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