How To Grow Figs In A Cold Climate

  • By: Mike Hale
  • Date: April 6, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Figs are not only beautiful plants, but also sublime and juicy fruits bursting with flavor and texture. They are an ideal crop to grow in a warm climate for their productivity and ease of care. Although they are easier to grow in a warm climate, it is still possible to grow figs in a cold climate too. 

In this article, we will take you through what you should know before growing figs, including the basics of fig care and the primary methods to overwinter figs. If you’re a cold climate gardener planning to grow figs, continue reading to learn everything there is to know about growing figs in your climate.

Grow Figs

Things To Consider Before Growing Figs

Space

Do you have enough room for your fig trees? Depending on the conditions, a fig tree needs two to three spaces to grow in a cold area.

Tree Size

Is it possible for you to handle a large hefty tree on your own? You will have to relocate and transplant your tree on a regular basis because it cannot be placed outside in a cold climate unless you have a greenhouse that is sufficiently insulated.

Location

Is your fig-growing spot warm and sunny enough for them to ripen? If the summer is too short and chilly, the tree will not bear fruit. As a result, you’ll have a green tree with no fruit.

Fig Care Basics

While other common tree fruits suffer from different pests and diseases, figs are usually trouble-free and require very little in the way of trimming, watering, fertilizing, and other forms of upkeep. Below are the main factors that you should consider when growing your fig trees.

Sun Exposure

The biggest factor that can affect fruit production is the sun. Figs need at least eight hours of full sun per day. 

Watering And Fertilizing

Compost the soil surrounding the fig plants once a year. More frequent feeding may be required in sandy soil. Overfeeding will result in an abundance of leaves but no figs. Water newly transplanted or immature figs until they are established.

Container-grown figs need to be watered and fed on a regular basis. It’s best to use well-balanced, all-purpose plant food. Figs drop leaves and young fruit in extremely dry soil, so consistent watering is essential for potted plants. 

Pruning

You can adjust your tree’s ultimate height with pruning. Consider the height of the tree when you need to move it and prune accordingly. For in-ground plants, consider if a ladder will be necessary.

Harvesting

The primary crop of figs is harvested in the late summer and fall. To speed up the ripening process, try brushing the fruit with olive oil. If branches of the common fig (Ficus carica) are successfully overwintered, they can yield a smaller breba crop in early summer.

Main-crop figs form on new growth, so cut the plant when it’s dormant to encourage them. If you want to get a lot of breba fruit, prune the plant after the breba harvest in the summer, eliminating around one-third of the branches.

Fresh Figs

Methods Of Overwintering Figs 

The key concern in northern climate fig care is protection from the winter cold. Because most mature fig tree species are only hardy to about 10°F, you will need to bring your fig trees indoors or shelter them in some way during the winter. Microclimates, mulching, wrapping, and container growing are the 4 main methods for overwintering figs in a cold climate.

Microclimates

Taking advantage of microclimates is the simplest technique to overwinter figs in cold locations. In a nutshell, microclimates are tiny temperature shifts caused by local geographical elements.

Plant in a microclimate that provides additional heat, such as a south-facing brick wall that accumulates heat during the day and radiates it in the evening, especially if summer heat and season duration are limiting factors for ripening fruit.

Mulching

There are several techniques for protecting figs with mulching. The simplest is to put down a heavy layer of mulch (fallen leaves, salt hay, wood mulch) around the base of the fig tree to protect the roots. Temperatures below 15 degrees will likely winterkill the branches, but the fig will happily regrow from its roots and offer fruit in the same year. 

Mulching can also be used to protect branches. On a young tree, the branches can simply be bent to the ground, pinned, and then mulched. On older trees, you can prune out the oldest, stiffest branches and bend the rest to the ground. You can also sever the roots on one side of the tree with a shovel and then bend the whole tree over to the ground on the overside. 

Mulching your figs does come with one caveat: rodent damage.

Wrapping

Wrapping can be done in a variety of ways. The simplest and most effective technique is to trim the fig to less than 6′, bind all the branches together, and then wrap in an old carpet and a tarp. Wrapping is often applied when the cold weather arrives in November and removed when the weather warms up in March.

If you grow your fig tree in-ground, wrap it in an old carpet and cover with a plastic tarp. Wrapping around Thanksgiving and unwrapping in April is necessary. It is critical to cover the tree before it becomes too cold, but not while it is still warm, and to unwrap the tree before it becomes too warm. Otherwise, the tree will rot and get moldy.

Container Growing

Figs are excellent container plants. You’ll need to repot and root-prune them every third year or so once they’ve grown large enough to fill their container.

Container-grown figs must be moved to a cold storage location, such as a garage, barn, or basement. You can bring the fig tree inside to continue ripening its crop if you have a greenhouse. Because they prefer to rest in the winter, it is preferable to put the figs in a cool greenhouse with temperatures as low as 35°F.

Ready To Grow Figs?

Growing figs in a cold climate should appear easier to you after going through our guide on how to grow figs in such climates. We hope you have it all FIGured out, and feel free to leave a comment below to let us know if we’ve missed anything.