The fig tree (Ficus sp.) is available in many cultivars, with a few that can withstand the cold temperatures and bitter winds of winter better then others. The fig tree is native to the Mediterranean region, which has fairly mild winters. Most figs require winter protection to survive, but some cultivars like Brown Turkey and Blue Celeste can withstand even hard frosts. Warm-weather dwarf varieties should be grown in containers and brought into the house during the cold months.
Figs thrive in USDA zones 6 to 10. Trees that go dormant before severe cold weather can tolerate temperatures to 15 degrees F with little damage. If you live in an area with cold winters, plant your fig tree beside a fence line or against a house. The structure will help produce and retain heat during the cold. Mounding soil and mulch around the base of the tree can also help protect the root system.
Uprooting The Tree
In the fall, small- or medium-sized fig trees can be placed on their sides by bending the trunk of the tree down into the soil. Soil is then mounded on the tree and branches to offer protection.
Bush vs. Tree
Figs grown as multi-stemmed shrubs have more protection than a single-stem tree. The additional stems and branches offer the tree added frost and cold protection.
Some gardeners wrap their fig tree from top to bottom in clear plastic or blankets with duct tape. This is a common practice throughout areas such as New York where fig trees are common and the winters are harsh. Smaller fig trees are often wrapped and a plastic trash can placed over the top of the tree.
During the winter, soil around the fig tree should be kept as dry as possible. Mounding soil can help keep the root system dry. Roots that are exposed to water and then freezing temperatures will often suffer vascular damage that can kill the tree.
Many fig tree owners build a frame to erect over the tree during the winter months. The frame encompasses the entire tree and is insulated using carpet or blankets. Placing 55-gallon drums filled with water in the fighouse gives extra insulation, because the water stores heat energy.