Mastering Fig Tree Maintenance: A Comprehensive Guide to Growing Figs in Your Garden


If you live in the south and have a backyard garden, growing figs can be a rewarding experience. Fig trees are relatively easy to grow and require minimal maintenance, making them a popular choice for gardeners of all experience levels. Their rapid growth and ability to withstand drought and frost make them a hardy and reliable addition to any garden.

When purchasing a fig tree, it’s important to choose a variety that is well-suited to your specific climate and soil conditions. Different fig varieties have different growth and fruiting habits, so it’s important to do your research before you buy. Some varieties may require cross-pollination, while others are self-pollinating. Additionally, certain fig varieties are better suited to container or potting culture, while others thrive in well-rotted soils.

Fig trees can grow to be quite large, reaching heights of up to 30 feet. However, it’s possible to keep them at a more manageable size by pruning and dwarfing techniques. Pruning fig trees should be done in early spring, after the danger of frost has passed. It’s important to remove any dead or damaged branches, as well as any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other. A well-pruned fig tree will have an open center with a clear path for air circulation.

Fertilizing fig trees is an important part of their care. They should be fertilized three times a year: in early spring, after the first flush of growth; in mid-summer, after the figs have ripened; and in late fall, before the first frost. Use a balanced fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Apply the fertilizer evenly around the base of the tree, taking care not to let it touch the trunk or leaves.

In addition to regular pruning and fertilizing, fig trees may require other maintenance tasks. For example, they may need to be protected from blight and other diseases, which can often be done by providing a well-drained site with good air circulation. Additionally, fig trees are susceptible to root-knot nematodes, which can be controlled by planting in nematode-free soils or in containers with nematode-resistant rootstocks.

Overall, growing figs in your garden can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. By following these tips for fig tree maintenance, you can ensure that your fig trees grow and thrive year after year, providing you with delicious, ripe figs for you and your family to enjoy.

Planting Fig Trees

Planting fig trees is a relatively easy process that can be done in your backyard or garden. Fig trees tend to thrive in a variety of environments, making them a great addition to any home. Here are some tips to help you get started with planting your own fig tree.

Choosing the Right Variety

Before you begin planting your fig tree, it’s important to choose the right variety for your region. Some popular fig varieties include the Brunswick, which has a greenish color when ripe, and the Violet de Bordeaux, which is a dark purple fig. Different varieties have different requirements, so be sure to do some research or consult a local nursery to find a variety that will thrive in your climate.

Preparing the Soil

Fig trees prefer well-drained, loamy soil. Before planting, make sure the soil is free of weeds and is in good condition. If the soil in your area is poor or heavy with clay, you may need to amend it with organic matter to improve drainage and fertility.

Planting Fig Trees

When planting your fig tree, choose a location that receives full sun and has enough space for the tree to grow. Dig a hole that is about one-third larger than the root ball of the tree. Place the tree in the hole, making sure the root ball is level with or slightly above the surface of the soil. Backfill the hole with soil, gently firming it around the roots.

Providing Care and Maintenance

Once planted, fig trees require regular care and maintenance to ensure healthy growth and a bountiful harvest. Water the tree regularly, especially during the first year of growth. Fertilize the tree every spring and summer with a balanced fertilizer to provide essential nutrients.

Pruning is another important aspect of fig tree maintenance. Prune the tree during the dormant season to remove any dead or diseased branches and to shape the tree. This will help improve air circulation and prevent diseases.

Harvesting the Fig Crop

Figs typically ripen in late summer or early fall, depending on the variety and your growing environment. The fruit should be fully colored and slightly soft to the touch before harvesting. Simply twist or cut the fig from the tree near the stem. Figs do not continue to ripen once picked, so make sure to harvest them when they are fully ripe.

Dealing with Common Problems

Fig trees can be susceptible to certain problems, such as root-knot nematodes, rust diseases, and poor fruit production. To prevent these issues, make sure to plant your fig tree in well-drained soil and provide regular fertilization. Additionally, removing weeds and maintaining proper sanitation in the garden can help prevent the spread of diseases.

By following these planting and care tips, you can enjoy the beauty and delicious fruit of your own fig tree in your backyard or garden.

Planting Site

Choosing the right planting site is crucial for growing healthy fig trees. Figs are typically grown in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 11, although specific varieties, such as the Brunswick fig, can tolerate cooler temperatures. When selecting a site for your fig tree, look for a location that receives full sun for at least six to eight hours a day. Ensure that the soil is well-draining and fertile, as figs thrive in rich soil. If your soil is too heavy or clayey, you can improve its drainage by amending it with organic matter, such as compost.

In colder regions where temperatures drop below freezing, fig trees can be planted in containers. This allows gardeners to move the fig tree to a more protected environment during the winter months. Container-grown fig trees should be moved indoors before the danger of frost to prevent any damage to their roots. They should be placed near a sunny window, where they can continue to receive the necessary sunlight for proper growth.

Before planting your fig tree, it is important to prepare the ground or the containers. For ground-grown figs, dig a hole that is wide and deep enough to accommodate the root ball. The hole should be at least three times the size of the root ball. For container-grown figs, choose a pot that is large enough to allow the roots to spread, and use well-draining potting mix.

Once planted, fig trees need regular watering, especially in the early stages of growth. They require deep irrigation, ensuring that the water reaches the root zone. However, be careful not to overwater, as soggy soil can lead to root rot. During dry periods, fig trees benefit from additional moisture, particularly if they are fruiting.

Fertilizing fig trees is also important, as it provides the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and fruiting. Figs are heavy feeders and benefit from regular fertilization. Apply a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or 14-14-14 formula, in early spring before new growth begins. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates.

Fig trees should be pruned to maintain their shape and size. Pruning should be done during the dormant season, before new growth appears. Remove any weak or crossing branches, as well as any dead or diseased wood. This helps to improve air circulation and reduces the risk of fungal diseases. Pruning also encourages new growth and improves fruit production.

Fig trees are self-pollinating, but they tend to produce more fruit with cross-pollination. To ensure optimal fruiting, plant multiple fig tree varieties within a close proximity. This will increase the chance of pollination and result in a higher fruit yield.

When it comes to harvesting figs, they should be picked when fully ripe. Fig fruits are ready to harvest when they are soft to the touch and the skin begins to crack. Ripe figs will have a rich color, ranging from greenish yellow to pink or dark purple, depending on the variety. Avoid picking figs that are still green or have a hard texture, as these are likely to be premature and will not ripen properly.

If you live in an area with colder winters, it is essential to protect your fig tree from freezing temperatures. Insulate the base of the tree with mulch or straw, and cover the branches and trunk with burlap or additional layers of mulch. If temperatures drop below freezing, wrap the tree with frost protection fabric or netting to provide extra insulation.

By choosing the right planting site and providing the necessary care, you can grow healthy fig trees that will reward you with a bountiful harvest of delicious fruits.


Pollination is a key factor in the successful growth and production of fig trees. Fig trees are unique in that they have an unusual pollination process that requires a specific type of wasp for fertilization. This relationship is known as mutualism, where both the fig tree and the wasp benefit from each other.

Some fig varieties, like the Smyrna fig, require wasp pollination to produce fruit. If the wasp population is weak or absent, the figs will not develop properly and will drop from the tree. To begin the pollination process, fig tree growers need to attract and maintain a healthy population of the specific wasp species that is compatible with their tree variety.

To ensure successful pollination, fig tree owners can take several steps. One suggestion is to plant multiple fig tree varieties that have staggered blooming periods. This helps to ensure that there are compatible wasps present during the pollination window for each tree. Additionally, some home gardeners may choose to introduce wasp populations by using wasp eggs or even wasp-infested fig cuttings.

Proper care and maintenance of fig trees also play a role in ensuring successful pollination. Fig trees need to be well-pruned and have a balanced branching structure to support fruit production. Any weak or diseased branches should be removed to prevent the spread of blight or other diseases. By maintaining a healthy tree, fig tree owners can maximize their chances of successful pollination and fruit production.

It’s important to note that fig trees grown in containers require special attention to pollination. Since they are isolated from the natural ecosystem, fig trees in containers may not have easy access to wasps for pollination. Gardeners who grow fig trees in containers may need to manually pollinate their trees by transferring pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers using a small brush or cotton swab.

Fig trees thrive in a wide range of climates, from the cooler temperatures of the mountains to the hotter climates of the South. While fig trees can tolerate a variety of conditions, they do need protection during harsh winters. In areas where temperatures regularly drop below freezing, fig trees may need to be covered or moved to a safe location to prevent injury from frost. A proper winter protection program should also include wrapping the tree with burlap or other insulating materials.

In terms of watering, fig trees have moderate watering needs. They prefer well-drained soil and should be watered deeply but infrequently. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other problems, so tree owners should be cautious not to overwater. It’s also important to note that fig trees are sometimes prone to nematode infestations, which can affect their health and fruit production. If nematodes are a problem, a proper soil treatment program should be implemented.

Overall, proper pollination is essential for fig tree health and fruit production. By understanding the unique pollination process and taking steps to attract and maintain compatible wasp populations, fig tree growers can ensure a bountiful harvest. With the right care and attention, fig trees can be a beautiful and productive addition to any garden or home.

✿ Read More: Gardening Tips and Advice.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.