How To Grow A Fig Tree

Forget store-bought, bland imposters. This guide is your invitation to cultivate a world of sun-kissed sweetness – your own thriving fig tree. From the first delicate note of planting a seed to the final crescendo of savoring honeyed flavor, this guide on how to grow a fig tree will be your musical director.

If you are already a fig expert, skip down below for a list of fig tree varieties that grow best in each USDA hardiness zone. Don’t skip past Ace’s fig growing tips for experts!

Part 1: Growing Fig Tree Cuttings vs Planting Seed

  1. Choosing Your Cast: Figs are a vibrant ensemble, each member boasting unique personalities and preferences. Will you choose the deep, velvety alto of ‘Black Mission,’ the resilient soprano of ‘Brown Turkey,’ or the prolific chorus of ‘Celeste’? Research breeds suited to your local climate and desired harvest characteristics.
  2. Sunlit Stage Lights: Find a well-lit haven for your figgy performers. They crave at least six hours of daily applause in the form of sunlight, so let their leaves dance with the light in a well-draining, sheltered spot. Avoid drafty corners or areas with poor air circulation – these are unforgiving spotlights that can harm your stars.
  3. Soil Symphony: Imagine your fig tree singing with joy. Achieve this harmony with a well-draining soil that lets water percolate like a well-rehearsed melody. For heavy clay, lighten the chorus with compost or sand. Sandy soils deserve a richer arrangement – add organic matter like manure or peat moss to retain moisture, like a bass drum keeping the rhythm. Aim for a slightly acidic (6.0-7.0) pH for most varieties, like a sweet tuning fork setting the tone.
  4. Planting the Seedlings: Now, let the music begin! Dig a hole twice the width and depth of your sapling’s root ball, like preparing a stage where the roots can strut their stuff. Loosen the soil at the bottom, like preparing a drumroll for the roots’ grand entrance. Mix in compost for an extra nutritional boost, like a spotlight highlighting their potential. Gently position your tree, fill the hole, and give it a deep, soul-stirring drink, like a refreshing shower before the show. Finally, mulch around the base, like spreading a cozy blanket to retain moisture and suppress weeds, the unsung heroes of the garden.

Part 2: How To Care For Fig Trees

  1. Watering Wisdom: Young trees, like thirsty tenors, need regular water, especially during scorching summers or dry spells. Aim for deep soakings that reach the roots, like a well-timed crescendo, but avoid an unwanted waterlogged chorus. Mature trees can handle drier intervals, but keep an ear out for their needs. When the top inch of soil feels dry, it’s time for another serenade with the watering can.
  2. Feeding Frenzy: While figs aren’t demanding divas, they appreciate a well-timed snack. A single application of balanced fertilizer in early spring is enough for most varieties, like a nutritious pre-show meal. Potted trees, however, might need more frequent snacks – dilute the fertilizer and offer it like tasty tidbits throughout the season, keeping their energy levels high for their big performance.
  3. Pruning Precision: When winter’s curtain falls, it’s time for a bit of shaping. Take out your pruning shears – the conductor’s baton of the fig tree world. Remove dead, diseased, or crossing branches to keep the tree structurally sound and promote good air circulation, like clearing the stage for new growth. Different varieties might have specific pruning preferences, so consult their individual scores before snipping away.
  4. Winter’s Embrace: For some figgy friends, especially in colder climates, winter means bundling up. Wrap young trees in burlap or frost blankets, like cozy scarves, and add a thick layer of mulch around the base, like a warm hug for the roots. Potted trees become indoor guests during the coldest months, so bring them in and let them enjoy the warmth until spring’s melody returns.

Fig Varieties For Indoors and Outdoors

  • Cold-Hardy Crooners: ‘Brown Turkey’ and ‘Celeste’ can handle a chilly encore, needing minimal winter protection. They’re the reliable veterans of the figgy chorus.
  • Balcony Buddies: ‘LSU Purple’ and ‘Chicago Hardy’ thrive in potted performances, bringing the figgy fun indoors when necessary. They’re the versatile understudies, ready to step in at any time.
  • Prolific Producers: ‘Black Mission’ and ‘Violetta’ belt out an abundance of sweet tunes, but remember, these stars might need extra support and pruning due to their vigorous growth. They’re the high-energy leads, demanding the spotlight.

Fig Tree Growing Expert Tips

Here is a quick list of bugs to attract if you want to boost fig production:

  • Figgy Friends: Ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps, the understudies of the insect world, help keep harmful pests in check. Plant dill, fennel, and coriander flowers near your fig tree to attract these beneficial bugs and let them take center stage when it comes to pest control.
  • Honeybee Harmony: Open the curtains for honeybees – their buzzing melody pollinates your fig blossoms, ensuring a bountiful harvest. Plant lavender, sunflowers, and rosemary nearby to offer them a sweet, pollen-rich buffet and keep their buzz vibrant.

Here are a few more expert tips on troubleshooting your fig trees growth signs:

  • Leaf Drop Blues: Don’t panic if your fig sheds a few leaves – it’s natural, especially in the autumn chill. However, excessive leaf drop could indicate underwatering, sunburn, or nutrient deficiencies. Check the soil moisture, offer some shade if needed, and consider a gentle feeding if things don’t improve.
  • Splitting Personalities: Figs bursting with sweetness might crack open. While frustrating, it doesn’t harm the fruit. Enjoy them immediately or preserve them by drying, freezing, or turning them into jams and chutneys.
  • Fruitless Frustrations: Patience, dear gardener, patience! Some fig varieties, like ‘Black Mission,’ require a specific pollination cycle to produce fruit. Research your chosen variety and provide assistance with caprification if needed (by introducing pollen from male caprifig flowers to the female flowers).

How To Harvest From Fig Trees

When your figgy stars reach their peak of sweetness, it’s time for the grand finale! Pick them gently when they’re soft to the touch and yield slightly when pressed. Savor their honeyed melody fresh, bake them into figgy dreams, or turn them into preserves – the possibilities are endless.

Best Fig Tree For Each Zone

The Plant Hardiness Zone Map (PHZM) is based on the average annual extreme minimum winter temperature, displayed as 10-degree F zones ranging from zone 1 (coldest) to zone 13 (warmest).  Each zone is divided into half zones designated as ‘a’ and ‘b’.  For example, 7a and 7b are 5-degree F increments representing the colder and warmer halves of zone 7, respectively.*

Easy to grow fig varieties by Hardiness Zone

  • Zones 1-5: Indoor only so, Hardy Chicago is a great fig variety for extremely cold climates even for zones growing indoors.
  • Zones 6-7: Brown Turkey Fig Tree is an easy to grow variety that produces bountiful harvests that taste great. It is a cold-hardy variety that can withstand winters in Zones 6 and 7, but will require some protection on the coldest weeks.
  • Zones 8-10: Most fig tree varieties will thrive indoors or outdoors unprotected in Zones 8 to 10. For large, flavorful figs try the Brunswick variety.
  • Zones 11-13: Feel free to grow any variety of fig tree in zones 11-13, because you are limited to indoor growing only. Your tropical climate is too humid throughout the year to plant outdoors.

Remember, caring for a fig tree is a duet with nature. Listen to your tree’s song, understand its needs, and provide the right balance of sunshine, water, and care. In return, you’ll be rewarded with years of sweet symphonies in the form of delicious figs, a chorus of joy ringing through your garden. So, get planting, get nurturing, and enjoy the unique melody of your own figgy masterpiece.

With a little dedication and this guide as your musical director, you’ll be cultivating a world of delightful figs.

If you enjoyed Ace’s guide on how to grow a fig tree, check out this specialty guide to indoor fig trees.

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