Desert King Fig in zone 6b?

I picked up a Desert King fig last fall on clearance at my local Lowes. Now reading more about this variety it appears it may not be well adapted to my location (I’m in southern PA, zone 6b). I can’t seem to find much information about this variety growing outside of CA or the Pacific Northwest. I wonder if in my winter climate it would die back considerably each year and lose it’s Breba crop, for which it is best known.
Does anyone have any experience growing this variety in a similar climate? Does it fruit?, Breba or Main crop? Would it be worth planting out in the yard, or should I keep it potted to be able to move it inside during the winter? Or is it even worth the hassle?

Desert King is better known for its breba crop. This means you will have to bring it in each winter or you will never really see good fruit on it.

I gave up on mine a couple years back.

Perhaps someone else has had better luck


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It was very difficult to keep the breba crop on mine from getting toasted, either with the winter lows or late spring cold snaps, so it was one of the few figs I culled by choice in favor of other varieties. It was very vigorous, but in my opinion just a poor fit for my region and the way/timing on how I like to shuffle my figs around

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I don’t have experience growing Desert King, but given the previous comments from other 6b individuals, you’re probably better off planting a few shorter season, main crop varieties in the ground. I get anywhere between 500-1000+ figs from my in ground trees yearly. Plant some Hardy Chicago or the numerous similar varieties for a decent crop. I’m probably located somewhere near you, and there are plenty of figs that do great in southern and southeastern PA.

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Skardu Black is a very cold hardy fig worth trying in your location.

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Thanks everyone for your responses, good information. Fortunately, I only sunk about $5 on the plant. Not surprised that Lowes would be selling varieties not appropriate for the local area.

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Thanks Richard! Would you know of a good source for Skardu Black? I did a quick search and had some trouble finding it online for sale.

Since you already own DK, why not plant it in your sunniest location. I expect it will live since the one# in eastern Wa live in quite cold winters. If it dies then you will know,but if it lives, just follow this fellows video pruning guide to maximize breba crop. You might be surprised. The breba crop we get here in our climate is quite delicious. Good luck
Kent, wa
Pruning video for Breba crop in cool climates: How to prune figs in a cool climate for first (breba) crop fig production - YouTube

This video features the Dessert King variety which he says does best in cool climates.

I have a lot of experience with DK in coastal RI, borderline Z6B/7A. I grow it only in pots because I want to be able to control exposure to fluctuating spring weather, which is a bigger threat to developing brebas than mid-winter low temperatures. I have learned to not take the pots out of winter storage until temperatures are >50 F 24/7, which generally correspond here to 2nd week of May. By then the brebas are usually pea-sized but the tree doesn’t seem to care.

Grown in pots with this winter/spring protection, I get abundant crops in late July / early August.

I can tell you about my great grandfather’s figs in central PA. he brought them as sticks in his coat pockets from Italy. that’s pretty near to where you live, if a little colder in winter.

he never let them get more than 8 feet tall. every year before first frost he would take every old blanket in the house, tie the branches of the trees to the trunk and cut back anything he couldn’t wrap tight. then he would cut into the soil on one side and kick the whole tree over onto the ground. then wrap it in the blankets like a big baby and then cover that with dirt.

in spring once frost was over he would pull them up, take all the blankets off, stake them and let them wake up. he would get two crops a year off them this way.

his less-favored trees got only the tie and the blankets, and straw or leaves all around the bottom. those usually survived too somehow. I’m not sure why he cared so much for some and less for others, there seemed no difference in the flavors, he said it was “he didn’t like their personality”. he was the kind of man who named chickens and had a favorite hammer, too though. a personality quirk that’s apparently genetic

edit to add: he was from mountainous area in northern Italy, not the nice warm Mediterranean. they were local figs to there.

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Not at the moment. Some large collectors occasionally offer it.

What’s you’re winter storage arrangement? I winter mine in a cold basement. Currently it’s probably high 40’s and like most years, the figs are ready to go well before I’d be comfortable setting them outside. Now that I have the high tunnel, I’ll stick them in there (soon).

Most of the local orchards grow figs as sort of a novelty and attraction. They keep them in the packing house under cold storage, I believe, so have more control over when they wake up.

I was growing 5 varieties at one point, getting only a handful of main season figs. Brebas would always drop. I let all but two varieties go, and am building back up now that I have a high tunnel. I was in Seattle in February and came home with Lattarula and Desert King cuttings. These seem to be PNW staples, and I thought perhaps good bets anywhere on the margins since ripening window seems to be limiting for the most part. I didn’t imagine growing in ground to be particularly viable for any variety in a continental climate locale much north of NJ., though I keep hearing suggestions otherwise. It looks like you may in one of those relatively rare east coast maritime climate spots, @jrd51,so it may not be very applicable, but I’m curious too about your in ground figs and how you manage them.

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My potted Common Fig trees go into an attached garage that is 35-50 F most of the winter. Trees stay comfortably dormant until late March / early April. I move them outside when the temperature forecast seems to rule out nights in the low 20’s. This year I’m expecting to start taking them out tomorrow.

The potted San Pedro’s go into a detached garage that is colder, roughly 20-50 F depending on outside temps. Trees there emerge from dormancy a little later but still too early to go outside without jeopardizing developing brebas. Those go outside when the temperature forecast rules out nights in the 40’s, which means mid-May. When they go outside, there typically are leaves and developing brebas on the trees. As noted, I think the main risk for these San Pedros is not absolute cold in winter but rather fluctuating warm / cold in spring. Cycling between 60 F and 40 F will make brebas drop.

My in-ground Common Figs are each covered with a cylindrical insulating cover 3’ wide and 4’ tall. Heat radiates from the ground. I describe this set-up in detail in the OurFIgs forum. I’ve never measured the temperatures within these covers but I assume >15 F even when outside temps are sub-zero. I have a local friend with a more elaborate but similar set-up where the interior temperature never falls below ~30 F (i.s., the temperature of the ground).

p.s. I notice that you are in VT. There’re only about 5-10 varieties that I’d consider growing in VT without a major head start. All these varieties are early-ripening. Such names include Florea, Improved Celeste, Rinde de Bordeaux, Teramo, De Tres Esplets, Iranian Candy, and the earlier My Etna types such as Salem Dark, Natalina, Norella, Malta Black.

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