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Growing Fig Trees in Containers

by Stark Bro's on 11/08/2010
Potted Fig Trees

Fresh figs are some of the tastiest and easiest fruits you can grow, and fig trees are incredibly attractive with their uniquely shaped green foliage even when they trees aren’t fruiting. Fig trees, when compared to other fruit trees, have one of the shortest wait times before you should expect fruit: usually 1-2 years after planting. However, even with all the perks, fig trees have a reputation in northern gardens (zone 6 and colder) for not being winter-hardy enough to try.

Fortunately, you don’t have to struggle and fight with the harsh winter weather when you grow fig trees in containers!

We offer varieties like the Brown Turkey Fig and Chicago Hardy Fig here at Stark Bro’s — fig trees perfectly suitable for container growing. The young trees are shipped in our temporary 4″x4″x10″ Stark® EZ Start® pots, and these trees are ready for planting in containers as soon as they arrive. That way, when the nights start getting cold and frost becomes a threat, you can simply move your container-grown fig tree into an unheated area indoors, like a basement, garage, shed, etc.

Planting Fig Trees in Containers

Chicago Hardy Fig Tree in ContainerFind the right container:

  • The container you use can be made of any material (wood, clay, ceramic, recycled materials, etc.) just be sure there are plenty of drainage holes to let excess water escape.
  • Try to avoid heavy decorative pots, since they may be difficult to move once they are filled with soil, water, and a fig tree.
  • Don’t waste space! Start small and move up to a larger container size as the tree roots fill the current container. For example, you may start out with a 5- or 7-gallon container and move up to a 10-gallon container when the tree’s roots fill the previous container size.
  • Your tree may eventually end up growing in a container as large as 2.5 feet in diameter, like a half whiskey-barrel, but these are heavy and difficult to move, so make sure you can manage the container size you choose to plant your fig tree in.

For a unique growing experience:

Consider a container on wheels for your mobile convenience! Before putting the tree into the container, place the container on a wheeled plant stand, which can be purchased at almost any garden center, hardware store, or nursery. This will make your life a whole lot easier when you get ready to move the container around for the winter season.

Planting Tips:

After planting your fig tree in its container, water it well, then add a layer of mulch. The mulch will keep the soil from drying out too quickly. 

Put the fig tree in a sunny spot in your yard, and keep well watered. During hot summer weather, your fig tree may need more frequent watering, possibly even daily. Observe and respond accordingly to your tree’s environment. Note: If your tree’s leaves begin to yellow, chances are it is being over-watered.

Pruning your fig tree. Unlike most other fruit trees, fig trees typically don’t require routine pruning, but you can prune them to a size that works for your space. Depending on the variety, fig trees naturally mature around 10- to 15-feet tall or taller! Many fig tree growers find that keeping them between 6-8 feet tall is most manageable, especially in a container environment.

In autumn, when the leaves start to turn and fall (ideally before the first killing frost), it is time to move the fig tree to an unheated basement, garage, or shed where the fig tree will go dormant. Check occasionally during the dormant period for soil moisture. Be sure to allow the soil to become dry to the touch 2-3 inches below the soil surface before watering. Dormant roots don’t take in much water, but the moist soil keeps the roots from drying out. Avoid drenching or overwatering your dormant fig trees; this will avoid root rot and other moisture-related issues.

As warmer weather approaches and the days get longer, move the fig tree out to the yard for a few hours every day. This will help acclimate it back to its favored warm weather. Take it back indoors in the evenings. When the last frost date has passed for your area, move the fig tree back to a sunny spot outdoors. In no time, your healthy, vigorous tree will produce sweet and luscious fresh figs for your snacking, cooking, and drying pleasure.

Read more about growing fruit trees in containers here!

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Topics → Planting & Growing, Tips

91 Comments

  1. Lori permalink

    Hello. Is it necessary to let the fig tree go dormant in the winter? I bring mine inside, but keep it watered and in our living room. We live in Ohio. It produced about 10 figs this past summer and it was the 2nd summer that we had it. When I keep it indoors, it loses most of its leaves, but as I said, I keep watering it. I didn’t know that I was supposed to let it go dormant.

    • Judy permalink

      Hi Lori! I’m going to recommend that you allow your fig tree, grown in a container, to go dormant this year. :) By doing this, you will be allowing the tree to complete its annual growth & fruiting cycle. If you have a place between 32º and 45º F where you can keep it, with little to no light, that would be ideal. See if it doesn’t do better next year! Best wishes.

  2. Loree permalink

    I have a brown turkey fig that is five years old…it is probably eight feet tall. Every year it has only a handful of figs. I don’t fertilize it because I read that nitrogen promotes leaf growth and not fruit. Any ideas on what I should do? thanks

    • Judy permalink

      Hi Loree, if you want to increase the fruit production of your fig tree, I have a couple of suggestions! First, I recommend you fertilize your fig tree in early spring, when the buds swell, using a balanced fertilizer (8-8-8, 10-10-10, etc.). This will replace the nutrients used for the prior year’s fruit crop. Also, be sure your tree receives full sun during the growing season. Fig trees love the heat and they love the sun. Some years, in colder climates, there aren’t enough warm/hot days to provide a heavy crop. You might consider planting an additional fig tree, one that is a hardy and bears early, like Chicago Hardy, to boost your total fig yield. Give these suggestions a try; you should have better results this coming year!

  3. Debra permalink

    I have a fig tree which also comes in to my living room each fall. I’ve had it for about 4 or 5 years. It makes figs, but later in the season and they don’t have time to mature before it’s got to come back in the house. I sure would like more pointers on how to promote growth & yield from this beautiful tree!

    • Judy permalink

      Hello Debra! I wouldn’t recommend putting a fruit-producing tree in a heated & lighted part of your home for winterizing. The ideal conditions would be in a room with no sunlight coming in & temperatures between 32º and 45º F. Most fruit trees (fig trees included) need their dormant rest in order to prepare to produce fruit the following year. :) Give it a try this winter and let us know how it goes! I think you will have great results in 2011.

      • Charlie permalink

        Do you, by any chance, know if this also applies to citrus fruit trees? I also bring my potted tree into our Colorado home and place it near a large window experiencing the same symptoms the fig tree owners have experienced. Any help would be appreciated.

        • Citrus trees are a bit different from fig trees. One thing citrus and figs have in common is that they need warm temperatures to encourage fruit production and ripening. You don’t need to encourage your citrus trees to go dormant for the winter.

          Citrus trees, being tropical by nature, love regular light (and lots of it!) and balanced moisture (not too much, not too little). They have been known to flower and fruit more than once during the same year and they can often be found flowering while still hanging onto existing fruit as it ripens.

          Is your citrus tree producing fruit and not ripening it in time, or is it not producing fruit at all?

          • Charlie permalink

            It produces one orange a year. LOL Ripens toward end of summer after having been put outside in full sunlight. Still a thrill to eat that single orange. Does seem to blossom twice a year, but the small (ball bearing) sized fruits just drop leaving just the one to ripen. Figs appear to be less testy to raise.

          • Citrus can be finicky, especially when grown in containers. They are prone to drop leaves and fruit at the slightest stress, like too much or too little water or changes in temperature (like when it’s moved indoors from outdoors or vice versa). It’s difficult to provide a consistent growing scenario for citrus unless you live in a consistently warm region or have a greenhouse. :P

  4. Thanks for the great article. I can’t wait to grow my fig!

    • Meg permalink

      You’re very welcome! So good chatting with you tonight in #gardenchat! Best wishes for your figgies. :)

  5. Hi,
    I have a Kadota fig, purchased this sprng and live in zone 7. It is in a large pot sitting on the deck, which is not shaded and faces the north east. It has from 1 to 7 figs on each of the 3 branches. This morning I noticed that many of the leaves are turning yellow and dropping. I checked for aphids, spiders, etc. and see no evidence of pests. Though it is receiving periodic evening rains, which seem to be enough for my other deck plants, could it be it needs more frequenet watering or do you think there is another cause? Also, should I thin the number of figs on each branch (like you would on an apple or pear tree)or leave as is?

    • Great questions, Susan. Typically, yellowing leaves are a sign of chlorosis in a plant/tree. This happens when there is a nutrient deficiency in the soil or when the tree is receiving too much water. The frequent rains may be the culprit but if you are not fertilizing the fig tree, you might want to consider a well-balanced soil application every couple weeks or so.

  6. Caroline permalink

    I planted Celeste, Chicago Hardy, and Brown Turkey Figs. Do I prune all of them 1/3 to 1/4 annually or do some figs fruit on old branches like the blackberries?

    • You’ll be happy to know that fig trees need very little pruning in a general setting! Just basic maintenance is all that’s necessary, Caroline. :) If you are keeping your fig in a container, pruning to the size that fits your space best is possible. Figs are fairly forgiving of pruning cuts.

      Most people find that pruning to keep a healthy shape is all that is needed. Celeste, for example, doesn’t require more pruning than the removal of old damaged/diseased limbs and keeping it open to light (remove inward-growing branches). Heavy pruning — like what is recommended for other types of fruits and berries — may actually reduce fruit crops. You should be able to adopt this method for your Chicago Hardy and Brown Turkey Figs as well.

  7. cynthia williams permalink

    Hello and help. I’m in zone 7a and have a Brown Turkey 3 yr old tree that is established outside. She is covered with figs, but they are all green! It is 12 October and I really want to taste a fig. Digging her up and moving her inside is not a option this year, so what can I do? She has grown about four foot in summer 2012 and apperars to be very happy. I will be grateful for any feedback.
    v/r
    Cynthia

    • Hi Cynthia! I am in the same boat as you with my fig trees. Figs require warm temperatures to ripen, and this year, with the tough summer, many fig trees aren’t getting the chance to bring their fruit to maturity.

      If you haven’t been experiencing cold nights or frost there yet, your Brown Turkey Fig tree might have a chance to bring those figs to a ripened state. If there aren’t enough warm days left, chances are the fruit could drop before ripening. If they do drop, it’s not the worst thing, though, since you’ll know that your tree has reached its fruiting maturity, and if next year is more kind, you’ll get more figs!

    • JFS permalink

      Zone 6 here, and they have kept ripening into November, despite a near-freeze and the leaves on other plants turning. If it’s an outdoor tree, try burlap so that they get a better start in the spring. I also started knocking off some of the smaller green figs in late September / early october, so that the tree puts more effort into ripening the bigger ones. Seems to have helped–got about 30 this year, not huge but sweet.

  8. Stevie permalink

    Do you recommend a dwarf plum fruit tree for container planting or a full-size fruit tree that will become dwarfed in a container? I’m in zone 6B and have a greenhouse to winter it.

    • Stevie — since the container your tree is growing in will restrict the size of the tree, it is really up to you which original-sized tree you plant in it. Keep in mind that, if you ever decide to plant your plum tree in the ground in the future (if you move, give it away as a gift, etc.), you might want to still opt for the dwarf-sized tree if you don’t want one that will grow large. :)

  9. Mike permalink

    Is it to late to root prune my fig trees? they bare lots of figs each year, but they havent been out of the pots for years. I got them from an older gent, who has passed. Dont know what kind they are, but they are dwarfs. I think I will take the one in the smaller pot, and put it in a larger pot, and add compost. As for the big potted one, I would like to root prune, so I might have to wait till winter. thanks

    • Figs don’t require much pruning, except to remove damaged/dead/diseased limbs. As for root pruning, this helps all plants and trees that live the container-life. The most ideal time for this sort of pruning would be in late winter/early spring, while they are still dormant and not producing fruit. This helps to limit as much shock to the trees as possible. :)

  10. Sherry Valenti permalink

    Can you advise me on the steps to transplaning my fig tree to a larger pot (I purchased a whiskey barrel)
    I live in CT and move it into my garage in the winter – I am not sure of the variety but they are about the size of a silver dollar and brown

    Thank you!

    • Hi Sherry! The best time to transplant a fig tree is when it’s dormant, after all the leaves have fallen — late fall, winter, or early spring. Transplanting a potted fig tree should be fairly simple:

      1. Prepare the new container first (drainage holes, rocks or some porous material at the bottom for drainage, add some fresh potting mix to the new container, and so on)

      2. Loosen up the fig tree’s root system within its current container and then remove it. The root ball will remain intact.
      2b. Take this time to shake loose any of the current soil/potting mix from the root system, especially if you have used fertilizer in the containers. Unabsorbed fertilizer can create a salty buildup around the roots and this would be a great opportunity to remove it. You can use a hose to help wash away unwanted soil.
      2c. Sometimes trees grown in containers can become “rootbound” to the container. Their roots will circle and circle and become a tangled mess. This would also be a great time to untangle the roots (pruning minimally, where necessary) so that the roots will spread out in their new container rather than keep the constricted shape of the old container.

      3. Place your fig tree’s roots into the new container. Ideally you will already have put fresh potting mix in the bottom of the new container. You may need help filling in around your tree so that the trunk remains at the same level it was in its last container. Be sure the roots are spread out so that they are encouraged to grow.

      4. When the fresh potting mix and tree fills the new container about half way, water it down so that the mix absorbs water thoroughly.

      5. Fill the container with the rest of the potting mix and pat it down to remove air pockets. Be sure your tree is sturdy in its new home!

      Note that a half whiskey barrel is quite heavy even on its own (empty) and it will be even heavier with the potting medium, water, and a tree inside it. Before assembly, you might consider placing the whole container system on wheels for mobility or have friends or family help you find a safe way to continue to move it into your garage in the winter time for protection.

  11. Pat permalink

    I purchased a brown turkey fig this summer and planted it in a container. It produced well during the summer. I live in NJ so I need to winter the fig in my unheated detached garage. The articles I have been reading make me think that I need to wrap it even in the garage due to dips in the temperature. My problem is we have had to light frosts and it still has leaves and fruit on it. What do I do to winterize it if it still has foliage and fruit?

    • I’m at the same point as you with my potted figs. We had our first frost worth mentioning last night (here in NE Missouri) and my fig tree’s leaves had crystal formations on them. My goal is to move my trees into my unheated garage once the leaves drop.

      As for your fig tree’s fruit, if it hasn’t already, it won’t have a chance to ripen now. Figs require warm days and sunlight to ripen. It would be better for the tree’s energy reserves to remove the fruit at this point and let the tree shut down for winter. You can bring the tree into your garage now and let it drop its leaves, or move it in from outdoors after the leaves have fallen. It’s up to you! The light frosts will have already set the tree’s dormancy into motion.

      I have never bothered to wrap my fig trees, since I bring them indoors. I do still apply a layer of mulch over the container medium/soil to help insulate the roots and retain moisture. I hope this helps!

  12. Mary Farrell permalink

    Because I have no garage or shed, and even if I did, in my Iowa winters an outdoor, unheated stucture would go far, far belwo 32 degrees. Nothing that heavy could ever be carried down steep basement stairs, so I have procrastinated on buying a fig. I have read, however, that the Chicago Hardy can be grown outside in zone 5 and survive brutal winters. It is claimed that even if the tree dies to the ground in winter, it will come back from its roots and produce figs in the summer. What is your experience with this?

    • The Chicago Hardy Fig tree does tend to come back if it is hit with winter damage (as long as the roots are protected), but I’ve had this happen with my Brown Turkey Fig tree as well.

      I think the actual benefit of Chicago Hardy is that it not only comes back, but it also FRUITS on the new growth that comes back that year, after winter damage. That I can attest to. I was caught off guard and pleasantly surprised that my tree came back and gave me a few figs when it was 2 feet tall.

    • JFS permalink

      Brown turkey is hardy to well below freezing–the roots are fine down to -5 Farenheit or lower; the branches can suffer from heating / thawing and wind damage, so they take more of a beating outdoors. Trees are not hot-blooded. Wrapping offers protection from temperature extremes and from wind, primarily. It won’t do anything for a tree that’s in a dark garage.

  13. Sharon Karpinski permalink

    I have two figs in pots—an black fig grown from a cutting off an heirloom tree growing in the ground in my area and a brown turkey fig bought from you. I live in Zone 7 and, until this year, left the figs out all year against a sunny south wall where I surrounded them with bales of straw in the winter. Both figs look quite healthy but they have never fruited. Will moving them into the garage for the winter encourage them to set fruit next year? What else might help?

    • If your fig trees have been surviving winters outdoors without issue, you won’t need to bring them into the garage. The unheated indoors is more for protection in areas where winter elements are too harsh to leave potted fig trees outside.

      Fig trees enjoy a warm climate, which is essential for fruit ripening; however, extreme heat or dry climate will work against fruit production and quality.

      Fig trees don’t need to be pruned, unless you are trying to maintain an ideal height/shape. Oftentimes the issue with fig trees not fruiting is that their fruiting buds have been removed as a result of heavy pruning.

      Another thing that might be working against fruit production is if the fig trees are getting a regular high-nitrogen fertilizer. This will trigger green, leafy growth, so you’ll end up with beautiful trees but they won’t be encouraged to set fruit. If you have been fertilizing your fig trees, you might want to hold off and give them a chance to fruit instead.

      If the containers the fig trees are planted in are quite a bit larger than the root system, the trees will put their energy into filling that space before they try to fruit.

      They may simply need more time before they become productive. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why they haven’t produced so far, but I hope any of these suggested reasons help give you an idea of what you can do to help your fig trees along!

  14. Valerie permalink

    I am in Indiana, zone 5b/6a. I bought a fig in the spring and it grew beautifully over the summer. With the colder temps this past month I moved it to my unheated sun porch, which my potted citrus trees love because it doesn’t really get much below 55 and gets morning sun on the east side of the house. I moved the fig in there with them. Does it really need a dormant period with a lower temp and/or no sunlight? How long does the dormant period need to be? Is cold or lack of sunlight more important? If I left it outside in future years until it dropped its leaves and then moved it to the sun porch for the harshest part of the winter, would that be better?

    • Fig trees, unlike citrus trees, do require and benefit from a dormancy period to rest, store energy, and bear fruit. They don’t need very long (only about 100 to 200 chill hours).

      I went through the same thought process when I brought my potted fig trees in for their first winter. I’ve found that cold is definitely more important than dark in maintaining dormancy. The way I see it, the trees would still be “getting sun” if they were outdoors. My porch is unheated, but it has sunny windows on half of the walls, so it’s far from dark; however, my fig trees manage to stay dormant through the winter. The dark is intended to mimic the winter sun, which is less intense/direct than sun during the growing season, so a little light is fine but you don’t need to go out of your way to give it a sunny window — your citrus trees would rather have that spot anyway! :)

      • Valerie permalink

        Thanks for the timely information! I moved my fig back outside for a week in early November when I read this. It dropped its leaves, and I moved it inside before it got too cold. It’s tucked into a safe corner of the sunroom and will hopefully leaf out next spring and continue growing just as beautifully.

        Now, do you have suggestions for how to manage an overactive banana tree? I bought one of those in the spring too, and it went from 6″ to 3 feet high over the summer. Can I prune it? Does it need a bigger pot? (It’s in a 12-inch one right now.)

        • You should only re-pot your banana plant when it has become really root-bound to its current container. Banana plants actually perform well when their roots have filled the container, but anything more serious than that (like severely circling, restricted roots) would require a slightly larger pot. It’s best not to drastically increase container size — simply allow the roots to fill a slightly larger space before moving up in size. A smaller container will actually help manage the size of your banana plant, encouraging it not to grow any more vigorously than it already does! :)

          I was talking with someone who had her banana plant take off, growing like crazy, just like yours. She keeps hers in a 3-gallon pot indoors and it reached a full 8-foot height. She just pruned it back — as in, chopped off a good 3 feet from the top — and it responded by putting on new leaves from the center as if it hadn’t been cut back at all.

          Hers wasn’t fruiting yet, though. I wouldn’t recommend pruning if your banana plant has fruit on it.

          I also recommend pruning later in the spring after the threat of frost has passed, if you plant on moving the plant outdoors. Warmth and sunlight will encourage the new growth after pruning. If you keep it indoors at all times you can prune whenever you’d like, just be sure to provide adequate light for encouraging new growth.

          Also: If you have any photos of your banana plant, we’d love to see them! We don’t see too many photos from folks who are growing banana plants, so it would be much appreciated :) You can even share them with us on our facebook page if you’d like: https://www.facebook.com/starkbros.co (or email them to us at info@starkbros.com attention: Sarah). Congratulations on a thriving plant, by the way!

          • Valerie permalink

            I’ll take a photo this weekend when I’m actually home during daylight hours!

            The banana plant will go outside once it’s warm, so maybe I’ll prune it back then. Thanks!

          • Valerie permalink

            P.P.S. The Fig just sprouted dozens of new leaves after being dormant all winter, so it is doing just great. Again, I appreciate the suggestions!

  15. Anna permalink

    I have two fig trees I bought from you years ago. They are doing well in their pots and winter over in the garage each year. I am concerned that I may have to trim the roots at some point, is this necessary? They have grown into the largest pots I can possibly ever move on my own but I have noticed during watering they drain out rather fast. Are they becoming root bound? I have heard the roots on fig trees don’t like to be disturbed. What is the proper method of handling root bound trees? These trees are five years old and about 7ft tall, wonderful producers each fall. A couple of years I have gotten 2 harvest from them. Is that unusual?

  16. Angelina permalink

    I bought a Brown Turkey Fig tree this past summer, and potted it. We got some great fruit, but here in Ohio the winter is starting to set in. I don’t have a garage or an unheated indoor area, and the winters are too cold to leave the plant outside. What should I do? Should I bring it inside our warm house for the winter? I also have a covered back porch that receives very little sunlight, but is not enclosed or protected from the elements. Please help!!!

    • For maintaining dormancy, it’s better to have cool temperatures, between 32-45ºF — you don’t have to worry as much about having a totally dark place, since the winter sun won’t keep your fig trees awake.

      I don’t know the extent of the harsh winter* your back porch experiences, especially since it’s covered, but a combination of keeping your potted fig tree protected on the porch and bringing it indoors when winter really sets in will be the fig tree’s best bet in your case. People grow fig trees in North Florida, which doesn’t receive anything close to the cold temperatures and duration of Ohio winters, and they still manage to fruit, so the warm indoor temperatures won’t be putting you out, as long as your tree gets in as many dormant days as possible first.

      *winters consisting of dry, windy, cold and temperatures in the single digits and below are more harsh and harmful to a fig tree than winters with a lot of snowy days.

  17. Paul permalink

    Quick question. How often do you have to water the fig trees once they are inside the containers?

    • Paul permalink

      And are also indoors.

    • You only need to water your indoor potted fig trees when the soil is dry to the touch, an inch or two below the soil surface. They won’t be growing, so they won’t be taking in water steadily like they would during the growing season. They won’t need a lot of water when you do water them, either, just enough to provide some moisture for the roots.

  18. Jesse bacon permalink

    My fig tree is planted in the ground how should I protect it for the winter it’s a brown turkey fig and I live in zone 7a some articles I’ve read said they were hardy till 10 degrees and don’t need to be wrapped

    • If this will be your fig tree’s first winter in the ground, you should at the very least apply a few inches of mulch/leaf-compost on the ground around the tree. This should cover where the root system resides under ground to insulate the roots. Make sure to leave some space between the mulch/leaf-compost and the trunk to avoid issues like rodent damage.

      You can wrap your fig tree as well. First, get some soft twine and use it to wrap around the branches of the tree, so that all the branches are brought closer together, giving you a more confined space to work with. You can use dry straw to fill in the space of the center of the tree (in where the trunk and branches meet) to create more insulation, and finally cover the whole thing with a tarp to keep it dry. There are variations on covering your fig trees, and since there are several ways to do it right, it’s best to choose one that works for you. Most of the fig-growers who wrap their fig trees for the winter are growing their trees in the ground in zones 5 and 6 (a bit cold for fig trees), so you probably won’t need to go to any extremes covering them unless your winter is expected to be harsh.

      Most people save the effort of covering fig trees for the spring when the tree might be waking up, but frosts are still in the weather forecast. In the spring, you help protect those tender buds from late frost by wrapping the trees, covering them in fabric sheets, or even stringing holiday lights around them for additional warmth.

      If your fig tree has already survived winters in the ground before, you shouldn’t have to do anything differently — again, unless your winter is predicted to be a harsh one.

  19. Marie permalink

    I have often seen that plants should be brought into an unheated space for the winter – at a temperature about 35 to 45degrees. I would like to know where people get this type of space in zone 5, or any zone where plants would need to be brought in. When it gets down to 20 degrees or lower, the garage and any unheated space also matches that temp.

    Also, a question: I have had a Brown Turkey fig for about 6 years. It gets a lot of figs – is planted outside – but they stay very small and rarely get ripe. What is missing?

    • Perhaps the temperature depends on the insulation in the unheated space. Although I admit that the temperatures don’t conveniently stay between 32-45ºF, my garage is notoriously warmer than the outdoors here in zone 5b/6a, even though it’s unheated and has spaces where wind and other things get in. As long as the temperatures stay within 20-50ºF it’s fine. Trees are mostly able to avoid frost and harsh winter elements by being inside the garage, which is essential.

      Figs require warmth and sun to ripen. Is it possible your cold temperatures are setting in before the fruit is able to ripen? This can be problematic in northern zones, especially if the tree isn’t planted in a location with a southern exposure.

      I’ve heard that you can “force” a fig fruit to ripen by applying a small amount of vegetable oil to the little hole at the end of the fig fruit (often called the eye) once the fruit’s inner flesh has changed to a pink color. It seems you would have to sacrifice one fruit to open and see if the color is there. I’ve never had to try this, but it’s supposed to ripen within a few days of applying the oil. It heavily depends on timing, but I would think it’s worth a shot if you’re not getting many ripe figs as it is.

  20. Paula Gilmore permalink

    I received 2 baby fig trees as a gift this summer and put them in pots outside with my lemon and key lime trees, also in pots. My citrus trees are 3 years old and do well in my quilt studio over the winter so when I brought them inside just before frost I brought the fig trees also. My mistake! And thank goodness for email updates from Stark Bro’s. My garage stays about 45 in winter and has low light, but how do I know when and how much to water the fig trees? Each little fig tree produced about 6 figs – should I have removed them so the trees could grow? (BTW, I live in zone 5B and never thought I would be able to grow citrus trees but my lemon and lime both bloom 2 or 3 times a year. I have a nice crop of lemons just ripened and a tree full of growing limes. My family, who all thought I was a little nuts, are now enjoying my citrus fruit!)

    • Congratulations on your citrus success! They can really be tricky, so growing figs should be a breeze for you. :)

      The garage sounds like a good place to keep your fig trees, although you didn’t do them any harm bringing them in with your citrus trees before frost. When you water potted trees, especially during the winter, be sure that the soil is dry to the touch a couple inches below the soil surface. This way, you won’t accidentally overwater the trees, since they’re not really taking in as much water as they would while they’re growing.

      When a fruit tree is setting fruit, it often stops growing to use its energy for sustaining the fruit. This is why it’s ideal to remove fruit from young, not-yet established, fruit trees, so that they can get their roots in and adequate leaves on, before setting fruit. Something to keep in mind for the future! :)

  21. William permalink

    I have what I believe is 15 gal or 20 gal mineral tubs the ranchers use out on the range to feed there cattle. What I want to know is can I put the Fig trees in them and then put them in the greenhouse for the winter? It usually gets into the teens here in Oklahoma and some times single digit in the winter. There will be no heat in the greenhouse other than the sun.

    • Personally, I don’t know if I’d use those mineral tubs for my fruit trees, since they are intended to add minerals to cattle diets. It’s nice that they’re often weather-proof, but I don’t know how the minerals in the structure of the tubs would affect my tree’s nutrient intake. Call me paranoid :)

      I guess if you were going to use them, be sure that they have an adequate amount of drainage holes, so that the roots aren’t in standing water and you aren’t left with root rot or other issues attributed to poor drainage.

      If the temperature in your greenhouse also gets into single digits, you should consider wrapping the tops of the fig trees in burlap, with some dry straw as insulation, or protecting them in a similar way, so that they don’t get winter-zapped.

  22. Bob Herbert permalink

    I would try a few things to help a fig tree’s chances a make mature fruit in a growing season; place the planter in the corner of a south/east corner of a stockade fence, have a dark back ground to absorb as much lt. as possible and place the tree between two large accent stones which would give off absorbed heat in the evening. Stone walls work great with watermelons! Were trying to boost the heat degree days as much as possible here in N.H. Bob

  23. Sima permalink

    I am considering of growing Brown Turkey Fig here in zone 4. Since I live in such cold area I will grow fig in the pot. I was thinking to store my fig plant for winter inside greenhouse (I have very limited space in the garage). Greenhouse is not heated for most part of the winter, but night temps don’t fall below 15F and I read that brown figs do ok down to 5F. My concern is that during sunny days greenhouse temps does get sometimes up to 80F. I would like your opinion if fig would tolerate such night-day temperature fluctuation?

    • Good question, Sima! To maintain the dormant state of your fig tree, it will need winter temperatures to be somewhere between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. While the greenhouse sounds like a good place to keep your container fig tree to protect from low winter temperatures, 80ºF is too warm during the sunny days to maintain a consistent dormant state.

      The warm temperatures combined with sunlight may cause the tree to wake from its dormancy prematurely. When the tree wakes, it will open its buds (thinking it’s spring), and the tender growth may be at risk of winter injury when the temperatures drop again.

      If it’s possible to move the fig tree just outside of the greenhouse on the days where it gets very warm inside, that might be the way to go. I had to do this with my container peach trees this winter, only for the opposite reason: our temperatures have been unusually cold on several days, too cold for peach buds, so I’ve had to move the peaches inside the garage for protection.

  24. Kristine permalink

    When should I think about moving my potted Chicago Hardy fig tree outside? Should I wait until the last frost date (which is usually around the second week of May here in Nebraska) or should I do it sooner?

    • Good question Kristine! I am pondering the same about my fig trees, since they’re already starting to leaf out indoors. I plan to wait until the last frost date just because I can. Frost will damage the leaves a little if you move them out beforehand, but they’ll put on new leaves. Since fruit is really what has sensitivity to the cold, if your Chicago Hardy Fig tree is already developing fruit (it can happen!) I would definitely recommend keeping it inside until after the last frost date. The trees aren’t going to do a lot of growing in the few weeks we have to wait, and we get to enjoy the green indoors in the meantime. :)

  25. frederick capozzi permalink

    IM purchasing 2 fig trees a brown turkey and a celestie. i live in zone 3b temps this winter got down to a -30 degrees this winter will be in the top 5 coldest. I plan on bringing trees inside putting them in basement but the temps get no colder than 57 what problems will they have for winterizing?

    • Wow! And I thought our winter was cold this year. We had windchill into the negative 30s, but that was the extreme.

      If you plant your fig trees in containers, you will be able to overwinter them in your basement for protection from the winter elements. Just make sure that, when the soil is dry to the touch an inch or two below the surface, you give them a little water to sustain them. They won’t need a lot since they’re not going to be growing, but you don’t want the soil to become completely dry around the roots either.

      My fig trees are growing in containers on my unheated porch where it still gets into the 30s and they come back every year!

  26. frederick capozzi permalink

    what about getting enough cold hours? lets say they get 200 cold hours before december i bring them down in the basement where the temps will get no lower than 57 degrees. they will be there in the basement till middle april is that a problem for them?

    • That sounds fine! Fig trees don’t need many chill hours (time where temperatures are between 32ºF and 45ºF), usually 100-200 hours is sufficient for fruit production. I don’t think my container-grown fig trees get any more than that, and I’ve gotten fruit from them. :)

      My only concern is that they may not be encouraged to maintain a dormant sleep for very long in 57ºF temperatures. That is actually rather warm, so they may be inclined to wake. As long as they are dormant for their chill hours time before being in the 57ºF location, they should still be productive.

  27. Scott Schulte permalink

    Hi I bought my fig tree (Chicago Hardy) from y’all 4/12/14. Its still in a dark cool place in the basement (dormant) but I want to put it in a container this coming weekend and get it out side. What do y’all recommend for a potting mix? The things I am seeing online don’t make sense to me “sand, peat and perlite”. Where is the thing going to get nutrition if its not in dirt. I bought a big block of coco coir at the same time to mix in with dirt for the peach tree and have lots left so I would like to somehow use that in the container mix if I can.

    • Good question, Scott! Most container-grown trees thrive in soilless potting medium mixed with things like sand, peat, perlite, coir, etc. to evenly distribute water without holding too much or too little (with the help of adequate drainage holes in your container). In addition to preparing this mixture for your tree’s roots to settle in, it’s recommended that you provide nutrients in the form of compost tea, manure tea, or water-soluble fertilizer so that the roots can take it in. Many types of potting media have fertilizer “built in” so all you need to do is water in order for the nutrients to be absorbed by the roots. This mimics how ground soil works in relation to roots planted in the ground.

      I’ll reference an excerpt on hydroponics that might help clear things up:

      “Researchers discovered in the 18th century that plants absorb essential mineral nutrients as inorganic ions in water. In natural conditions, soil acts as a mineral nutrient reservoir but the soil itself is not essential to plant growth. When the mineral nutrients in the soil dissolve in water, plant roots are able to absorb them. When the required mineral nutrients are introduced into a plant’s water supply artificially, soil is no longer required for the plant to thrive. Almost any terrestrial plant will grow with hydroponics. Hydroponics is also a standard technique in biology research and teaching.” — Hydroponics || I hope this helps! :)

      Personally, I used a combination of coir, aged manure, and soilless potting medium for my container-grown fruit trees (including figs!) and I will be adding nutrients in the form of fertilizer throughout the growing season every year.

  28. Dale Jessen permalink

    I have to fig trees in my yard. One planted four years ago and the other three years. The very cold winter, Charlottesville, va had a devastating effect. The new wood from last year appears to be dead and buds at the top are dry. I have some new growth but only at the very bottom. Also, I now have the little worms borrowing into the lower large stem just above ground.
    Is there anything I can do to save them. Help.
    Dale

    • The good news is, fig tree varieties tend to grow on their own roots, so the growth that is coming back should be true to the variety you planted.

      You can help them along by providing organic matter or other water-soluble fertilizer (if you’re not already) and getting rid of their pest issue: pruning away the winter-damaged wood and what the worms have damaged (if you can) and spraying for pests will be a tremendous help eliminated unneeded stress.

      There are some natural pesticides like hot pepper wax, neem oil, and insecticidal soap that you can use without worrying about contaminating your environment with chemicals. I hope this helps!

  29. frederick capozzi permalink

    Well the fig trees I recieved are dead. Can i still get fig trees at stark bro’s nursery or is it to late

    • I’m sorry to hear your fig trees didn’t live, Frederick. You can conveniently check what’s available on our website:
      Fig trees for sale here for example.

      Our fig trees are still appear to be available (only while supplies last) — if you plan on planting fig trees this spring, the end of our spring shipping season is fast approaching!

  30. Connie permalink

    I have a brown turkey fig that has been growing in a large pot for about 5 years. I keep it inside during winter months. This spring it looked well with lots of figs on it and one of the branches growing to about 6-ft. That growth, however, stopped and figs did not grow much; instead, they just softened as if they were ripe and some were. What is going on? I did use MiracleGrow fertilizer that I use on my flowers. I probably used it 3 or 4 times. Would that be the culprit?

    One of my thoughts is maybe I can transplant it in the ground on the south side of the house and cover it during winter months. I live in zone 5a. Would I be able to do that?

    Your opinion if very much appreciated.

    • Is this the first year your Brown Turkey fig tree has fruited at all, or has it fruited normally in past years and this year is just unusual? It’s difficult to say what might have caused it to stop growing the fruit, but it’s more than likely caused by stress. Water stress (not enough water) is the most common cause of fruit-related issues, even fruit drop, especially in container-grown trees. Be sure to provide consistent watering if it hasn’t been raining there, but be sure not to OVER water either. The soil doesn’t need to be constantly soaked, but keep it from drying out. Another common stress is lack of nutrients, but since you’ve been applying fertilizer, that’s likely not the case.

      You may have more difficulty trying to protect your fig tree from winter injury there by planting it in the ground, since winter and cold temperatures (especially in early spring when they’ve already leafed-out or started to fruit) are certainly a stress factor for fig trees.

      If you still want to try growing a fig tree in the ground, I might recommend a variety like Chicago Hardy fig instead, since it’s notorious for growing back from the root if it’s injured in the winter and it is a precocious (early) bearer of figs. I grow both Chicago Hardy and Brown Turkey in containers and, after 3 years, Chicago Hardy is the only one that has produced figs with no issue. I’m in zone 5b.

  31. Connie permalink

    Zone correction: depending whom you ask, 99223 is anywhere from 5 to 6 zone. Dept of Agric says it’s 6, but have a hard time believing them.

  32. Kelly permalink

    My potted fig tree seems to be sprouting little babies at the base of the soil. What is the best way to transplant them into another container to share with friends?

    • Hi Kelly! My fig tree is doing the same thing. I tried just cutting off the little sprouts and sticking them in some soil, but they just wilted and died. I think what you’ll have to do is get a rooting hormone (you can find this at your local garden supply store, or find a recipe online to make your own with ingredients like willow bark) and apply that to the cutting you make to try to encourage it to develop roots.

      Propagation is definitely a skill that I haven’t developed yet ;)

  33. Laurie permalink

    Hi. I have a fig tree growing in a container that I would like to pot up. It currently has some fruit on it and it has never produced before. So I was wondering if I should wait to transplant it or if it would be fine to do right away. I’m a little scared to risk it.

    • Congratulations on your first fig crop! I harvested my first ripe fig last week and it was amazing. :)

      I would definitely recommend waiting until after you harvest the fruit before moving your fig tree to a larger container. The tree isn’t going to do much growing while it has fruit on it, so you won’t have to worry about waiting too long in that regard. If you transplant it now, chances are good that the stress of being moved, along with the stress of bearing fruit, will overwhelm the fig tree and it will probably drop the fruit before it can ripen it.

      Transplanting, even when potting up, is best when the weather cools, and the trees are dormant, since then they’re less prone to respond negatively to stress factors.

      • Mark L Yurkiw permalink

        I have a Stark brown turkey potted in a ten gallon pot for 4 years growing nicely (5ft) BUT not fruiting. Outside (southern expo.) all “good” months, inside (living room 68 degrees) all frost months. what can I do to encourage fruit?

        • Cool winter temperatures and being dormant are actually important to fruiting in trees like fig trees. If possible this fall/winter, when frosts typically set in, try moving your tree into an unheated garage, shed, basement, or some place that stays dark and cool (above freezing, but not quite as warm as 68ºF — somewhere in the low- to mid-40s would be ideal). This should help it rest up and encourage it to fruit.

          Another thing to consider is, if your tree’s roots are not filling the container it is planted in, it will put its energy into growing roots, branches, leaves, etc. first. Once its roots meet the edges of the container, it will think it has maximized its space and it will put energy into fruiting instead. I hope this helps ! :)

  34. Rebecca permalink

    I have one of your chicago hardy figs. I planted it in a container this spring when you sent it. I did not prune at all, so it is about 5′ high. The lower 3 feet are brown, the upper 2′ is bright green with bud looking growths emerging above the crotch where each leaf is attached to the main trunk. But it is all one trunk. Should I prune now while the is time to sprout out more branches? I’m guessing we have 2-4 more weeks before our leaves fall.I live in utah and would like to plant this In the ground In The spring. Should I keep it as a container or put it in a well sheltered sunny spot next year.?

    • I wouldn’t recommend trying to force new growth this late in the season, since anything that the tree sends out between now and frost will be at risk of injury. There isn’t time for the tree to benefit from developing new growth this close to fall anyway. If you want to prune it back a little, I would recommend that you wait until the tree is fully dormant. The new growth that sprouts in spring, when it wakes up again, will be able to benefit the tree. As it gets older, you’ll see more branching develop, so don’t worry that it’s “all trunk” its first year. :)

      You can certainly keep it in its container until spring when you plan to plant it in the ground if fig trees are typically grown in the ground there. You can plan on keeping it in the container instead if your winters might be too harsh for a fig tree. In this case, you can move the tree indoors to an unheated location (garage, shed, basement, etc.) for protection from harsh winter elements and just move it outdoors when the threat of frost has passed.

  35. Kathleen permalink

    I live in Hobe Sound, FL. and just bought a Brown Turkey Fig. She is still quite small so it is in a small pot for now. other than water and sun, is there anything I need to do for now????

    • That should be good for a while! Fig trees are fairly easy-going; they don’t even require much pruning except to remove any dead/damaged branches or unwanted growth low on the trunk.

      Make sure you don’t overwater the tree, though. “Too much water” can be just as harmful as “not enough water”, so try to only water when the soil is dry to the touch and your fig tree should be happy. :)

  36. Susan permalink

    Bought a brown turkey fig tree early this summer. Bore several figs throughout the summer, although several fell off before I could pick them. The few I did get to taste were rather tasteless, though they looked quite nice. Hints?

    • The new tree may have been too eager to fruit – usually a tree should have time to become established in its new environment before it is allowed to set fruit. When a tree sets fruit, it puts its energy into that and if its reserves were low from the start, it won’t be able to produce a quality fruit crop. Dropping fruit is a tree’s way of shedding what it is unable to support.

      Allowing a tree to establish itself and have a good system of food storage and nutrient intake will improve fruit quality going forward. You should expect to see improvements in your new fig tree’s fruit as it gets established.

      You can help improve the quality of the fruit you harvest by thinning the fruit if your fig tree sets another heavy crop. Just remove a few of the smaller fruits and make sure the fruit you leave isn’t near the soil level and isn’t crowded by other fruit. Space things out a bit. You can read more about the benefits of thinning fruit trees here.

  37. Anne permalink

    I just bought a Chicago Hardy fig tree for my apartment (and it came with a few small fruit already!). Two questions:

    1) I have a porch right now I can set it on to live until it gets cold and I can bring it in (I live in Zone 7), but I anticipate moving apartments within the year and I can’t guarantee I’ll have an outdoor space for it at the new place. Will it be okay living indoors all year long in that case?

    2) I’ve read that overwintering is healthy for figs, but since I live in an apartment that’s kept at a cozy 73-74F at all times, I can’t truly overwinter it. Is that a problem? This winter I can leave it outside unless it gets too cold, but again, after I move I might have no outside place to keep it, so I kind of want to start training it to live indoors year-round.

    • The indoor environment doesn’t have much of what a fig tree naturally prefers from the outdoor environment, like sunlight and humidity. I’m not saying it’s not possible to grow the tree indoors year-round, but it’s not ideal. It may simply require extra effort on your part, just like container-grown trees require a bit more effort (like in watering and repotting) than a tree planted in the ground needs. If you can keep the tree in a place that you control the light (less in winter) and the humidity (humidifier?), then that would be better than hoping the tree will be adaptable to your indoor environment.

  38. I have a 10 month fig tree which I started from a branch in 1/2014. I don’t know what type it is but its 26″ in height. I live in Hawthorne, New York in a condo which is pretty warm in the winter months 78 to 80F. Can I keep it outside on my patio if I were to wrap it up to keep warm? I don’t know exactly how much to wrap it up. My father had a fig tree in the Bronx, New York (in the ground of course) and he would wrap it up with blankets and top it off with a bucket on the top for the winter. In the spring he would unwrap it and it used to produce lots of large green figs with a light sage green inside. I don’t have anyone close to shelter it in the garage. What do you suggest. Nina

    • I think your father’s method sounds pretty clever, Nina – and it obviously worked for him! If you can mimic that, I’d recommend it.

      Another option would be to get one of those small tomato cages and stick it into the pot your fig tree is in and stuff the cage with straw as insulation for the tree, if you can get straw (not hay). If not, you can try wrapping the tree with holiday string lights and turn them on at night for the ambient warmth they give off (without risk of fire or burning your fig tree). And you can even cover the cage with blankets to make a heat-trapping shelter over your fig tree.

      There isn’t really one surefire way to overwinter a fig tree in a container on a porch, but as long as you keep it warm and insulated from the cold, your tree will do well! :)

  39. Matt permalink

    Hi. I just received 2 bare root 2 yr old Chicago hardy figs in the mail and was planning on potting them for overwintering in my garage. (today’s date 10/9/14). I live in Colorado (in USDA zone 6A) and was wondering if I can plant them outside come spring time and leave them there through the winter or if I’d be better served leaving them in pots and just moving them outside in the spring and in my garage to winter them. Thanks.

    • Even hardier fig trees like Chicago Hardy thrive and fruit where it’s warmer, so planting them in the ground may not be ideal if your location regularly receives temperatures below freezing in the colder parts of the year.

      I’d feel better recommending that you plant your fig trees in containers so that you can move them into your garage during the late fall/winter/early spring when temperatures and other cold-weather elements can become stress factors. It’s always better to aim for the optimum when it comes to growing fruit trees so that you have the best chance at success! :)

  40. Chris permalink

    My Celeste Fig tree suffered from the winter of 2013-14. This spring Many (38!) new fig trees popped up along its root system. May I remove and pot some of these smaller fig trees in the autumn, and then re-plant them in spring of 2015?
    If so, How do I do this? Thank you for all of your advice!
    We bought the Mama fig tree from Stark Bros!! : )

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