Figs

We grow figs in ground at 1200ft elevation, latitude 48.5, growing zone 6b, in the rain shadow of the Cascade mountain range. It is a very dry area with hot summers and cold winters and less than 12 inches of annual precipitation (none during the summer). In 2023 we had 2 figs in the ground, a Chicago Hardy and another unknown variety acquired from a friend in the Tacoma area, Milton Washington, which produces larger figs abundantly. Figs do not ripen all at once and we were able to harvest a 1½ cups every week for more than a month, at least 6 cups of figs from 2 small "bushes".

Fig Trees
Fig Trees
Fig Trees - Milton #51 Left / Chicago Hardy Right
Milton #51 Fig Tree
Milton #51 Fig Tree
Milton Fig Tree
Bowl of Figs
Bowl of Figs
Bowl of Figs

In 2022 we had to reduce water usage and in 2023 we got very few berries but the fig trees produced well. We used a single 0.6 gpm dripper for 40 minutes a day for each fig tree and they yielded much more fig fruit than berries would have in a similar area. Figs can grow well in a cold environment, just cover them well in the winter and they grow back in the spring to produce figs in late summer/early fall. I used to cover my best tasting cold sensitive (Marion & Columbia Star) blackberries every winter, so the effort put into blackberries and figs is similar but figs, again, use less water and yield more. Compared to the effort put into blueberries with pH adjusted fertilizer solutions, figs are again are the winner.

Winter Protection

Figs can be grown in the ground in short hedges and the covered with mulch and a tarp for winter protection. My figs are planted on the south west side of my trailer and the wind comes predominately from the north west and in addition to the mulch and tarp they were covered in a 3-4 ft snow drift most of the 2022/23 winter and the tarp had no snow cover 2023/24 winter with a low of -13°F. To prepare figs for temperatures below 21°F weigh or tie down the branches, pack mulch or straw 8-12 inches deep around and over the branches, and cover with a tarp folded 1-4 layers thick held down with rocks. To help above ground wood survive the cold, get the branches as close to the ground as possible. It is better to bend the branches down and tie them together or put rocks on top of the branches rather than cutting them. When I did it this way the old branches were still alive 6-18 inches from the crown even though temperatures reached -13°F with 16mph wind.

Covering fig trees with mulch and a tarp is enough protection for most in ground figs to at least zone 6a. We haven't tried using heat tape under the tarp yet but it doesn't seem very practical for everyone as electricity is not always available near fig plantings. If testing figs in zone 5 or colder consider growing near the south side of a building and trying with and without a heat tape. Please let us know your results on our Contact Page.

We in growing zone 6b but it seems more like zone 5b so I checked NOAA records and made a spreadsheet and did my own average. By definition growing zone is the a 30 year average of the lowest annual temperature so I sorted all the daily lows for the past 31 years and the average was -2°F which is zone 6b. This also means that half of the annual lows should be below -2°F on average. We on the flats and unprotected from strong winds so the protection the fig trees get is minimal, a 33ft. trailer.

When to Cover Figs for Winter

Cover figs after they have dropped their leaves and before night temperatures drop below 21°F and un-cover figs after night temperatures are consistently above 32°F. If expecting a late frost cover the figs for the night or emerging buds may be damaged. Waiting too long to open in the spring can result in some mold growth on the stems.

Fig Tree Training

This year I broke the thickest stem when tying down the branches so cut it down to where the wood wasn't split and tied the rest. This isn't a problem since there were many smaller branches and it is common to cut bigger branches that can't be bent and keep the flexible ones for next year. A traditional way to protect fig trees in winter is to partially cut the roots on one side and lay the tree horizontally and bury it. Wrapping the tree to protect from cold and drying will work in milder growing zones. The method I prefer is to plant or train a thicker main trunk horizontally allowing new branches to grow up and then in fall tie or weigh the smaller flexible branches down and cover the whole tree with mulch and a tarp.

In warm climates prune off suckers to grow upright fig trees but in a cold climate taller trees are more difficult to protect. In cold climates it is better to encourage branches near the soil and when planting rooted cuttings in the ground make sure there is some stem with nodes below the ground level. In cases of severe damage these nodes below ground can be exposed in the spring and the tree will regrow and not be lost entirely. Ground level side branches can be trained along the ground in a line or all around the tree increasing the leaf canopy area and fruit production. In winter sap is not stored in the roots but it thickens and stops flowing, and the tree's energy is stored under the bark in all of the living wood including roots, trunk, and branches. More trunk, roots, and branches surviving winter means more energy for the tree to begin growth in the spring, more canopy in summer, and more fruit in the fall. Training the main trunk in a straight line (a row) along the ground simplifies winter protection and makes harvest during summer easier. Click Here to see a fig tree where the trunk has been trained along the ground. The tree shown in this video has a lot of energy built up in the horizontal section and it would be a snap to cover in the winter.

Extending The Growing Season

Remove the cover and mulch in spring when the last chance of frost has past. To get more figs you can remove the cover and mulch earlier and replace with a heavy-weight clear greenhouse plastic (not row cover). This warm up he soil earlier and prevent damage to new fig growth down to about 26°F (or 8° F protection) increasing your end of season harvest period by 2 weeks or more. You can remove the cover after the chance of frost has passed. Remember warmer conditions means faster growth and faster fruit set & maturation so a better idea is when it warms a little open the cover at the ends during the hot part of the day to avoid cooking your tree and close it at night until it really warms up above 70° F then remove it entirely. Temperatures can be more than 30°F higher under the plastic during the day so watch it if temperatures get above 60°F. Consider using it again in the fall before first frost to extend your season and ripen those later figs still left on the tree.

Milton Fig Tree / May 20
Milton Fig Tree / May 20
Milton Fig Slow Start / May 20
Chicago Hardy Fig Tree / May 20
Chicago Hardy Fig Tree / May 20
Chicago Hardy Fig Tree / May 20

Fig Propagation

Though some tropical types are extremely difficult to propagate even by air layer, most common figs grown in the US are easily propagated by cuttings.

The #1 most most important factor in rooting fig cuttings is the quality of the cuttings. Cuttings that are old and shriveled or turning yellow under the cambium layer will not grow. Cuttings with a few small buds will be more successful than those without. Fig cuttings can be taken in summer but to get as much fruit as possible it is better to wait till after harvest. Figs may ripen even after a light frost so again it's better to wait till all figs which will ripen, have ripened and been harvested before taking cuttings. Very fresh green cuttings may work but green cuttings purchased online usually aren't fresh enough and mold easily.

The #2 most important factor is that the potting soil should be just barely moist. Wet potting soil will cause cuttings to rot and cuttings can tolerate some dryness as long as there is some humidity. Always use new potting soil for cuttings because old soil may contain mold spores, contaminants, and pests which will weaken or kill new cuttings. Seed starting mix, peat, or coco coir may work but are too heavy so add in 15-20&percent; perlite and 15-20&percent; vermiculite to promote oxygenation while retaining humidity. In general it is a good idea to soak fig cuttings in 3&percent; hydrogen peroxide diluted 1:5 with water for 3 minutes to kill mold, bacteria, and other pests (straight 3&percent; hydrogen peroxide also works).

If doing any number of cutting or indoor plants I highly advise to keep half a pound of gnatrol on stand by. Fungus gnats can be a serious problem even if using fig pop method as they can easily detect moist soil and find a way to deposit their eggs.

I have used Ben's fig pop method to root cuttings with some modifications but now lean to using the shoe box method. The idea of keeping cuttings separated so that fungus gnat and mold outbreaks can be isolated is genius. Another advantage of using the fig pop method is that it's easy to see the roots in the clear bag but the drawbacks are that because the bag is small leaves are easily damaged and it is difficult to control the humidity. If the top is opened to fast the leaves wilt and if opened too slow they may rot.

For the fig pop method I highly recommend using the 4" x 16" 1 mil poly bags as Ben suggests, plastic cups with wrong sized bag and rubber bands around the cup are a hassle. I purchased cuttings online and only buy hard wood cuttings not green cuttings. Sterilize cuttings dilute 1 part 3&percent; hydrogen peroxide to 4 parts water and soak cuttings for 3 minutes then allow to air dry before proceeding. Fill a poly bag half way with moist sterile seed starting mix. Use sharp heavy duty garden shears to re-cut the bottom of the cutting, make a clean cut (below the bottom node and at an angle if possible) without crushing the stem and make sure there is a live green layer all around the cut (most if not all new roots will form here). I have used a PEX pipe cutter but any sharp cutter will do. Optionally scrape the bottom inch of the cutting lenthwise on 2 sides through the node with the sharp side of garden shears or a knife till the green layer is exposed. Scraping is not necessary and may increase the chance that the cutting will rot. Rooting solutions are not necessary but does speed up rooting and increase the survival rate but I do not recommend using rooting powder which dries the fresh cut end. Dip in bottom 1-3 inches in CloneX rooting gel, a small pouch of this is about $5.00 and can do many cuttings. One method is to dip the first cutting heavily in CloneX, put it in a cup of water, and stir it to dilute the CloneX then use the (purple water) mix to dip the rest of the cuttings. If using a bottle of CloneX dispense separately to avoid contaminating the whole bottle. Do not wrap the cutting with parafilm! Put the cutting in the bag with the lower half in the mix and use a postal band to go around the cutting at the soil level and secure over the bottom end of the bag. Leave some media below the cutting as the media at the bottom may be too moist and can promote rot. Poke a few small holes though the plastic in the lower half with a toothpick or tip of small garden pruners to allow the soil to breathe. Partially close the top with tape or a rubber band and place out of direct sunlight. If after a day or two condensation appears in the lower/soil half of the bag the soil moisture is about right. Keep in low light till roots are visible then move to stronger diffuse light. Leaves may appear but try not to transplant till the cuttings have formed strong enough roots. Once roots and several leaves appear open the top in increments to harden off the leaves. It is normal for new leaves to be light green or a bit yellow. Once hardened off and the cutting has several leaves and strong roots it can be repotted. Ben has 3 great step-by-step videos on this, just search for Ben's fig pop method.

Fig Cuttings
Fig Cuttings
Fig Cuttings / Stragglers
Fig Cuttings
Fig Cuttings
Fig Cuttings / Humidity Adjustment
Fig Cuttings / Box Method
Fig Cuttings / Box Method
Fig Cuttings / Box Method
Fig Cuttings / Box Method
Fig Cuttings / Box Method
Fig Cuttings / Box Method
Fig Cuttings / Box Method
Fig Cuttings / Box Method
Fig Cuttings / Box Method


If I decide to repot and the cutting is weak I useo a 3½x3½x5" deep form pot and cover with a plastic cup or rolled up poly bag. If the cutting is stronger I repot into 5½x5½x9" deep tree pots/bags and if the roots are not strong enough cover with a cup or poly bag. Leave some media below the cutting as the media at the bottom may be too moist and can promote rot.

If there are many cuttings of the same type the box method works well. Treat the cuttings the same as above but lie them down in a semi-transparent plastic box slanting and/or half covered with potting soil. Cover the box with plastic wrap held in place with rubber bands, add a few holes, and keep in indirect light. I planted 10 Ciliegia Dolce cuttings in a semi-transparent plastic shoe box and only lost one well after transplant stage.

It is easier to control the humidity using a box. One of the best methods is to plant cuttings in clear plastic cups and put them into a semi-transparent box with wood chips packed below and between the cups control humidity. Mike Kincaid and The Millennial Gardener have good videos on this method. If growing in a greenhouse or humid climate a covered semi-transparent box is not necessary but in a dry climate or indoors where heating lowers relative humidity it is highly recommended.

Care needs to be taken as there is a fine balance of when to open the container/bag to lower humidity and/or transplant. If a transplant is still small but doesn't have a enough roots it will wilt when humidity drops so a good solution is to cover it with a clear plastic cup and gradually adjust it to lower humidity. Keeping the humidity too high is another mistake as it can cause the leaves to mold or get bacterial rot. If the new cutting can't seem to adjust to lower humidity check the stem in the soil to see if there are roots or if it is rotten. If rotten it may be possible to remove the rotten part, sterilize, and try again with a fresh fresh bag and potting soil.

Fig Cuttings
Fig Cuttings
Fig Cuttings
Fig Cuttings
Fig Cuttings
Fig Cuttings


Failing cuttings which rotted or are not rooting can be fixed (I don't do this for molded cuttings only ones where the bottom rots or doesn't root). If bottom of a cutting rots but the top still has one or more nodes that are still alive just remove the cutting, cut off the rotten part till you find green wood, soak in 1:5 dilution of 3% hydrogen peroxide for 1-3 minutes to sterilize, allow to air dry completely, recut the bottom, and put in a clean bag with clean moist (not wet) potting soil.

Fig Flip
Fig Flip
Being Creative - Single Node Flipped Fig Cutting
Try to avoid planting cuttings upside down. Look at the nodes and leaf scars on the stem and if there are bumps on one side of the leaf scar the bumps are up. Also the leaf scar is usually flat on the top side and rounded on the bottom like a smile but a few are circular which can make it difficult to identify which side is up. Make the smile(s) up not a frown(s). Look at more than one node because even though I am experienced I still get them upside down on occasion. If after some time roots are coming out of the presumed top node or top of the cutting and a shoot or leaf is below the leaf scar with roots above, it is a sure sign it is planted upside down and should be fixed. Just take it out of the bag carefully to avoid breaking off the roots and flip it and put new loose dry soil back, water, and close. Usually when flipping you will expose green buds that were previously buried but in one case I had only 1 active node at the true bottom with both roots and leaves so had to get creative. The true bottom was dry (not green cut) and did not have any calluses forming roots. I recut the true bottom (previously the top) near the active node to provide an area for new roots and planted with the buds/leaves pressed to the the side of a new clear plastic bag with roots from the same node oriented towards the inside. Put a rubber band back around the cutting and bag as normal to hold it in place and cut a hole in the side of the bag to let the leaves out through the hole. I added 2 rubber bands around the bag to hold the tag and sprayed the leaves with water to wash off the soil leaving the roots from the same node buried. I laid the bag down on its side with the leaves up and let it grow. Flips are usually less troublesome and they usually recover and grow well after being fixed. The Dark Portugese cutting in the picture to the right is now growing in the ground and 2 feet high.

Another method is to take 12-18" cuttings, remove leaves on bottom half, optionally score the sides through the node till the green layer is exposed, optionally dip the cut end in rooting hormone, and plant in a pot with only half the length exposed. If using parafilm, remove all of the leaves and wrap the top exposed part of the cutting. Stretch the parafilm to get a thin layer and only use a single layer over the buds. The parafilm reduces transpiration but the single layer is thin enough for the growing buds to break through. If using a plastic bag, remove all but one or two leaves completely and cut the remaining leaves leaving half or less to reduce the transpiration load on the rootless cuttings. Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag and secure the bag with a rubber band to retain humidity. Keep in a shaded location at room temperature for 4-8 weeks. If using a plastic bag periodically open the bag for short periods to control humidity and watch for mold. If the cuttings start to mold take off the plastic. Usually a few won't take so put 3-5 cuttings per 3 gallon pot to save space. Don't give up on any cuttings that have green buds but throw away those that are completely brown and dry. If some cuttings are still green and have 1-2 new leaves emerging, remove the plastic and expose the cuttings to lower humidity and gradually increase light intensity.

Figs can be grown easily from seeds but will not be exactly like the parent(s). I have used dried turkish figs from the store but make sure they are dried naturally and not sterilized at high temperature. Open the dried figs and soak in a bowl of water till soft then separate the seeds from the flesh. Rinse a few times, add more water and pour off leaving the seeds at the bottom. Viable seeds will sink to the bottom. Spread the seeds over wet sand in a wide shallow planting container and cover with a plastic sheet sealed with a rubberband. Leave in the shade to sprout. Some seedlings grow roots on the surface so use a toothpick to make a small hole and use it to put the root into the hole leaving the seed at the top of the hole, replace the plastic. Once the seedlings are touching the plastic, remove the plastic and acclimate to less humid conditions. Add 1/4 strength fertilizer and transplant when 2-6 inches tall.

Harvesting Figs

In warmer climates figs can produce 2 crops (a breba crop and a main crop) but in colder climates where the previous years wood dies during winter only the main/larger crop is produced.
  1. Breba Crop - first crop produced on previous years branches
  2. Main Crop - second crop produced in late summer on this years green wood
Figs usually produce fruit gradually and ripening can be spread out over a month or two. The aim of growers who have a short growing season is to ripen as many as possible while weather is warm enough. Pinching trees to slow vegetative growth and removing extra figs that will not ripen in time promotes faster ripening of the remaining figs. Figs are easy to harvest, just pick them when the neck becomes soft. Usually they start to hang down and may start to dry on the tree. When they start to dry they are the sweetest and most flavorful.

If there are still many figs on the tree and cold weather is approaching break off any figs forming that will never ripen to provide more energy to the larger figs. About 2 weeeks before the first frost use a Q-tip to dab olive oil on the osteole (eye) at the end of the each fig trapping ripening hormones within and make the figs ripen faster.

Fig Pests & Diseases

Ants, birds, grasshoppers, and black fig fly can damage your fig trees and/or fruit. My figs usually have a little ant damage but they still taste great. For ants mix a sugar water solution with borax and put in plastic bottles laid horizontally with a small hole or tray with cotton buds or paper towels. Ants will bring the solution to the nest killing the whole colony. This year we had a grasshopper festival (at least it was a festival from the grasshoppers point of view) and we sprayed heavily with diatomaceous earth because grasshoppers were stripping the leaves. I did very little to protect my figs and still got a good harvest. Net bags can be used to protect the fruit from birds and other pests and are a good idea if you don't have too many trees. I have found that reflective tape that sparkles as it moves with the wind helps keep away birds, at least till they get used to it.

Fig russet mites, Aceria fici, feed on plant juices and are the main vector to transmit FMV (Fig Mosaic Virus). I have a seen russet mites (which look like fig mites) on crops before and I have microscope but I have never seen a fig mite on my fig trees despite buying from multiple vendors. It may be that fig mites are more of a problem when figs are grown in a greenhouse or a climate where it never gets really cold. Fig mites can be a problem both outdoors and indoors but can't survive long term where figs freeze to the ground and regrow in the spring. Severe infestations of fig mites can cause malformed leaves and reduced vigor and yield both indoors and outdoors. Outdoors they may be less of a problem due to natural predators but it is recommended to monitor outbreaks using a hand held microscope to inspect the underside of plant leaves. Fig mites are extremely small, carrot shaped, white to orange colored, have 2 pairs of legs (4 legs), and look like much smaller versions of immature thrips. These pest overwinter in dormant buds and can easily be brought in on new dormant cuttings. In greenhouses russet mites on cannabis for example are a big problem and to combat the problem cuttings are dipped in a solution of suffoil X during propagation and then isolated in a clean area. In general it is a good idea to dip fig cuttings in 3&percent; hydrogen peroxide diluted 1:5 with water for 3 minutes to kill mold, bacteria, and other pests. Chemical control if mites includes pyrethrins (extract from chrysanthemum) and azadirachtin (extracted from neem oil). Follow application instructions on the bottle and to prevent burn after spraying it is a good idea to keep plants out of direct light at least until the leaves are dry. It is highly recommended to rotate sprays and apply every 2 weeks to prevent mites from developing resistance to a particular treatment. There are several mite predators including lacewing larvae, ladybug larvae, and A. andersonii predatory mite which works on other types of russet mites too. Do not apply predatory mites right after or before a chemical spray as the spray will also kill the beneficials.

FMV (Fig Mosaic Virus) causes Fig Mosaic Disease and is not considered a big issue with most fig hobbyists but severe infections can reduce the vigor of plants and cause malformed leaves as well as light patches or mottling. According to UC IPM, FMV is not transmitted on tools or by seeds but can be transmitted by feeding of a single fig mite, grafting, and vegetative propagation (cuttings). Fig russet mites can weaken plants causing FMV symptoms to appear. Figs that show symptoms of FMV when first rooted from cuttings or when under stress usually outgrow the symptoms. Certain fig cultivars are immune the FMV and plants grown from tissue culture are usually virus free. It is a good idea clean new cuttings with 10% bleach and quarantine new plant material to prevent the spread of mites and or FMV. To treat heavily infected plants cut them to the ground in late fall (regeneration pruning), treat for fig mites if appropriate (get at handheld microscope at least 25X, a 60X is less than $10 online), let them regrow healthy branches in the spring, and then take cuttings from the asymptomatic branches. This helps both the mother tree and generates healthier propagation material. Doing this a second time to the trees generated from the new cuttings (eg take cuttings from cuttings after regeneration pruning) should further reduce FMV symptoms and progressively improve the vigor of successive generations of cuttings. FVM cannot be cured and if the above doesn't work replace the tree. A post from a well known fig grower said he had symptomatic trees next to healthy trress and the healthy trees never got the symptoms, so remember some varieties are resistant (notably seedlings with F. palmata as the male parent).

Indoor Pests

Fungus Gnats are a problem for indoor plants because they have no natural predators in indoors and the larvae will eat the roots of your plants. In a greenhouses and indoors they are a serious issue. Use sticky traps to catch the flying ones and 2 tsp of gnatrol per gallon and water to surface of all the pots every watering or at least every 2 weeks until the problem is resolved. Always keep a few sticky traps to trap the majority of the flyers and monitor for outbreaks.

This winter I ordered sticky traps immediately after a small flying thing caught my eye and by the time they arrived and put out 1 cut in half, I caught 3 on the first day. My mistake was using old potting soil for the big pots of 3 tomatoes, 8 physallis, 11 Milton #51 and Chicago Hardy fig cuttings. I had 30 on the traps after 2 weeks so to reduce gnats and gnatrol use I removed the 2 poorest tomatoes and applied gnatrol to everything else except the covered fig pops. There was a decrease for a few days but they reappeared which are probably hatched from pupae which are not affected by gnatrol . I had only used 1 stick trap cut in half so I added 6 more full sheets to the room. I'd rather not put sand on top of my soil but will if necessary. As of 11/28/2023, I still have fungus gnats and have ordered neem cake and will try mixing a few tables spoons of this per gallon and using this everytime I water. I plan to rotate this with gnatrol which should be applied 3 times once a week. The good news is that as the plants grow the pots are drying out much faster particularly the figs and Physalis p. (which have many berries now). I tried neem cake and it did not seem to have any effect and the best treatment was to use sticky traps and 1Tbsp of gnatrol per gallon every watering.

Lighting

Figs prefer full sun and the more sun the better they do, so plant them in the sunniest location available. If you plan to grow small trees and cuttings during winter months plan to keep them at 70°F, get a 200-400 watt (I used a 2000w equivalent Agilex K2000 but switched to a 4000w K4000) full spectrum led lighting panel and keep them near a south facing window with natural sunlight. I had my plants on an 18 hours schedule but it caused my cilantro to bolt and while plants get more energy from longer photo periods they will have a harder time adjusting come spring. Currently my lights are on 16 hours. Before spring I plan to store the new cuttings at 28-32° F for a couple months to simulate winter and rest the plants.

Fig Varieties

Common figs do not need to be pollinated but some types of figs do need to be pollinated by the fig wasp which only survives in mild climates like Turkey and California. When choosing fig varieties to grow in colder areas make sure to buy common figs unless you plan to hand polinate them for breeding. For example getting Desert King which is a San Pedro fig that produces a large breba crop is a bad idea for my location because most of my old wood does back (no brebas) and the second crop requires a pollinator (no fig wasps). For colder climates only grow common figs unless you plan to hand fertilize and there are 100's if not 1000's of common fig cultivars that do not require pollination by fig wasp.

Fig Cultivars

Chicago Hardy fig is a Mt. Etna type fig that is widely available and commonly sold at nurseries but is not the most vigorous, biggest, or best tasting cold hardy fig. My Milton #51 is more vigorous, more productive, and produces larger and better tasting figs. I enjoyed the figs so much this year I bought more cuttings of varieties I'd like to try. I am most interested in cold hardy types that are known to fruit from die back since both of my figs have died back to the ground every year except this last 2022-23 winter where 6-12 inches of old wood did survive. In 2023/24 fig trees survived winter temperatures of -13°F with 18mph wind with no snow cover though these figs were covered with straw and a tarp. Branches up to 18" long survived and continues growing in the spring (eg not 100&percent; dieback).

A well known fig grower said among the many varieties he tested there was no difference in hardiness and that he believes hardy figs are a myth. This may be true but he lives in zone 7b and from my experience there are different measures of hardiness. For example spring frost tolerance may or may not be related to the absoulute lowest temperature a fig can tolerate during full winter dormancy. In 2024 I had many varieties of figs grown from cuttings which were hit by an unexpected frost and from these the Malta Black and Green Ischia cuttings had the least initial damage to their leaves but after a week the Malta Black(s) dropped all their leaves and then took longer than others to come out of dormancy. A fig slow to come out of dormancy might be a good trait for a figs in an area with frequent unpredictable spring warming followed by frosts. At the same time my in ground Chicago Hardy came out of dormancy much faster than my in ground Milton fig 5 feet away so figs varieties do differ breaking dormancy and in response to frost.

Fig enthusiasts sometime group similar type figs into catagories like Hivernenca, Mt. Etna, and Coll de Dama. Figs can also be catagorized by flavor profile which can include notes of honey or sugar combined with figgy, mellon, berry, peach, cherry, nutty, spicy, or other flavors even cotton candy. Generally complex berry/fruity flavors are more highly prized.

Several fig cultivars are distinct phenotypically but are genetically the same which means they are the same plant but look, grow, or taste different from each other. This is still under research but plants with the exact same genes (eg clones) can be different if over time some genes become more active or less active due to secondary modification. The DNA interacts with proteins, is coiled more tightly around histones in the nucleus, or is otherwise modified (eg methylation) which changes the activity of the genes coded in the DNA. These modifications occur over time (just like true mutations in genes) and can be carried on to cuttings. This is called epigenetic inheritance.

Spacing & Planting Depth

For fig trees planted in the ground best spacing is 5-8 feet apart but if you have limited water or are testing figs can be planted closer like berries or a hedge. In 2024 we planted a 3x30 foot bed with a double row 1'8" apart and a second 39 foot bed with a double row 1'6" apart (86 figs total). Next year we may take cuttings of the best and plant with 5' spacing and rows 10' apart. Our 2 original fig trees are 5 feet apart with a single dripper each. We also have 3 gallon Milton and few cuttings which are not quite ready for in ground planting.

East Planting Bed (36 NW -> SE)
  • 1 Black Bethlehem (Mt Etna)
  • 1 Brooklyn White
  • 1 Campaniere
  • 1 Cherry Cordial
  • 1 Ciliegia Dolce (grp9) (Mt Etna)
  • 1 CDD Gris
  • 1 Crozes (Mt Etna)
  • 1 Dark Portugese (Mt Etna)
  • 1 Florea
  • 1 Green Ischia
  • 1 Improved Celeste
  • 1 Kadota
  • 1 Lattarula (Ben's)
  • 1 LSU O'Rourke
  • 1 LSU Purple
  • 1 LSU Tiger fruits from dieback
  • 2 Malta Black (Mt Etna)
  • 1 Marseilles Black VS (Mt Etna)
  • 1 Marseilles White
  • 1 Mimmo Unk (Mt Etna)
  • 1 Naples Dark (late)
  • 1 Negra d'Agde
  • 1 Noir De Barbentane
  • 1 Rhonde De Bordeaux
  • 1 Sao Miguel Roxo
  • 1 Stella (Dalmatie)
  • 1 Sweet Joy
  • 1 Rockhouse Unk (Highland Figs)
  • 1 Rhonde De Bordeaux
  • 1 Texas BA1
  • 1 Burgan Unk
  • 1 Violette de Bordeaux
  • 1 Texas Everbearing
  • 1 White Adriatic
  • 1 Yellow Greek
West Planting Bed (50+2 SE -> NW)
  • 1 Black Bethlehem (Mt Etna)
  • 1 Celeste
  • 2 Bourjasotte Noir
  • 2 Brooklyn White
  • 1 Cavialere
  • 1 Crozes
  • 2 Florea
  • 1 Calderona
  • 1 CDD Roja
  • 1 Ciliegia Dolce (grp9)
  • 1 CDD Roja (2)
  • 1 De La Senorita Hivernenca
  • 1 Improved Celeste
  • 2 Improved Celeste
  • 2 Green Ischia
  • 2 LSU Tiger
  • 2 LSU Tiger
  • 2 LSU Purple
  • 1 I-258
  • 1 Negra d'Agde
  • 2 Olympic
  • 2 Rhonde de Bordeaux
  • 1 Sao Miguel Roxo
  • 1 Sweet Joy
  • 2 Stella (Dalmatie)
  • 1 Texas BA1
  • 1 White Adriatic
  • 1 Celeste
  • 1 CDD Roja
  • 1 Improved Celeste
  • 1 Chicago Hardy
  • 6 Ciliegia Dolce (grp9)
  • 1 Ciliegia Dolce (grp9) south
  • 1 Ciliegia Dolce (grp2) north
  • 1 Pastiliere (small-not in ground)
  • +1 space for more
Wish List or Cuttings Died
  • Bensalem PA Unknown
  • Black Greek (Marius)
  • Blanche d'Argenteuil (Early White)
  • Coll de Dama Noir (Lady's Collar Dark/Black / The Queen of Figs)
  • Colonel Littman's Black Cross (cutting failed)
  • Conde
  • De La Roca (The Rock)
  • De Tres Esplets MP (Three Crops)
  • Green Michurinska
  • Hardy Hoboken
  • Hative D'Argenteuil (Early from Argenteuil/Paris)
  • Longue d'Aout (long August)
  • LSU Scott's Black
  • Melanzana
  • Negronne (a type of VdB)
  • Nyack NY Unknown
  • Proscuito unknown
  • Red Lebanese Bekka Valley
  • Saint Martin
  • South River Unknown
  • Teramo
  • White Triana
  • Yellow Long Neck

Extra Notes The fig I call Milton is the fig I aquired from a friend who lives in Milton near Tacoma and is probably not a new variety but I am giving it a name till I can compare with other figs I am starting this year (I didn't want to call this Tacoma as it might be confused with Takoma Violet).

Fig Import Warning

Overseas vendors may not provide a phytosanitary permit and without it imported fig cuttings will be destroyed by customs. Please check vendors location to determine if a phytosanitary certificate AND a pre-approved import permit are required. The customs website says vendors is responsible for providing a phytosanitary certificate (the buyer is responsible for the import permit) but the letter I got said the shipment was missing a required phytosanitary permit and that I could be liable for civil penalties and a fine and it would be passed on to the Postal Authorities for resolution. So in short check government regulations for your region or buy within your region.

Fig Resources

I found that Ross Raddi @ FigBoss is a great resource but be warned that many of the figs he reviews are his "best tasting" or "favorite fig" and you may end up getting the fig bug and buying more figs than you intend. Other useful resources include Fig Database, Our Figs, Mountain Figs, Trees Of Joy, The Fig Company. Etsy, EBay, Amazon, and garden centers usually have figs for sale. For harder to find types check out Fig Bid and Figaholics. Don't forget to lookup Ben's fig pop videos.

Listed below is probably ripening order of figs that I have or wish to have, partially resourced from this blog Early Ripening Fig Varieties.

Early Season Main Crop Figs (several sources)
  1. Rhonde De Bordeaux (Aug 6-10th - hardy to 0°F)
  2. Improved Celeste (Aug 9-20th)
  3. Florea (Aug 3rd - Hardy to -10°F)
  4. Mt. Etna Types
    • Black Bethlehem
    • Black Greek
    • Crozes
    • Dark Portugese
    • Hardy Chicago
    • Hardy Hoboken (cutting failed supposed to be very virgorous and cold hardy)
    • Malta Black (Aug 9th)
    • Marseilles Black (Aug 17th)
    • Red Lebanese Bekka Valley (cutting failed)
    • Sao Miguel Roxo (later ripening Mt. Etna type)
  5. Pastillere
  6. Hative d'Argenteuil (cutting failed)
  7. LSU O'Rourke
  8. Atreano (wish list)
  9. LSU Purple
  10. LSU Tiger
  11. Nordland (wish list)
  12. Longue d'Aout
  13. Brooklyn White
  14. Kadota
  15. Texas Everbearing
  16. Violette de Bordeaux
  17. Celeste
  18. White Triana (wish list reorderd)
  19. Green Ischia
  20. Lattarula (early green fig)