Did you know that easily propagating fig trees is possible by utilizing suckers growing at the base of mature trees?
A sucker is essentially a new shoot that emerges from the base of the tree, often developing below the soil line. Fig trees are one of the simplest fruiting plants to root. Since they naturally form roots with minimal effort, these underground suckers are already equipped with a root system. To propagate, simply detach these suckers from the main root system, ensuring you take a sufficient amount of root mass with you. This technique allows you to grow new trees that are genetically identical to the parent fig tree.
Did you also know that suckers are an otherwise unused part of the fig tree? They rarely fruit, and potentially shade other parts of our fig trees, but they grow quickly, are usually very healthy, and therefore are great for propagation. Even if you cut them back and use those cuttings for rooting material, I would argue, it’s the best part of the fig tree to root.
Benefits of Using Suckers:
High success rate: Suckers already have a root system, making the process of propagation much easier and more likely to succeed.
Low effort: Suckers require minimal effort to propagate compared to other methods like rooting cuttings.
Genetic clones: You will grow new trees that are genetically identical to the parent fig tree, ensuring you get the same delicious fruit.
Sustainable: Utilizing suckers prevents them from being wasted, as they rarely fruit and can shade other parts of the tree.
To read more about the many methods of propagating fig trees, check out this detailed article. There are at least 10 creative and enjoyable ways to propagate them.
Here’s how you can accomplish this form of fig tree propagation with ease.
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Preparation: Remove mulch and clear the soil around the sucker. Locate the point where the sucker connects to the main root system.
Timing: The ideal time to propagate fig tree suckers is during the dormant period or just before spring arrives. This timing reduces stress on the new root system.
Potted trees: Choose an 8-inch folding pruning saw and carefully cut the sucker from the main trunk, ensuring a clean separation.
In-ground trees: Use a saw to sever the sucker from the main tree. Carefully dig around the base with a nursery spade or a hori hori to lift the sucker with its root system intact. It’s critical to dig up as much of the sucker’s root system as possible
Aftercare: Place the newly potted fig tree in the shade for a couple of weeks to allow it to harden off.
Common Pitfalls to Avoid
The number one mistake I commonly see is fig growers digging up suckers with an insufficient root mass. Your new fig tree is now on its own away from the Mother tree. Without a strong root system, your sucker may die or struggle to become established.
To be sure, gently dig around the base of the sucker to expose a portion of the roots. Thicker, more numerous roots, and taking the time to dig them up carefully will lead to greater success.
Use an appropriate well-draining potting mix and pot size.
Remove air pockets by packing the soil around the roots and watering the pot thoroughly.
Gradually increase sun exposure to prevent stress.
Selecting the wrong sucker: Choose larger suckers (12-18 inches) with well-developed root systems.