The fig was one of the first plants ever to be cultivated by humans. Fossilized figs dating to 9400-9200 BC were found in an early Neolithic village in the Jordan Valley. About's Archaeology Guide, Kris Hirst says figs were domesticated "five thousand years earlier" than millet or wheat.
Common name(s): Common fig. The name is very similar in French (figue), German (feige), Italian and Portuguese (figo).
Family: Moraceae or mulberry
USDA hardiness zones: 7b through 11
Origin: native to Western Asia but distributed by man throughout the Mediterranean region.
Uses: garden specimen; fruit tree; seed oil; latex
Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the tree.
Many varieties were imported from Europe. The fig reached Virginia and the eastern United States in 1669. From Virginia, fig planting and cultivation spread to the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
Flower: small and inconspicuous
Trunk/bark/branches: droop as the tree grows, and will require pruning for clearance and weight reduction;
Breakage: susceptible to breakage either at the crotch due to poor collar formation, or the wood itself is weak and tends to break
Planting must be done within 24 hours and the upper, slant cut end of the cutting should be treated with a sealant to protect it from disease, and the lower, flat, end with a root-promoting hormone.
Common Fig Varieties:
'Brown Turkey': broad-pyriform, usually without a neck. The fruit is medium to large and copper-colored. The main crop, begins in mid-July, is large.
'Brunswick': fruits of main crop are oblique-turbinate, mostly without neck. The fruit is of medium size, bronze or purple-brown.
'Marseilles': fruits of main crop round to oblate without a neck and on slender stalks.
Figs In the Landscape:
You will have to share your tree with birds that flock in for a meal and partake of the fruits of your labor. This tree is a birders dream but a fruit pickers nightmare. Netting may be used to discourage fruit damage.
Protection From Cold:
When temperatures dip below 15 degrees, mulch or cover trees with fabric. Protect the roots of container grown figs by moving them indoors or in replant in a frost-free area when temperatures fall below 20 degrees. Avid fig growers in cold climates actually dig up the root ball, lay the tree in a mulching ditch and cover with their preferred compost/mulch.
Figs require full sun all day to produce edible fruit. Fig trees will shade out anything growing beneath the canopy so nothing needs to be planted under the tree. Fig roots are abundant, traveling far beyond the tree canopy and will invade garden beds.
Pruning and Fertilization:
Fig trees are productive with or without heavy pruning. It is essential only during the initial years. Trees should be trained with a low crown for fig collection and to avoid trunk-breaking limb weight.
Since the crop is borne on terminals of previous year's wood, once the tree form is established, avoid heavy winter pruning, which causes loss of the following year's crop. It is better to prune immediately after the main crop is harvested, or with late-ripening cultivarss, summer prune half the branches and prune the remainder the following summer.
Regular fertilizing of figs is usually necessary only for potted trees or when they are grown on sands. Excess nitrogen encourages foliage growth at the expense of fruit production. Any fruit that is produced often ripens improperly. Fertilize a fig tree if the branches grew less than a foot the previous year. Apply a total of 1/2 - 1 pound of actual nitrogen, divided into three or four applications beginning in late winter or early spring and ending in July.
Fig Pests: From a Perdue University Report:
Fig trees are prone to attack by nematodes and, in the tropics, have been traditionally planted close to a wall or building so that the roots can go underneath and escape damage. A heavy mulch will serve equally well. Today, control is possible with proper application of nematicides.
A common and widespread problem is leaf rust caused by Cerotelium fici. The disease brings about premature leaf fall and reduces fruit yields. It is most prevalent and usually seen during rainy seasons. Leaf spot results from infection by Cylindrocladium scoparium or Cercospora fici. Fig mosaic is caused by a virus and is incurable. Affected trees must be destroyed.