maintains a delicate balance of moisture to prevent waterlogging and root rot.

To achieve well-draining soil, many fig growers like to make their soil mix as bagged soil products can be expensive. Especially if you are growing 100s of fig trees in containers like I am, but Pro-Mix HP or Coast of Maine’s Bumper Crop are fantastic bagged soils that I recommend and have used extensively to simplify this process.

If you want to make your own, start creating your mix with either organic compost, worm castings, peat moss, or coco coir.

While these materials offer a strong foundation, their denser nature can retain too much moisture, potentially leading to root rot and the death of your fig tree. To counter this and improve aeration, consider incorporating any of the following soil amendments at a 50/50 ratio.

  • Vermiculite: A lightweight volcanic rock that promotes air circulation, water drainage, and silica.

  • Perlite: Similar to vermiculite, offers excellent drainage and aeration benefits.

  • Fine bark chips: Create larger air pockets within the soil, further improving drainage.

  • Rice hulls: A natural and renewable resource that promotes drainage and provides a slow-release source of silica.


The key is to find the perfect balance – a soil mix that retains sufficient moisture for healthy growth while allowing excess water to drain freely, preventing root rot and promoting healthy root development.

In the next section, we'll discuss fertilizer. As a part of proper fig tree care, every container fig tree needs the ideal nutrients to support your fig tree's growth and fruit production. Without a consistent application each year, your fig tree may grow at a slow pace or fail to fruit.

Sunlight Requirements for Fig Trees



Sunlight is the main requirement that must be met for a fig tree to set fruit, but forget the one-size-fits-all answer of making sure your fig tree is positioned in at least "8 hours of full sun." Each fig variety has unique sunlight needs determined by their genetics and environment. You may see success with as little as 4 hours of direct sunlight daily.

Here are two tips to make sure your fig tree is getting enough sunlight:

  • Location, Location, Location: Plant your fig in the warmest, sunniest spot. Think of south-facing walls, balconies, rooftops, and patios.

  • Thinning and Pruning: Strategic thinning and pruning can create a canopy that maximizes the sunlight available to your fig tree. Stakes can gently guide branches toward the sun, maximizing their exposure.


To read more about the sunlight needs of a fig tree, check out this article.

The Best Fertilizer for a Potted Fig Tree



Fertilizer for all fig trees is simple. Consistently apply a well-balanced NPK and micronutrient fertilizer. This can easily be achieved with a one-time application at the beginning of the growing season with a slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote or Florikan. Unlike regular fertilizers that release all their nutrients at once, slow-release options gradually release nutrients over a prolonged period, mimicking the natural nutrient availability in soil.

Don’t want a synthetic or a slow-release fertilizer? Choose an organic or quick-release option that has an NPK close to a 10-10-10, or 20-10-20. That’s the ideal blend of these essential nutrients, ensuring your fig tree receives all it needs for success.

While NPK provides the foundation, it’s important to cover all micronutrients:

  • Silica: Found in vermiculite or diatomaceous earth, silica contributes to stronger cell walls, promoting plant health and resistance to pests and diseases.

  • Green Sand or Rock Dust: These naturally occurring minerals provide a broad spectrum of micronutrients, further enriching your fig tree's diet.

  • Magnesium, Sulfur, and Calcium: These essential nutrients play a crucial role in various plant functions, including chlorophyll production, stress tolerance, and fruit quality. Oyster shells, lime, and gypsum can be added to supplement these elements.


To explore all of the options and really get into the details of fertilizing fig trees in containers, check out this article I’ve written.

Watering Fig Trees in Containers



The soil should be consistently moist: that’s the golden rule. Excessive watering can lead to root rot, a devastating condition that can damage the roots and weaken the entire tree. Not enough water can result in stunted growth. Think of water as the on or off switch of a fig tree’s growth.

The amount of water your fig tree needs will vary depending on the season. During the warmer months of the growing season, increased evaporation and plant activity leads to higher water requirements. In my experience, a 5-gallon pot typically needs around half a gallon to a gallon of water per day, administered twice daily. However, this amount can be significantly reduced or even eliminated during periods of rainfall or cooler temperatures.

By observing your fig tree, you can learn to recognize the signs of water stress. Wilting leaves, drooping branches, and stunted growth can all indicate insufficient watering. Conversely, yellowing leaves and leaf drops can be signs of overwatering.

If you want to diagnose your unhealthy fig tree, check out my very helpful fig tree watering guide.

Training & Pruning Fig Trees in Containers



The proper training and pruning of fig trees is what separates a great fig grower from an average one. It’s very important, but don’t worry, the key is to put down your pruning shears. Yes, you read that right. Heading cuts during the winter can lead to a fig tree that only wants to grow and not fruit. Instead, perform mostly thinning cuts to thin the canopy, to keep your fig tree smaller, while also encouraging new and strong growth.

In most cases, pruning can be avoided when growing fig trees in containers. Use bamboo stakes instead to gently guide scaffolds or laterals outwards, maximizing sunlight exposure and boosting fruit yields.

Training young fig trees with pinching:


Forget waiting for winter pruning! Pinching kicks in during summer, encouraging branching and forming your young fig tree's scaffold branches – the framework for future fruit production. This early boost can lead to a full year earlier of enjoying delicious figs!

How it works:

  • In the summer, pinch off the apical bud (growing tip) of selected shoots. Look for large, healthy leaves before pinching.

  • This triggers the tree to branch out from lower buds, creating a stronger, more productive structure.

  • Aim for 3-6 well-spaced scaffolds for optimal light penetration and fruit set.


To read more about training fig trees in their early development, check out this article.
To read more about pruning fig trees in containers, click here.

Winterizing Potted Fig Trees: Why Winter Storage Matters.



For growing zones 4, 5, 6, 7, and even some areas in zone 8, storing container fig trees during winter is crucial for their survival and future productivity. Without protection when temperatures fall below 15F, the freezing temperatures can damage the roots of our container fig trees leading to the demise of your beloved tree. 

Luckily, they’re in pots and we can move them. And that’s exactly what thousands of fig growers do all over the world in colder growing zones.

Many growers choose a whole host of different storage locations. What’s important is that you keep your fig tree at the right temperature. The ideal temperature range for dormant fig trees is between 15°F and 50°F. If it’s too cold, they can die. If it’s too warm, they’ll wake up from dormancy too soon usually many months away from your last frost date.

To read more about the winter storage of container fig trees, check out this article.

Frequently Asked Questions:







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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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