6 Tips for Growing Thriving Fig Trees

Lauren David
Written by Lauren David
Updated August 31, 2021
Person potting a fig tree in planter on terrace
Kathrin Ziegler / DigitalVision via Getty Images

Enjoy the fruits of your labor by following these tips

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Fig trees, Ficus carica, are relatively simple to grow, do well planted directly in the ground or in containers, and can add shade and value to your home. But while they’re fast-growing and fairly low-maintenance, they still need care from their plant parent. 

Here are some go-to tips for thriving fig trees:

1. Plant With Sunshine in Mind

Fig trees need a lot of sunlight. Choose an area that gets around six to eight hours of sun per day. If possible, plant your tree on the southern side of your home, which gets the most sunlight per day.

2. Choose the Right Type of Soil

Fig trees can adapt to different types of soil, whether sandy or ones rich in clay, but they don´t do well in highly acidic alkaline soil. 

Well-drained soil that’s rich in organic material, such as compost, is key for a healthy fig tree. If you´re not sure what type of soil you have in your yard, run a pH test. Fig trees do best in soil with a pH of around 6 or 6.5. You can buy a pH digital meter or contact a local pro to test your soil.

3. Know When to Grow in a Container vs. the Ground

Plant your fig tree in the spring or fall. When determining whether to plant directly into the ground or opt for a pot, check the U.S. Hardiness Zone to know if the fig tree can survive winter in your region. Once established, fig trees are low-maintenance—as long as their basic needs are met. 

If you´re limited on space or live in a colder region, consider planting a fig tree in a container. The container should be at least 18 inches deep with plenty of room for the roots to grow. Make sure there are drainage holes so the roots don’t become waterlogged. Every two to three years, you'll need to prune the roots and repot the tree to ensure it receives sufficient nutrients.

4. Consider Watering Needs

A newly planted fig tree needs water early and often as it adapts to its new home. During the first year, it’s important to water them frequently and provide mulch, which covers the soil and helps to retain moisture and reduces evaporation. At a minimum, mulch each spring but also consider mulching in the fall. 

In drier climates, consider watering deeply at least once per week. However, overwatering can be an issue and can cause root rot. Before you reach for the watering can or hose, check to see if the soil is moist to semi-dry before watering again.

5. Prepare for Colder Months

If you live in an area with cold or harsh winters, you’ll need to have a plan for keeping your fig tree alive. For trees in containers, preparation is typically easier—you’ll just need to move it to a sheltered space, like the garage or inside your home, so it’s protected from the ice and snow.

If your fig tree is planted in the ground, no worries—just make sure to choose a hardy fig variety that is able to handle cold weather and wrap it in a burlap sack for added protection. Fig trees go dormant during winter, which is a good time to prune any dead, broken, weak, or diseased branches.

6. Plan for the Harvest

Person picking a fig from the tree
Kilito Chan /Moment via Getty Images

Fig trees take some time (between three to five years) to establish themselves before they begin bearing fruit. The tree variety, climate, type of soil, and amount of sunlight also play a role. 

Once fig trees begin producing fruit, you can usually expect a harvest between June and September, depending on the climate of where you live. It’s also possible that you’ll be enjoying these delectable fruits as late as October or November.  

Most fig trees produce two harvests in a year, though the first harvest is usually smaller, can be acidic, and may not always be edible. It’s important to let the figs ripen on the tree instead of harvesting early.

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