Consider Figs for Perfect Home Grown Fruit

March 1, 2009

You can let go of the concerns over growing fruit trees in the backyard garden because figs have a way of erasing all the worries and reservations, especially when these easy to care for trees are raised in containers.

For the record, most fruit trees can be demanding in their space requirements, and less than welcoming about sharing territory with other plants. But fig trees will happily grow within rather confined quarters, and container grown figs are easy to train and maintain into a compact, standard tree form.

It’s Not Mission Impossible to Raise Fruit in the Home Garden

fig-treeWhere many tree fruits are considered almost impossible to cultivate without yielding to complex spray schedules to combat insects and diseases, fig trees are comparatively pest free and a cinch even for no-spray organic gardeners. And fig trees don’t leave you clinging to promises of the future; they’ll often begin bearing delicious fruit within a year or two!

The backyard orchard’s arsenal of ladders, pruning saws, grafting tools, pesticides, and fungicides are all obsolete and unnecessary for the fig grower. In fact, if you stick with the “Common” fig varieties you don’t even have to rely upon your friendly bees and other pollinators to do their job as many fig trees are completely self-fertile.

Relax and Enjoy a Hassle Free Harvest of Fresh Figs

When harvest time arrives there’s no guessing to determine when the fruit is ripe, and no stretching, bending, or straining is required to harvest the fruits from container grown fig trees. Just reach out and touch the figs that are delivered at about eye level with your feet never leaving the ground.

Sure there are other fruit trees that you can plant in containers but they just don’t take to it as naturally as a fig will. With fig trees there are no dwarfing rootstocks required, no special varieties that have been bred to grow in an unnatural manner, and no foreign insect pests to struggle against.

Special Care for Container Grown Fig Trees

I know, nothing’s perfect and there are a few obstacles or challenges involved with cultivating fig trees. First of all they are more of a sub-tropical and cannot tolerate cold weather with the same ease as an apple tree. However with container grown fig trees the way to get around that problem is simple; just move the potted tree into an unheated garage or building for the winter.

Fig trees aren’t generally heavy feeders and don’t require a lot of water, but container grown plants will need to be monitored and attended to on a more regular basis than trees that are growing in the ground. You will occasionally need to repot or root prune figs that are container raised to keep them healthy and productive.

Other Considerations for the Fig Grower

There are a couple of pests and diseases such as mosaic virus, leaf rust, and root knot nematodes that can afflict fig trees but they are not usually a major problem in the home garden. While figs are not as popular with birds and four legged bandits, you may need to provide some protection against pilfering as the fruit matures and begins to ripen.

I’m expanding my collection of fig trees this spring and they will all be container bound, as that will work best and allow for the most flexibility in my backyard. The trees will spend the summer lounging around the patio and I’ll just move them into the garage before winter arrives.

If you’re ready to broaden your gardening in the direction of offering more backyard fruits; fig trees will make a great addition to the home garden. The next post will offer a few specific tips for growing figs in containers.

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  • Figs are one of my favorite trees!

  • Meg

    Oh, I never considered a fig in a container. There’s a section on figs in the Bountiful Container book, but I skipped over it and assumed it would be too much work to maintain. Now I have something new to consider this Spring.

  • You keep them in the garage in winter? I wonder if I could do that here. But I should probably stick with fruit trees that can survive our winters outside, much as I love figs.

  • Wow ! … I will take fig in consideration to harvest them in my garden … thank you.

  • Figs are fabulous fruit trees to grow. Ours cope with regular winter temperatures of around -5 C but it is usually dry cold. They crop so heavily and the fruit is really easy to dry or preserve for you to use year round. Glad you’re promoting these lovely trees!

  • @catalangardener: Where are you living? I’m at 55 °N and I haven’t seen anyone around here grow figs, except a few in containers. I’m curious about how far north the zone goes, without having to move them inside in the winter. I thought -5 °C was out of the question.

  • Thanks for the great article. I’ve been wanting to get a fig for my gardens after reading Four Season Harvest. I think I may buy one this year and give it a shot. I’m worried though that my garage may be too cold to store it in.

  • Kenny Point

    I’m with you Sheila and Catalan Gardener, figs are great trees for the patio or garden and it’s a shame that they don’t show up in more backyards!

    Meg, figs have to be among the easiest fruit trees to grow in the backyard, provided that your climate is suitable.

    Yes you read that right Kitt, my potted fig trees are nice and comfy in a corner of the garage where they spend the entire winter without a complaint. I’m even tempted to try storing them under the house in the crawl space since I think they would be okay there as well.

    You’re welcome John, I think that you would enjoy raising the fig trees if you decide to grow them in your garden.

    Susy, it’s worth a try and if your garage falls much below twenty-five degrees on a routine basis you could always wrap the tree and container to provide a little more insulation even though it is inside. Good luck!

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  • Aurora Maria Briggs

    When I first saw this bush in my backyard, I didn’t recognize it. I’m not a gardener. I now realize that it is indeed a fig tree (bush) and is loaded with the fruit right now.

    I’ve never eaten a fig unless it was in Fig Newtons!! Can you please enlighten me as how to prepare them?

    I live in Florida, central West coast.

  • Kenny Point

    Hello Aurora, my favorite way to prepare them is to just… pick when ripe… and eat!

    If you must, Bass has some fig recipes over on his site for turning figs into jams and preserves. I have also heard of some people stuffing figs with various ingredients as well.

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  • Gloria Autrey

    I have a beautiful 2 year old fig tree in my back yard. It has been loaded with beautiful figs for two months, but when they get a little larger than a marble they fall off. They don’t seem to be diseased in any way. What is wrong with them and what can I do to keep them on the tree until ripe?
    Thanks, Gloria

  • mohamad

    I like the fig fruit, in my garden I have two large trees one of them has a red fruits and the other is white.
    thanks, Mohamad

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  • Vasilis

    Thanks to all I learn a lot about fig trees.

  • Vasilis

    I have a two year old fig tree full of figs, roots are comming thru the pott holes,can I repot now?

  • Vasilis


  • joseph ballerini

    I have brown turkey fig trees growing in 18 gallon containers, 5ft, 6ft and 7 ft and have lots of figs, some are purple and some a brown and green. I live in upstate ny and bring them in cold weather. I want to cut them down, the three main stems, and when is the best time to do it and how far down can I go with out without losing next years fruit. They have been in the 18 gallon tubs for three years without repoting. Please advise. thank you joseph

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Joseph, I would wait until late winter or very early spring to cut the fig trees. Whether you get fruit next season will depend on the variety that you are growing and the length of your season. Some fig trees can ripen fruit from new growth in the same season.

  • Debra Taylor

    Although picking them off the tree and eating them I also dry them, make jam with them and then I can use the jam for cookies and in the middle of cakes before I frost them. But my absolute favorite way is to barbeque them. The sweetness and the little bit of crisp around the sides from the heat. Umm you just have to try it once and you will be hooked. Enjoy

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