© A.Lerner,1988. Contact author for permission regarding use.
Fig trees are semi-tropical in origin. They thrive in areas where winter temperatures do not drop below 15 °F (-10 °C). Very young trees can be damaged by fall frosts when the temperature falls below 25 °F (-4 °C). Fig trees will grow in a variety of soils ranging from sandy loams to clay loams.
When planting, it is best to prune the tree back to 24″ or 30″ (60 cm or 75 cm), unless the tree is already branched. The hole should be 3 times the diameter of the root ball. Mix in a handful of lime when you backfill and water well. Do not fertilize the tree at planting time. Young trees benefit from the placement of a stake (support) upon planting.
Always prune branches to an outward facing bud (similar to roses). This will result in the tree having an open center to permit the entry of air and light. All pruning should take place while the tree is dormant.
Fig trees are not heavy feeders, however, if the growth is not satisfactory, they may be fed with a fruit tree fertilizer. A mulch of limestone chips will be beneficial to the tree.
As much sun as possible.
The trees are ideally planted near a south facing wall or solid fence. When the tree becomes dormant in the fall they should be wrapped with some insulating material. Some choices are:
- Blankets, Quilts
- Foam Under-Carpet
- Layers of Canvas
- Pink Fiberglass
All insulating material should extend from the ground to the top of the plant. This should be topped with a plastic sheet or large plastic bag in order to keep the insulation dry. Under no circumstances should the plastic contact the tree itself.
Planting in Containers
The culture of fig trees in containers is becoming more common today. In many cold winter areas, this is the most practical way of growing them. Figs in containers can be stored in basements or attached garages. If an unheated and unattached garage is the only option, the tree should be wrapped before storing.
Figs in storage during winter should not be watered except perhaps one cup of water per month to prevent the soil from becoming powdery. The tree should be dormant when it is brought indoors. A dormant tree is leafless. The tree should be checked during the winter to see if it has started growing. If the tree has come into growth, it must be brought into good light immediately. The tree can be prevented from coming into growth prematurely by keeping it in a cold and dark location.
The tree should be moved to the outdoors (if dormant) around mid spring. If the tree has leaves, you must wait until after the last frost. Trees may be moved to a larger container every year until you have reached the largest pot you can handle. At this point the tree should be root pruned every three years and replaced in the same pot. Container grown plants will also benefit from a limestone chip mulch.
Fig trees may be propagated from semi-woody cuttings of 12 inches in length. Place the cutting in a pot containing a sterile rooting medium (vermiculite). Put a plastic bag over the pot and place it in a spot which has good light but no direct sun. Check frequently for rooting. When rooting occurs (about 6 weeks), gently lift and place in potting soil, water well, and grow on!