Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 43 Ficus carica

Common Names: fig, common fig Family: Moraceae (mulberry Family)
Image Gallery

ripe fig
A ripe 'Brown Turkey' fig, freshened by a morning rain glistens in the sun inviting passersby to eat it.

Description

The fig is a picturesque tropical looking tree or shrub with a dramatic spreading habit. The breadth is often wider than the height of 15 to 30 ft (4.6-9 m). The bark is a smooth, silvery gray and the 4 in (10 cm) long deciduous leaves have 3 or 5 lobes. There are many cultivars available for the home landscape. 'Celeste', 'Ischia', 'Magnolia' and 'Brown Turkey' are popular in the southeastern United States. 'Brown Turkey' (also called 'Everbearing') is probably the most cold hardy. In the drier Southwest, popular cultivars include 'Adriatic', 'Kadota', and 'Mission'. Figs usually begin bearing fruit within two years.

Location

Originally from the eastern Mediterranean region, figs (Ficus carica) have been cultivated by humans for over 5000 years.

fig tree
In mid-July this oldtimer fig speckles himself with just-about-to-ripen fruit from ground level to the top of his twenty foot high canopy.

Culture

Drought tolerant, once established. Mulch heavily with organic materials to conserve moisture, improve soil structure and reduce root knot nematode levels. Responds well to pruning and can be espaliered or pruned heavily in the dormant season for size control and to increase the main crop. Light: Part sun to full sun. Moisture: Average, well-drained. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10. With winter protection, can be grown as far north as Zone 5. When fully dormant, fig trees can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 to 15ºF (-9ºC). Even if frozen, figs often will resprout from the roots and produce a crop the following summer. Propagation: Take dormant hardwood cuttings during the winter, dust with rooting hormone powder and plant in sterile potting soil. Fig trees are very easy to propagate by transplanting root suckers at almost any time of year.

Usage

In colder regions, figs are grown as bushes with multiple stems and branches close to the ground that are laid down and buried before winter. It makes an especially attractive specimen in the landscape. Plant one on an expanse of lawn where its graceful, spreading shape and smooth, twisting branches command attention in all seasons. These trees are NOT recommended for planting near outdoor living areas because of the massive quantities of fruit produced. So unless you are willing to harvest regularly, figs will quickly accumulate. These will mold, rot, ferment, stink and attract flies, wasps and other unlovely critters that you don't want to share space with. Figs grow nicely and will bear fruit when grown in containers where they can be artfully pruned to create a living sculpture to decorate deck or patio. This is convenient for two reasons: cold climate growers can move their figs indoors in winter and the plants can be removed from the patio when the fruit begins to (over)ripen.

fig fruit cutaway
A cutaway view of the fig showing the small fleshy flowers that are arranged pointing toward the inside of the fruit. The red area at the base of the fruit is the opening through which pollinator insects may enter.

Features

The fig fruit is actually a hollow receptacle with hundreds of small fleshy flowers facing each other on the inside. In their native habitat, figs are pollinated by a tiny gall wasp that enters the flower cluster through a small opening in the apex. Each flower then produces a small fruit containing the seeds. The wasp is not present in most of North America, so seeds are not produced. Most cultivars of fig trees produce two crops, a spring breba crop on last season’s growth, and a summer or fall, main crop on new wood. Figs must be allowed to ripen fully before they are picked. Fresh figs won’t keep long, but dried figs will keep for months. The delicious figs will keep a yard full of children and squirrels occupied for several weeks each summer

Jack likes figs so much he wrote a poem about them called The Fabulous Fig.

Warning

Some people have allergic reactions to the leaves and milky sap, but find they can still enjoy the fruits.

Steve Christman 06/17/97; updated 08/04/01, 07/27/03, 10/22/03, 7/18/07



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Ficus species profiled on Floridata:


Ficus aurea

( strangler fig, Florida strangler fig )

Ficus benghalensis

( banyan, Bengal fig, Indian fig, East Indian fig )

Ficus carica

( fig, common fig )

Ficus pumila

( creeping fig, climbing fig )

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