Learn About Figs

Posted in: Other Fruits
Learn About Figs

How To Sow    How To Grow    Tips    Common Pests    FAQ

How to Plant

Planting Potted Plants:

  • Choose a location in full sun in an area with well-drained soil with a pH of 5.0 to 6.5. Figs prefer a medium soil with several inches of organic matter or compost mixed in, although they can be grown in almost any type of soil as long as it is well-drained.
  • Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 6-12 inches removing any debris, and lightly raking as level as possible.
  • The addition of organic matter (leaf mold, compost, well-rotted manure) benefits all gardens and is essential in recently constructed neighborhoods.
  • Space plants 10 feet apart in the garden. Figs may also be grown in large pots at least 24 inches wide and deep.
  • Dig a hole at least 2 times the size of the root ball.
  • Set the plant in the hole so that the root ball is level with the surrounding soil, backfill and press the soil firmly into the hole cavity.
  • Water deeply. The water will seal off any air pockets around the root ball.
  • Use a stick or marker to indicate where the plant is planted.

How to Grow

  • Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients. Control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating.
  • Mulch around the plants to a depth of 2-3 inches or organic matter to preserve moisture and prevent weeds. For fruit plants an organic mulch of aged bark or shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
  • Keep plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. Plants need about 1-2 inches of rain per week during the growing season. It's best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
  • Do not fertilize unless leaves are showing a nutrient deficiency.
  • Monitor for Pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
  • Prune in winter or early spring before the new growth begins. Prune only for an open habit, and to remove dead or broken branches.
  • Figs benefit from winter protection in colder areas. Be sure the variety you have is recommended for your hardiness zone. If you are planting in containers and want to leave them outside in winter, be sure to select a variety recommended for one zone colder than your zone as plants are less protected in a container. You can also bring the container inside or to a protected location such as a garage. Do not allow to dry out over the winter. You can also mulch heavily with organic material such as leaves, or wrap with several layers of waterproof paper or burlap. Unwrap in spring. If low temperatures have killed some stem tissues, plants may be cut to the ground and new growth may emerge from suckers.

Harvest and Preserving Tips

  • Plants should produce fruit in 2-3 years after planting.
  • Protect fruit with bid netting.
  • Figs produce two crops a year, one early summer on last year’s growth and another in late summer on the currents season’s growth.
  • Harvest ripe fruit for fresh eating. Their necks will shrivel and the fruit will hand straight down.
  • For dry figs, allow all the fruit to fall from the tree and finish drying them by spreading the fruit on trays in the sun.

Common Disease Problems

Alternaria Rot: This is a surface mold that occurs on green and ripe fruit. Small olive-green specks enlarge and turn yellowish olive. This disease is worse in warm, wet or very humid weather. Burpee Recommends: Avoid getting water on the foliage. Remove infected plant parts and do not work around wet plants. Provide plenty of air circulation. Remove all plant debris in the fall. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Black Rot: This bacterial disease thrives in warm and humid conditions and attacks the inside of the fruit. The interior of the figs will have streaks of pink or brown and sometimes the entire fruit will turn brown. Burpee Recommends: Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation, do not overcrowd plants.

Botrytis Dieback: This fungus causes a grey mold on flowers, leaves, stems and buds. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. It usually invades fruit that was overwintering on the tree.  Burpee Recommends: Prune off infected shoots below the rotting area. Remove all fruit from the fig tree and remove all debris in the fall. Remove affected plant parts; avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering. Make sure plants have good air circulation.

Fig Mosaic Virus: This virus causes yellow mottling on foliage. Later in the season a rust colored band develops along the border of the spots. Deformity of leaves and twigs may appear. The mosaic spots may spread to the fruit. This disease is spread by aphids, garden tools and gardener’s hands. Burpee Recommends: There is no cure for this disease. Remove and destroy infected plants. Control insects which may spread the disease. Be careful when working in the garden and do not touch any plant until you have washed your hands or gloves after touching infected plants. Clean tools after working with each plant.

Smut: This fungus infests the fruit causing them to expand and turn black as they fill with fungal spores. Cut fruit will be filled with a mass of black powder. The disease can also affect the foliage. Burpee Recommends: Remove and discard all infected plant parts as soon as you see the disease. Remove all fruit at the end of the season. There are no chemical treatments recommended for this disease. Do not work around plants when they are wet. Remove all fallen plant debris Control weeds where the disease can overwinter.

Common Pest and Cultural Problems

Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps which feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.

Birds: Birds are very fond of sweet figs. Burpee Recommends: Use bird netting to cover plants to protect the ripening fruit.

Fig Beetle: This is a green beetle 1 ¼ inch long with a brownish yellow band around the edge of the wings. The head has a horn at the front. Adults scrape holes in the fruit and eat the flesh inside. Burpee Recommends: Remove all debris from around the plant where the larvae will feed. No chemical controls are recommended.

Scale: Small bugs look like brown, black, gray to white bumps on the stems of plants. Scale may not have any apparent legs and may not move. Scales have a sucking mouth part. Scale may produce honeydew so leaves and stems may be sticky. Scale can weaken the plant causing it to grow very slowly and may wilt at the middle of the day. Burpee Recommends: Completely spray the stems with Insecticidal soap. For a severe infestation contact your local County Extension Service for recommendation for your area.

Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.

Thrips: Thrips are tiny needle-thin insects that are black or straw colored. They suck the juices of plants and attack flower petals, leaves and stems. The plant will have a stippling, discolored flecking or silvering of the leaf surface. Thrips can spread many diseases from plant to plant. Burpee Recommends: Many thrips may be repelled by sheets of aluminum foil spread between rows of plants. Remove weeds from the bed and remove debris from the bed after frost. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls.


Do I need two different varieties of fig to get fruit? No, figs are self-pollinating.

Will I get fruit the first year? No. Expect first fruit in 2 years after planting and 3-5 years after planting for full fruit.

How long will figs produce fruit? Figs are extremely long lived and if properly taken care of can last 50 years.

I picked a fig and it has a white sap should I be worried? You picked it too soon. Wait until the fruit is hanging straight down before you pick it.

Can I grow a fig in a pot? Yes, but it will never be full sized. For winter protection take potted plants indoors or to a protected location, or mulch heavily. Be sure your variety is recommended for one zone colder than your zone.

October 29, 2021
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