Growing Fig Trees
By Deb Pavlosky
Figs are sun-loving, deciduous trees that need to be protected from winter winds. They are often planted on the south or east side of a house or garage to provide them morning sun and protection from cold winters. They also love to be heavily mulched and they don’t like standing water. Common figs are what we can grow here in Texas and all of these form fruit without fertilization, i.e. they are parthenocarpic. Which is great because you only need one fig tree to produce figs. Figs, however, aren’t actually a fruit formed form the ripened ovary of a flower, but they are fleshy stem tissue that ripen on the tree. Inside a fig, what looks like seeds are actually unfertilized flower structures. Regardless of what they are, figs are super tasty and one of my all time favorite snacks.
Most fig trees grow in a multi-trunk, spreading habit and they often get more wide than they are tall. They grow quickly and many varieties of common fig trees can be grown in our area. These trees can freeze to the ground, though some are more cold-hardy than others. But even if they freeze, many will come back and still produce figs the following season. Many figs produce two crops in a year, a breba crop which forms on last year’s growth and a regular crop. Some may even produce three crops in one year. Breba crops tend to be smaller than regular crops, but it depends on the fig variety and whether or not the tree froze badly the previous winter.
Figs become dormant in winter and they will drop all of their leaves in the fall. So, they may not look like much, but winter and early spring are actually the best times to buy and plant fig trees. You don’t need to fertilize them when planting, the initial growth of young fig trees will come from stored carbohydrate reserves in the trunk and roots. Be sure to follow our tree planting guide when planting.
Probably the most important thing to consider when picking a variety of common fig tree is whether or not the figs themselves have an open eye. Many figs have an opening at the end and, unfortunately, this can make the tree more susceptible to dried fruit beetles and souring of the figs when rain enters through the open eyes. Some other common issues with fig trees are fig rust and root knot nematodes (typically a problem in sandy soils). But, all in all, you can get much easier to grow than fig trees.
Some varieties at Maas Nursery:
Alma – This variety produces medium size, golden brown skinned figs that ripen late in the season. These figs have open eyes, but the eyes are sealed with a honey-like resin. Alma can be frost sensitive, so good mulching is essential.
Celeste – This variety ripens early (mid to late June) and the purple-brown skinned figs have a tightly closed eye. Heavy pruning can reduce the crop. This variety is fairly cold hardy.
Texas Everbearing – Some gardeners/growers believe this is the same variety as Brown Turkey, but most separate the two. Not as cold hardy as Celeste, but will produce after a freeze. The main crop of medium-size, reddish figs will ripen June to August. These figs have a moderately closed eye.
LSU Purple – This variety is relatively cold hardy and the medium-size, purple figs have a closed eye. Main crop ripens in July and the secondary crop can ripen as late as December.
Texas Blue Giant – This variety produces a very large, dark purple fig with the main crop ripening from August to November.
Brown Turkey – These medium size figs are violet to brown in color. They have a very small, nearly closed eye. These trees will often give two crops of figs – one early from May to June and one late from September to November.
For more information on growing fig trees go to: