Growing fig trees (Ficus carica) in pots creates an ideal environment for the plant to flourish. Fig trees produce more fruit when their roots are somewhat restricted, according to D.G. Hessayon, author of "The Fruit Expert." The container naturally limits root growth while allowing you to control soil conditions and the plant's sun exposure.
Selecting a Fig Tree
You can grow any variety of fig tree in a container, as long as you plant it in a large enough pot. Some options include the following:
- Brown Turkey fig trees (Ficus carica 'Brown Turkey'): This adaptable tree produces brownish-purple fruit and adapts well to a variety of conditions. It typically grows 15 to 25 feet tall and wide and is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 to 9. Because it's a larger tree, you may need to prune it periodically to keep its size in check -- especially if you plan to move the container to a sheltered location for the winter.
- Petite Negra fig trees (Ficus carica 'Petite Negra'): This dwarf variety only grows approximately 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, making it easy to handle in a container. Hardy in USDA zones 7 to 9, this variety produces dark purple figs and has attractive green foliage. This cultivar may be invasive in some areas, although growing it in a container reduces the potential impact.
- Chicago Hardy fig trees (Ficus carica 'Chicago Hardy'): This is another smaller variety that typically grows 2 to 3 feet tall with a similar spread. It's hardy in USDA zones 6 through 10, which makes it a particularly good option for gardeners in cooler climates.
Choosing a Container
When it comes to selecting the right container for a fig tree, several factors exist to consider, most notably size and drainage. Select a pot with a diameter of at least 15 inches. Ideally, start with a container that can hold approximately 5 gallons of soil to give the tree's roots plenty of room to spread out. Most importantly, the container must have drainage holes. Like most fruit trees, figs don't like wet feet.
Growing the Fig Tree
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Figs grow well in full to partial sunlight, but they do particularly well when placed in a sunny south or southwest location, which provides plenty of light. For added warmth, place the pot about 8 inches from the base of a wall or fence.
Water the fig tree once the soil is dry 1 inch below the soil's surface. Water it deeply until moisture seeps out of the drainage holes.
Rodale's OrganicLife recommends spraying the foliage with seaweed extract once monthly during the tree's growing season. In general, you need to dilute the seaweed extract by combining 1 teaspoon for each gallon of water.
Typically, you should repot the fig tree every two years, although you may need to do it sooner or later if the tree grows faster or slower than the norm. If roots begin sticking out of the drainage holes, it's time to repot. Move up to a pot that's approximately 2 inches larger than the original one each time you repot the tree.
Overwintering Fig Trees
One of the most outstanding benefits of growing fig trees in a container is that you can easily move it to a sheltered spot for the winter. This allows gardeners in cooler climates to enjoy growing these lovely fruit trees without worry of winter damage. Before the first killing frost, move the tree to an unheated shed, garage or basement and allow it to go dormant for the winter. Water the tree occasionally -- once the top 3 inches of soil have dried out. Once warm weather returns, begin moving the tree outdoors for several hours per day to get it acclimated to outdoor conditions. Once the last frost date has passed, transfer the potted fig tree to its outdoor location for the growing season.