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How to Plant & Care for Fig Trees

wild unripe figs on the tree in santorini Greece image by Antony McAulay from

Fig trees are deciduous fruit trees that are relatively low maintenance. They can achieve heights of 50 feet but most grow between 10- and 30 feet tall. Fig trees do well in many soil types, and sun is the most important factor to successful fruit production. A fig tree's spread is wide, so it's important to space multiple trees accordingly.

Choose a planting location that has well-drained, fertile soil. The idea soil should be loamy with organic matter and a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Make sure the site has full sunlight.

Space fig trees 15- to 20 feet apart. If you want them to grow into bushes, plant them closer--about 10 feet apart.

Dig a hole that is twice as large as the fig tree's root mass and 2- to 4 inches deeper. Scrape the sides and bottom of the hole with the shovel to loosen the soil. This will make it easier for the roots to spread.

Place the tree in the center of the hole. Make sure the tree is sitting 2- to 4 inches below the surrounding ground. Fill in around it with the removed soil. Tamp it down as you go to remove air pockets.

Water the tree until it is thoroughly moist to make the soil settle down. If you live in an especially hot climate, water until the hole is completely full.

Fertilize the planting site with 1 pound of 8-8-8 fertilizer annually. Use a water soluble fertilizer and water it into the soil.

Cut back new fig trees to make them one half their original size. This will enable the nutrients and energy to focus on developing the roots.

Select four- to six of the healthiest branches in the first winter of growth. Make sure they are spaced evenly around the fig tree's trunk. Remove all the other branches at the spot when they grow from the central tree trunk. As the fig tree grows in the first season, remove branches that compete with the chosen ones.

Prune the fig tree annually in late winter if needed. Cut off branches that are growing from the central trunk at angles less than 45 degrees. These are weaker and will grow too close to the main trunk.

Cut off suckers growing from the roots or the base of the fig tree. These water sprouts take water, energy and nutrients from the fig tree.

Harvest the figs as soon as the fruit softens. Wear gloves and long sleeves to prevent skin irritation from the fig latex. Allow them time to sit and ripen for the tastiest fruit. They can be kept in a refrigerator until you're ready to use them.


Protect fig trees from direct sunlight and cold wind in the wintertime. If the temperature fluctuates too early in the season, the tree can be damaged.

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