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Low-Maintenance Fig Trees Produce Delicious Fruit

Posted Sep. 30, 2005

First off, I'd like to thank the fine readers who have been kind enough to send enlightening comments regarding my past articles on pomegranate fruit and personalized landscape stepping stones.

Allow me to introduce to you an old favorite of mine - a fruit that grows well here, is somewhat winter tender and a tasty delight - the fig. This fruit grows on a small tree which can be kept growing at a low height with light pruning. Be warned: Over pruning can cause the plant to go vegetative, and vegetative plants do not produce fruit! I was introduced to this fruit in my childhood during the 1970s in northeast Texas. The variety at our home was probably "Texas Everbearing," which produces a plump, less-than-2-inch diameter fruit from late May to August. The fruit can be made into "to-die-for" preserves. The fig we grew in Texarkana was a closed-eye fruit, which doesn't have near the disease problems of the open-eye fig fruit. The fig has an inverted bloom, meaning the blooming male and female parts are inside the fruit. In order for the bloom to pollinate, small insects must enter thru the "eye" opening at the base of the fruit opposite the stem end fruit.

Don't ask this plant to grow in heavy soils that do not drain - it doesn't like wet feet at all. Fig trees require moisture during the growing season, so figure on some type of irrigation for supplemental moisture. Bark mulching would be an excellent idea to conserve the moisture. High nitrogen fertility is not required.

Little, if any, pruning is needed annually. Fig trees can be planted almost year round if in a container. The bare-rooted stock plants are planted in the dormant season (January and February).

Here are some varieties I suggest:

  • "Celeste" has small, sweet, brown to purple fruit, good cold tolerance and has the closed eye.
  • "Brown Turkey" has reddish-brown medium- to large-size fruit and may crack during a wet growing season.


And, yes, wildlife enjoys this soft, small, tasty fruit.

Fig plants are easily propagated by allowing a limb to come in contact with moist soil until the limb begins to develop roots during the growing season. This asexual propagation method is called "air-laying." Put a heavy weight (i.e., a brick) on the limb to secure it to the ground. Keep the soil under the limb moist. This is typically done between February and June. After roots start to grow, the limb may be severed from the original plant and transplanted.