Growing Figs

The fig (Ficus carica) is a large spreading deciduous tree with very broad leaves. It also has a number of rather unusual features. The flowers are enclosed within a fleshy receptacle which eventually becomes the fruit. The tree likes warm climates and should be protected from frost when young. The mature tree, on the other hand, is astonishingly hardy and may even tolerate as much as 10 degrees of frost. The trees also bear two crops of fruit per year.

Natural requirements

Figs prefer deep, heavy, alkaline soils. Sandy soils will render the trees susceptible to nematodes and pH values lower than 6.0 should be avoided. The trees are shallow rooted and so have a low tolerance of drought, in almost all situations mulching is recommended. The trees also have a high nitrogen requirement, however, too much will cause fruit splitting.


The fig is a large spreading tree, but in the orchard is planted fairly closely, at 6 8 metres. This restriction in the spread of the tree, and particularly of its roots, is said to improve the yield. It may be for this reason that the plant does so well in home gardens. There is also a tendency for the trees to produce suckers, and these must be controlled. Thinning of fruit is often required to produce a marketable quality. Little pruning is required other than to maintain shape and limit the tree's spread. Care should be taken to keep a continuous canopy of leaves over the whole tree, as the bark is rather sensitive to sunburn.

First Crop the so called Breba crop is formed on previous season's wood in autumn, and ripens in early summer. Pinching back of young growth and thinning of new figs (of the second crop) in spring is necessary to produce good sized fruit in summer. No pruning should be done over winter if this crop is wanted.

Second Crop this forms on current season's growth and ripens in autumn. It is usually heavier than the first, but in cooler areas, may not reach full maturity. To maximise the second crop, winter pruning of laterals by half or two thirds to eliminate the first crop is necessary.

Propagation of figs is by hardwood cuttings from two to three year old wood. Once prepared, these cuttings may need to be left on a bench to allow the latex to dry in the air (about 20 minutes.) before placing them in the cutting medium.


This is another crop favoured by birds and netting may be needed. Other pests include fruit fly and dried fruit beetle. Also, several fungal diseases may attack the tree or fruit and use of fungicides may be required.

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