Fig tree care is relatively simple, but it does take special knowledge to ensure healthy tree growth.
With the wide range of health benefits that fig leaves and fig fruits promote, why wouldn’t you grow a fig tree in your backyard? These ten strategies will surely boost your fig tree’s success!
1. Fig Tree Care Depends on Climate
Choose Tree Variety Based on Climate
Did you know there are over 700 varieties of fig trees? However, most varieties of fig trees will not be used by home gardeners. All fig trees fall into four types: Caprifigs, Smyrna, San Pedro, and Common Figs.
Common Figs are the type we see in home landscapes.
Before deciding which tree is suitable for your climate, you’ll find it helpful to become familiar with your USDA planting zone.
Fig trees generally grow best in zones 7 through 10. Long, warm summers and mild winters are desirable for optimal fig tree care.
For proper fig tree care, consider whether the climate in your area is humid or dry because some trees grow better in one or the other.
Trees that thrive well in humid climates include LSU Gold, LSU Purple, Celeste, Kadota, Peter’s Honey, and Violette de Bordeaux.
Some fruit trees that blossom best in dry climates include Panache Tiger Stripe, Black Mission, Violette de Bordeaux, Brown Turkey, Peter’s Honey, Ronde de Bordeaux, and Yellow Long Neck.
Some fig trees survive outside in zones 5 and 6. Figs that grow in these zones are considered hardy, meaning they have a better chance of surviving in cold temperatures. They have the best chance of survival with protection in the winter.
Your best options for zone 5 are the Celeste, the Hardy Chicago, and Brown Turkey.
Zone 6 is home to a couple more varieties. All trees recommended for zone 5 are great options, in addition to the Desert King and Olympian Fig Trees.
2. Fig Tree Care Starts in Containers
Ideal for Cold Climates
Figs can be planted in large containers temporarily or permanently.
If you live in zones 5 and 6, consider leaving your fig tree in a pot and bringing it into a cold storage place like a garage during winter. Fig trees will not thrive in temperatures below 15 degrees without protection, but they require little maintenance while dormant.
Keep Your Fig Tree in a Container if Desired
Fig trees can grow in small containers while they’re young, but they’ll eventually need a 15-20 gallon container to allow room for growth.
They prefer soil that is coarse and drained well. Ingredients vary, but a good mix for fig trees always includes peat moss, compost, or bark. Vermiculite or perlite is used to retain moisture. Sand, nutrients, and limestone are also common ingredients in high-quality mixtures.
Make your own mix with four parts of potting soil, one part of coarse bark chips, and one part of coarse sand.
3. Plant in a Sunny Area in Late Winter or Early Spring
Plant While Dormant
Fig trees require at least 100 chill hours minimum when they are dormant to produce yummy editable fruits. They should be planted in late winter or early spring while still dormant.
Fig Trees Need Sun
These fruit trees thrive off the sun, so it’s vital to their success to be planted in a sunny part of the yard where they’ll be getting sun all day.
4. Moisten Soil and Remove Weeds for Optimal Fig Tree Care
Since these fruit trees require well-drained and moist soil, the right mulch helps. Mulch also helps with weed control to ensure your tree stays healthy.
Organic mulch such as grass clippings, hay, and pine needles are essential to the success of a fig tree.
Keep 3-4 inches deep of mulch around your fig tree to improve soil quality and your tree’s health.
The amount of water your fig tree needs depends on the volume of rain, tree size, and outdoor temperatures.
Drip irrigation systems work best for fruit trees because they save water while allowing it to drip to the plant’s roots slowly. You can also use a soaker hose.
Since tree roots grow larger than the top of the tree, you need to position the irrigation system to water a circle of ground extending beyond the fig’s crown.
During droughts, a fig may need to be watered at least once a week, but all figs need to be watered deeply at least once a month to wash salt deposits that build up from minerals in fertilizer.
Salt deposits appear as a white crusty substance at the surface of the soil and can damage your tree if not washed away. Watering with hard water may also cause salt deposits.
Figs in pots need to be watered more frequently, especially outdoors, when temperatures rise above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Stay Distant from Buildings or Other Trees
Because figs have large roots, they must be at least 20 feet from buildings and other trees.
Fig roots can reach up to 50 feet! These roots can be damaging to building walls, house foundations, fences, pipes, sidewalks, and driveways.
It’s also important to double-check that your fig tree won’t be in the path of any underground plumbing or electrical wiring.
6. Fertilize Container and New Fig Trees Every Four Weeks
Use a balanced slow-release NPK Fertilizer. Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) are crucial nutrients to your fig tree’s success.
Ratios may differ based on your soil. To know exactly which fertilizer you need, perform a soil test.
Nitrogen promotes leaf growth and photosynthesis, phosphorus helps root development, and potassium regulates water and plant health.
You don’t want your fig tree to receive too much nitrogen at once. You’ll know if your fig tree receives too much nitrogen if the fruit doesn’t ripen properly.
Figs planted in the ground only need to be fertilized once in spring and once in fall, though first- and second-year figs should be fertilized every month.
7. Pruning: Young Fig Tree Care
Most fig trees don’t produce fruit for 4 to 5 years. Giving them special fig tree care during their youth is essential.
Some find pruning intimidating, but it shouldn’t be with The Complete Guide to Pruning.
Pruning in winter, while dormant, considerably sweetens chances for a fruitful growing season.
Clear a few branches from the tree’s center so more sunlight and air circulate the canopy. Also, remove branches growing vertically because these branches hold water.
Growths springing from the back of the tree, known as suckers, should also be removed. They should be treated like weeds.
8. Watch for Common Fig Tree Diseases
Fig rust is the most common disease affecting fig trees. This infection only affects the leaves and not the fruit itself, though left untreated leads to lower fruit production.
With proper fig tree care and a watchful eye, you can catch fig rust early when the usually vibrant green leaves start presenting yellow spots. Brown spots or lesions may also be present under the leaves.
Remove damaged limbs quickly and burn them if legal in your area. Do not allow them to fall off to the base because this causes the infection to spread faster.
Other Leaf Spot Diseases
Leaf and pink blight are common leaf spot diseases many trees and shrubs can catch. Treatment is similar to fig rust. Wet conditions cause diseases to spread faster.
Unfortunately, fig mosaic is one tree disease that cannot be cured, so it’s essential to prevent it because it affects fruit and leaves equally. Proper fig tree care requires checking for signs of the disease before planting a new fig tree.
Fig souring is easy to spot because fruit produces a fermented odor. A pink-colored, syrupy liquid starts oozing and bubbling as it releases.
Fruit cannot be saved once it starts to sour. The only fig tree care step to prevent this disease is to deter bugs and pests from bothering the fruit.
Like the Celeste, plant fig trees with no eyes to avoid fig souring.
Root-knot nematodes exist in soils with short winters, making fig trees a target. Symptoms include stunting, wilting, and yellowing. Symptoms are most dangerous right after planting.
To kill this disease, add more composted leaves, grass clippings, and manure around the trees to help control the disease. Nematodes prefer living over dead material.
9. Let Fig Trees Go Dormant
Leaves Drop After First Frost
Your fruit plant drops its leaves after the first frost, which is required for healthy fig tree care. This is a sign that the dormant season is coming.
Light or Heat is Not Needed
You may be tempted to bring your planted tree into your living room during winter, but it’s unnecessary for proper fig tree care. They require little sunlight and heat while dormant. Storing your fig tree in a garage or basement is safe.
Allowing your fruit tree to remain dormant in winter promotes a healthy growing season next year.
10. Maintain Your Fig Tree
Take Container Figs Indoors
Remember that proper fig tree care requires you to take your containers indoors before temperatures reach below 15 degrees.
Remove Dead Wood
Removing dead wood is an essential part of the pruning process for fig tree care. After the first few years, little pruning is required.
Fig Tree 101
You’re ready to start growing your successful fig tree. If you enjoyed this post on fig tree care, bookmark it to refer to during your planting journey.
Check out the Fig Tree hub page for more information about growing this fruit tree.