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How to Grow Fig Trees in Containers

Updated on November 16, 2017
Anthony Altorenna profile image

I like spending time in the garden, around the house, fishing,and in the workshop. Many of the projects in my articles are original designs.

Fig tree growing in a container
Fig tree growing in a container | Source

Fig Trees Are the Perfect Backyard Fruit Tree

Growing figs is challenging for northern gardeners, especially those gardening in zone 6 and colder. Strong-willed gardeners devised several methods to combat the cold of winter, each with varying rates of success. Some recommend pushing over the tree each fall and then burying it under a pile of dirt, leaves and mulch. Other say to wrap the fig tree with a thick blanket of burlap stuffed with straw. Both methods are a lot of work, and neither adds to the visual appeal of your winter garden.

My grandfather used the 'Bury Method' for years to protect his fig trees from the chill of winter, and he was very successful in growing several varieties of figs. I have no idea which varieties of fig he grew, but the fresh fruit was delicious! Every fall, we helped with digging out one side of the fig trees, pushing them down to the ground and wrapping the branches in burlap, then burying the trees under layers of straw mulch and dirt. When I moved further north to New England, he gave me a couple of rooted cuttings from his favorite fig trees to plant in my yard.

Unfortunately, the little fig trees were no match against the harsh New England winter. The wrapped and buried trees did not survive. Undaunted, we tried again but this time I potted the fresh cuttings into a container. The little fig trees happily spend the warm spring and summer months soaking up the sunshine on my deck. As the cool weather approaches, I move the containers and the fig trees indoors to rest for the winter in the garage.

Brown Turkey Fig Tree
Brown Turkey Fig Tree | Source

Growing Fig Trees in Containers

Fig trees are the perfect fruit tree for growing in containers. Their foliage is attractive and tropical in appearance, and the trees do not require a lot of space; even fully grown fig trees are quite content growing within the confines of a large pot. Fig trees are easy to care for: they do not require a lot of fertilizers, fig trees grow quickly and respond well to pruning to keep their shape, and they are relatively pest free.

Fig trees are also self-pollinating, so you can grow just one fig tree and it will bear fruit. And unlike many of the more commonly grown fruit trees that require years before the first harvest, figs often bear fruit in just their second or third growing season.

Fig trees are readily available through online retailers and nurseries, and the local gardening center often carries varieties of fig trees that may be suitable to your climate. The Brown Turkey fig is typically offered in our area, though even this relatively hardy fig requires protection from freezing in winter. Or if you are fortunate, a fellow gardener (or generous grandfather) might share a cutting from their favorite fig tree.

Container-Planted Fig Trees

For a small fig tree or cutting, choose a planting container that is at least 12" to 14" in diameter and fill it with a quality potting soil. If you compost, mix some of the screened compost into the container along with a quality potting soil to add nutrients and to help retain moisture. The small planting pot will work well for the first few years and as the fig trees, it will need transplanting to a larger pot.

A planting container filled with soil is very heavy, so consider using a light weight plastic or resin pot. I prefer a plastic pot because it retains moisture well and weighs less than a clay pot, and it is more forgiving when moving the potted fig tree between its summer and winter locations.

Place the potted fig tree in a sunny location, and keep it well watered to prevent the container from drying out. Fig trees are not heavy feeders and do not require a lot of extra fertilizers, and mine do well with just an occasional shot of soluble fertilizer added to the watering can. They do not need an abundance of water, but during spells of hot weather the fig tree may need watering daily to prevent the plant from drying out.

When it gets cold outside, move the fig tree inside for the winter

As the growing season progresses, little green buds of fruit begin to form along the branches. Depending on the variety, the fig will swell and turn color as it ripens; my figs become streaked in a bronze-ish red and the color intensifies as the fruit ripens. When plump and soft to the touch, a ripe fig releases its hold from the branch with just a slight tug.

In autumn, it is time to move the fig tree indoors when the leaves start to yellow and fall. Store the fig tree in an unheated garage or basement, where the tree will go dormant for the winter months. The dormant trees do not require any sunlight, and they can be stored in total darkness. Water the tree periodically throughout the winter, allowing the soil to dry out completely between watering.

As spring approaches and the days get longer and warmer, move the fig tree outside for several hours each day. When the dangers from any late frosts have passed, move the fig tree to its sunny summer home. After a few short growing seasons, the happy tree will reward you with sweet and tasty figs.

The Fig Poll

Have you ever eaten a fresh Fig?

See results

Fascinating Fig Facts

Did You Know?

  • Fig tress do not produce any flowers. The tiny blossoms develop inside the fruit of the fig tree.
  • The fig tree is a symbol of fertility.
  • Many believe that the fruit in the Garden of Eden was actually a fig.
  • The 'food of the gods', figs are very high in calcium and dietary fiber.
  • The Spaniards brought the fig to California in the early 1600's. California produces nearly 98% of all figs grown commercially in the U.S.
  • The Mission fig is the mostly commonly grown variety of fig.
  • Figs must ripen on the tree. Unlike many other fruits, the fig will not continue to ripe after picking.
  • Figs hold moisture well in baked goods, and fig puree can be used as substitute in baking recipes for butter and oil.
  • Dried figs taste good. Fresh figs taste even better!
  • Never eaten a fig? Figs are the fruit in Fig Newton cookies.

Potting a Fig Tree in a Container

Can Fig Trees Grow Where You Live?

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone MapThe USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is now interactive: Search using your zip code or click on your state to find your exact plant hardiness zone for your area.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map | Source

© 2012 Anthony Altorenna

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    • Babbyii profile image

      Barb Johnson 2 years ago from Alaska's Kenai Peninsula

      Loving this info on growing fig trees in containers Anthony. I'm a lover of figs. Might just work here in Alaska. The weather has been warmer the last couple of years too. And with the recent successful experiments with high tunnel gardening here, maybe I can keep my own fig trees flourishing. If you're a gardener, you at least give it a try. Thanks again, Anthony!

    • microfarmproject profile image

      microfarmproject 4 years ago

      We grow figs at The Micro Farm Project. They are very well adapted to our area in the desert southwest. If left to their own devices, they can grow very large in our climate. Great info!

    • ggpalms lm profile image

      ggpalms lm 4 years ago

      @archetekt lm: Most reputable garden centers and nurseries offer common figs that do not need a pollinator. You can grow many types. Here are a few to consider.White Genoa, Brown Turkey, Violet De Bordeaux, Green Ischia, Texas Blue Giant, Celeste, Panache, Lsu Purple and I can go on and on.... Just look up the variety that is good for your zone. Easy to grow organically. Pepe's Fruit Trees. Just my two cents worth.....

    • archetekt lm profile image

      archetekt lm 4 years ago

      My neighbors have 2 small fig trees that did pretty well with dozens of fresh figs harvested this year, we're in zone 8 so I'm going to try 2 myself. What do they need for pollinators?

    • ggpalms lm profile image

      ggpalms lm 4 years ago

      Excellent and very enjoyable lens. Good work and keep growing those figs!!

    • profile image

      mecheshier 4 years ago

      This is a fabulous read. Figs are a favorite tree and fruit of mine. Thanks for the share!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      My youngest daughter told me that she had a fig tree in her yard and I had no idea what one looked like. Now I remember thank you.

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      Great Lens, that's how I knew my once predominantly Italian American neighborhood was changing, when all the fig trees disappeared. Brings back memories.

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      I love this lens... your story of helping your grandfather, and now growing the figs yourself... that's what makes a lens fun to read. Now I'm wanting to grow figs and protect them during winter snow. Thanks for the inspiration. Blessed. Seems like all the angels that fly by here want to bless this lens!!

    • LaurenIM profile image

      LaurenIM 5 years ago

      I'm somewhat of a container gardener myself. Figs are great because they are so nutritious. Actually, I think I'll pass this info along to my niece who loves learning about gardening. That way, she can grow them and I can help her eat the figs!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Excellent lens. Figs are a real powerhouse. I want to have them in my garden, I did but gophers pulled up the young trees, I am intrigued by growing them in pots. This lens is well thought out, and I really like the personal experience you encouraged. Pinned onto my "how does your garden grow" board so I can find it again, and blessed.

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 5 years ago from Jersey Shore

      I have printed this and will definitely give it a try. We have been trying to grow fig trees for years with very little luck. -- Very good instructions! ~~Blessed~~

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Love to have fresh figs! :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      My husband loves figs, I'll have to give it a try!

    • Melissa Miotke profile image

      Melissa Miotke 5 years ago from Arizona

      Great lens. I also really like the Plant Hardiness link. Thanks for that.

    • profile image

      InnovativeToys 5 years ago

      Very interesting! It's cold here, so any figs would certainly be a container gardening project!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Oh, this makes me want to try growing a fig tree. I'm in the desert and know they love the heat. Thanks for the information!

    • Ilonagarden profile image

      Ilona E 5 years ago from Ohio

      If only I lived one zone further south I would certainly try to grow figs. i just don't want to risk the disappointment. I gladly buy fresh figs, but they are never quite like home grown fresh off the tree!

    • profile image

      TamarWrites 5 years ago

      My late father-in-law gave us two fig trees in pots that we later replanted. My husband made one into a third tree. We are overflowing with figs right now. The season is so short! I love them! Fantastic lens!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      We have a lot of fruit trees in our yard as we live in a southern area of Canada but I have never seen a fig tree up our way.

    • KandDMarketing profile image

      KandDMarketing 5 years ago

      Ahhhh ... now I know what my next fruit purchase will be! Thank you.

    • eccles1 profile image

      eccles1 5 years ago

      I love figs I grew up with them, came to America and I never saw them for a long long time and when I did find them I eat all of them in 10 minutes flat ! They are so good . Now they are in season every year and I keep my eye for them scoping for the black ones but the brown are good too ! I have never tired the green ones yet. Growing them sounds like a good idea

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I was just telling someone in the last couple weeks about your success in growing figs in containers, they'll be giving it a try.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      My grandfather and many other people in the Bronx grew fig trees. I remember in winter they all pruned them back and wrapped them in tar paper. They were really ugly in winter, but the fruit was great.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      We are in SW.Ontario, Canada. My father in law built a greenhouse from old windows around his fig trees once they got larger, to protect them. He used the burrowing method too at first. These trees produce so many delicious figs, we have to give lots away to friends and neighbours. They really are delicious.

    • Einar A profile image

      Einar A 5 years ago

      This is great information! I never even considered the possibility of growing figs where I live due to the high elevation and harsh winters, but it sounds like container gardening might allow me to do so. I would love to be able to grow my own fresh figs.

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image

      hntrssthmpsn 5 years ago

      What a great idea! I'd never have thought fig trees would do so well in containers! I actually live in an area where we can grow them in the ground with little trouble, but my house gets WAY more sun on its paved front-yard side than it does in the backyard garden, so I've been migrating my garden to containers. How delightful to include a fig tree!

    • profile image

      Tamara14 5 years ago

      Oh thanks for reminding me of my long summers in my family's summer house in Dalmatia. So many fig trees on our islands and although I prefer dried figs, my family loves them fresh. It's very healthy too. Great lens, thank you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have two fig trees but not in pots as I have nearly an acre of land. I like the white genoa fig and the black turkey. Fig trees will grow well from cuttings

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 5 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Great lens, I've never tried growing fig trees, but after reading this lens I realize that even a tree from the Mediterrenean climate is possible.

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 5 years ago from New York

      I remember my grandfather wrapping his precious fig tree in blankets and topping it with an inverted pail to get it through the winter. It worked but wasn't very pretty. I like your alternative. A friend has rooted a fig tree for us and it will be ready to plant this spring so this was timely advice. Thank you!

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 5 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      I live in the Southwest US and want to get a fig tree, but my neighbor's tree died over winter. I didn't know about the methods for overwintering. Thanks!

    • SophiaStar LM profile image

      SophiaStar LM 5 years ago

      I love figs! I didn't realize I could grow a fig tree in a container thank you! Now I want to grow my own fig tree.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      A mouth watering introduction to growing figs Anthony! I love how you tell of the challenges of growing them in a more northern climate and I'm thinking that using your container method would work nicely even up in my zone 3-4 combination. I found it interesting how easy it is to grow figs and that they may actually give fruit in only 2 or 3 seasons, easy to care for, pest free and even self pollinating. I guess I've always thought of figs as being more exotic, so you will be making many people happy here. Figs are a little on the expensive side, so what a special treat to grow yourself...and now we can all do it with your excellent instructions. Oh, I especially like how you tell a ripe fig will "release its hold" with that little tug, for some reason, that sounded almost poetic to me. Also, folks will appreciate your counsel about using a light weight container, they do get heavy quick with dirt and water adds even more weight.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I agree - fig trees are perfect container plants.