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Fig Tree Care

Figs are an interesting and unusual fruit for the home grower to try.

It is one of the oldest cultivated fruits in the world. As a soft fruit that spoils quickly, most consumers can only try the super-sweet fresh fruits by growing figs themselves. The leaves are huge, attractive dark green, and have an interesting multilobed shape. The fruits themselves are generally dark purple or brown, although some of them can be lighter colored or green. They are round or pear-shaped. Depending on the variety, most plants grow between 6 and 15 feet tall and wide.

Generally, a carefree plant that thrives in hot sunny areas, only a few varieties of figs survive our zone 6 winters. All varieties should be brought inside or protected from our cold winters if planted in the ground. Varieties that are hardy to zone 6 should still be sited in a protected area, such as the south side of a house. Their roots must be heavily mulched to protect them from the cold, and during dramatic temperature swings, even the top of the plant should be wrapped in burlap or similar material to keep it from being damaged. Figs have few pest issues, although the fruit is often stolen by squirrels and, to a lesser extent, birds. They can struggle with scales as well. Figs are not very particular about soil but will do better in a neutral pH soil with lots of organic matter. Unless a soil test reveals a deficiency, they generally don’t need fertilizer beyond compost in the spring. For watering, fig roots can rot in heavy, saturated soils, so they should only be watered when the top of the soil is dry. They are drought tolerant but must have some supplemental water to grow and produce fruit. Most varieties available to the homeowner don’t need a pollinator. In fact, because their unique flower is actually inside the fruit, only specialized wasps can pollinate them. There is no native population of the wasps in Kansas or anywhere in the US except for California.

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