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The Ultimate Guide to Wrapping Fig Trees: Protecting Your Trees and Buds for Spring

Updated: Mar 29

Are you a fig grower looking to ensure a bountiful harvest next spring? Or just want to protect your backyard fig tree from the harsh winter? Look no further! In today's blog post, we're revealing the secret to winter fig tree survival - wrapping.

That's right, by simply wrapping your fig trees, you can add an extra layer of protection from the cold and wind, potentially saving your tree and ensuring successful fruit production. This is the ultimate guide to wrapping your fig tree for winter protection, so don't miss out and read on to find out how to protect your fig tree and ensure a successful harvest next spring.

For a demonstration of the actual wrapping process, I would highly recommend watching my latest video below. The video also covers other methods of winter fig tree protection that I'm doing in my yard. Some of these are discussed in great detail elsewhere on the blog, found here:

Key Takeaways

Why should we wrap our fig trees?

You should wrap your fig tree because your winter weather may be too severe. By wrapping we're protecting them from the wind, but also potentially giving them some insulation from the cold. The goal for our fig trees during the winter time is for them to take zero winter damage so that we can preserve the critical fruiting buds of our fig trees.

Take my Ronde de Bordeaux fig tree as an example. It usually doesn't lignify well and thus far has not proven itself to be very hardy. I know it can be winter hardy to about 5F based on information from growers in different locations, but if I protect it by wrapping it, I will ensure that a less hardy variety survives while also having its apical and lateral buds in tact come spring.

These buds are critical for producing earlier fruits, fruits at a higher quality, and making fruit set easier the following year.

I cover the importance of these buds in the comprehensive pruning discussion that I published about a month ago here:

With the understanding of the importance of the apical and lateral buds, it makes a lot more sense as to why protecting fig trees may be necessary for you. By wrapping our trees correctly, we're gaining about 5 degrees of warmth. If the forecast is predicting 10F at your location and your fig tree might be at risk of its fruiting buds taking damage, then I would highly recommend wrapping your fig tree before that winter low.

Temperature tolerance of fig trees:

Some fig tree varieties are hardier than others and can survive lower temperatures without damage. For example, hardy varieties (like Hardy Chicago) will survive at temperatures of around 0-5F and above, while less hardy varieties may not survive temperatures below 15F.

Unfortunately, only about 2.5% of the 1000s of fig varieties in existence can survive a 5F winter low. And much less (maybe 0.25%) will survive a temperature of 0F or below. But if we wrap our trees, we can grow a much wider amount of varieties.

To see a list of hardy fig varieties, check out my blog post on that here:

This is also why it's critical to plant near structures and also near other sources of thermodynamic heating. They act as a source of heat that raises ambient temperatures around them. Similar to wrapping, any extra degrees of warmth will go a long way.

Will fig trees come back after winter?

Whether or not a fig tree will come back after the winter depends on the severity of the cold temperatures, the variety of the fig tree, and whether or not the roots took damage.

Fig trees have an incredible ability to come back from their roots once your tree is established and planted correctly. As long as the roots are protected and the ground temperatures don't exceed 10F, a fig tree's resilience will always amaze even the most experienced fig tree grower.

Protecting cold-sensitive fig tree roots

The roots of a fig tree are more sensitive to the cold than their branches and are more susceptible to damage from freezing temperatures. However, the roots are well insulated in the Earth's crust and are not as exposed to the cold as the branches. While the branches may show signs of damage from the cold, the roots may still be healthy and able to revive the tree in the spring.

To protect the roots, it is important to ensure that the soil around the tree is well-draining and not overly saturated with water. This can help to prevent the roots from freezing and becoming damaged. Additionally, mulch can be added to the soil to help keep the roots insulated and protected from the cold.

When to winterize your fig tree

You should winterize your fig tree when you see extreme temperatures in the 10-day forecast. Timing is everything. Of course, you want to get the protection on the tree before the extreme cold sets in, but you also don't want to wrap your fig tree too soon or too late.

When temperatures are still quite warm and the ground isn't frozen, it's very likely the wrong time to wrap. I wait until I see some extreme temperatures in the forecast predicting a low around 15F. That's after Thanksgiving and usually around Christmas time here in the Philadelphia area.

If it's too warm, the moisture inside the wrapping can cause mold. It's not uncommon to see an entirely molded tree when growers wrap it too soon and keep it wrapped too late. Around here I also unwrap in March. March is usually the time when a temperature below 20F is uncommon and I know it's safe to unwrap.

A lot of winter fig tree protection topics were also mentioned in an interview with Canadian fig grower, Steven Biggs:

Can I wrap my fig tree with a tarp? What about burlap?

When wrapping your fig tree, tarps are your best asset. Burlap is also a nice addition to add a little bit of extra insulation.

Here are the tools needed to wrap your fig tree properly:

Keep in mind that there are so many materials available. This comes down to preference, but I'm giving you all of the options so that you can choose the materials that are best for you.
  • Pruning shears or a pruning saw - you may want to prune your tree before wrapping. This can reduce the size of the tree and make wrapping an easier and more manageable task

  • Jute twine or bungee cords - this is how you'll bring the branches & trunks closer together

  • Leaves, straw, woodchips (any kind of mulch), or shredded cardboard - about one lawn bag full for each tree

  • A roll of burlap, housing insulation, moving blankets, bubble wrap, pipe insulation, or fleece row cover

  • Bamboo or metal stakes long enough to frame each tree - 3 per tree

  • Post-pounder tool, mallet, or hammer

  • Approximately 12 feet of chicken wire for each tree

  • A 10 mil tarp, tar paper, roofing felt, or a concrete blanket - this is a waterproof and insulative outside layer of the wrapping

  • Heavy-duty plastic bucket or trash can for the top of the wrapping

  • Step stool or ladder

How do I wrap my fig tree for the 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 (optional): Create a frame around the tree with either bamboo stakes, t-posts, or u-posts. Place 3-4 stakes or posts in the ground creating either a square or a triangle. Each post represents a corner of the shape. See the image below. The green circle is the fig tree and the grey squares are the posts.

Step 4 (do step 4 if you're going to do step 3): Around the stakes, tightly wrap around chicken wire or poultry netting to the top of the stakes and tree. Fill the inside of the netting or wire frame that we created with mulch or shredded cardboard.

Step 5: 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 6: 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 6: 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.

Words on insulation and heat sources

Wrapping is only so good. It acts as a form of insulation, but if you can provide a source of heat, you'll be in business. Before wrapping some growers wrap their branches with Christmas lights. You may not even need to wrap if you're using Christmas lights as each individual bulb provides additional warmth. There is also something called heating cables. These are usually used for roofs, pipes, and to a lesser degree, plants. You can also use them in the soil to warm the soil in the spring to encourage an early wake-up from dormancy.

Another and probably the most overlooked source of heat is the Earth, so I think it's critical to make the job of wrapping your fig tree airtight to trap all of the Earth's heat rising from the soil. You don't want any air getting in and you don't want any air getting out and you especially don't want moisture getting in and being trapped inside for the next 3-4 months. To make everything airtight, I would recommend weighing down the wrapping around the edges at the soil level. I added piles of woodchips, brick, and other landscape materials.
Temperature extremes and duration

In regards to fig trees, it appears that extremely cold temperatures are much more damaging the longer they last. If it touches 0F and then warms up quickly, you have a much better chance of winter survival, but if the temperatures will be below 10F for many hours, there is something to be said about the duration.

Fig tree hardiness is not as cut and dry as you make think. Like always there is nuance, but wrapping fig trees is an effective way to protect them from the harsh winter weather, potentially saving the tree and ensuring successful fruit production in the spring.

While wrapping is an important step in protecting fig trees, it's not the only technique. Other methods of insulation and heat sources can also be used to ensure the survival of the fig tree, such as Christmas lights, heating cables, and others mentioned here.
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I live in Ewing NJ (zone 7a) and am about to go out of town on Monday for about 3 weeks over Christmas and New Years. I'm trying to decide whether to wrap my 2-foot tall Red Sicilian cutting that I put in the ground this past spring. Forecast so far suggests the low temp will only get down to about 24 F while I'm gone. It's going to rain a lot this weekend so I'm hesitant to wrap it when there'll be so much moisture. Got any advice? To wrap or not to wrap?

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Decided I'm gonna go wrap it. If it molds I'll start over next year.

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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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