Tips for Growing Delicious Figs

fig tree planting season

Fig trees are a delight to have in any garden, and with the right care, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of sweet and juicy figs. While they may not reach the same level of quality as those grown in the Mediterranean, fig trees can thrive in a sheltered, sunny spot, such as against a wall. By tricking them into thinking they’re on a rocky hilltop in the eastern Mediterranean, you’ll create the perfect conditions for their growth. At Tips Tree Planting, we have years of experience in gardening, and we’re excited to share our secrets for growing delicious figs!

How to Grow Figs

To successfully grow figs, you’ll need a warm and sheltered location that receives full sun. If you’re planting them in pots, make sure to restrict their root growth by using rubble or submerged paving slabs. For ground planting, create a deep hole and partly fill it with well-rotted manure and rubble to further restrict the roots. Alternatively, you can purchase root control bags online. Water your fig trees regularly and provide them with tomato food once fruits start appearing. Additionally, an annual mulch of well-rotted compost or manure will help keep the soil fertile and prevent weed growth. The fruits are ready to be harvested in autumn when they’re hanging down and have a soft touch.

Where to Plant a Fig Tree

For optimal growth, fig trees thrive in sheltered and sunny spots, preferably against a brick wall. The heat absorbed by the wall at night will provide additional warmth, replicating the conditions of the Mediterranean.

How to Plant a Fig Tree

Late winter or spring is the best time to plant a fig tree, allowing it ample time to establish before the colder months. Dig a deep hole, as fig trees have long tap roots. To restrict their roots, fill the hole with well-rotted manure and rubble, or use paving slabs to create a barrier. Back-fill with compost and firmly secure the tree in place. If planting in a pot, ensure it is large and deep enough to restrict root growth. Place crocks at the bottom for drainage and use John Innes No. 3 compost. Elevate the pot on feet to allow excess water to drain away.

Caring for Fig Trees

Fig trees produce several stages of crop simultaneously, with only one crop ripening in the UK climate, usually in September or October. The tiny embryo fruitlets formed in autumn will become next year’s harvest. Feed your fig trees with a liquid tomato feed every couple of weeks when fruits start developing. In colder climates, protect young trees over winter by covering them with horticultural fleece or packing straw around the branches. Move potted fig trees into a cool shed or greenhouse. Come spring, remove the protection, feed the tree, and mulch with well-rotted manure. Repot container-grown figs every two to three years, replacing the surface compost if the tree has outgrown its pot.

Training and Pruning Fig Trees

To manage growth and encourage fruit ripening, you can fan-train outdoor fig trees. Use horizontal wires against a wall to create a fan shape, tying in the stems as they grow. In early summer, pinch out half of the growing tips on the main frame to stimulate lower growth. Remove any dead or crossing stems in late winter to maintain an open framework. Prune container-grown fig trees in a similar fashion, removing dead and weak branches in late winter and new shoot tips in summer. Regular pruning is necessary to control the vigorous growth of fig trees. If your tree becomes too large, you can prune it back hard, but be aware that this may lead to a temporary loss of fruit production. Remember to wear gloves as the sap of figs can irritate the skin.

Harvesting and Storing Figs

Most outdoor-grown figs are ready for harvest at the end of summer. Pick the fruits as they ripen, usually until the end of September. Look for figs with a soft touch, hanging down from the stem, and possibly producing a drop of sugar at the bottom. The skin should be soft and almost squishy, with a potential for gentle splitting when squeezed. Some varieties, such as ‘Madeleine des Deux Saisons,’ produce two crops per year during hot UK summers. Freshly picked figs are best enjoyed immediately, but if you can resist temptation, they can also be dried for later consumption. Air-dry them on an airer or store them in an airing cupboard for a few weeks.

Common Fig Growing Problems and Solutions

Figs are a favorite among birds and squirrels, who can quickly demolish a crop if given the opportunity. Protect your tree by using deterrents or covering it with netting or fleece. Wasps are attracted to split fruits and windfalls, so be diligent in picking ripe fruits and clearing fallen ones. If your tree drops its fruit prematurely, it may be a sign of water deficiency. Ensure your fig tree receives adequate hydration to prevent this issue. Young trees may take a few years to bear fruit, so be patient. For more information on what causes figs to stop fruiting, check out our Quick Tips video.

Fig Varieties to Try

At Tips Tree Planting, we recommend trying the following fig varieties that are suitable for outdoor cultivation in the UK:

  • ‘Brown Turkey’ (‘Brown Naples’): A popular and reliable variety, known for its prolific fruiting. (Height x Spread: 3m x 4m)
  • ‘Brunswick’: A hardy variety with green skins and yellow and pink flesh. It ripens before ‘Brown Turkey’ and performs well in cooler regions of the UK. (H x S: 2m x 3.5m)
  • ‘Violette de Bordeaux’: Found thriving in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles, this hardy fig variety boasts small purple/black fruits with a sweet and fragrant flavor. (H x S: 3m x 4m)
  • ‘Madeleine des Deux Saisons’: This heritage variety produces two crops per season, in June and September, even in the UK climate. It has round fruits with delicate pink flesh. (H x S: 3m x 4m)
  • ‘Dalmatie’: A compact and hardy variety perfect for smaller gardens, offering large fruits with amber flesh. (H x S: 2.5m x 2m)

For more information on growing figs, exploring fig recipes, and discovering the versatility of this delicious fruit, visit Tips Tree Planting here.

Happy fig growing, and enjoy the sweet rewards of your labor!

fig tree