Caring for Dormant Fig Trees in Containers

February 22, 2010

Those container grown fig trees that are moved into a garage or unheated area to spend the winter don’t need much attention but they do require a degree of special fig tree care and an occasional watering even during their dormant rest periods.

Today I wanted to share a technique to water those containers that has been just too convenient with all the snow that we have received this winter. Rather than hauling water to the fig trees, you can simply pack a bit of snow onto the top of the planters wherever you are storing them for the winter.

Using Snow to Supply Moisture to Potted Fruit Trees

Watering-Dormant-Fig-TreesThe snow will gradually melt and supply the fig tree containers with just the right amount of moisture at opportune times. It’s easier for the soil to slowly absorb the melted snow and you’ll have less water simply running through a frozen pot.

I learned this secret of fig tree care from a bonsai plant grower but it works great with my fig trees and other dormant fruit trees that are over wintered in unheated sheltered locations where they don’t receive any normal precipitation.

Just a Little Water Goes a Long Way with Dormant Plants

Be careful not to go overboard because these plants are dormant and don’t require routine watering, you just want to provide enough moisture to keep the soil from completely drying out. But don’t allow the soil to become the least bit water logged.

A light watering once every five or six weeks works out well for me with these dormant potted fruits and trees. They are low maintenance, have shed all their leaves, and are perfectly comfortable spending the entire winter cooped up in tight quarters with no light, no fertilizer, and very little water.

Other Plants are a Lot More Demanding during the Winter Months

Tropicals, herbs, and other patio plants that are still active and retain their leaves after being moved into a heated living area are a completely different matter and require much more attention and moisture to get them through the winter months.

But for those dormant plants a little snow may be all that you need to create the perfect self watering set up.

Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts:

  • Great idea and one I think I’ll borrow. Thanks.

  • Kenny Point

    Thanks, any time Ottawa!

  • Helena

    When should this container with a fig tree be taken outside? How do I make it branch out, it is just a long stick now.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Helena, I watch closely to see when the fig trees show signs of breaking out of dormancy and begin pushing new growth before immediately moving them outside in the spring. It probably wouldn’t hurt to move them out sooner as long as the threat of ice and hard freezes has passed in your area. Cutting the fig tree back a bit can help to encourage more branching.

  • Helena

    Hi Kenny,
    My fig tree just started to leaf out on the very top. Nothing along the trunk.
    I will be moving it outside this weekend.I am going to cut off the top a little for it to start branching out.
    Thank you for the advice.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Helena, I just moved my fig trees and bay laurel plants outside this past weekend, but set them out in an area that is somewhat sheltered. The fig trees were beginning to show signs of leaf growth and one of them even has a first crop of figs swelling along the branches. I also potted a couple of them up into larger containers. Let us know how your fig does with producing new side branches.

  • Helena

    Hi Kenny,
    I sure will let you know.

  • Kay Welsh

    I have had my fig tree in a container for 5 years. It gives me plenty of figs but they never rippen. What can I do?
    I live in Olympia Wa. The tree is in a sunny location. Please help – I would like to eat my figs.

  • Phyllis

    Dear Ken,

    I stumbled onto your website and love it! I don’t garden but would like to learn and your site has been a real eyeopener for me. Thank you for a lovely website.

    I am trying to grow a fig tree and have a fig tree in a container I just took it out of the leaf pile for overwintering. There are three branches leafing out and a fourth bare. What should I do now with the plant – put in it direct sun, fertilize it, remove the bare branch….a previous post mentioned cutting the tops off, why? This is my first foray in fig plants and gardening so any help or suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Phyllis and thanks for dropping by! Yes, place the container in a sunny spot and fertilize lightly if you like. I would wait a bit before pruning the bare branch to make sure it is dead. The reason for cutting back the fig tree is to encourage branching and a nicer looking tree, rather than a single branch growing straight up. Sounds like you don’t have that problem and your fig tree is branching naturally.

  • madeline

    I didn’t understand that my fig in a container over the winter inside needed to be dormant. I was watering it and it leafed out. Now it is June, just ready to go outside for the summer, but just dropped all its leaves! How do I get my poor tree back on cycle?

  • Petros

    I planted a small fig tree last year in a pot. Its is now approximately 4 to 5 foot tall. it has branches on the top and on the bottom of the tree did not put out any figs this year. I know I have to prune it but how and where do I prune it?

  • Helena

    Hi Keny,

    As promised I am reporting my progress with the fig tree.
    After I cut off the top, my tree branched out and leafed very nicely.
    However it only has 3 branches from the top. The rest of the trunk does not have branches.


  • Pingback: Appreciating Snow in the Vegetable Garden — Veggie Gardening Tips()

  • Virginia Wilson

    When I pick a fig, does it continue ripening? I read somewhere that they do not continue ripening after being picked. I passed this little “gem” on to my sister and was told that the ones she picked DID continue that process. What is the accurate thought on this? I have grown figs from cuttings for years and have had great success and passed nicely growing trees around the family.

  • Petros Tsoukalas

    I have fig tree that came from a cutting and has not produced a fig in 3 years?

  • thanka all for the info. i am in the uk, right on the west Wales coast, literally 10 yards from the sea! as you can prob guess, when the wind blows here—it sure blows!!! my prob is ” leaf curl”? it seems to happen when we get any gusts of wind? the edges of the leaf tend to go brown, crisp and curly. is this a common thing? great comments on here. best wishes. Harry

  • Andreas Djiakouris

    We have just had our garden re done completely and have purchased some patio plants to enhance the look. One is a fig plant of approx. 2ft high. When we bought it we were told that a fig tree likes to remain in its original pot so the roots remain tight, and if we are to plant it into a larger patio pot, we should still leave it in the original pot when doing so. I was also advised to water it constantly to the extent of not letting it dry out and keeping it regularly wet. Recently i notice that some of the lower leaves are dropping off.
    Q1..Should i replant this into another pot and remove its original plant pot to free the roots or not
    Q2…How moist should i keep the plant.
    Q3… Is bringing it into a conservatory in Winter a good idea
    Any help please

  • Helena

    Hi Harry,

    I see this happening when I move my tree out on the sun. Same: leaves get brown, curly and then crisp. However even with leaves like that fruit still grows and ripens.
    I think some varieties of figs do not like winds or high temps. I saw fig trees in Spain growing under direct sun, temp there was almost 40C. There was nothing wrong with them: green and lots of fruit. I assumed that it depends which variety you have. May be yours doesn’t like wind exposure, so just move it where it is minimum, may be closer to the house or some kind of wall.

    Good luck

  • Vicky Yant

    Just got a fig tree at Mom’s funeral, no idea how it keep it alive in Nebraska. We are a zone 4, so I know it cant be planted outside. What do I do to get it to go dormant inside the house.
    Thank you
    Sorry the question is so dumb

  • daniel

    if anyone wants to trade some fig tree cuttings please email me. I live in South Carolina and have several great varieties.

  • Cindy

    I have had a fig tree for nearly a year now, when i bought it at Home Depot for $15 it was in need of care. I repotted it in a square pot, a little larger than the pot it was originally in-it has lots of new leaves coming out on it, but the top of my plant has been loosing all of the leaves and actually is dying at the top, should I prune it back to fresh bark or what should I do to keep new growth coming on. Thank You

  • taf Sew

    Trim it. Fig trees are very easy to grow and don’t mind if you trim them. Just never take more than a third

  • lis g

    I just bought two fig plants in 5 gallon containers today, and so excited about them. Thank you for all the comments and suggestions, they sure gave me the idea on how to start my new plants. I hope these will do well in our Nevada heat. Will keep you posted.

  • daniel

    if anyone wants to trade some fig tree cuttings please email me. I live in South Carolina and have several great varieties.

  • John Tregunna

    Hi. I wonder if I keep the little very small figs coming from the new growth of this year or to rub them out because they probably they will not survive the UK winter. I did read somewhere that you take them out and then save the energy for next seasons growth, I must add that the brown turkey is 2 years old and I 2 figs ripening now.

Previous post:

Next post: