Create Your Garden

Ficus carica (Common Fig)

Unlock the secrets to successfully cultivating your own figs and relish the bountiful rewards they bring.

Fig, Common Fig, Ronde de Bordeaux Fig, Ficus carica Ronde de Bordeaux

Ficus carica, commonly known as the common fig, is a species of flowering plant in the mulberry family, known for its distinctive fruit. Its origins trace back to the Mediterranean and Western Asia, where it has been cultivated for thousands of years. This deciduous tree or large shrub is noted for its unique leaf shape and the sweet, pear-shaped fruits it produces.

Common Fig – An In-Depth Look

Native: Native to the Mediterranean region and parts of western and southern Asia, Ficus carica has been a staple in local diets and cultures since ancient times. It thrives in dry, sunny climates and is widely cultivated in regions with similar environmental conditions worldwide.
It belongs to the mulberry family Moraceae, which includes a variety of species ranging from trees to shrubs and vines, many of which are economically significant for their fruits.

Growth Habit: Common Fig is a deciduous tree or large shrub. It’s unique because it’s one of the few Ficus species that loses its leaves in colder months. This plant exhibits a robust and branching growth habit. It tends to spread wider than it grows tall, creating a broad, canopy-like structure that provides shade.

Size: Fig trees can grow to about 10-30 feet tall and wide (3-9 meters), though size can vary depending on the growing conditions and cultivar.

Flowers: The Fig tree possesses a distinctive floral structure. The flowers are inconspicuous, hidden within what appears to be the fruit (syconium). As the syconium matures, it develops into the fleshy and edible portion commonly recognized as the fig.

Pollination: Most fig varieties grown for fruit in gardens and orchards, especially in non-Mediterranean climates, are self-fertile and do not require pollination. This means they do not require another tree for cross-pollination to produce fruit, which is beneficial for gardeners with limited space.

Fruits: Figs display a remarkable diversity in size, shape, and texture, with flavors ranging from subtly sweet to richly intense. Their colors span a spectrum including black, green, brown, violet, yellow, and purple, and their harvest times vary, offering a broad choice for different preferences and uses.

Foliage: The large, lobed leaves are rough-textured and deep green, providing a lush and vibrant look throughout the growing season.

Bark: The trunk is relatively thick and robust, supporting the extensive branching. The bark is smooth and gray, adding a subtle texture to the tree’s appearance.

Hardiness: Most Fig trees are hardy in USDA zones 8-10, although some varieties can be grown in USDA zones 6 or 7. They require a warm, temperate climate but can tolerate brief periods of cold if properly protected.

Uses: The Common Fig is primarily grown for its sweet, edible fruits, consumed fresh, dried, or in jams. The Fig tree is also ideal for garden landscapes with its distinctive broad leaves and sculptural form. It offers ornamental appeal, creates natural shade areas, and is a focal point in Mediterranean or edible gardens. The compact size of some varieties makes them suitable for small spaces and container gardening.

Wildlife: Birds and other wildlife are attracted to the fruits, although this can sometimes lead to competition for the harvest.

Toxicity: The Fig tree sap contains compounds like furocoumarins and ficin, which can cause skin irritation or dermatitis in some individuals. The fig tree (leaves and sap) can be more problematic for pets, particularly dogs and cats. Ingestion can lead to gastrointestinal and dermal irritation.

Deer and Rabbit: Fig trees can be susceptible to damage from deer and rabbits, especially when young. Protective measures may be necessary in areas with high wildlife activity.

Invasiveness: Find where Ficus carica species is invasive in the United States. Discover beautiful U.S. native plant alternatives.

Guide Information

Hardiness 6 - 10
Plant Type Fruits, Shrubs, Trees
Plant Family Moraceae
Genus Ficus
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 10' - 30'
(3m - 9.1m)
Spread 10' - 30'
(3m - 9.1m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Fruit & Berries
Attracts Birds
Landscaping Ideas Patio And Containers, Wall-Side Borders, Beds And Borders
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Informal and Cottage, Mediterranean Garden
Ficus carica ‘Brown Turkey’ (Fig)
Ficus carica ‘Celeste’ (Fig)
Ficus carica ‘Chicago Hardy’ (Fig)

Why Should I Grow a Fig Tree?

Growing a fig tree offers several appealing benefits:

Delicious Fruit: Fig trees produce sweet, nutritious fruits that can be eaten fresh, dried, or used in various recipes. Homegrown figs often taste better than store-bought ones as they are picked at peak ripeness.

Ornamental Value: Fig trees have a distinctive appearance, with large, lobed leaves that add a lush, tropical feel to any garden or landscape.

Low Maintenance: Figs are relatively easier to grow than other fruit trees. They are drought-tolerant and generally require minimal pruning or care once established.

Adaptability: Fig trees can thrive in a range of climates and can be grown in the ground or in containers, making them suitable for various gardening spaces.

Health Benefits: Figs are rich in nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals, contributing to a healthy diet.

Longevity and Productivity: Fig trees can live and produce fruit for many years, making them a long-term investment for your garden.

Pest and Disease Resistance: Generally, fig trees are resistant to many pests and diseases, reducing the need for chemical treatments.

What Type of Fig Tree Should I Buy?

When selecting a Fig variety, consider factors like fruiting time, breba crop production, and eye type. Here are suggestions categorized by these criteria:

Early Fruiting Varieties

  • Black Mission: Offers a breba crop and is known for its large, sweet, purplish-black fruits. It has a closed eye, making it less susceptible to pests.
  • Desert King: Produces a reliable breba crop. The fruits have green skin with strawberry-colored flesh, ideal for cooler, wetter climates.

Mid-Season Varieties

  • Brown Turkey: Hardy and adaptable, it produces brownish-purple fruit with a moderate breba crop. It has an open eye, which can be susceptible to pests in humid climates.
  • Celeste: Known for its pest resistance, it yields small, sweet fruits with a closed eye, reducing the risk of spoilage.

Late Fruiting Varieties

  • Chicago Hardy: Hardy in colder climates, it produces sweet, richly flavored late-season fruit and can withstand freezing temperatures.
  • Kadota: Bears light green, less sweet fruits in the late season. It typically does not produce a breba crop but is excellent for canning.

Breba Crop Production

Some figs, like ‘Black Mission’ and ‘Desert King’, produce an early season (breba) crop on last year’s wood, in addition to the main crop. Others, like ‘Kadota’, focus energy on a single, more abundant main crop.

Eye Type – Open vs. Closed

Closed-eye varieties (e.g., Black Mission, Celeste) are less prone to pests and spoilage, as the tighter opening prevents insects and moisture from entering.

Open-eye varieties (e.g., Brown Turkey) may require more care in humid climates to prevent issues like souring.

Your choice will depend on your climate, space, taste preference, and whether you desire early, mid, or late-season fruits. Local nurseries and agricultural extensions can offer additional guidance tailored to your area.

Ficus carica ‘Olympian’ (Fig)
Ficus carica ‘Violette de Bordeaux’ (Fig)
Ficus carica ‘Yellow Long Neck’ (Fig)

When to Plant a Fig Tree?

The ideal time to plant a fig tree is during the dormant season, typically late fall to early spring. This timing allows the tree to establish roots before the growing season begins.

In colder climates (USDA Zones below 8), it’s best to plant in early spring after the threat of severe frost has passed. In warmer climates, late fall planting is beneficial as it provides time for root establishment before summer heat.

 

Where to Plant a Fig Tree

Sunlight: Choose a location with full sun, ideally receiving at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.

Soil: Figs prefer rich, well-drained soil. Avoid areas where water tends to collect. They tolerate various soil types but perform best in soil with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.

Space: Ensure ample space for growth. Fig trees can spread wide, so allow room for the canopy and roots to expand.

Protection: In colder areas, a south or west-facing spot against a wall or fence can provide additional warmth and protection from cold winds.

 

How to Plant a Fig Tree

Prepare the Site: Clear the area of weeds and grass. Dig a hole about twice the width and the same depth as the root ball of the tree.

Improve the Soil: Mix some compost or aged manure into the soil removed from the hole to improve fertility and drainage.

Planting: Gently remove the tree from its container. Place it in the hole, ensuring it’s at the same depth it was in the pot. Spread the roots outwards.

Refill the Hole: Backfill the hole with the improved soil, gently firming it around the roots to eliminate air pockets.

Water Thoroughly: After planting, water the tree well to settle the soil and provide moisture to the roots.

Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the tree to retain moisture and suppress weeds, keeping it away from the trunk to prevent rot.

Staking: If the tree is tall or in a windy location, stake it for support in its first year.

 

Fig Tree Care

Caring for a fig tree involves several key practices to ensure healthy growth and abundant fruit production:

Watering: Regular watering is crucial, especially during fruit development. Allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings to avoid overwatering as figs are susceptible to root rot in waterlogged soil. Once established, figs can be drought tolerant.

Fertilization: Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring. Over-fertilizing, especially with nitrogen, can reduce fruit yield. Compost or aged manure can be added around the base of the tree to enrich soil nutrients.

Pruning: Prune in late winter or early spring (during dormancy) to remove dead or diseased wood and to shape the tree. Pruning helps sunlight reach the inner branches, crucial for fruit development. Limit pruning once the tree starts to bear fruit, as figs form on old wood.

Winter Care: In colder climates, protect the tree in winter by wrapping it with burlap or using a cold frame. Mulch heavily around the base to protect the roots from freezing.

Ficus carica ‘Panaché’ (Fig)
Ficus carica ‘Ronde de Bordeaux’ (Fig)
Ficus carica ‘Lattarulla’ (Fig)

How to Harvest Figs?

Harvesting figs requires a bit of care and timing to ensure you get the best quality fruit. Here’s how to do it:

Know When They are Ripe:

  • Figs do not ripen after picking, so it’s crucial to harvest them at the right time.
  • Ripe figs are slightly soft to the touch and may droop slightly on the tree.
  • The skin color changes and deepens as they ripen. For example, green figs may turn brown or purple.
  • A ripe fig may exude a drop of nectar from the eye (the bottom end of the fruit).

Gentle Handling:

  • Figs are delicate and can bruise easily. Handle them gently when picking.
  • Use your fingers to pick the fruit, twisting it off at the stem. Alternatively, use a pair of clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears.

Harvest Regularly:

  • Check your fig tree daily during the ripening season, as ripe figs quickly overripe or attract pests.
  • Harvest ripe figs in the morning if possible, when the fruit is cool.

Storing Figs:

  • Fresh figs are perishable and should be eaten or processed soon after picking.
  • They can be stored in the refrigerator for a short period, usually a few days.
  • For longer storage, figs can be dried, frozen, or made into jams and preserves.

Fig, COmmon Fig, Fig Fruit, Figs Fruit

How to Eat Figs?

Eating figs is a delightful experience, and they can be enjoyed in various ways:

Fresh: Simply wash the figs and eat them whole, skin and all. The skin is edible and contains nutrients. You can also slice them open to savor the sweet, jam-like interior.

Dried: Dried figs are a great snack as is. They have a concentrated sweetness and chewy texture. You can rehydrate them in water or juice to soften them before eating.

In Cooking: Figs can be used in baking, for instance in cakes, tarts, and bread. They pair well with cheeses, especially in appetizers.

In Salads: Fresh or dried figs add a sweet element to salads, complementing greens and vinaigrettes.

As a Preserve: Figs can be made into jams, preserves, or compotes, which are delicious on toast or as dessert toppings.

With Meats: Their sweetness complements savory dishes, especially meats like pork, lamb, and poultry.

As a Dessert: Figs are excellent when poached, grilled, or roasted and served with ice cream, yogurt, or whipped cream.

As a Snack: Figs are a nutritious snack, providing fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

When consuming figs, be mindful of allergies or sensitivities, as some people might react to figs, especially their skin.

Pests and Diseases

Fig trees can be susceptible to certain pests and diseases.

Watch for pests like aphids, scale insects, root-knot nematodes, spider mites, and mealybugs. Honey fungus, leaf spot, and rust occasionally occur. Maintain good air circulation and hygiene to prevent fungal diseases. Regular inspections help in early detection and treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Dogs Eat Figs?

Dogs can eat figs in moderation, but there are some considerations. Figs are high in fiber and natural sugars, which can be beneficial but also cause digestive upset in some dogs. Also, figs contain ficin and ficusin, which can irritate some dogs, leading to allergic reactions or skin inflammation. As with any new food, introduce figs to your dog’s diet slowly and watch for any adverse reactions.

Are Figs Good for You?

Figs are very nutritious and offer several health benefits. They are rich in nutrients and are a good source of fiber, vitamins A, B, and K, and minerals like potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, and iron. The high fiber content of figs can aid digestion and prevent constipation. Figs have a low to moderate glycemic index, which can help control blood sugar levels. The potassium in figs helps to manage blood pressure, while the fiber can reduce cholesterol levels. Figs contain powerful antioxidants, which combat free radicals and promote overall health.

When are Figs in Season?

The fig season varies depending on the climate and variety. In warmer climates, Figs have two seasons. The first crop, known as the breba crop, grows on last year’s shoot growth and ripens in late spring to early summer. The main crop develops on the current year’s growth and ripens in late summer to fall. In cooler climates, Figs usually produce one crop per year, harvested in late summer to early fall.

 

Discover These Helpful Guides for Further Reading

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While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 6 - 10
Plant Type Fruits, Shrubs, Trees
Plant Family Moraceae
Genus Ficus
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 10' - 30'
(3m - 9.1m)
Spread 10' - 30'
(3m - 9.1m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Fruit & Berries
Attracts Birds
Landscaping Ideas Patio And Containers, Wall-Side Borders, Beds And Borders
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Informal and Cottage, Mediterranean Garden
Compare All Ficus (Fig)
Compare Now
Guides with
Ficus (Fig)

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