This is from LSU Ag. and will give newbies the basics on figs.
The common fig is a member of
the genus Ficus, which is in the family
Moraceae (mulberries). Ficus is a large
genus with some 2,000 tropical and
subtropical tree, shrub, and vine species
distributed around the warmer parts of
the world. The only Ficus cultivated
for their fruit are the species F. carica
(the common fig) and F. sycamorus (the
sycamore fig of Egypt).
The fruit of all Ficus species is the
syconium, an enlarged, fleshy, hollow
peduncle that bears closely massed,
tiny flowers on its inner wall. The true
fruits are tiny drupelets that develop
from these flowers. When we eat a fig,
we are eating the container that holds
the true fruit.
There are two basic types of figs:
caprifigs and edible figs. Caprifigs bear
both male and female flowers but are
generally unpalatable since they are
rather dry and pithy and have chaffy
stamen structures. Edible figs bear
only female flowers. Many varieties of
edible figs fall into the following three
Caducous (or Smyrna) figs need
pollination to set crops. Without
pollination, the fruit drops before it
matures. Caprifigs furnish the pollen
needed. Examples of caducous figs
are Marabout, Calimyrna (or Sari
Lop) and Zidi.
Persistent (or common) figs do
not need pollination to set crops
and are the type home gardeners
most commonly grow. Examples
are Black Mission, Brown Turkey,
Celeste, Brunswick and Adriatic.
Intermediate group (or San Pedro)
figs do not need pollination to set
a breba crop early in the season on
old wood, but they do need it for the
main crop in some environments.
Examples are King, Lampeira and
Figs are easy to grow in warm
climates but produce their best fruit
in Mediterranean climates with hot,
dry summers and cool, wet winters.
Although figs are a subtropical species,
mature fig trees are fully cold hardy
to 15 or 20 degrees F. People who
want to grow figs outside the normal
temperature range must plant them in
containers or go to considerable efforts
to protect them during the winter.
Grown in the ground, fig plants can
quickly reach 15 to 30 feet in height.
The canopy can spread equally wide.
The root system is typically very shallow without a taproot and can easily
spread to three times the diameter of
the canopy. Ideally, fig plants should
be planted in a well-drained loam with
plenty of organic matter, but they will
tolerate average to poor soil. Once they
are established, they are somewhat
drought tolerant, probably due to their
very extensive and wide-ranging root
system. Figs tolerate soil with a pH
ranging from 5.5 to 8.0. Growers who
have acidic soils should apply lime to
bring the soil pH up to the figs preferred pH of 6.0 to 6.5.
Fig plants need at least eight hours
of sun and heat, which helps ripen the
fruit. Figs respond very well (better
than most fruit trees) to heavy applications of manure and compost. Be
sure not to apply fertilizers too late in
the growing season because doing so
encourages new growth that cannot
harden off before winter. Apply 2 to
3 cups of a balanced fertilizer such
as 6-6-6 or 8-8-8 with micronutrients
three times a year to mature in-ground
plants. If you grow figs in containers, a
complete slow-release fertilizer such as
Osmocote plus micro nutrients is a good
choice. Growers who want to grow
figs organically should apply generous
amounts of compost and a high nitrogen fertilizer such as cottonseed,
soybean or alfalfa meal.
For the best fruit production, water
your figs regularly during the growing season unless rainfall is adequate.
However, make sure the soil is not
constantly soggy or waterlogged. When
fall arrives, stop watering and allow
your plants to harden off. A word of
caution: heavy rains and excessive or
sporadic watering may cause the fruit
to split. The amount of splitting varies
from variety to variety, but a good rule
of thumb is that the riper the figs, the
more they will split and sour.
Figs can be successfully grown in
containers if growers are diligent about
watering and feeding them. Remember
that nutrients leach quickly from
containers. The easiest approach is to
use a hefty pot (at least 15 gallons), and
let the figs grow 5 to 10 feet tall. Prune
tops and roots annually to control the
size. In climates where winter temperatures fall below 15 to 20 degrees, you
will need to bring potted plants into an
unheated garage or shed.
When to plant. Plant fig trees while
they are dormant spring is the best
time. In warm areas, bare-root plants
can be set out in fall or early winter, but
where late spring frosts are common,
it is best to set them out in spring after
the danger of hard winter freezes has
passed. Container-grown plants should
always be planted in the spring.
Where to plant. For best growth, fig
trees need full sunlight and freedom
from competing trees and shrubs. Fig
tree roots will not damage masonry
foundations of buildings or steel pipe,
but they may damage clay sewer pipe;
therefore, do not plant fig trees within
25 feet of clay sewer pipe or over
septic tank drain fields. If you plant
fig trees in a lawn, keep a 2- to 3-foot
area around each tree free of grass for
a year or two until the tree becomes
established. Do not plant fig trees close
to rapid-growing plants such as mulberry, chinaberry, hackberry, elm, black
locust, and privet because these plants
will use water and nutrients needed by
the fig trees.
Soils in orchards and old gardens
generally are heavily infested with
nematodes. Treat such soils with a
nematicide or with soil solarization
before planting. Young trees must be
protected from nematodes if they are to
get a good start.
How to plant. Fig trees from
nurseries may be grown in the field and
sold bare root, or they may be grown
in containers and sold while still in
the pot. Before planting a bare-root
tree, prune off about one-third of
its top unless it was topped by the
nursery. Container-grown plants can
be transplanted without being pruned;
they need only to be removed from the
container and set in the planting hole.
Set fig trees in the planting hole so they
are 3 or 4 inches deeper than they were
in the nursery. Fill the hole with soil,
and water heavily enough to settle the
soil around the roots.
Training and Pruning Figs
Though fig plants can be trained to
either tree or bush form, the tree form
is not practical for the South. In this
region, fig plants frequently are frozen
back to the ground, making the tree
form difficult to maintain.
Begin training figs to a bush form
at the time of planting cut back the
young plant to about one-half its height.
This forces shoots to grow from the
base of the plant. Let these shoots grow
through the first season. Then, during
the winter after planting, select three to
eight vigorous, widely spaced shoots
to serve as leaders. Remove all other
shoots, and prune the leaders back to
within 1 foot of the ground.
Be sure the leaders you select are
far enough apart so they can grow
to 3 or 4 inches in diameter without
crowding each other. If they are too
close together, they cannot grow thick
enough to support themselves and their
crop, and they tend to blow down or
split off under stress or high winds.
If this happens, remove the damaged
leader and select a new leader the next
winter from one of the many suckers
that arise annually.
Beginning the second year after
planting, head back the bush each
spring after the danger of frost has
passed but before growth has started.
Do this by removing about one-third
to one-half the length of the annual
growth. Also, prune out all dead wood
and remove branches that interfere
with growth of the leaders. Cut off
low-growing lateral branches and all
sucker growth that is not needed for
replacement of broken leaders. Do not
leave bare, unproductive stubs when
you prune. These stubs are entry points
for wood-decaying organisms. Make all
pruning cuts back to a bud or branch.