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Fig Tree, NO FRUIT - Grow Figs Not Leaves | The 4 Reasons Why Your Fig Tree IS NOT Fruiting

Updated: 23 hours ago



In the last 10 years of educating growers on fig trees, this is probably the question I've gotten the most...

  • "My tree is x, y, and z, but every year the tree grows and grows and never produces any fruit."

  • "My wife's gonna kill me if I don't get this fig tree to fruit, Ross."


Q: "Why doesn't my fig tree produce fruit?"


A: The main reason a fig tree isn't fruiting is too much or improper pruning causing your fig tree to favor growth, not flowering. I'll explain how to fix that in much more detail below.


Often the young fruit trees and fig trees have the same problem. Although fig trees can bear fruit at very young ages (often only after 6 months from cutting), sometimes patience is required.

A fig tree that isn't fruiting could also be from a lack of sunlight, unhealthy waterlogged soil that lacks air and nutrients, a severe infection of Fig Mosaic Virus, or pests like scale or spider mites that might be sapping its resources.

Remember, your fig variety, age, and environmental conditions play a big role. There are a lot of possibilities, but in this blog post, I will give you all of the tools to diagnose your fig tree’s fruiting problem. To grow figs not just leaves.

Feel free to subscribe to the monthly Fig Boss newsletter at the top of the page for more fig-related content like this.



Figs Not Forming vs. Figs Dropping


First, we need to clarify what I mean by "not fruiting" or “not producing fruit.” It's a separate issue when your figs are dropping off prematurely or not ripening properly. That is the result of very different symptoms like underwatering or a lack of pollination.

Click here to learn why your figs are dropping from your fig tree.


Instead, I’m focusing on the main crop of figs that forms on the new growth, which is typically the most desirable and delicious crop for fig enthusiasts. If you've noticed that your fig tree is producing lots of leaves but no figs, then you're experiencing the problem that we'll be exploring in this article.

How Long for a Fig Tree to Produce Fruit?


Fig trees can fruit at a very young age. Even after only 6 months from cutting. They're very precocious, but not every variety is. There is a huge diversity of genetics within Ficus Carica.


The precocity of fig trees is determined by a balance of plant hormones and young fig trees or overly pruned fig trees usually fall trap to an imbalance.

It's important to recognize that some trees may take longer (2-3 years) to start producing figs, especially if they are still young. Don't give up hope if your fig tree isn't fruiting right away, as sometimes it just takes a bit of patience and TLC to get your tree to produce the sweet, delicious figs you're craving.

Fig Tree Light Requirements


You probably didn't know that every fig variety requires a certain intensity of sunlight combined with a certain duration to set their fruit buds. When a fig tree is grown in total shade or direct sunlight hours below 4 hours per day, it's much less likely to produce fruit.


Keep in mind, that your fig tree needs to meet the sunlight requirement as it's growing. You cannot go back in time and form fruit buds where they didn't.

To read more about the importance of sunlight, click here:

Fixing the problem could be as simple as planting your fig tree or moving your potted fig tree into more sunlight.

Steps Towards a Healthy Fig Tree


Unhealthy fig trees are much less likely to flower and produce fruit. Take these steps to revive an unhealthy fig tree and give your fig tree the best chance to produce figs.


  • Sunlight and Warmth: Fig trees need a warm, sunny spot with lots of direct sunlight. The warmth from sunlight helps maintain proper metabolism, especially during cooler spring and fall temperatures.

  • Watering: Improper watering is a common issue. Ensure the soil remains consistently moist to prevent over and underwatering.



  • Overwatering: Due to their thin and fibrous roots, fig trees are especially prone to root rot, which will stunt growth, cause nutritional deficiencies, and even death. Enhance soil life and diversity with homemade compost tea and mycorrhizal.

  • Underwatering: Without enough water, fig trees will not continue their ripening process. It's possible the fruit buds have formed and are small on the tree, but their development will be stunted until moisture in the soil returns.


For tips on watering to improve your green thumb with fig trees, click here:

  • Soil and Drainage: Plant fig trees in well-draining soil with a neutral pH of around 7. If the soil is poor, improve it with compost, mulch, or other organic matter.

  • Fertilizing: Use slow-release fertilizer like this one to provide nutrients without overwhelming the tree. Too much fertilizer can be harmful. Consider a soil test and correct any nutrient deficiencies immediately.




  • Disease Management: Fig trees can be affected by Fig Mosaic Virus, which hinders photosynthesis and weakens the tree over time. The same can be said for fig rust in humid areas.



Fig Mosaic Virus


Another reason why your fig tree may not be fruiting could be due to a severe case of Fig Mosaic Virus (FMV). This disease can cause visible symptoms like mottled, discolored leaves and deformed growth. In severe cases, it's more than cosmetic and can stunt the growth of your fig tree.



No new growth, no new figs. Remember, main crop figs form as the tree grows. Does your tree have minimal leaves? Without enough photosynthesis, your fig tree won't fruit.


It should be noted that almost all fig trees are infected with the virus, but not all have a severe case of it. If your tree is showing a lot of the visible symptoms of FMV and you believe that it’s affecting the growth and production of your fig tree, consider doing some rejuvenation pruning to combat the virus.

Rejuvenation pruning involves removing heavily infected growth to promote new and healthy shoots in their place. Hard pruning a fig tree can encourage new growth and is traditionally performed on old trees by cutting them down to below soil level and selecting one or several healthy shoots to become the new trunk(s) of the tree, resulting in a good base and proper performance.

To read more about Rejuvenation Pruning Fig Trees, click here:


Fig Tree Temperature: Don't Forget About Metabolism


What about metabolism? It can be difficult for a fig tree to operate efficiently when it's cold. The soil temperature, specifically is what controls a fig tree's metabolism. Aim for 78F. That's the optimal soil temperature.

To help this concept make sense, think about our bodies. We operate at a specific temperature and if we're too cold, we shiver to warm up. If we're too hot, we sweat to remain at that optimal body temperature to function correctly.

Fig Trees are no different. When soil temperatures are around 55-65F, some fig varieties can struggle to continue their ripening process.

Just think about how our trees and gardens behave as they approach winter or frost, they slow down. By using black plastic pots OR planting our trees in 1-2ft high mounds or raised beds, we can help our fig trees get the warmth they need and help them ripen.

 

Contrary to popular belief, the lack of fruiting in fig trees is not typically due to insufficient water, sunlight, or fertilizer. The real culprit is often a hormonal imbalance within the tree. Fig trees, like all plants, rely on hormones to regulate their growth and fruit production. When these hormones are out of balance, the tree may prioritize vegetative growth over fruiting.


Proper Pruning Techniques for Fig Trees


Pruning is a common technique used to manage fruit trees, but it must be done correctly to encourage fruit production. For many fruit trees, summer pruning, which involves removing a portion of the new growth, can stimulate flowering and fruiting in the following season. However, fig trees are unique in that they produce fruit on new growth. Therefore, summer pruning, which removes this new growth, can inadvertently reduce fruit production.




3 Pruning Rules to Live By


To ensure your fig tree fruits successfully, focus on the correct type of pruning:


  • Winter Pruning: While winter pruning is essential, it should be done carefully. Winter pruning can shift the hormonal balance towards growth rather than producing fruit. It's crucial to avoid over-pruning.

  • Avoiding Heading Cuts: Heading cuts, where the tree is cut back to a uniform height, can disrupt the tree's hormone balance. This type of pruning often results in vigorous vegetative growth at the expense of fruiting.

  • Thinning Cuts: Instead of heading cuts, use thinning cuts. This involves removing entire branches or limbs from the base or trunk, which helps manage the tree's height without disrupting the hormonal balance necessary for fruiting.


Managing Winter Damage



Winter damage acts like severe pruning and can hinder fruit production by disrupting the tree's hormonal balance. To mitigate this, protect your fig tree during the winter to minimize damage. Insulating the tree or bringing it indoors (for potted figs) can help it survive the winter without significant damage, leading to better fruiting in the next season.


Getting your fig tree to produce fruit could be as simple as giving it adequate winter protection for just one winter season.


 

Additional Reasons for a Fig Tree Not Bearing Fruit


These are some of the reasons I found published on the University of Florida extension website, here:

I wanted to discuss why some of these additional reasons may be incorrect or why they don’t apply to this situation.

1. Over-fertilization leads to immature fruit.


This is accurate. Too much nitrogen in the soil can lead to excess salt buildup in the soil causing the roots to burn followed by fruit drop and leaf drop. That’s a different issue however than what I’m discussing in this article.

I will mention that too much fertilization leads to a reduction in growth contrary to what the author is publishing in their article.

Nitrogen is a requirement and a necessary component of the regulation of fruit formation of a fig tree. Additionally, it is the water and plant hormones within our fig trees that dictate an overabundance of growth and lack of fruiting.

To read more about fertilizing fig trees, click here:

2. Dry, hot weather affects fruit quality.


It does, but not in the way that the author suggests, dry conditions and warm temperatures of 90-110F improve fruit quality. While warmer temperatures can stress out a fig tree leading to fruit drop, it is not a reason why a fig tree is not producing figs. It is the opposite.

There is a heat unit requirement that once met triggers fig trees into fruiting in the spring. In greenhouses, heat can be given to fig trees too soon at the start of the growing season causing them to fruit too early before they have a chance to grow lowering production.


3. Celeste variety drops fruit in hot weather.


Celeste is known to drop figs, but that is due to a lack of internal sunlight in the tree’s canopy. Again, figs that are dropping are a different topic than those not forming on the tree.


4. Root-knot nematodes intensify the problem.


This is accurate. Root-knot nematodes or RKN plague fig trees in sandier soils where they are more present. Ficus Carica is particularly sensitive. I would check for RKN levels in your soil if you’re concerned that this may be the reason that your fig tree is unhealthy.

RKN stunts the growth of fig trees. A variety called LSU Purple is known to be resistant and could act as a good rootstock for soils with a high amount of RKN present in them.

5. Fig trees may require cross-pollination.



Again, this is a different issue than what’s being discussed in the article. Pollination is a fruit-dropping problem. Not a fruit production problem.

Read more about fig tree pollination here:

You’re Ready to Ripen Figs!


  • The most common reason why a fig tree is not producing fruit is a lack of sunlight. Other potential reasons include unhealthy soil lacking air or nutrients, Fig Mosaic Virus, a hormonal imbalance, or the tree being too young.

  • Proper pruning techniques, providing the tree with healthy soil and watering, and addressing any virus or nematode issues can help improve fruit production.

  • It's important to note that some trees may take longer to produce figs and patience is required.


While there may be other factors that contribute to a lack of fruit production, focusing on sunlight and proper care can greatly improve a fig tree's ability to produce the delicious figs that many growers crave.

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2 Comments


The tree grows up against a red stone wall so plenty of radiated heat too and I pruned all excessive new leaf/branch growth earlier in the year and regularly since

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I had an abundant crop on my south facing espalier tree last year and almost no fruit this year!? Any ideas why most welcome 😀

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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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