When you decide it’s time to add more plants to your collection, propagation is a popular way to lower costs. This method is especially popular for growing additional succulents from a single plant.
However, while succulents are the most popular plants to propagate, you can use this method on many other plants…including fruit trees!
If you’re hoping to add more fig trees to your landscaping but don’t want to deal with the price tag of a juvenile tree, propagation is a great backup option. Here’s everything you need to know about propagating fig trees!
What Is Propagation?
If you’re unfamiliar with the term “propagation,” it’s fairly simple. Propagation is a method of growing plants that utilizes clippings from a mature plant (or “parent” plant) to grow new juvenile plants.
For instance, if you have a pothos plant, you can clip off a leaf and settle the stem inside a propagation tube. After a short while, if exposed to proper sunlight, this leaf clipping will begin to sprout roots, and you’ll be well on your way to growing a new pothos!
Not all plants use leaf cuttings; others require root or branch cuttings. Fig trees require the use of twigs or branches from the parent plant.
While you may experience a few false starts when you first start propagating fig trees, patience and perseverance is key! As you go, you’ll be able to discover what works best and what doesn’t work at all.
Try to see the duds as practice. You learn something new with every attempt!
Fig trees are actually some of the easiest fruit trees to propagate. This makes them a great starter plant for those looking to get into propagating their fruit trees!
What You Need for Propagating Fig Trees
In order to start propagating fig trees, you’ll need the following equipment:
- Potting soil and/or perlite
- Rooting hormone
- Sealant of some type; many gardeners use wax (if using the cutting method)
- Stakes and twine (if using the layering method)
- A pocket knife (if using the air layering method)
- A plastic bag and rubber bands (if using the air layering method)
- A plastic bottle or tall container (if using the indoor cutting method)
How To Propagate Fig Trees Outdoors
There are two methods for propagating fig trees outdoors: propagating through cuttings, which is the more popular method, and propagating using the “layering” method.
The ideal time to use the layering method is the warm season, between mid-spring and late summer. This requires the use of outdoor soil, so you want to avoid any danger of frost.
To propagate through layering, you will choose a young branch (ideally no older than three years old) near the bottom of the tree.
Make sure the branch has no figs currently growing on it!
Once you’ve chosen your branch, remove the majority of the leaves. Do not remove all of them; keep the leaves located near the end of the branch intact.
Once you’ve stripped the leaves, bury the branch in the soil beneath the tree. You will want to leave roughly eight inches of the branch exposed at the end.
Secure the branch in place. You can use your twine and stakes to secure the branch and ensure it doesn’t snap back above the soil.
It will take quite some time for the branch to root, so be patient! If you don’t see results right away, it doesn’t mean propagation will not occur. The branch should take root after three or so months.
If cold weather approaches and you see no signs of roots, it’s likely that propagation didn’t take, and you’ll have to try again in the spring.
Once your buried branch has started to root, take your gardening shears and remove it from the original plant. You can then plant it wherever you like in your garden if your weather stays mild throughout the winter, or you can set it up in a pot and take it indoors to wait out the cold season.
Another option for layering is a method called “air layering.” This is very similar to the usual layering method, but instead of burying the branch in the ground, you will use a branch higher up.
First, choose your branch. Again, the ideal age is around two or three years old, but it’s all right if it’s older or younger as long as it’s still sprouting leaves. If the wood in the branch is dead, prune it off. It will not provide successful propagation.
Once you’ve chosen your branch, you will need to “girdle” it. Girdling a branch is a practice where you cut a portion of bark out from around the branch, leaving a portion of the wood bare.
Take a pocket knife and use it to trace two cuts around the circumference of the branch. You will then carefully remove the bark from between the two slices. You want about an inch or so of wood exposed!
Next, treat the exposed portion of the branch with root hormone.
After this, you will want to take a small (sandwich-sized) plastic bag and your chosen potting soil (also known as a rooting medium). For air layering, it’s recommended to use a soil substitute rather than true soil. Peat moss is a popular alternative.
Take your plastic bag and cut a very small hole in the bottom, just large enough to slide over the branch. Position your bag around the exposed area of the branch, then fill it with your rooting medium.
Once the bag is full, secure it tightly to the branch with rubber bands at the top and bottom. Cut two drainage slits in the bag to allow water to drain out. Otherwise, you may end up with a rotten branch or rotted roots.
Once you’ve finished your air layering setup, you will want to water the root medium twice a week. Once you see the roots develop, you can safely remove it from the parent plant and set it up in its own spot!
You can also try your hand at propagating fig trees outdoors through the cutting method.
Using your shears, when you go to prune your fig tree, take a cutting about a foot long from one of the branches. You’ll want to cut the bottom straight across, but the tip of the cutting must be cut at an angle.
After cutting, melt some of your beeswax and dip the tip of your cutting into it. Allow to harden.
After sealing the angled end, you will want to put rooting hormone on the other end of the cutting.
It’s recommended that you attempt this with multiple cuttings to increase your chances of successful propagation.
After treating the cutting with rooting hormone, plant it halfway into the soil with the flat end facing downward. After a couple of months, they should root!
Do not attempt to transplant until next season; allow them to establish themselves a bit more first.
How to Propagate Fig Trees Indoors
Propagating fig trees indoors is very similar to using the cutting method outdoors. The only difference is that it will take up space in your home.
When propagating figs indoors, you’ll follow all the same steps as you would when using the cutting method. But instead of planting them in the ground, you’ll plant them in pots inside.
Add compost to the bottom of your pot before adding soil. Plant your cuttings halfway in the soil–six inches exposed, six inches buried–and thoroughly water them. Once you’ve watered the cuttings, place something over them to catch evaporating water and keep them humidified. Many gardeners use a two-liter soda bottle cut in half, but you can also cover them with any plastic container that’s big enough.
Do not water your fig cuttings again after placing the plastic container over them unless the soil becomes thoroughly dry. Do not expose them to intense sunlight; try to keep them in a well-lit place, but we don’t want them to fry!
After a few weeks, you’ll start to see brand-new growth! Don’t remove the plastic covering just yet; wait another week before exposing your new fig sprouts.
Fig Tree Propagation FAQ
How long should I wait before discarding unrooted cuttings and trying again?
The general rule of thumb is to wait until the cutting is obviously dead. If whatever leaves remained have shriveled and died, and the branch itself is dry outside and in, it’s not going to root.
However, if you still see green, the cutting is still alive–it may just be struggling to root. To help it out, you can try adding more rooting hormone, cutting off a couple more leaves, or even shortening the cutting itself to help it put more energy into sprouting roots.
How fast will my propagated fig tree grow?
The simple answer? Very fast. You can expect a healthy propagated fig to grow anywhere between three and four feet in a year.
When can I expect to see fruit?
Unfortunately, this does take some time; you likely won’t see results from your propagated figs until two or three years after they take root. However, though it may take a bit longer than buying a juvenile fig, the money you save by propagating is worth the wait!
Propagating Fig Trees Can Be a Snap!
Now that you know everything you need to know, you can start propagating your own fig trees!
For more advice on propagating different types of plants, visit our propagation section now!
- About the Author
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Cassidy Eubanks is a proud Michigander, an avid reader, a lover of colorful gardens, and a writer for Minneopa Orchards.
After earning her bachelor’s in Creative Writing (partially through virtual learning, thanks to the pandemic), gardening gave her an excuse to get outside and get away from all the screens. With a particular love for decorating with colorful flowers, using herbs grown in her own garden, and finding creative ways to build big gardens in small spaces, Cassidy enjoys helping others learn about growing their own food, flowers, and trees through Minneopa Orchards!