Cold hardy figs


It takes at least a few days for damaged buds and cambium to turn brown, I chop the buds through with pruners starting at the tip and peel the bark in a few places to look for discoloration. After a couple weeks dead buds will come off or crumble when rubbed with a thumb. One way to tell sooner is badly damaged growths don’t bleed white latex anymore (does not apply to fully dormant trees). They won’t necessarily be killed yet but the damage makes them more likely to dry out and die if not protected and more likely to rot if they are. The green under the bark can take a long time to fade, especially if the branches dry out over winter, dry dead branches don’t turn brown until they get wet again.


thanks, i need to find out whats deas before i wrapp i a week or so, but i guess there’s no way for my fully dormant thicker branches.
wrapping is hard work n iwould prefer not to wrap dead wood.


I let this thread get a few (300+) posts ahead of me, but I’ve been playing with figs a lot recently, so I figured I’d try to catch up…

To me, this was a very wet and rainy year. Yes, there was a nice stretch of 3-4 weeks where it was hot and sunny, but it was bookended by cold rainy weather. I’ve got 13 (I think- I counted a few days ago) figs in ground and got 1-2 decent fruits this year and 2-3 edible ones.

So, I agree- not getting any ripe ones this year isn’t really a sign that it can’t be done. Just that it won’t always happen. On the other hand, I got a decent amount (but not too many as most of the plants are quite young) of potted figs. Though some of them I gave a head start by bringing them into the living room in April to get them going a bit earlier…

Agreed- I took out most of my fall bearing raspberries. But, Anne still produces a decent amount of tasty fruit, as they can be picked a bit less ripe than many raspberries and still taste good. Just stay on top of picking them and don’t let SWD get going…

I think the distinction would be is it 3-4" of mulch, like I would use on many plants or is it 2-3’ (much more work). I actually did put 2-3 feet of leaves on many of the figs last winter and they still died back (which played a big part in them not ripening this year). Maybe the issue was that I didn’t put any tarp on top of it to hold in the heat.

Yup- I had some not looking very fresh. I’ve also had animals get in and gnaw through some of the shoots. The water also makes them compress, so they aren’t covering as much by the end of the winter. Maybe wood chips would help, though I have to think they would compress them as well. You can check with some local tree guys- they will often drop off a load of woodchips for free, as they get lots and need to find a place for them. But I agree- the tarp on top may be important and I will try that with some of my figs this winter.

I’ve tried it on flowers in the spring and the frost still killed them. I’d be interested to hear how/if it works on figs.

Most of my in-ground figs got zapped in late October, though a few close to rock walls are still kicking. But the quality of figs produced in periods where the highs are 40-50F are very poor.

Gris de St Jean (I’ve since gotten a couple new plants by pulling away some dirt that I piled near the base):


One other thing which focused me on figs recently is that I bought a house which has a large fig in the backyard. I spoke with the son of the former owner and he said that his grandfather brought it from Italy 30-35 years ago and that he likes them a lot more than the other ones his grandfather (who lives across the street) grows. They didn’t know the name, (“Black fig” and “Purple fig” were the descriptions I got.

It looks like there are plenty of fruit which won’t ripen on it this year, but I see a lot of spots where it was picked.

The grandson told me that each year they put a cardboard box (or cardboard from boxes?) around the base and shove it full of leaves. Then, they put a tarp on top. Seems to be working for them to keep it around so long…

It could be in a bit of a warm micro-climate, as my own figs don’t look anywhere near as green.

I’ll try protecting it the same way this winter. Which means that I’ll need to prune back the top a bit. So, I’ve started taking some cuttings, which I’ve wrapped in parafilm and put in pots. I may use the paper towel and bag method as well, though I haven’t gotten great results from it in the past. The grandson is taking some cuttings as well, but it is so big that there should be plenty to go around.


bob, if someone cared enow to bring that tree from italy, it must be very good.
i’m not real impressed by the R value of leaves. they didn’t work for me.


Thanks. I don’t ever water or fertilize my in-ground figs so have no control over their hardening off, it appears.


shorter days also cause hardening off. perhaps throwing a tart over the tree would force this.


That was my thinking as well. As nice as it is to have the actual name of the variety, I think it should be even better to have one that has been working in a location. Once I get them rooted, I’ll need to try them out at my house as well.

I didn’t get great results from leaves either, but maybe adding the cardboard and tarp will help.

Does the tart need to be made of figs? The human variety may object… :slight_smile:


Since you revived this topic, I’ll mention my dentist recommends getting a Brown Turkey fig. He lives on Long Island Sound, which moderates the temperatures somewhat compared to my more inland location. He keeps his figs in full sun and just puts some mulch on top in the fall. He does not bend the stem down or anything, so it dies to the ground every year. He described his method of cutting in order to induce fruiting but I can’t recall exactly what he said. He says that the fig is excellent and that he gets lots of them every year.

IIRC I’ve seen fig enthusiasts describe that cultivar as just OK, but I’m sure it’s better than anything you can obtain from a supermarket.

And congrats on the new house!


I think that will be true of most home-grown figs. Even earlier in this thread I think I remember someone saying it wasn’t especially good.

Thanks- it is just a rental. I’d hate to move now and leave all my trees behind. To convince me to make that kind of leap it would need to have at least 2 of: a large greenhouse, multiple acres, and/or warmer climate.


there are 4 or 6 varieties of brown turkey.
the california improved will be awful.
the english brown turkey is pretty good
southern brwown turkey may be the same fig.
not sure about the others.
i would never buy one without knowing which cultivar.


My three one year old in ground figs all died back to the ground last winter. Ronde de Bordeaux, Takoma Violet and Battaglia Green. So far this year none of Battaglia’s figs have ripened yet, they set too late despite my “five leaf pinching”. I got a few figs off RdB, and the most off Takoma but the majority of its figs are still on the bush and will not ripen this year. Used five leaf pinching on all these. I hope as they get older they will set figs earlier even if they die to the ground over winter. Plan to bury bottom foot or so in shredded hardwood bark as soon as lows hit the 20’s.


How does everybody find the right moment to wrap their fig trees in east coast when it’s constantly raining or snowing? It has been wet for days now. I’m worried tree will mold if I wrap it wet but also worried about unexpected cold weather if I wait for it to dry out.


I guess it’s more a complaint than a question…


@hambone you should try more Mt Etna varieties in ground. Mine consistently ripen in Pennsylvania even when there is dieback. When they die back and have lots of new shoots forming, you should try to thin out all the new growth to allow more light to reach the leaves, and open up the bushes. This really helps to ripen fruit from what I’ve noticed. I started rubbing off excessive growth at the end of May this past year.

@Susu I feel your pain. I was going to wrap mine today, but mother nature decided to dump 4 inches of snow and freezing rain on us yesterday.


Don’t worry if the fig is wet or dry. When I cover mine with wood chips it goes through many wet and dry times in the pile of wood chips throughout winter the same as in summer. It may mold in places but that will not hurt the fig like your thinking that it will .


Looking online for fig protection, I’ve seen some people place a bucket on top of the wrapped tree to keep moisture away. Is that not necessary? I know you don’t do that and your figs come back in the spring. I’m wondering if that(keeping the tree dry) increases the chances of survival.


you must keep insulation dry.
i wrap with pink fiberglass.
nasty stuff but it works,
then you put a tarp over that to keep it dry.
same if you use rugs or blankets.


@Susu I’m someone who uses the bucket lol. I keep the very top of the tarp open and place the bucket over it to keep moisture out but also aid in ventilation at the same time. I’ve had mold grow when the inside of my wrapping job got wet and it did damage those moldy parts. Alternatively, perhaps the mold grew on branches that had already experienced damage and died.


Thanks, that’s great info. What are your top two favorite Mt Etnas? Please explain “rubbing off excessive growth.” Does that mean tip pruning?