All You Need to Know About Fertilizing a Fig Tree

All You Need to Know About Fertilizing a Fig Tree

Large Banner Fig Tree

Unique, healthful, decadent, and used as fashionable clothing in Biblical times. Figs have been a 'fig'ment of our collective imagination in literature, poetry, works of art and culinary uses for centuries!

From its ornamental beauty and delicious fruit, the Fig tree has been a sought-after edible landscaping feature for years! The beloved Fig tree is a small to medium-sized, deciduous fruit tree. Botanically identified as Ficus carica, the Fig tree is also known as the common  Hanging Figs Fig or edible Fig. There are many types of Figs, and three types are edible. They are Persistent (common) Figs, caducous (Smyrna) Figs, and intermediate (San Pedro) Figs.

Fig trees are grown throughout the world for their tasty fruit and alluring good looks. It’s a fruit tree that doubles as an ornamental tree, with fragrant, tropical leaves that can reach nearly 10 inches long, deeply incised with three or five lobes. And foliage that stands in contrast against the tree’s smooth near-white to greyish bark. You can even eat the leaves!

Fig Tree Fertility FAQs

Does My Fig Tree Need Fertilizer?

Yes! All trees, especially big flowering and fruiting trees need some added fertility! Trees growing in containers need fertilizer more often than trees planted in the ground. But overall, Figs prefer things on the leaner side, than overly rich fertility. 

Fig trees also like acidic soil, so using special acid-loving fertilizer, or adding Soil Sulfur or Ammonium Sulfate at the base of the tree will help. figs hanging on top of a tree

Mulch your tree with pine bark arborist mulch to further hold in moisture, insulate the roots and add organic matter, while also acidifying the soil as it breaks down over time.

What is the Best Fertilizer for a Fig tree?

Use a general-purpose, slow-release, and preferably organic fruit tree fertilizer with a formula composition of 8-8-8 or 10-10-10. Choose a fertilizer that will also help maintain their preferred pH. Fruiting Fig trees given too much nitrogen can promote lots of leafy growth and not much fruit. If Figs are grown in colder regions it may encourage new growth to not harden off properly before winter and may increase winter damage. 

Choose a nice organic, slow-release fertilizer that helps maintain slightly acidic soil conditions. They can tolerate mildly alkaline soil but crops will not be as prolific.   fertilizer

Never over-apply fertilizer or use it as a cure-all in response to your tree looking stressed!

When Should I Fertilize My Fig tree?

New Fig trees can be planted in enriched, fertile, well-drained soil with some mild, slow-release fertilizer at planting time, and don’t forget the Nature Hills Root Booster for microbial symbiotic root support for the life of the tree's root system! 

New trees are best given mostly regular waterings those first months as they work to establish. Fertilizer triggers trees to want to grow leaves and new shoots. For new trees trying to establish, the main focus is a strong and healthy root system to support the tree for its entire life.

How Often Should I Feed my Fig tree?

Consider adding an organic slow-release fertilizer if you are growing in sandier soil, or if your Fig loses vigor and the leaf color is pale green in color. Light fertilization is best added in spring, or half-rate early spring and late spring but should not be done after the fourth of July so you don't force new growth too late in the season.   hanging figs

Fig Tree Care

Common Fig trees can grow in the wild in a number of different areas of the country. You’ll find them in sunny, dry areas and rocky areas. They’re also known to grow in nutritionally poor soil, which makes them highly adaptable to the home environment! They really prefer a lower fertility and rocky and dry soil and Mediterranian climates, so Figs seem to especially love California for that reason!

However, they are quite adaptable! This makes Figs an ideal selection for a wide variety of locations! They fruit best in full sun, so provide at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. They tolerate moderate moisture and can handle drought, though they prefer a nice warm south-facing site. 

Be sure to provide moderate, consistent moisture access for the juiciest crop and the best health and longevity of your tree. Overwatering is a sure-fire method of killing your plant. So ensure it is in a well-drained location whether it is in a pot or in the ground.

Some Figs do a little too well in some areas and have become invasive. Nature Hills uses Plant Sentry™ to prevent the sale and shipment of any plant that each state has prohibited or restricted any plant from coming to their state.   Multiple Figs

Fig Tree Pollination

Closed eye vs Open Eye? Partially Open/Closed? Resin Closed? What does this all mean? 

In the wild, Fig trees are pollinated by very small wasps of the family Agaonidae. The Figs themselves are technically not a fruit but rather a swollen stem part and ripen from pollinated 'inverted flowers'. Their flowers bloom inside the pear-shaped pod, which later matures into the fruit we eat. Filled with hundreds to thousands of tiny seeds. 

The eye, or ostiole, can be open or closed. While not completely exposing the interior of the pulp and fruit, it is where the small wasps can enter that pollinate the flower and help contribute to the production of the fruit.  3 Figs on a tree

Most Figs no longer need the wasp for pollination and have been bred to have a tight, closed or sealed eye.

Closed Eye

Closed-eye Figs that have a closed or plugged 'eye' at the base of the fruit are often a highly sought-after trait, especially in the humid South and rainy Northwestern US. Open-eyed Figs could cause significant insect and disease issues and can sour the fruit.

Open Eye

Open-eyed Figs, having a partially open or plugged eye (plugged with dried juices, honey or resin) left over from pollination purposes. This doesn’t mean your fruit is full of bugs or eggs, nor does it mean your fruit is going to go bad. But these Fig trees tend to do better in arid or cooler growing zones.

Is There a Wasp in Every Fig? 

No! In the wild, female Agaonidae wasps lay eggs within a fig fruit. The fruit then fills with tiny edible seeds as it matures. So that crunch when eating a Fig isn’t the eggs or the wasps! 

By the time you eat native Fig species, all signs or remains of wasps and their eggs and larvae have either exited the Fig or they’ve been absorbed and or expelled from the fruit! It’s all part of nature and best to not think about it too long. Just wash any fruit or veggie well before eating and you are good to go!

Fig Tree Harvest

With the common Fig tree, you can expect one or two crops of Figs to be produced each year. On Figs that have second crops, the first crop, known as the breba crop, develops in the spring on last year's shoot growth. The second crop is the main crop, and it develops on  Cut open Fig the current year's shoot growth, ripening in late summer or fall.

Learn about knowing if your harvest is ripe or not by reading our Garden Blog here! But generally, once the fruit droops heavily from their branches instead of growing almost parallel, and they're soft and yielding to the touch (but not soggy feeling), and you may see a droplet of dew at the eye.

Pruning Your Fig Tree

Depending on the type of Fig you have, it's best to prune in the late winter or early spring, or only prune the branches that have just fruited, especially if you have a breba-type Fig tree. Pruning when dormant is best because pruning cuts in the growing season will bleed white sap.

  • Remove competing leaders or weak branch crotches
  • Remove crossing, rubbing, interior-growing branches and any damage
  • Remove old growth and allow for vigorous new growth to take its place
  • Remove water sprouts and suckers
  • Allow for an open canopy for air circulation and sunlight to ripen the interior fruit

If your Fig tree is putting too much of its energy into branch and leaf growth, rather than setting fruit, identify the new growth branches. They'll be more flexible than old-growth. While this will interfere with breba crop production, you can pinch off the tips. This will encourage them to focus on fruit instead of continuing with new growth. It will not stunt your tree, however, it is best to just let them grow a bit wild in the back border of your yard, so you can enjoy the most fruit possible throughout the year.  

Many trees produce best when trained into a fan or scaffold shape, maintained smaller for easy harvest and when kept bushy. You can even take things next level and try Espalier pruning your tree!

Fig trees do have a milky sap, that for some gardeners, can be irritating and photoreactive in the sun, causing a reaction on the skin. Gloves and long-sleeves are recommended whenever handling, caring for and maintaining these plants. That being said, we’d advise not using the leaves as a fashion statement.

Some of’s Top Favorite Fig Trees

Delicious Healthy & Ornamental  

Get ready for Fig jam, fresh Figs served on artisan bread with goat cheeses drizzled with honey, added to salads, tarts, quartered, and served on an upscale charcuterie, or some delicious chutney, baked goods, and desserts! Baked, broiled or grilled, they can be freshly eaten too!

Figs contain calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and iron, as well as Vitamins A, B6, C, and K, plus they are high in natural sugars and very high in fiber. Eaten fresh, dried, made into preserves, or baked, the possibilities are endless!  

You’ll find a fine selection of high-quality Fig trees for sale at Nature Hills Nursery! So grace your yard with one of these delightful and unique fruit trees and see what all the foodies, ancient literature and old-world fashionistas are going on about! 

Happy Planting!

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