Fig With Small Fruit: Why Are My Figs Too Small

Fig With Small Fruit: Why Are My Figs Too Small

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There’s nothing like taking a bite of a big, sweet, juicy fig. If you happen to be lucky enough to have a fig tree in your home garden, then conversely, there is nothing more tragic than small, inedible figs on the tree. What then are some reasons for a fig with small fruit and are there any solutions?

Why is My Fig Tree Fruit Small?

Figs are unique among fruit. Unlike most fruit, which is composed of edible matured ovary tissue, a fig is actually an inverted flower with both male and female parts enclosed within the stem tissue. Once ripened, the fig contains the remains of these flower parts, including what we most commonly refer to as seeds. It is these “seeds” that give the fig its unique flavor.

A fig is at its peak when the fruit is large, plump and juicy, so when a fig tree produces small figs, this is a problem. Some varieties of fig tree do bear smaller fruit, so if you want large figs, try planting a different variety, such as ‘Brown Turkey,’ which bears some of the largest fruit among the cultivars.

Fig trees have shallow root systems which are sensitive to stress. Overly hot, dry weather and lack of irrigation will definitely result in figs too small or even trigger fruit drop.

How to Fix Small Figs on Trees

When fig tree fruit is small, there are things you can so — mostly in the form of prevention. To combat a fig with small fruit, be sure to mulch around the tree, maybe even set up a drip hose under the mulch to keep it irrigated.

Figs will tolerate most types of soil, so long as it is well draining. Poor drainage decreases the amount of oxygen available to the tree and may result in figs that are too small, fruit that will not ripen or just drop. Avoid areas where water stands more than 24 hours.

Plant fig trees in an area with maximum sun exposure to promote a good fruit set and avoid a fig tree that produces small figs. Only minimal fertilization is needed; a spring application of fertilizer for trees in the ground and a few times through the summer for potted figs.

Speaking of potted figs. Figs grow very well in containers, which restrain their root growth and allow more energy to go to a flourishing fruit set. They do need more frequent watering than those grown directly in the garden soil. Container planted figs should be repotted and the roots pruned every two to three years to foster plump fruit and avoid figs that are too small. Bring potted figs inside in late fall and overwinter in a cool area while keeping the soil moist. Once all danger of frost has passed, bring the fig back outside into a southern exposure.

Lastly, it is important to purchase a self-fruiting cultivar, those not requiring cross-pollination. Or, if you have a male fig tree, plant a lady friend close by to allow for pollination via the honeybees. This will aid in gaining a good fruit set with plump, juicy fig production.

If you know anything about Queens, you know it is land of the fig trees. Attached brick row houses fill block after block with identical postage-stamp-sized patches of lawn squared between concrete sidewalks and driveways. In the center of that postage-stamp-sized lawn grows a fig tree.

I remember driving to my grandmother’s house on a cold winter’s day and passing house after house with strange, mummy-wrapped trees capped with silver buckets standing on the front lawn. Each tree was shorn of its branches, then wrapped in layers of burlap or tarp with heavy ropes securing the tarp. An upturned bucket was placed over the top of the tree.

“What are they? And why are they wrapped?” I asked my father.

“Fig trees,” he said disdainfully. For a man who would baby chrysanthemums to bloom at a specific time each year to show and win prizes for their blossoms, he was highly critical of a tree that needed such coddling.

It took me many years to piece together why New York fig trees resembled blue Egyptian mummies each winter. The fig is native to warm, Mediterranean climates. Italian immigrants who moved to Queens in the early and mid-20 th century planted the trees first in their gardens to symbolize fertility, riches, and sweetness.

I thought fig trees needed such coddling until recently. Then, I discovered that many people, like my father, disliked the work of wrapping the trees, unwrapping them, protecting them.

Instead, new varieties had been developed – namely, Chicago Hardy. It can take cold down to 10 degrees F, which is sufficient for most Virginia winters. I bought two plants from Baker Heirloom Seeds, and they sent me three. Delighted, I planted my three little trees in large pots. I planned to move them into the garage for their first several winters then plant them on my farm, perhaps in the orchard or near the house where their shade would delight us and their juicy sweetness nourish us.

The first year of their life on my farm, the little fig trees flourished. The trees spent the winter snug inside the garage. I hauled them back to their warm spot on the slates the following spring.

And then, a miracle happened.

By July, small green marble-sized fruit appeared on the branches. “How did this happen?” I marveled. “The tree didn’t flower!”

On a warm late August day, in the blink of an eye, the green marble-sized fruits swelled to teardrop shapes. Then, the first blush of purple, followed by a rush of rich, deep purple that encompassed the fruit from end to stem. Small green dots decorated the skin.

Gingerly, I pulled off a fig, washed it, and took a bite. Ah, the sweetness! And I had done nothing to deserve it. I had not fertilized my little figs, waiting until we found the right spot to plant them in the yard to fertilize them. Bees had not fertilized them, for I had seen no flowers. It was a miracle of riches I did not deserve, one that was seemingly a gift.

Chicago Hardy technically self-fertilizes with figs appearing on the new wood each year. Worldwide, figs are considered a keystone species, supporting wildlife in many ecosystems. They are indeed a miracle plant.

Propagation From Cuttings

One of the simplest ways to propagate a fig tree is from cuttings. You should take cuttings in late winter or very early spring for best results, according to the University of Georgia Extension. Cuttings can be made anywhere from 3 to 10 inches in length and rooted in a damp, sterile rooting formula. For the most effective rooting, cuttings should be taken from wood that is one year old — so look for a shoot that sprouted during the previous growing season.

Fig trees root easily and grow easily when young, according to One Green World, a nursery in Portland, Oregon. It only takes about three weeks to get a fig tree started. For best results, collect wood from near the base of the fig plant near the root line. But fig tree fruit development from a cutting is a process that takes several years, so don't expect any fruit for a few years.


  • 1 Description
  • 2 Ecology and uses
  • 3 Fig fruit and reproduction system
    • 3.1 Phytochemicals
  • 4 Mutualism with the pollinating fig wasps
  • 5 Systematics
  • 6 Selected species
    • 6.1 Subgenus Ficus
    • 6.2 Subgenus Pharmacosycea
    • 6.3 Subgenus Sycidium
    • 6.4 Subgenus Sycomorus
    • 6.5 Subgenus Synoecia
    • 6.6 Subgenus Urostigma
    • 6.7 Unknown subgenus
  • 7 Cultivation
  • 8 Cultural and spiritual significance
  • 9 List of famous fig trees
  • 10 Citations
  • 11 General references
  • 12 External links

Ficus is a pantropical genus of trees, shrubs, and vines occupying a wide variety of ecological niches most are evergreen, but some deciduous species are endemic to areas outside of the tropics and to higher elevations. [4] Fig species are characterized by their unique inflorescence and distinctive pollination syndrome, which uses wasp species belonging to the family Agaonidae for pollination.

The specific identification of many of the species can be difficult, but figs as a group are relatively easy to recognize. Many have aerial roots and a distinctive shape or habit, and their fruits distinguish them from other plants. The fig fruit is an enclosed inflorescence, sometimes referred to as a syconium, an urn-like structure lined on the inside with the fig's tiny flowers. The unique fig pollination system, involving tiny, highly specific wasps, known as fig wasps that enter via ostiole these subclosed inflorescences to both pollinate and lay their own eggs, has been a constant source of inspiration and wonder to biologists. [5] Finally, three vegetative traits together are unique to figs. All figs possess a white to yellowish latex, some in copious quantities the twig has paired stipules or a circular stipule scar if the stipules have fallen off and the lateral veins at the base of the leaf are steep, forming a tighter angle with the midrib than the other lateral veins, a feature referred to as "triveined".

No unambiguous older fossils of Ficus are known. However, current molecular clock estimates indicate that Ficus is a relatively ancient genus being at least 60 million years old, [5] and possibly as old as 80 million years. The main radiation of extant species, however, may have taken place more recently, between 20 and 40 million years ago.

Some better-known species that represent the diversity of the genus include the common fig, a small, temperate deciduous tree whose fingered fig leaf is well known in art and iconography the weeping fig (F. benjamina), a hemiepiphyte with thin, tough leaves on pendulous stalks adapted to its rain forest habitat the rough-leaved sandpaper figs from Australia and the creeping fig (F. pumila), a vine whose small, hard leaves form a dense carpet of foliage over rocks or garden walls.

Moreover, figs with different plant habits have undergone adaptive radiation in different biogeographic regions, leading to very high levels of alpha diversity. In the tropics, Ficus commonly is the most species-rich plant genus in a particular forest. In Asia, as many as 70 or more species can co-exist. [6] Ficus species richness declines with an increase in latitude in both hemispheres. [7] [8]

A description of Fig tree cultivation is brought down in Ibn al-'Awwam's 12th-century agricultural work entitled, Book on Agriculture. [9]

Figs are keystone species in many tropical forest ecosystems. Their fruit are a key resource for some frugivores including fruit bats, and primates including: capuchin monkeys, langurs, gibbons and mangabeys. They are even more important for birds such as Asian barbets, pigeons, hornbills, fig-parrots and bulbuls, which may almost entirely subsist on figs when these are in plenty. Many Lepidoptera caterpillars feed on fig leaves, for example several Euploea species (crow butterflies), the plain tiger (Danaus chrysippus), the giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes), the brown awl (Badamia exclamationis), and Chrysodeixis eriosoma, Choreutidae and Copromorphidae moths. The citrus long-horned beetle (Anoplophora chinensis), for example, has larvae that feed on wood, including that of fig trees it can become a pest in fig plantations. Similarly, the sweet potato whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) is frequently found as a pest on figs grown as potted plants and is spread through the export of these plants to other localities. For a list of other diseases common to fig trees, see List of foliage plant diseases (Moraceae).

The wood of fig trees is often soft and the latex precludes its use for many purposes. It was used to make mummy caskets in Ancient Egypt. Certain fig species (mainly F. cotinifolia, F. insipida and F. padifolia) are traditionally used in Mesoamerica to produce papel amate (Nahuatl: āmatl). Mutuba (F. natalensis) is used to produce barkcloth in Uganda. Pou (F. religiosa) leaves' shape inspired one of the standard kbach rachana, decorative elements in Cambodian architecture. Indian banyan (F. bengalensis) and the Indian rubber plant, as well as other species, have use in herbalism.

Figs have figured prominently in some human cultures. There is evidence that figs, specifically the common fig (F. carica) and sycamore fig (Ficus sycomorus), were among the first – if not the very first – plant species that were deliberately bred for agriculture in the Middle East, starting more than 11,000 years ago. Nine subfossil F. carica figs dated to about 9400–9200 BCE were found in the early Neolithic village Gilgal I (in the Jordan Valley, 13 km north of Jericho). These were a parthenogenetic type and thus apparently an early cultivar. This find predates the first known cultivation of grain in the Middle East by many hundreds of years. [10]

The 1889 book The Useful Native Plants of Australia records that Ficus aspera had the common names "Rough-leaved Fig", "Purple Fig" and "White Fig" and that Indigenous Australians of the Rockhampton region referred to them as "Noomaie" and in Cleveland Bay (Queensland) "Balemo". It also states that the fruit which is black can be eaten. [11]

Many fig species are grown for their fruits, though only Ficus carica is cultivated to any extent for this purpose. A fig "fruit" is a type of multiple fruit known as a syconium, derived from an arrangement of many small flowers on an inverted, nearly closed receptacle. The many small flowers are unseen unless the fig is cut open.

The fruit typically has a bulbous shape with a small opening (the ostiole) at the outward end that allows access to pollinators. The flowers are pollinated by very small wasps that crawl through the opening in search of a suitable place to lay eggs. Without this pollinator service fig trees could not reproduce by seed. In turn, the flowers provide a safe haven and nourishment for the next generation of wasps. This accounts for the frequent presence of wasp larvae in the fruit, and has led to a coevolutionary relationship. Technically, a fig fruit proper would be only one of the many tiny matured, seed-bearing gynoecia found inside one fig – if you cut open a fresh fig, individual fruit will appear as fleshy "threads", each bearing a single seed inside. The genus Dorstenia, also in the fig family (Moraceae), exhibits similar tiny flowers arranged on a receptacle but in this case the receptacle is a more or less flat, open surface.

Fig plants can be monoecious (hermaphrodite) or gynodioecious (hermaphrodite and female). [12] Nearly half of fig species are gynodioecious, and therefore have some plants with inflorescences (syconium) with long styled pistillate flowers, and other plants with staminate flowers mixed with short styled pistillate flowers. [13] The long flowers styles tend to prevent wasps from laying their eggs within the ovules, while the short styled flowers are accessible for egg laying. [14]

All the native fig trees of the American continent are hermaphrodites, as well as species like Indian banyan (F. benghalensis), weeping fig (F. benjamina), Indian rubber plant (F. elastica), fiddle-leaved fig (F. lyrata), Moreton Bay fig (F. macrophylla), Chinese banyan (F. microcarpa), sacred fig (F. religiosa) and sycamore fig (F. sycomorus). [15] The common fig (Ficus carica) is a gynodioecious plant, as well as lofty fig or clown fig (F. aspera), Roxburgh fig (F. auriculata), mistletoe fig (F. deltoidea), F. pseudopalma, creeping fig (F. pumila) and related species. The hermaphrodite common figs are called "inedible figs" or "caprifigs" in traditional culture in the Mediterranean region they were considered food for goats (Capra aegagrus). In the female fig trees, the male flower parts fail to develop they produce the "'edible figs". Fig wasps grow in common fig caprifigs but not in the female syconiums because the female flower is too long for the wasp to successfully lay her eggs in them. Nonetheless, the wasp pollinates the flower with pollen from the caprifig it grew up in. When the wasp dies, it is broken down by enzymes (Ficain) inside the fig. Fig wasps are not known to transmit any diseases harmful to humans.

When a caprifig ripens, another caprifig must be ready to be pollinated. In temperate climes, wasps hibernate in figs, and there are distinct crops. Caprifigs have three crops per year common figs have two. [16] The first crop (breba) is larger and more juicy, and is usually eaten fresh. [16] In cold climates the breba crop is often destroyed by spring frosts. [17] Some parthenocarpic cultivars of common figs do not require pollination at all, and will produce a crop of figs (albeit sterile) in the absence of caprifigs or fig wasps.

Depending on the species, each fruit can contain hundreds or even thousand of seeds. [18] Figs can be propagated by seeds, cuttings, air-layering or grafting. However, as with any plant, figs grown from seed are not necessarily genetically identical to the parent and are only propagated this way for breeding purposes.

Phytochemicals Edit

Fig fruits, especially the exocarp (skin) and seeds, contain monosaccharide sugars and mixed phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, rutin, and epicatechins, the contents of which are higher in dark figs compared to those in light-colored varieties. [19] [20] Ripe fruits contain higher amounts of polyphenols and sugar than unripe fruits, and drying generally increases the contents of these constituents per unit of weight. [19] [20]

Each species of fig is pollinated by one or a few specialised wasp species, and therefore plantings of fig species outside of their native range results in effectively sterile individuals. For example, in Hawaii, some 60 species of figs have been introduced, but only four of the wasps that fertilize them have been introduced, so only four species of figs produce viable seeds there and can become invasive species. This is an example of mutualism, in which each organism (fig plant and fig wasp) benefit each other, in this case reproductively.

The intimate association between fig species and their wasp pollinators, along with the high incidence of a one-to-one plant-pollinator ratio have long led scientists to believe that figs and wasps are a clear example of coevolution. Morphological and reproductive behavior evidence, such as the correspondence between fig and wasp larvae maturation rates, have been cited as support for this hypothesis for many years. [21] Additionally, recent genetic and molecular dating analyses have shown a very close correspondence in the character evolution and speciation phylogenies of these two clades. [5]

According to meta-analysis of molecular data for 119 fig species 35% (41) have multiple pollinator wasp species. The real proportion is higher because not all wasp species were detected. [22] On the other hand, species of wasps pollinate multiple host fig species. [23] Molecular techniques, like microsatellite markers and mitochondrial sequence analysis, allowed a discovery of multiple genetically distinct, cryptic wasp species. Not all these cryptic species are sister taxa and thus must have experienced a host fig shift at some point. [24] These cryptic species lacked evidence of genetic introgression or backcrosses indicating limited fitness for hybrids and effective reproductive isolation and speciation. [24]

The existence of cryptic species suggests that neither the number of symbionts nor their evolutionary relationships are necessarily fixed ecologically. While the morphological characteristics that facilitate the fig-wasp mutualisms are likely to be shared more fully in closer relatives, the absence of unique pairings would make it impossible to do a one-to-one tree comparison and difficult to determine cospeciation.

With 800 species, Ficus is by far the largest genus in the Moraceae, and is one of the largest genera of flowering plants currently described. [25] The species currently classified within Ficus were originally split into several genera in the mid-1800s, providing the basis for a subgeneric classification when reunited into one genus in 1867. This classification put functionally dioecious species into four subgenera based on floral characters. [26] In 1965, E. J. H. Corner reorganized the genus on the basis of breeding system, uniting these four dioecious subgenera into a single dioecious subgenus Ficus. Monoecious figs were classified within the subgenera Urostigma, Pharmacosycea and Sycomorus. [27]

This traditional classification has been called into question by recent phylogenetic studies employing genetic methods to investigate the relationships between representative members of the various sections of each subgenus. [5] [26] [28] [29] [30] Of Corner's original subgeneric divisions of the genus, only Sycomorus is supported as monophyletic in the majority of phylogenetic studies. [5] [26] [29] Notably, there is no clear split between dioecious and monoecious lineages. [5] [26] [28] [29] [30] One of the two sections of Pharmacosycea, a monoecious group, form a monophyletic clade basal to the rest of the genus, which includes the other section of Pharmacosycea, the rest of the monoecious species, and all of the dioecious species. [30] These remaining species are divided into two main monophyletic lineages (though the statistical support for these lineages isn't as strong as for the monophyly of the more derived clades within them). One consists of all sections of Urostigma except for section Urostigma s. s.. The other includes section Urostigma s. s., subgenus Sycomorus, and the species of subgenus Ficus, though the relationships of the sections of these groups to one another are not well resolved. [5] [30]

There are 875 accepted Ficus species, as of March 2021, according to Plants of the World Online. [31]

Subgenus Ficus Edit

  • Ficus amplissimaSm. – bat fig
  • Ficus caricaL. – common fig
  • Ficus daimingshanensisChang
  • Ficus deltoideaJack – mistletoe fig
  • Ficus erectaThunb. – Japanese fig
  • Ficus fulvaReinw. ex Blume
  • Ficus grossularioidesBurman f. – white-leaved fig
  • Ficus neriifoliaSm.
  • Ficus palmataForssk.
  • Ficus pandurataHance
  • Ficus simplicissimaLour. (synonym Ficus hirtaVahl)
  • Ficus trilobaBuch.-Ham. ex Voigt

Subgenus Pharmacosycea Edit

  • Ficus crassiusculaStandl.
  • Ficus gigantosyceDugand
  • Ficus insipidaWilld.
  • Ficus lacunataKvitvik
  • Ficus maximaMill.
  • Ficus mutabilisBureau
  • Ficus nervosaHeyne ex Roth
  • Ficus pulchellaSchott
  • Ficus yoponensisDesv.

Subgenus Sycidium Edit

  • Ficus andamanicaCorner
  • Ficus asperaG.Forst.
  • Ficus assamicaMiq.
  • Ficus bojeriBaker
  • Ficus capreifoliaDelile
  • Ficus coronataSpin – creek sandpaper fig
  • Ficus fraseriMiq. – shiny sandpaper fig
  • Ficus heterophyllaL.f.
  • Ficus laterifloraVahl
  • Ficus montanaBurm.f. – oakleaf fig
  • Ficus oppositaMiq. – sweet sandpaper fig
  • Ficus phaeosyceK.Schum. & Lauterb.
  • Ficus tinctoriaG.Forst. – dye fig
  • Ficus ulmifoliaLam.
  • Ficus wassaRoxb.

Subgenus Sycomorus Edit

  • Ficus auriculataLour. – Roxburgh fig
  • Ficus bernaysiiKing
  • Ficus dammaropsisDiels – highland breadfruit, kapiak
  • Ficus fistulosaBlume
  • Ficus hispidaL.
  • Ficus notaMerr.tibig
  • Ficus pseudopalmaBlanco
  • Ficus racemosaL. – cluster fig
  • Ficus septicaBurm.f. – hauli tree
  • Ficus sycomorusL., 1753 – sycamore fig (Africa)
  • Ficus variegataBlume

Subgenus Synoecia Edit

The following species [32] are typically spreading or climbing lianas:

  • Ficus hederaceaRoxb.[33]
  • Ficus pantonianaKing[34] – climbing fig
  • Ficus pumilaL.[35] – creeping fig
    • Ficus pumila var. awkeotsang(Makino) Corner – jelly fig
  • Ficus punctataThunb.[36]
  • Ficus sagittataJ. König ex Vahl
  • Ficus sarmentosaBuch.-Ham. ex Sm.
  • Ficus trichocarpaBlume
  • Ficus villosaBlume[37]

Subgenus Urostigma Edit

  • Ficus abutilifoliaMiq.
  • Ficus albert-smithiiStandl.
  • Ficus altissimaBlume
  • Ficus amazonicaMiq.
  • Ficus americanaAubl.
  • Ficus aripuanensisBerg & Kooy
  • Ficus arpazusaCarauta and Diaz – Brazil [38]
  • Ficus aureaNutt. – Florida strangler fig
  • Ficus beddomeiKingthavital
  • Ficus benghalensisL. – Indian banyan
  • Ficus benjaminaL. – weeping fig [39]
  • Ficus binnendijkiiMiq.
  • Ficus bizanaeHutch. & Burtt-Davy
  • Ficus blepharophyllaVázquez Avila
  • Ficus broadwayiUrb.
  • Ficus burtt-davyiHutch.
  • Ficus calyptrocerasMiq.
  • Ficus castellvianaDugand
  • Ficus catappifoliaKunth & Bouché
  • Ficus citrifoliaMill. – short-leaved fig
  • Ficus consociataBl.
  • Ficus cordataThunb.
  • Ficus costataAit.[39]
  • Ficus crassipesF.M.Bailey – round-leaved banana fig
  • Ficus craterostomaMildbr. & Burret
  • Ficus cyathistipulaWarb.
  • Ficus cyclophylla(Miq.) Miq.
  • Ficus dendrocidaKunth
  • Ficus depressaBl.
  • Ficus destruensF.White
  • Ficus drupaceaThunb.
  • Ficus elasticaHornem. – rubber plant
  • Ficus exasperataVahl.
  • Ficus faulknerianaBerg
  • Ficus fergusonii(King) T.B.Worth. ex Corner
  • Ficus glaberrimaBlume
  • Ficus glumosaDelile
  • Ficus greiffianaDugand
  • Ficus hirsutaSchott
  • Ficus ilicinaMiq.
  • Ficus kerkhoveniiValeton[40] – Johore fig
  • Ficus kurziiKing
  • Ficus luschnathianaMiq.
  • Ficus ingensMiq.
  • Ficus krukoviiStandl.
  • Ficus lacorBuch.-Ham.
  • Ficus lapathifoliaMiq.
  • Ficus lauretanaVázquez Avila
  • Ficus luteaVahl
  • Ficus lyrataWarb. – fiddle-leaved fig
  • Ficus maclellandiiKing – Alii fig
  • Ficus macrophyllaDesf. ex Pers. – Moreton Bay fig
  • Ficus malacocarpaStandl.
  • Ficus mariaeBerg, Emygdio & Carauta
  • Ficus mathewsiiMiq.
  • Ficus matizianaDugand
  • Ficus mexiaeStandl.
  • Ficus microcarpaL. – Chinese banyan
  • Ficus muellerianaBerg
  • Ficus natalensisHochst. – Natal fig
  • Ficus obliquaG.Forst. – small-leaved fig
  • Ficus obtusifoliaKunth
  • Ficus pakkensisStandl.
  • Ficus pallidaVahl
  • Ficus panurensisStandl.
  • Ficus pertusaL.f.
  • Ficus petiolarisKunth
  • Ficus pisocarpaBl.
  • Ficus platypodaCunn. – desert fig
  • Ficus pleurocarpaDC. – banana fig
  • Ficus politaVahl
  • Ficus religiosaL. – sacred fig
  • Ficus roraimensisBerg
  • Ficus rubiginosaDesf. – Port Jackson fig
  • Ficus rumphiiBlume
  • Ficus salicifoliaVahl – willow-leaved fig
  • Ficus sansibaricaWarb.
  • Ficus schippiiStandl.
  • Ficus schultesiiDugand
  • Ficus schumacheriGriseb.
  • Ficus sphenophyllaStandl.
  • Ficus stuhlmanniiWarb.
  • Ficus subcordataBl.
  • Ficus subpisocarpaGagnep.
  • Ficus subpuberulaCorner
  • Ficus sumatranaMiq.
  • Ficus superbaMiq.
    • Ficus superba var. henneana(Miq.) Corner
  • Ficus thonningiiBlume
  • Ficus trichopodaBaker
  • Ficus trigonaL.f.
  • Ficus trigonataL.
  • Ficus triradiataCorner – red-stipule fig
  • Ficus ursinaStandl.
  • Ficus velutinaWilld.
  • Ficus verruculosaWarb.
  • Ficus virensAiton – white fig
    • Ficus virens var. sublanceolata(Miq.) Corner – sour fig
  • Ficus watkinsianaF.M.Bailey – Watkins's fig

Unknown subgenus Edit

  • Ficus bibracteata
  • Ficus callosa Willd.
  • Ficus cristobalensis
  • Ficus hebetifolia
  • Ficus tsjahelaBurm.f.
  • Ficus nymphaeifoliaMill.

Numerous species of fig are found in cultivation in domestic and office environments, including: [41]

  • F. binnendijkii, narrow-leaf fig – hardy to 5 °C (41 °F)
  • F. carica, common fig – hardy to −10 °C (14 °F). Shrub or small tree which can be grown outdoors in mild temperate regions, producing substantial harvests of fruit. Many cultivars are available.
  • F. benjamina, weeping fig, ficus – hardy to 5 °C (41 °F). Widely used as an indoor plant for the home or the office. It benefits from the dry, warm atmosphere of centrally-heated interiors, and can grow to substantial heights in a favoured position. Several variegated cultivars are available.
  • F. elastica, rubber plant – hardy to 10 °C (50 °F): widely cultivated as a houseplant several cultivars with variegated leaves
  • F. lyrata, fiddle-leaf fig – hardy to 10 °C (50 °F)
  • F. microcarpa, Indian laurel – hardy to 10 °C (50 °F)
  • F. pumila, creeping fig – hardy to 1 °C (34 °F)
  • F. rubiginosa, Port Jackson fig – hardy to 10 °C (50 °F)

Fig trees have profoundly influenced culture through several religious traditions. Among the more famous species are the sacred fig tree (Pipal, bodhi, bo, or po, Ficus religiosa) and other banyan figs such as Ficus benghalensis. The oldest living plant of known planting date is a Ficus religiosa tree known as the Sri Maha Bodhi planted in the temple at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka by King Tissa in 288 BCE. The common fig is one of two significant trees in Islam, and there is a sura in Quran named "The Fig" or At-Tin (سوره تین). In Asia, figs are important in Buddhism and Hinduism. In Jainism, the consumption of any fruit belonging to this genus is prohibited. [42] The Buddha is traditionally held to have found bodhi (enlightenment) while meditating for 49 days under a sacred fig. [43] The same species was Ashvattha, the "world tree" of Hinduism. The Plaksa Pra-sravana was said to be a fig tree between the roots of which the Sarasvati River sprang forth it is usually held to be a sacred fig but more probably is Ficus virens. According to the Kikuyu people, sacrifices to Ngai were performed under a sycomore tree (Mũkũyũ) and if one was not available, a fig tree (Mũgumo) would be used. The common fig tree is cited in the Bible, where in Genesis 3:7, Adam and Eve cover their nakedness with fig leaves. The fig fruit is also one of the traditional crops of Israel, and is included in the list of food found in the Promised Land, according to the Torah (Deut. 8). Jesus cursed a fig tree for bearing no fruit (Mark 11:12–14). The fig tree was sacred in ancient Greece and Cyprus, where it was a symbol of fertility.

Leaves of the sacred fig (Ficus religiosa)

Fig trees grow to a variety of heights depending on the type. Many dwarf fig trees reach up to 10 feet tall and wide like the “Celestial” fig tree (Ficus carica “Celestial”). This dwarf fig grows well in USDA zones 7 through 11, producing small sweet figs, which ripen in the middle of June. Semi-dwarf trees like “Black Jack” fig trees (Ficus carica “Black Jack”), in USDA plant hardiness zones 7 through 9, reach up to 15 feet, but they produce well when kept at 6 feet tall by annual pruning. Standard trees like “Brown Turkey” fig trees (Ficus carica “Brown Turkey”) grow to 25 feet tall and wide in USDA zones 7 through 9.

Dwarf fig trees require pruning only when they are young and need shaping. Take only a little of the growth off a few of the branches each year until the tree is the desired shape. Heavy pruning contributes to fruit loss since figs develop on last year’s growth. If heavy pruning is needed, cut only half the branches the first summer and trim the other half of the branches the next summer. Always whitewash the tree if severely pruned. This prevents damage from exposure from the hot summer sun. After the first crop of figs of the year, remove dead and broken branches.

Growing Backyard Figs

Grow Your Own

Growing figs in your backyard has lots of benefits. Of course, the fresh figs themselves are first and foremost. It’s nearly impossible to buy fresh figs in some areas of the country, so growing your own may be the only way to get them. Then there’s all of the recipes in which not only the figs, but also the fig leaves can be used. Plus, figs grow well in difficult places (hot and dry in particular) providing a bit of shade and an attraction for wildlife. Although I’ve cultivated and sold fig trees for more than ten years, I don’t claim to be an expert in producing figs. I do, however, have some experience growing them.


The first fig tree I purchased, I had to transplant from one area of the yard to another after a year’s growth. It promptly died. Then it re-sprouted from the roots and grew well but did not produce fruit. Then it died again due to an extra cold winter, and re-sprouted this time fruiting quite well but very late. Then a late freeze killed it again and it grew back without fruiting until the second year which was a fairly nice harvest. This spring, ambrosia beetles killed it as it was attempting to emerge and it re-sprouted from the roots again. Now it is taller and fuller than it has ever been and is threatening to produce a decent late crop of figs. Over the years I’ve learned a lot, and still have a ways to go.

Lessons Learned

The repeated cold damage is a reminder that figs are not truly hardy for my zone 7 yard. They are particularly sensitive to early and late freezes during the transition into and out of dormancy. Though they have shown an amazing ability to bounce back from the damage, cold protection, such as wrapping the trunks, is in order during these difficult times.

Here are a few things to consider when growing figs:

  • Cold sensitivity means that new fig trees should be planted in late spring to allow time during the long hot summer for them to establish a deep root system before winter. This breaks one of the cardinal rules of southern landscaping, where the generally accepted practice is to plant trees and shrubs in fall.
  • The nearly indestructible fig has a few pest problems that growers should be aware of as well. Ambrosia beetles are preventable by minimizing stress (cold protection, irrigation during drought, etc) and using pyrethrum as a preventative when they are active. Birds can devour figs as quickly as they ripen, but can be stopped by covering the plant with bird netting. Ants, wasps and hornets love the ripe fruit as well, and losses may be avoided to a large extent by frequent harvesting.
  • Figs require little pruning, although some training is helpful early on to ensure a strong branch structure. Tip pruning may be helpful in controlling rampant shoots, simply cut them back by 25-30% of the previous season’s new growth. Prune as needed in late winter or early spring before the leaves emerge.
  • Propagation is easily done at pruning time. Six or ten inch sections of branch tip may be placed in a starter bed to root out for a year, then transplanted to a permanent site the following spring. Also side shoots, or suckers, when removed may be used to start new plants. Mound layering is also an effective way to create rooted shoots for eventual removal and transplant.
  • If you are in a climate colder than zone 7, consider growing a fig bush in a container. ‘Celeste’ is reputed as the most cold hardy variety, and features a petite growth habit making it a great choice for the north.

Figs are a great place to start into home fruit production. They are productive, resilient, and extremely rewarding.

Watch the video: Growing Figs in Containers


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