Fig tree care guide

Origin of the fig tree
Originally from Asia Minor (approximately present-day Turkey), the common fig tree (Ficus carica) belongs to the Moraceae family. Its fruit, the fig, is the emblem of the Mediterranean basin where this fruit tree is widespread.

The varieties of fig trees found in America are self-fertile, that is, they produce fruit without fertilization. No action on your part is therefore required for this step.

Number of harvests per year
The varieties of fig trees are either uniferous (one harvest per year) or biferous (two harvests per year). In the latter case, the figs from the first harvest, called "flowering figs", grow on the wood of the previous year. Those of the second harvest, which are called “autumn figs”, grow on the young wood of the year.

Fig Tree Handling Precautions
Since its leaves are stinging, they can cause itching and irritation for up to several hours after skin contact. It is therefore advisable to wear long clothes during the interview. It is also strongly recommended to wear protective goggles when pruning or stripping, since the whitish latex of the fig tree can cause burns, especially if it comes into contact with the eyes.

Cultivation in the ground or in a container
It is possible to grow the fig tree in Quebec in the ground or in a container. The factor to consider in making this choice is the winterization technique. With the rigors of the Quebec winter and depending on the hardiness of the fig tree variety, growing in pots may prove to be a more advantageous choice.

Choice of container
In order to avoid the spiralization of the roots, it is wise to choose a “smartpot” type geotextile pot. Otherwise, the chosen pot must at least have holes to allow water to drain. It should be noted that the type of container chosen will have an impact on the water supply to be provided to the fig tree, it must therefore be adapted accordingly.

Choice of soil
Prioritizing a substrate with a perennial structure with coconut fiber for example will prevent compaction. Substrates for tropical plants sold in nurseries are an interesting option.

Irrigation and sunshine
The fig tree loves the sun: it is the heat and the abundance of light that will produce abundant and sweet fruit. As for irrigation, its frequency will depend on the type of pot chosen and its size. As a general rule, the fig tree should not be watered too much, that is to say that it will prefer a soil that is drier than too humid. It must therefore be allowed to dry out between irrigations.

Repotting the fig tree in a container
As the fig tree grows to its desired size, it is advisable to repot it once a year, gradually increasing the size of the pot.

Maintenance pruning
The maintenance size of the fig tree consists of clearing the interior of the plant to allow good light penetration. Cutting off branches that cross will also prevent included bark.

Dormancy and winterization of the fig tree
The fig tree must be able to take advantage of a period of dormancy in winter to produce good fruit production. Thus, when the temperatures and the luminosity drop, the leaves of the fig tree will turn yellow before falling. Depending on the hardiness of the variety chosen and the geographical location, it is necessary most of the time to winterize the fig tree which would not survive the rigors of our climate.

Here are two methods:

Method 1: Before the first snowfall, lay the fig tree on the ground outside and cover it with an insulating blanket purchased from a nursery. The snow that accumulates on the cover will act as insulation and thus protect the fig tree from excessively cold temperatures. In the spring, once the snow has melted and the risk of extreme cold has passed, remove the cover and raise the fig tree.

Method 2: For the cold season, store the fig tree in a garage or other heated place at around 5°C (maximum 10°C) with little light. Light irrigation about once a month will prevent the roots from drying out. Do not fertilize the fig tree during this period.

The main pests
The mealy bug, an oval-shaped insect covered in a powdery-looking white coating, is likely to settle on the fig tree, especially in hot, humid conditions. Its presence is detected by the observation on the leaves of a white, fluffy wax, a sticky texture or blackened areas. Manual scouting allows good control of its population. In the event of a heavier infestation, rinsing the fig tree with water or spraying it with a mixture of water, insecticidal soap and rubbing alcohol will reduce the insect population. Although this solution is more expensive, it is also possible to integrate mealybug predatory insects such as Cryptolaemus and green lacewing.

The two-spotted spider mite, commonly known as the red spider mite, can also settle on the fig tree, especially in a hot and dry climate. The presence of small cobwebs makes it possible to detect this insect, the adult of which is either yellow with two black dots, or red or orange. When well established on a plant, the foliage turns yellowish, grayish or bronze in color before falling to the ground. Misting the leaves and more frequent irrigation can slow its spread. Insect predators of spider mites are also available from specialty biocontrol retailers.

Interesting resources to learn more
REICH, Lee, Growing Figs in Cold Climates, A complete guide, New Society Publishers, 2021, 115 p.

Various forums bringing together people passionate about fig tree cultivation are also accessible on social networks.