How To Grow A Fig Tree

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Everyone loves a sweet tasty fig, either in a Fig Newton or on a cracker with goat cheese. This unusual fruit is surprisingly easy to grow. There are several different varieties, and they like being in the ground and in pots, so no matter where you live, you can most likely get a fig tree to grow and thrive.

How To Grow A Fig Tree
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Buy a Fig Tree

First, you need to purchase a tree. They're sold at a wide variety of nurseries and at big chains like Lowe's and Home Depot. Depending on the size of the tree and the variety of fig, you can buy a plant from as low as $10 to as high as $117.

Select a Variety

Black Mission figs are one of the most popular varieties of fig trees. These are most often grown in California and have a dark skin, pinkish flesh and a rich flavor. A more cold-hardy fig is the Brown Turkey. The name doesn't sound very appetizing, but the figs are sweet and rich and have brown skin and pink flesh. A popular white fig is the Excel. These fig trees are very hardy and can adapt to a wide range of climates.

Your climate zone will determine the best fig tree for you. The U.S. and Canada contain 11 planting zones based on climate. The higher the number, the warmer the temperature for growing plants in that region. If you live in zones one through seven, you should be able to plant a fig tree outside. Your local nursery can advise you on the particular variety for your region.

If you live north of zone seven, plant your fig tree in a container that you can bring indoors. Figs need a lot of sun, so if you live in a cold and cloudy place, a fig tree may not survive.

Plant Your Fig Tree in the Ground

If you live in a warm enough climate to plant your tree outside, find a sunny spot that's protected from the wind. Dig a cone-shaped hole deep enough to cover the root ball. Loosen the roots a bit by lightly rubbing the root ball before you put it in the ground. This way, the roots will find their way into the soil more quickly. Fill in the hole with soil and tamp down firmly, then water thoroughly to give the plant a good start. Don't fertilize the tree when you plant it.

Plant Your Fig Tree in a Pot

If you need to use a container for your fig tree, make sure your pot has adequate drainage. Some pots come with built-in drainage holes, but sometimes you need to drill a couple into the bottom. Also, make sure the container is bigger than the one the tree is currently in. You want the roots to have room to spread out.

Next, fill the bottom of the pot with soil. This is where the roots will spread, so make sure you give them room. Remove the fig tree from its current pot and settle it into the new container. Fill in the sides around the tree with soil and tamp it down on top, then water it thoroughly.

Your fig tree will need about eight to 10 hours of sunshine a day, so make sure you find a good spot for it. They like morning sun the best, so consider this when finding the location for your new fig tree.

Caring for Your Fig Tree

Watering: For the first two years, you'll need to water your fig tree whenever it feels dry. Poor-draining soils can kill a fig tree. If you think the soil isn't draining well, mound the soil 12 inches more around the base of the tree. Once your tree is well established, it'll need very little water, but sufficient watering is crucial those first two years.

Pruning: You can keep a fig tree at just about any size you desire if you prune it. Or, if you let it run wild, it can grow up to 25 feet under healthy conditions. If your fig is in a container, it'll need pruning. Don't prune a tree when it's flowering or when there are figs growing on it. It's best to prune after the figs have been picked.

Fertilizing: Most fig trees don't need any fertilizer. In fact, too much can hurt the quality of the fruit. However, if your fig is in a container, add some fruit tree fertilizer to the soil a few times each year.

Harvest Your Figs

Let the figs get ripe on the tree before you pick them. Some trees produce two crops a year, in the spring and the fall. You can test if a fig is ready for harvest by lightly squeezing it. If it's slightly soft, pick it. Then, make a delicious fig feast and invite your friends over to share the harvest.


Heather Skyler is a journalist and novelist who has written for wide variety of publications, including, The New York Times and SKY magazine.

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