Scientists believe the fig tree originated in western Asia, dating back to approximately 5,000 B.C. The fig tree was later brought into the Mediterranean area, known for its dry conditions, the ideal climate for figs. Florida's humidity can cause disease and insect damage to the fig tree, and rain may also cause the figs to split. However, certain cultivars do well when planted in Florida.
The fig or Ficus carica L; family Moracea is a deciduous tree. A mature fig tree can reach a height of up to 50 feet. In Florida and in the southeastern part of the United States, the mature height is approximately 25 feet. This reduction in mature height is due to the occasional cold injury (to the trunk and limbs) that occurs in Florida and other southeastern climates. In fact, most fig trees in Florida tend to be multi-branched shrubs rather than trees. The root system of the fig is extensive, with a large lateral spread.
Fig trees can be planted in the ground or in containers. Dwarf fig trees grown in containers are shrub-like and usually reach a height of 6 feet. Branches of the fig tree spread out in a twisting manner. Generally, the tree's spread is greater than the height of the tree. Due to the spreading nature of the fig tree, you must allow enough room in your landscape/garden for the tree to grow.
During the dormant season, the fig tree does not require any more than 100 hours of 45-degree or less temperatures to promote bud development. They receive this winter chilling in the northern and central parts of Florida, but not in the southern parts. (Dormant trees can withstand temperatures of 15 to 20 degrees F.) According to the University of Florida, "Fig trees that are not cold conditioned often sustain cold injury in Florida and in other parts of the southeastern United States."
Varieties for Florida
According to the University of Illinois, several fig tree varieties have adapted to Florida's climate---although some cultivars will not bear fruit following severe freeze damage. Fruiting times and the size of the fruit are dependent on the cultivar. Cultivars to consider are: Celeste, Brown Turkey, Green Ischia, San Piero and Magnolia.
Bare-root fig trees should be planted in December through February (the dormant season.) Establish container-grown plants any time---as long as you can water them. Fig trees should be planted in a location with full sun and well-drained soil. The hole should be twice the size of the root ball, and the depth should be 2 to 4 inches deeper than it was previously planted. Mulching is recommended, as the mulch will help maintain the moisture in the soil, as well as keep weeds down.
Prune to maintain the desired size of the tree/shrub in your garden; after the fruit ripens in early summer is the best time. Maintain three to five leaders, and be sure to remove sucker growth. If your fig tree sustains freeze damage, prune away damaged wood when regrowth begins. Keep pruning at a minimum since fruit is borne on wood from the previous year.