The Q&A Archives: Fig Culture

Question: Have had fig plants south side of house, grow very tall , good color. Have figs green in color but never seem to ripen. Not sure what type - transplanted from garden over three [3] years ago. A lot of figs but none ripen.

Answer: If the fruit fails to mature, they simply aren't getting the heat and long growing season they require. Figs are easy to grow in warm climates, but produce 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? F. People who wish to grow figs outside their normal range must plant them in containers or go to considerable efforts to protect them during the winter.

Ideally, fig plants should have a well-drained loam 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 the fig's preferred pH of 6.0 to 6.5.

Fig plants need plenty of sun (8+ hours at least) 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, be sure to use a fertilizer containing them. I 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.

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