Growing Fig Trees

Common Edible Figs – Ficus carica

Growing fig trees at home is the only way to sample the many delicious varieties of this nearly perfect fruit. Each type of fig produces fruit that tastes different from all the others.

Some are richly sweet while others taste faintly of honey. All are so perishable that precious few make it to market.

Ripe figs soften and droop when they are ready to harvest.

Common varieties of fig (most of the edible ones) are self-fruitful so you only need to plant one to get fruit. If you want more than one–and what fig lover doesn’t–space them at least ten feet apart.

A fig tree can grow 15 feet high and ten feet wide. Or bigger! They can be kept much smaller with pruning if space is an issue.

The most important thing when growing fig trees is proper siting. Figs need full sun to grow strong. Without enough light, they become weak and unhealthy.

An unhealthy tree is a bug magnet.

Whenever I have tried to grow figs in even bright shade, I wound up battling scale.

As far as I’m concerned, scale insects are the worst garden pests you can have. They are nearly impossible to eradicate once they’ve gained a foot hold.

Give your fig intense light, good air circulation, and an adequate water supply and you probably won’t have a problem with scale.

Taking Care of Fig Trees

Helpful Pages

Nematode Control Tips

Instructions for Pruning Fig Trees

There are three components to taking care of fig trees: watering, fertilizing, and pruning.

Newly planted trees should be watered regularly until they become established. Never let them dry out. Mature trees should be watered deeply every two weeks during dry weather. If you live in a dry climate, mulch around the tree.

You can tell if a fig tree is too dry. The leaves turn yellow and fall during the growing season.

If you live in the nematode infested southern U.S., be particularly careful about keeping your figs watered as drought-stressed plants are especially vulnerable.

Figs can manage with as much or as little pruning as you want to do. Prune your fig tree while it is dormant.

How to Grow Figs That Fruit Heavily

Chicago Hardy Fig Tree
from: Nature Hills Nursery, Inc.
Brown Turkey Fig
from: Nature Hills Nursery, Inc.

After years of growing fig trees that produced nothing but dramatic foliage (which was nice, but that wasn’t why I was growing them), I discovered the secret to getting them to fruit regularly.

Figs love lime.

I don’t recall where I found this gem of truth. Somewhere online, no doubt. I thanked God for the Internet and ran out and bought myself a bag of horticultural lime.

I sprinkled this magic powder into the pot of each of my fig trees and watered it in. I performed the ritual in the spring.

That fall, they all bore. I was ecstatic.

Other than the lime, don’t over do the fertilizing. Excess nitrogen can keep fruit from developing properly or even forming at all. Only feed a fig if its branches grew less than a foot the season before.

Only fertilize actively growing fig trees. Never feed a dormant tree. Wait until you see leaves forming in the spring. You can feed it once more, no later than the end of July. You want to give any new growth time to harden sufficiently before winter.

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