How to make figs productive and tasty

I’ve been stunned how much growing conditions can affect fig productivity and eating quality. I’m going to post pictures of Strawberry Verte grown in 12 gal pots vs outdoors in good soil. So the main difference is size of root system, freeze damage, and subsequent vigor of the plants. The outdoor plants are much more vigorous despite not being watered or fertilized in the past yr. Rainfall in that yr probably 12 inches. Potted are watered every day and fertilized minimally but have a much smaller root system.

I’ve been harvesting figs off the potted trees for maybe 6 weeks. They got a head start being in my greenhouse. Maybe half the figs are left on those two trees. The outdoor figs have almost no figs set despite this being a generally precocious fig variety.

First the outdoor figs:

The potted greenhouse figs:

The potted plants spent two yrs in small pots and produced nicely. Then were planted in ground in the greenhouse where they grew 10ft plus in one yr and produced poorly. Now 2nd yr for the same identical plants back in larger pots and they’ve been loaded with figs both yrs.

The potted figs got too dry while I was gone for a week and had spider mites. So the one tree esp looks poor but it hasn’t affected the fruit. This is a great tasting fig!!


Once you take potted plants from a highly controlled environment
and subject them to everything that Mother Nature deals out, they’re
going to have to contend with several types of shock. First, they have
to deal with transplant shock and then environmental shock. Then the
roots have to get acclimated to the native soil, which is totally foreign
from the potting mix. All of this takes time. Once the tree adjusts to
all of this, it will settle down and start to perform. But that performance
depends greatly on the amount of sun that it gets. The more sunlight
the tree gets, the more fruit it will yield.

Thanks for comparing both in ground and potted fig production. I saw similar results on my figs. In ground fig has very good green leaves but less fruits.Potted plants have little fig at every leave

the longer growing season inside the greenhouse, and better drainage/root aeration grown in pots, may have been key.
speaking of moisture and aeration, figs have many cousins which grow in relatively dry and airy conditions, growing on above-ground surfaces-- strangler figs, certain banyans, and creeping figs.

I’d agree Ray in your climate but out here where figs freeze back every winter the top never gets in balance with the roots. Big roots and freezing back equals overly vigorous regrowth. That can equal poor set and poor quality fruit.

We get more sun than you do but the only outdoor figs that do well here are in selected locations with great air drainage. I’m on the flat ground and my figs always freeze back.


A top in balance with the roots is key. My outdoor soil has very good aeration. It will drain better than 2 inches of water per hour all day everyday.

If you’ve seen pictures of mature productive figs in Mediterranean climates they’re all non vigorous trees that look very similar to my potted trees. That comes with a mature root system and a top size that is in balance and not overly vigorous.

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definitely why it is not productive grown outside, as it could be exhibiting certain mulberry characteristics, its other cousin. Pakistan specifically, usually get to be fruitful only on old laterals, at least one year old. If yours die-back every year, then none of them will get seasoned enough. Much like growing most varieties of bananas in phoenix-- the ‘trees’ die down during winter, because it takes more than a year for a pseudostem to mature, so the new growth each year goes back to square one, hence a yearly cycle of perennially immature stems.


Seems to me pots have heavy top growth compared to roots, not sure they are in balance either?
My conclusion is they like to be root bound. It sends a signal to reproduce.
I use large pots, 10 gallon, fabric though. I think the in ground will produce well once bigger and root system is mature, etc. I put a few rooted cuttings into the ground. I really don’t want them. One in the front garden near a conifer with heavy roots, has figs. Root room in the garden is limited.
The others are small, probably will not grow back next year. I’ll somewhat protect the one in front, it probably will grow back as it probably will be killed to the ground no matter what I do. Well short of burying it, it’s small, I could and might just bury the whole tree.

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They are if watered regularly. The non productive and watery fig state is roots too big for the top. That leads to excessive growth and too much water too the fruit.

It’s not unlike many stonefruits that are of reduced quality if the plant is overly supplied with water.

Speaking of that with 4 inches of rain for the last 90 days things are crisp here. Chester the crappiest of my blackberries taste like balls of sugar, extremely good! Wow! Loch Ness described as tart and sweet, are extremely good too, no tartness I can detect. I need to smell the roses, we could get 20 inches next year. My Arctic Glo nectarines are small. Last year I harvested August 8th. I bet they have a very high brix. I can’t wait to see! Not much longer. makes up for some trees that froze out. Spice Zee, and Arctic Glo both Zaiger products, grow very well here in the Midwest. I know many do not, these do! Spice Zee has about 50 fruits, just about right!
My lucky 13 bred here, lost all fruit to the late freeze go figure? I think I may pull it in put in Red Haven. I would graft except I can’t get any to take, I give up. To much work, and no payoff whatsoever.

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Definitely that’s why your outside fig looks so beautiful, but devoid of fruit - it’s expending all its energies in recovering from frost, and that means more leaves so it can set fruit next year. One of the downsides to figs being grown in areas that receive frost - the poor tree can never really get fully recovered enough to set fruit. When I planted my RdB, it spend a full 2 years getting established. Lots of growth, beautiful leaves and canopy. Zero fruits. I decided this year that was enough vegetative growth, thank you very much, so severely pinching it back stimulated the tree to set fruit this year, and in a very big way. Of course, I have the added advantage of mild winters here, so that makes a huge difference. What surprises me, though, is the fig you planted in the ground in your greenhouse. I wonder if you could have replicated my results by leaving it in the ground, and next growing season, having pinched it back and stimulated it to set? Just a thought.

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Yes you are likely right. And the yr it was in the ground it was watered and fertilized too much. Not for the fig itself but for newly planted stonefruit nearby.

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It could also be variety specific. I’ve had BT’s freeze to the ground,
grow back the next spring and still produce a good crop of very good figs.


Because of where I’m at, they have to stay in pots,and results so far are fantastic. I should get over 50 figs this year. The in ground stuff is for experimenting. I have duplicates of everything in containers.These plants overall are easy to grow.


I’ve got one in The ground (that I found locally) that keeps a couple stems alive w/o protection, unfortunately as things have grown up around it they have shaded it very heavily. My other in ground one (Florea) is dealing with what ever keeps digging in my garden exposing its roots…

My potted figs have been too much of a struggle to keep watered this summer. Got fruit on a couple, but mostly I’m growing leaves…


My opinion is that you give figs a slow and steady supply of N:P:K in the ratios of 2::1::3 throughout the year and then next year’s harvest will be fruitful. The actual quantity to use depends on your estimation of the tree’s net root volume – or simply the volume of water needed to adequately irrigate the tree. Examples of fertilizers in this ratio are 2-1-3, 6-3-9, 12-6-18, 16-8-24. If you’d like to make a mix of this ratio using local components I can help.

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Ok, Richard. I am sure that works wonderfully for you. I love your yard and you’ve given me ideas on how to improve my own. I joked with my wife that my idea of a vacation would be staying nearby, but working in your garden for a week.

Question is, what would make more sense for people who don’t live in such an oasis…

Any suggestions as a former nurseryman on what fertilization type and frequency to ensure survival and even fruiting in a less hospitable climate?

My wife is making me ask… What is challenging to grow in your environments?



There must be some way to slow the growth… Can nitrogen be antagonized with calcium and potassium? Add on to Scott’s question…

Pots slow fig growth. That’s the best way I know of and it’s very good at making figs productive IME.

When planted in ground figs are very hard to slow down. You just have to wait until the tree matures and vigor naturally drops. If they freeze back every winter they never settle down to a slow/moderate mature growth rate.