How Figs Grow?
Figs are easy to grow in warm climates, but product their best fruit in Mediterranean climates with hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Although they are a subtropical species, mature trees are fully cold hardy to 15 or 20 degrees F. People who whish to grow figs outside their normal range must plant in containers or go to considerable efforts to protect them during the winter.
In the ground, fig plants can quickly reach 15 to 30 feet in height. The canopy can spread equally wide. The root system is typically very shallow without a taproot and can easily spread to three times the diameter of the canopy. Ideally, fig plants should have a well-drained loam soil with plenty of organic matter, but they will tolerate average to poor soil. Once they are established, they are somewhat drought tolerant (probably due to their very extensive and wide-ranging root system). Figs tolerate soils with pH ranging from 5.5 to 8.0. Growers with acidic soils should apply lime to bring the pH up to the fig’s preferred pH of 6.0 or 6.5. Alkaline soils will also support figs, if there are no black alkali deposits present.
Plants need plenty of sun (8 or more hours) and heat which helps ripen the fruit. Figs respond very well (better than most fruit trees) to heavy applications of manure and compost. Be sure not to apply fertilizers too late in the growing season since that would spur new growth that cannot harden off before winter. Apply 2 to 3 cups of a balanced (6-6-6 or 8-8-8) fertilizer with micro-nutrients three times a year to mature in-ground plants. If you grow figs in containers, we recommend a complete slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote. Follow the package directions. Organic growers should apply generous amounts of compost and a high-nitrogen fertilizer like cottonseed, soybean or alfalfa meal.
For the best fruit production, water your figs regularly during the growing season unless rainfall is adequate. Take care that the soil is not constantly soggy. When fall arrives, stop watering and allow your plants to harden off. A word of caution: heavy rains and excessive or sporadic watering may cause the fruit to split. The amount of splitting varies from variety to variety, but a good rule of thumb is that the riper the figs, the more they will split and sour.
Container culture can be successful if you are diligent about watering and feeding the plants. Remember that nutrients leach quickly from containers. The easiest approach is to use a hefty pot (15 gallons or larger) and let the figs grow 5 to 10 feet tall with regular annual pruning of tops and roots to control the size. In climates where winter temperatures fall below 15 to 20 degrees F, you will need to bring potted plants into an unheated garage or shed.