Figs care guide

Figs, originally native to subtropical climates, have found a way to adapt to different conditions. Immigrants introduced fig trees to the northern parts of the United States and successfully cultivated them in colder climates. Whether you’re planning to grow figs in your garden in a cold or subtropical climate, here are some key considerations:

Figs can thrive when grown in pots or in the ground. Most of the varieties we offer have proven to be successful in our cold climate. When planting in the ground, choose the warmest and sunniest spot in your yard, preferably near a south-facing wall. Avoid planting in waterlogged soil, but any other well-draining soil should suffice for outdoor figs. Applying a layer of mulch can help young fig trees develop stronger roots by keeping weeds at bay.

Fig trees are naturally suited to a Mediterranean climate, but they can survive colder winters with some care. Extremely low temperatures in winter, around 13°F, can damage above-ground growth, with younger growth being more sensitive. Older growth tends to be hardier. When planting figs, select the most protected areas sheltered from north winds. Planting against a structure can create a microclimate that benefits the figs during winter. There are several methods for protecting figs during the winter: small trees with a small diameter can be bent to the ground and covered with soil, while older trees can be wrapped with an old carpet and then covered with a plastic tarp. Avoid using clear or black plastic, as it can cause heat build-up. If field mice are a concern, mothballs can be used as a deterrent; place them around the tree trunk before wrapping. In the event of winter damage, remove the dead wood. When new growth emerges from the ground, keep around three sprouts spread out and remove all others. These will become your main trunks, allowing enough sunlight to reach between them. In some varieties, these trunks may produce figs in the same year.

Potted fig trees are an excellent choice for northern climates and limited spaces. Use a well-draining soil mix for containers, such as a mixture of 2 parts pine bark mini nuggets, 2 parts professional potting mix, 1 part perlite, and 1 part coarse sand, mixed thoroughly. A suitable size for a potted fig is approximately 15-20 gallons. Once they reach this size, repotting is necessary at least every 2-3 years. The best time to repot is in late winter or early spring. Trim up to half of the root system and prune the branches at the same time to maintain a balance between roots and branches.

During winter, relocate potted figs to cold storage, such as a garage or barn, after the leaves have fallen. Ensure the storage temperature does not drop below 20 degrees. Water them only when completely dry, approximately once a month for small trees in storage. Large trees require minimal watering while dormant. As the weather warms up, move potted fig trees back outside and place them in a sunny spot. Monitor the soil carefully, avoiding excessive drying, which may lead to fruit dropping. In extreme heat, they benefit from afternoon sun.

Fertilize potted trees with a slow-release fertilizer that contains a higher nitrogen level with a ratio of 3-1-2. If using a slow-release fertilizer that feeds for more than three months, apply it once in the spring by spreading it on the top 2 inches of soil or mix it with your soil mixture during repotting.

Enjoy your fig-growing journey,

Bass Samaan

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14 Comments

  • Bass: Do you advise we start off with a 15-20 gallon pot, or start off with a small pot and upgrade gradually over several seasons?
    Thank you.

    • It depends on the root system of the plant and the type of soil. You can place 1 gallon plants into 3 gallon pots with no issues, if you are planning to place it into a large container such as 15-20 gallons, make sure the soil has good drainage so it doesn’t retain water and remain wet which can lead to root rot.

  • Hi Bass,

    We live in York PA and bought fig trees from you last year. We have a “Ronde de Bordeaux” and a “Verte”.
    We planted them in the Spring of 2016 in the ground along a South facing wall and they are doing great. The trees are almost 10 feet tall and bear a lot of fruit.
    I have several questions:
    – They produce a lot of fruit but only 1/5 seems to ripen. The Ronde is doing better than the Verte. Is it because of the type of fig tree, or their age or are they lacking something? We are now at the end of October and it is still going but I suspect not for too much longer…
    – Now that they are that tall, how do I prune them and when? Last year, I kept them at 4 feet high and wrapped them up.
    – How do you winterize them when they are that tall?

    Thanks for help.

    • Hello Bruno, I’m glad these are doing well for you. Verte is a late ripening type but once the tree is established it should ripen them earlier, as these should be ripening end of September by the latest in our area. if it’s a small tree when it was planted it’s normal that they’ll take some time to get established. I would pruning to about 6 feet and tie them up as you normal overwinter them before. they’ll do fine. there are several ways to do it. Good luck.

  • Bass, I bought one of your Koura Black figs and have a south facing wall I’d like to plant it in front of. How far away from the wall should I plant it? I’m not sure how wide the tree will get or should I always prune it to a certain width or height? Is this one of the varieties that is ok in our zone 6 with winter protection? I have a small conservatory but things get buggy in there. Thanks for any info.!

    • Hello, South facing well should work well. I haven’t trialed it in ground over winter yet. Let me know how well it did for you.

  • Is the Bass Favorite Fig a good, in ground tree for 7a/7b? Do you have a list of those that are going to be hardy enough for planting in ground in 7a/7b Maryland area?
    I enjoy your web site.
    Thank you,
    Cheryl

    • Hello, We’re trialing it this year in ground in our zone 6. however I think it will do well with some protection. Thank you

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