A. Lerner's tips for growing and caring Fig Trees
A Guide to Growing Fig Trees in the Northeast  A. Lerner, 1988. Contact authot's for reprint permission

Fig trees are semi-tropical in origin. They thrive in areas where winter temperatures do not drop below 15F (-10C). Very young trees can be damaged by fall frosts when the temperature falls below 25F (-4C). Fig trees will grow in a variety of soils ranging from sandy loams to clay loams.

Planting 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.

Pruning 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.

Fertilizing 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.

Exposure As much sun as possible.

Winter Protection 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: Carpet 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.

Propagation 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.

Special instructions for transplanting your fig tree when in full foliage.

By: Joe Morle'

Below are the correct techniques for transplanting your fig tree. The most important thing to remember is to NOT disturb the root system when in full foliage. Do not remove soil from the root-ball while planting either in the ground or into a larger pot.

When planting your fig tree either in the ground or transplanting into a larger pot, it is critical to remember to plant to the same depth. DO NOT plant the tree deeper than its current depth. For trees with compacted roots in the pot only, you can cut three slices vertically a half-inch deep with a sharp knife. This will help the new roots grow into the new medium and keep it moist. But remember, this is ONLY for compacted root-bound. 

When you disturb the roots by pulling them apart, especially when the tree is in full foliage, the tree will die 100% of the time and we will not be responsible for replacement. We offer our toll-free number for all questions and I will be happy to assist you in all aspects of caring for your fig trees.

For continued success or when in doubt, give me a call at 1-800-676-FARM because we care for our fig trees and we care for you.

Thank You!


How to Winterize Your Fig Tree Planted in the Ground in Zones Below Freezing

By: Joe Morle'

In the Fall when the temperature has dropped to about 40 degrees, the leaves will begin to turn yellow and drop,   In November when the temperature is now around freezing   (32 degrees), clean off all the old leaves until the tree is bare.   Tie the branches as close as possible and try to bend the branches down to the ground.  Wrap the branches a few layers thick with burlap, a quilt, fiberglass insulation, or any soft material.  DO NOT USE PLASTIC.  Put weights on top of the branches to keep them down.  Cover completely with straw or dry leaves, making a mound of at least 2 feet.  Cover the mound with canvas or plastic to keep the fig tree dry.  Weigh down the canvas so it stays put.  Remember that before you start the process you will need rat and mice poison to be placed among the branches and trunk of your fig tree.  This will prevent the rodents from chewing the bark off the tree.

For larger trees insulate the trunk and roots with the same materials, straw or dry leaves.  Tie all the branches together. Wrap a few layers thick with burlap, quilts, fiberglass insulation, or any soft materials.  Wrap entire tree with canvas or plastic, forming a teepee, this will keep the tree dry from the winter weather. 

You will be more successful if your tree is planted in Southern exposure and close to your house foundation, a wall, or a fence this makes it easier to winterize and protect your fig tree from the harsh winter weather.

 For more information, feel free to call the fig tree expert, Joe at City Farm Florist. The home of figtrees.net at 1-800-676-FARM(3276).