Violette de Bordeaux Fig


Bought VdB 5G pot from Dave Wilson a week ago. I have kept the tree in its own 5G pot, however, all the leaves toward the bottom are turning droopy (wilted). I am watering only as needed, have not started fertilizing just yet as getting plant acclimated first. What could be the reasons for the droopy leaves at the bottom/middle of the potted tree? Thanks! From, Zone 9b, NorCal.


My guess is that it needs more frequent/deep watering. My potted figs need watering every other day, and my weather is milder than yours.


Some thoughts:
I notice it’s adjacent to your dryer vent.
At the nursery, were there escaped roots leaving the bottom of the pot?
Was the tree close to others and thus the lower leaves shaded?
Why is it still in a 5 gallon and not upsized to a “squat” 20-25 gallon or in the ground?


I think the pot is a little small for the tree. It will survive with sunshine and moisture in the soil all the time. Otherwise, the fruits will be wilting, and will not grow or ripen.
In my experience, without the very cold weather, it is very hard to kill a fig tree. If it was my tree, I would snip off all the wilted leaves in the lower part of the tree to lighten the water requirement for the tree. Once the tree recovers, it will put out a lot of new growth. Someone else with more experience may suggest something else, and I would appreciate any comments/corrections.


This may be silly or obvious too many but I had to use water jugs with little holes poked in the lids to water my figs. The potting soil would get so hydrophobic that you could dump two gallons of water on it and 90% would run out the bottom of the pot


Time to change soil.


You could be correct, I think this is their second summer in that soil, it could also be my fault from letting them get too dry. I try to get the figs as sweet as possible and hate to water in late summer.


That’s still possible in a better soil.


Capillary mat can keep your medium from completely drying out with the right pots/set-up. The mat wicks water from a reservoir and into the bottom of your pot. It may be a good solution for sweetening your figs without letting the medium get bone dry. You could also do a blumat watering system.


Or you could use a better soil.


Time for a new needle or a new 78 for the old Victrola, Richard? :slight_smile:


I guess so!

For plants in pots, using less water is relative to location. For all other things being equal: in some places it means only watering once per day while in others only once per month.

If the soil is draining or not draining at a correct rate then there’s no need to buy external adapters or make excuses … just change it.


Thanks all for the reply.

The pot was only temporarily (1 day) near the dryer vent. It was bought from HD and was surrounded by many VdB pots and many other fruit trees. The tree was delivered to HD from Dave Wilson not earlier than 7 days (I special ordered it, so I know). I just repotted it in 16" self-watering pot using experimental custom built soil (4-1-1-1-1, bark,perlite,coir,compost, MG Garden soil) and other ingredients (Biochar, Oyster shell, Osmocot, etc.).

The plant still has wilted leaves. The pot soil is moist and I am afraid of over watering it. Here in NorCal, the soil at the top stays moist for days before drying up. Tree gets sun about 6-7 hours.

btw, several figs dropped from tree (large and small) in last one week. None had any taste all all, a couple of ripe and jammy inside, but no taste at all. That was a huge disappointment. Heard VdB is good tasting fig, that’s the reason I purchase the tree.


@gf38238 -
I wouldn’t expect fruit from a tree brought home from a nursery a few weeks ago to have much flavor.

A fruit tree does need time to rest after the trauma of shipping - at least a day in the shade and then slowly weaned away into full sun over the course of several days to a couple of weeks depending on the plant. Ultimately a fig tree performs best in all day sun.

In my experience self-watering pots are an environment for pests and diseases – generally a poor choice for many plants including fruit trees. They promise to relieve the owner of the task of watering but the downside is not worth it. A better way to deal with the task of watering is to install an automated irrigation system.

For potted fruit trees I prefer a soil mix that is:

  • 3 parts horticultural (washed) sand
  • 2 parts ground sphagnum moss or triple ground redwood bark
  • 1 part cured dry greenery compost

For trees in the ground I mix this with 1/4 to 1/2 native soil, using the lesser amount for higher clay soils. I buy it by the truckload.

My planting holes for trees are at least 1 cubic yard. For long-term in pots I recommend a 40-gallon treebox, certainly nothing smaller than a 15 gallon “squat” nursery pot which will suffice for 3-5 years. For shorter term (2-3 years) nursery stock trees I am using 9"x15" 3.2 gallon ribbed treepots – Steuwe 915R. For plants I intend to sell in a year via online shipping, I plant them in Kellogg’s Patio mix in 1 to 1.3 gallon pots – using the lighter soil to reduce shipping costs.

Photos of all this are in various threads I’ve started on this site.


What kind of emitter do you use for watering the pots to ensure even coverage?


In short – I flood the soil surface to insure even coverage. Note that the soil lines in the pots are at least 1" to 2" below the rim.

  • My water pressure from the street is 50 psi and about 48 psi through my irrigation system.
  • My current weather has daytime high of 90°F with 50% humidity, and overnight low of 70°F with 90% humidity. It does not rain any significant amount at my location in the summer.
  • Fruit trees in the ground have 4 180° Orbit streamer heads about equally spaced at the planter perimeter - which have 32" to 42" radii. I have 4-5 trees per irrigation valve and I’m currently watering once a week for 8 minutes.
  • For the tubs I use Orbit 1/2" 360° emitters. I have about 8 tubs per irrigation valve. I’m currently watering them twice per week for 5 minutes.
  • For smaller pots I distribute water via DiG 12-port 1/8" tubing manifolds to the pots. I removed the flow-control inserts from inside the manifolds. I have anywhere from 2 to 8 manifolds per irrigation valve. I measured a flow rate of 1 gallon per 5 minutes per tube.
  • For the 3 gallon treepots I use open-ended 1/8" tubing secured with the stakes included in the manifold kits. I’m currently watering them twice per week for 10 minutes.
  • For the smaller treepots I use Netafim high volume “spitter stakes” placed in the corners of the pots. I’m currently watering them 3 times per week for 7 minutes.






This VdB fig, when dead ripe, is so delish. Unfortunately mine is not working for me. Out of the hundreds of figs it ripens i have eaten maybe a dozen perfect ones this summer and another couple dozen sub-ripe ones. The problem is if there is any rain at all they swell up a little and go sour inside due to the eye opening a bit. The sub ripe ones just arent good tasting to me so picking early doesnt work. I let it go this summer hoping for a turnaround but it was the same old story. I think im going to rip it out or graft it over next spring. Anyone out there having better luck in the SE US with this one? Im thinking ill go with alma, green ischia or brown turkey.

By the way thanks to richard for demonstrating the hard pruning. It has worked so nicely on my tree. The production of main crop figs was astounding this summer. I did not miss those brebas at all. I just need a better variety for my area.


If you can pick at tree ripe, where there is no sap leaking from the stem, they will continue to ripen on the counter or even in the fridge.


Thanks for sharing your elaborate setup.

My current setup is not ideal and I’ll have to hand water to ensure even coverage. But it helps to keep my trees alive whenever I’m away. A setup like yours will be a project for my retirement.


This is the third time I’ve had such a setup, and the first in my retirement.