Figs are one of the easiest fruits to grow in home gardens. Their sweet flavor and unique texture make them a tasty addition to breakfasts, snacks, and desserts. While you can purchase fig trees from nurseries, starting a fig tree from cutting an existing plant is often cheaper and ensures you get the exact variety you want. Discover how to plant a fig tree from a cutting with some basic gardening supplies and a bit of patience for years of harvests to come.
Selecting a Cutting
The first step in planting a fig tree from a cutting is choosing where to source your cutting. Look for branches around 6-12 inches long with no flower buds. Ideal cuttings will be from the previous season’s growth and have leaves removed from the lower half of the cutting. The best time to take fig cuttings is when the tree is dormant in late winter or early spring.
When selecting your cutting, look for the following qualities:
- Smooth, woody, mature wood – Pencil-width or thicker
- Plump, well-hydrated stems
- Harvested during dormancy, before new growth emerges
- Lower leaves trimmed off
- No fruit/flowers present
Choosing a healthy, robust cutting from an established fig tree will give your propagated tree the best start. Take multiple cuttings from different areas of the tree to ensure success since not all may root well.
Where to Source Cuttings
Look to source cuttings for your new fig tree from healthy trees in your area that produce flavorful figs suited to your climate. Some options include:
- Your fig tree: Taking cuttings from existing trees in your yard guarantees you’ll get the desired variety. Prune off 6-12-inch sections for propagation.
- Neighbors or friends: Ask neighbors who have prolific or heirloom fig trees if you can take some cuttings for rooting. This is a great way to get prized varieties.
- Nurseries and farms: Some nurseries sell fig cuttings for propagation in late winter. Or visit pick-your-own farms and ask if you can take dormant cuttings.
- Online exchange forums: Join gardening forums or groups to connect with people offering fig cuttings from their trees.
No matter where you source it, ensure your cutting comes from a tree free of significant disease and produces high-quality fruit. It is critical to get a cutting from the exact fig variety you want to grow.
Rooting the Cuttings
Once you’ve harvested dormant fig cuttings, the next step is rooting them so they develop into whole plants. Rooting fig cuttings is simple but does require patience. On average, cuttings take 6-8 weeks to form robust root systems that sustain growth when transplanted.
Follow these steps to root your fig tree cuttings:
1. Prepare the Cutting
- Trim the cutting to 6-12 inches long.
- Remove all leaves from the lower half of the cutting.
- Make a fresh cut at the base of the cutting right before rooting.
- Optionally dip the cut end in rooting hormone to encourage growth.
2. Select a Rooting Medium
Fig cuttings can be rooted in water, soil, or damp sphagnum moss. The medium you choose depends on your climate and preferences.
- Water: Suspend cuttings in jars of clean water, replacing every 2-3 days. Roots will form in 4-6 weeks. Transition to soil after. Best for warm climates.
- Damp sphagnum moss: Place cuttings in moist moss inside plastic bags. Roots emerge in 6-8 weeks. Easiest method.
- Soil: Stick cuttings in pots filled with loose, well-draining potting mix. Maintain consistent moisture. Roots in 6-8 weeks. It’s better for cooler climates.
Whichever method you use, root development will be faster in warmer temperatures between 70-80°F.
3. Provide Warmth and Humidity
Fig cuttings root best when kept warm and humid. Maintain temperatures around 70-80°F. Enclose cuttings in plastic or place them in a greenhouse to boost humidity.
4. Wait for Roots
Check cuttings after six weeks for visible root growth emerging from the base. Look for new leaves sprouting as well. When roots are 1-2 inches long, cuttings are ready to pot up.
Potting Up Rooted Cuttings
Once your fig cuttings have developed a robust root system, it’s time to pot them up to establish self-sufficient plants. Use these steps:
1. Prepare New Pots
Select containers 2-3 times the width of the cutting’s roots or at least 10 inches deep. Clay, plastic, concrete, or wood containers all work well. Make sure pots have drainage holes.
2. Use Fast-Draining Soil
Figs need well-draining soil to prevent overwatering. Use a quality potting mix blended with perlite or sand, or create your own mix using compost, coconut coir, bark chips, etc.
3. Plant Rooted Cuttings
Carefully remove cuttings from their rooting medium. Tease apart any tangled roots. Place cuttings in pots, filling around roots with soil. Ensure the base sits just below the soil surface.
4. Provide Support
Place a plant stake next to small cuttings to keep them upright as they establish. Larger, woody cuttings may not need SSupport.
5. Water Thoroughly
Water newly potted cuttings well to moisten the soil and eliminate air pockets. Allow excess water to drain thoroughly.
6. Grow in Partial Shade
Keep newly potted fig trees in a spot with 2-6 hours of sun for the first month. Dappled light encourages leaf growth until roots settle.
7. Increase Sun Over Time
Slowly introduce your young fig tree to more direct light over 8-12 weeks. Mature figs need full sun, so get plants accustomed to more prolonged sun exposure.
With the proper care, potted fig cuttings will flourish into independent trees ready for planting in the garden!
Caring for Young Fig Trees
Newly rooted fig cuttings need specialized care in their first year to ensure vigorous growth. Follow these tips:
- Water 1-2 times per week. Check soil moisture and water when the top inches become dry. Avoid overwatering.
- Fertilize every 2-3 months during the growing season. Use a balanced fruit tree fertilizer or compost tea.
- Repot into larger containers as needed. Shift to bigger pots if roots become crowded or choked.
- Trim away suckers or extra shoots. This encourages the tree to direct energy into establishing the main branches.
- Protect from harsh weather. Move potted figs into a greenhouse or indoors if temperatures drop below 30°F.
- Pinch back tips of new growth. Removing the soft shoot tips after 4-6 nodes helps the plant bush out.
With attentive care and frequent monitoring, your cutting-grown fig tree will establish a solid structure to support fruiting.
Transplanting Fig Trees into the Garden
After 1-2 years of growth as a potted plant, young fig trees are ready for final transplanting into garden beds or orchards. Follow these tips for successful planting:
Choose an Area with Full Sun
Mature fig trees need at least 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Pick a sunny southern or western-facing spot sheltered from strong winds.
Prepare the Planting Hole
Dig a hole slightly larger than the fig’s root ball and just as deep. Roots should have room to expand. Blend compost into the soil you’ll backfill with.
Time for Winter Dormancy
The ideal time to transplant figs is during winter dormancy after they’ve lost all leaves. This reduces transplant shock.
Set the Tree and Backfill
Place the fig tree in its new hole. The top root flare should sit just above ground level. Fill around the base with your soil blend, tamping down gently to remove air pockets.
Water your newly transplanted fig deeply to moisten the surrounding soil. Add mulch around the base to help retain moisture.
Stake If Needed
Stake smaller trees for SSupport if they are top-heavy or planted in windy areas. Attach loosely to allow some trunk movement.
Prune Back Top Growth
Prune the fig’s upper branches back by 1/3 to balance root loss during transplanting. This encourages regrowth and branching.
With proper planting and initial care, your fig tree will quickly adapt to its new permanent home!
Caring for Mature Fig Trees
Once established, fig trees are pretty robust and require minimal year-round care. Follow these tips for keeping your fig tree healthy and productive:
- Water 1-2 times per week during the growing season, less in winter.
- Fertilize three times per year. Apply a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer or compost in early spring, mid-summer, and late fall.
- Prune annually to shape. Remove any dead branches and thin interior growth in late winter to open the canopy. This improves air circulation and light penetration.
- Protect from harsh winter weather. Wrap fig trunks and branches with insulation in frigid climates to prevent dieback. Or plant in containers that can be moved into a protected area.
- Harvest ripe fruits promptly. Once figs start ripening, check the trees daily. Pick ripe figs every 2-3 days to maximize yields and enjoy peak flavor.
- Control pests naturally. Fig trees can be susceptible to Japanese beetles, aphids, and mites. Use organic pest control like neem oil and insecticidal soap spray, or introduce beneficial insects.
- Propagate new trees. In late winter, take hardwood cuttings from healthy branches to grow backup trees or give them away.
- Renew the soil annually. Add 2-3 inches of mulch around the base each year, and mix in compost or manure to replenish nutrients.
- Trim away suckers. Remove vertically growing shoots around the base to maintain the tree’s intended shape and habit.
With minimal care focused on pruning, pest management, and occasional feeding, a mature fig tree will produce abundant fruit for decades!
Common Fig Tree Problems and Solutions
While fig trees are generally resilient, they can encounter disease, pest damage, and environmental issues. Here are some common fig tree problems and how to fix them:
- Causes – Excess shade, over-pruning, age, variety of pollination needs
- Solutions – Increase sunlight, avoid heavy pruning, introduce new varieties, assist pollination
- Causes – Underwatering, transplant shock, root damage, disease
- Solutions – Improve irrigation, minimize root disturbances, rule out disease
- Causes – Fig leaf curl mite, natural leaf pattern for some varieties
- Solutions – Manage mites, accept leaf shape if part of varietal character
- Causes – Rain splits, insect damage, anthracnose fungus
- Solutions – Protect ripe fruits, pick promptly, remove damaged fruits
- Causes – Ripe fruits attract birds
- Solutions – Use bird netting, harvest fruits ASAP, and plant away from bird flight paths
- Causes – Winter injury, phytophthora, verticillium wilt
- Solutions – Protect from cold, improve drainage, ensure adequate spacing
A little investigation combined with organic treatments or adjusted care practices can remedy most fig tree issues. Seek expert input for severe or spreading disease.
Growing a fig tree from cuttings may take patience, but the reward of producing bushels of delicious, organic figs is well worth it. Fig cuttings can be transformed into thriving fruiting specimens with the proper propagation techniques, attentive young tree care, and proper planting. Their versatile adaptability allows fig trees to prosper in containers and on the ground across diverse climates. Special specialized protection during dormancy prepares figs to provide their treasured fruits generously year after year.
Though they require minimal care when mature, fig trees depend on gardeners for appropriate pruning, occasional feeding, and pest management. Understanding their ideal conditions and potential problems allows you to avoid issues and enjoy a prolific fig harvest. With this long-term perspective in mind, starting fig trees from cuttings enables you to select adapted, flavorful varieties ideally suited to your taste and garden environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for a fig cutting to produce fruit?
Most fig cuttings will produce a small first crop within 1-2 years after rooting. Total fruit production begins in years 3-4 as the tree matures.
Should I grow figs in containers or on the ground?
Figs thrive in both containers and the ground. Potted trees are great for small yards but need more frequent watering. In-ground trees can grow huge and live for decades.
What is the best fertilizer for fig trees?
Balanced fertilizers like 10-10-10 or organic options like compost, manure, and bone meal are ideal for nourishing fig trees a few times yearly.
How often and when should fig trees be pruned?
Prune figs once a year in late winter to open up their branching structure and maintain a manageable size. Avoid heavy pruning.
Should I wrap or insulate my fig tree for winter?
In zones six and below, wrapping fig tree trunks and main branches can protect from dieback. Use breathable material like burlap.
Why does my fig tree drop immature fruit?
Fruit drop is caused by overwatering, drought stress, and insect damage. Keep soil moist but not soaked and control fig-loving pests.