General Care For Potted Fig Trees
Potted fig trees need certain requirements in order to grow successfully. Consider the following tips.
Choose a pot with a manageable size with holes on the bottom. The one I provide is a nursery pot, which means it’s the black flimsy kind that has large holes on the bottom (the kind that comes with a new bush from the plant store) and it doesn’t allow much root growth. Include a tray to fit under your pot to collect excess water. Buy my favorite nursery pots. I’ve had the best success with these.
Use soil that doesn’t retain water for long periods, so regular potting soil is not good. Reason? if it remains moist for a long time, it can promote root rot.
Another name of the soil I use is called grow medium. I used to get my soil from a hydroponics store in NJ that later went out of business, so I had to make my own grow medium. It is loose and allows the water to pass directly to the roots and then out the bottom. This grow medium is organic and contains pine bark, humus (organic compost) as the main fertilizer, and perlite. You don’t have to use this type of soil. An alternative recommendation is vermiculite mixed into it to loosen the soil. You can also buy Dolomite Limestone and add it on top of the soil, especially if squirrels are digging around.
Fig trees LOVE limestone for it’s slow release properties. Readers recommend that you use a soil pH tester like the one mentioned in item number 6 of Outside Living.
Let the potted tree grow and water often. Don’t prune it because the sap is sweet. It attracts flies, other insects and fungus. However, if branches grow up from the bottom of the trunk, clip them off. The objective is to train it to grow with one trunk. There is a substance that you can get for sealing off the wood when you prune during the growing season, but I’ve never used it before.
In the Fall, the leaves will naturally fall off. Once they have fallen, move the potted tree into a cool dark place to store over the winter. Following this step ensures a good fig harvest the next season. If you store the tree in a warm dark place, it might not grow figs next year. I used an attached garage because it remained cold, but not freezing.
At the start of the month of March, prune the branches back to a manageable size. By this time, the sap has fallen to the base of the tree. Rule of thumb, only prune a maximum of 1/3 of the tree. Pruning will also allow the tree to grow even more figs the next season.
During the winter, give the potted tree about a cup of water once a month to keep it alive.
As soon as you see leaves begin to emerge from the branches, move it outside and then give it water (just enough until you see water run out the bottom). A great way to test it to see if it has enough moisture is to take a dry stick (I use a short wooden skewer) and slip it as deep as you can into the soil for a few minutes. Pull it out and if the stick is dry, add water. It’s sort of like checking the oil in your car engine with the dip stick. Your tree is like a fig producing engine.
Once every 2-3 years, prune the roots. If you use a humus-based medium, you will also need to change the soil otherwise the roots will use up all the space and nutrients in the pot. If you used the conifer bark-based grow medium mix that I’ve mentioned in this blog, then you can wait until the next time you prune the roots to change the soil. Apartment residents can do this in the bathtub (or shower). Just line the inside of the tub with a plastic drop cloth. If the plastic keeps falling down at the sides, just tape it against the tiles.
City dwellers can give the soil back to the Earth by discarding it in your nearby park or communal garden. Of course, you can send it to the trash as well. Then the soil goes to a landfill and doesn’t hurt the trash there. Click here for a tutorial on pruning your roots.
Just a reminder. I highly recommend that you buy my favorite nursery pots. I have personally used these and I know you’ll be pleased with them as well.