The Q&A Archives: Care For Monrovia Mission Fig Tree

Question: I live in north Bergen County in NJ. Two years ago I planted a Monrovia Mission Fig Tree (was about 4 feet tall). In November of 2003 I covered the tree with betlap, insulated the tree with straw, and covered the berlap and straw with tar paper. In march of 2004 I removed everything, and the tree was dead except for about 2 inches of the trunk stump above the ground. The stump grew branches and leaves that summer, but no figs. I November of 2004 I covered the

Answer: Unfortunately, your climate is really too cold for growing figs outside year round. They are considered winter hardy to zone 7, while your zip code places you in zone 6A or the coldest part of zone 6. Depending on your microclimate, it may actually be as cold as zone 5 where you have planted your fig. Microclimate can extend your growing season significantly, so siting the plant favorably at the outset is important. Since you have had some success with protecting your fig I would suggest you continue with what has worked for you so far. The only addition I can think of that you might try is a deeper mulch or even mounding soil over the base of the plant similar to what is done for grafted tea roses. Make sure your insulating material is dry and is a non-packing type such as straw or oak leaves so it holds that insulating cushion of air. The weather each year will certainly affect when the fruit is set and how the crop ripens from year to year. And, the longer it has been planted and as it becomes better established, you may find that its ability to come out of winter and return to active vigorous growth improves as well. This would help explain how you were able to at least have figs set in year two. Hopefully they will set earlier and there will be time for the crop to ripen in year three. Sometimes when we experiment and try to grow plants far outside their preferred range we have to take what we can get -- celebrate the good years and shrug off the bad ones. Although it is probably no consolation, many people are not even able to keep their fig trees alive in your climate. Best of luck with your fig tree!

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