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Growing Fig Trees in Containers

by Stark Bro's on 11/08/2010
Young Container-Grown Fig Fruit

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 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

Find 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 re-acclimatize 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!

Are you interested in growing other fruit trees in containers?

Read “Growing Fruit Trees in Containers” »

Topics → Planting & Growing, Tips

62 comments on “Growing Fig Trees in Containers

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  2. Lori on said:

    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 on said:

      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.

  3. Loree on said:

    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 on said:

      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!

  4. Debra on said:

    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 on said:

      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 on said:

        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.

        • Sarah on said:

          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 on said:

            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.

          • Sarah on said:

            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

  5. meemsnyc on said:

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

  6. Susan on said:

    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?

    • Sarah on said:

      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.

  7. Caroline on said:

    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?

    • Sarah on said:

      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.

  8. cynthia williams on said:

    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

    • Sarah on said:

      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 on said:

      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.

  9. Stevie on said:

    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.

    • Sarah on said:

      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. :)

  10. Mike on said:

    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

    • Sarah on said:

      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. :)

  11. Sherry Valenti on said:

    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!

    • Sarah on said:

      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.

  12. Pat on said:

    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?

    • Sarah on said:

      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!

  13. Mary Farrell on said:

    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?

    • Sarah on said:

      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 on said:

      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.

  14. Sharon Karpinski on said:

    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?

    • Sarah on said:

      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!

  15. Valerie on said:

    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?

    • Sarah on said:

      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 on said:

        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.)

        • Sarah on said:

          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 on said:

            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 on said:

            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!

  16. Anna on said:

    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?

  17. Angelina on said:

    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!!!

    • Sarah on said:

      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.

  18. Paul on said:

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

    • Paul on said:

      And are also indoors.

    • Sarah on said:

      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.

  19. Jesse bacon on said:

    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

    • Sarah on said:

      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.

  20. Marie on said:

    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?

    • Sarah on said:

      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.

  21. Paula Gilmore on said:

    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!)

    • Sarah on said:

      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! :)

  22. William on said:

    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.

    • Sarah on said:

      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.

  23. Bob Herbert on said:

    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

  24. Sima on said:

    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?

    • Sarah on said:

      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.

  25. Kristine on said:

    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?

    • Sarah on said:

      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. :)

  26. frederick capozzi on said:

    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?

    • Sarah on said:

      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!

  27. frederick capozzi on said:

    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?

    • Sarah on said:

      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.

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