Fig Trees just planting anything special on care?

az-kiknMarch 31, 2010

I just got two black mission fig trees from hd and a pomegranate (bush/tree?) Is there any special care I should give them to get them through the summer? Any special feeding instructions? It says not to feed it during the summer??? I want the shade. Should I top it at any time to make it branch out? Any skills on growing them I should know? I have never grown a fig tree before and do not know anything about them other than I love how beautiful a grown tree is.

Thanks for any help.

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wow, why would you want 2 black mission fig trees? I'd get one of some other variety to... um have some variety. There are hundreds of varieties to pick from.
Anyway. I have 2 fig trees and they're not hard to take care of in my opinion.
Definitelly do not feed them the first year, at least nothing heavy. Water them maybe once a week, nice and deep (don't do a little bit every day, but a good deep soaking less often).
My Black mission fig is only 30 inches tall and last year it fruited after being in the ground only a few months. I also have a Brown Turkey fig and it got chewed by my dog and now it's only 12 inches tall but has fruit.
I read somewhere that you shouldn't let the soil under a fig tree totally dry out the first year. I don't know if that's true, but I didn't water mine that often all through the summer and it's ok.
There really isn't all that much you have to worry with them. In my opinion they're way easier to take care of than citrus.
Oh and if you have exposed bark, you might want to wrap it up or shade it or paint it until that tree branches out properly and the leaves shade the trunk.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2010 at 3:40PM
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az-kikn I have over 80 fruit trees, 23 of which are mature fig trees along with a bunch of cuttings going. You did not say if the tree is bare root or potted or what size the tree is? You also did not say what kind of soil you have or how much sun or shade it will receive where you plan on planting it. If this tree had been planted in the ground in the Oct-Feb 15th time frame it would have nice deep roots sucking up cool water to get it through the summer heat. Trees planted this time of year often need more care and you may need to take some precautions. A lot depends on the size of the tree and if it is potted and the size of the pot or if its bare root or it its planted in full sun or part shade.
If you are in an area with lots of small rocks where the water drains right through you will have different watering requirements than if planting in heavy clay. This is not a one answer fists all situations type of thing. So give me some information and I will do may best to give you the information you need so you don't end up with a dead tree.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2010 at 6:44PM
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Thisisme...dead fig tree? I highly doubt it. They just don't die that easy. I transplanted them even in April-May and some were not in the best shape and they're thriving.

One thing I've done recently is put a piece of carpet upside down around it to act as mulch and preserve some moisture, although I did that after they've been in the ground for a while, and my soil is really nasty clay.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2010 at 7:33PM
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greendesert really nasty clay holds lots of water. We have no clay in the soil here. Where I'm at our soil is pulverized granite from ancient pyroclastic flows. Water flows through easier than sand. I have been here 10 years and some years we gradually warm up and some years we get incredibly hot early. Depending on soil conditions and whether or not you mulch trees in full sun can and do die, even fig trees.
I try not to make any assumptions that will kill someone else's trees. I don't assume they have the same soil conditions I do. I don't assume it will not suddenly get very hot. I don't assume they will mulch so I let them know they should. Bare root trees tend to die more frequently than potted trees when planted late. If you were to check with your county extension they would tell you its best to plant before the end of February to allow the trees time to get established before the heat of summer. Greenfield Citrus Nursery says the same thing in their planting instructions. I'm not just pulling this out of my hat and their trees are sold in pots.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2010 at 9:50PM
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Maybe it would be better if I kept them in the 10 gallon black pot until next year and plant them in cooler weather. They are around 6 feet tall in 10 gallon black plastic pots. My soil has not been worked with at all so it is regular AZ dirt. I will have to mix a lot with the soil. Mulch, Peat, etc. It is in the afternoon sun where it will get around 6 or more hours of sun. My house is facing east in Phoenix. I want to plant one in the front East side and one in the back West side. I also have apricot and peach trees that I will be planting. I got a navel orange that I will planting in the back also. Any information is appreciated even if it means I should wait to plant at a better time. THanks

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 4:32PM
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Hi az-kikn if they are that large and in pots with an established root system they should do fine planted now. Some of our soil is very hard here. Depending on where you live it may be hard to dig in.

Your trees should be planted at the same depth they are planted in the pot. Dig a hole roughly 2" deeper and 2-3 times as wide as the pot. Back fill the hole with a little of the soil that came out the hole so it will be able to be planted at the appropriate depth. Before planting fill the hole with water. Allow the water to drain. If it takes longer than 4hrs for the hole to drain you may need to amend the soil or be forced to plant in a raised bed. However if the soil drains well place the tree in the hole. Back fill with native soil and continue to add water as you fill the hole.
Don't leave the tree sitting out of its pot in the sun while you dig. Remove the tree after the water has drained and you are ready to plant. Try not to leave the roots exposed to air and sun for more than 5mins. Don't let the roots dry out during the 1st two weeks. In most cases watering every other day will be enough. Arizona soil tends to be low in Nitrogen so you will need to fertilize. I fertilize with Osmocote granulated Citrus fertilizer and to prevent the growth of weeds and help retain moisture I add a 3-4" layer pathway bark in a 2' circle around the tree which is about $ 4.50 a bag at Home Depot.

The afternoon sun is the worst here. However once established most trees can take full sun. Figs and most Citrus handle full sun very well.

The Arizona Mater Gardener program says the best time for planting ended January 30th. In the link below it says basically you have a lower chance of success if you plant after January 30th. Even so your trees have a good chance of making it and they will be better off in the ground than in the pots in our summer heat if you plant right away.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 10:13PM
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Thank you very much I am going to plant the fig trees tomorrow I already planted a naval orange, a pomegranate, and my birds of paradise. Thanks I will let you know how it grows. I really need a carib tree but can not find them. My best trees I have are ones that I received from someone on this website. They gave me little little baby twig trees and they are huge after 3 years. How do you put pictures on here so I can put pics of flowers I want to know what they are. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 7:38PM
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Get a free membership at then upload your photo's. Click on and highlight the box that is to the right of the words "HTML Code" and copy and paste the code into you post and we will all be able to see the photo. You don't need a new post for each photo. Paste as many as you like in one post.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 11:18PM
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Thanks I will have to put pictures of my trees a year from now. Thanks again for your information also. Trees are addicting I just bought another naval orange so I have two
different kinds now. My little peach tree has 2 peaches on it. It is only 4 to 5 feet tall and small. I am also growing vegetables. My pink banana squash just came up. I grow a lot of different things. Nothing more relaxing than playing with dirt.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 11:09PM
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Basic new transplant care for the Phoenix area: You want to water wide and deep because roots follow water.

Make a wide, shallow saucer by piling a rim of dirt around the plant about 3 feet out from the trunk.

1 - When you water the tree, slowly trickle water into the basin until it's full.

2 - Water every third day for the first couple of weeks, then twice a week during the hot season (May-September) once a month after that as long as it has leaves ... pamper it through its first season in the ground and you will have a well-established tree.

3 - The second year, soak it well every other week.

Third year it should be established and getting soaked once a month or so. The critical soaking is right at the start of the June heat.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 8:26AM
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Actually the AZ Master Gardener Program and the Maricopa County Extension service do not recommend making a wide shallow saucer around a tree. That is old school and was found to promote both root and graft diseases. Follow my instructions or the more complete version in the AZ Master Gardener link I previously provided.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 9:36AM
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The water soaked in to the dirt within an exceptional time limit. I am very pleased about that. I am going to different websites to check the information on my trees and to see what trees we are still allowed to plant here in the phoenix area. I am also taking pictures and going to try to put them on here. Transplanting some vegetable plants today to share. Thanks again for information. I will be using it.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 3:44PM
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Happy gardening. Can't wait to see the pictures.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 6:19PM
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thisisme ... call it a dike, then. it's a temporary dam so you can apply a lot of water at the root area without it running all over the place.

Plant tree according to AZ master gardener/DBG practices (shallow hole, wide hole, with the trunk flare at or barely above the soil line).

Go out 3 feet from the trunk and make a small circular dam of dirt - just a couple of inches high - around the tree so when you water the tree the water can be held where it will do the most good.

In a year or two, you can rake the dam down.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 10:38AM
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Hi lazygardens, you hit upon the one other reason in which it is considered to be detrimental to use a basin/saucer/dike type planting.

I realize we you are not talking about creating a "shallow saucer" as you stated in your previous post. However I would like to explain one other reason why such an approach has been discouraged that I failed to cover in my previous post.

Roots do not seek water. They are attracted to water/moisture/humidity and grow roots where water is most easily available.

As stated above roots are attracted to moisture/water/humidity. If plenty of water is present the roots will grow where its at. In this case in and around the 3 ring instead of sending our feeder roots into lesser sources of moisture in the surrounding soil.

Let me illustrate the problem. Long ago gardeners were told a basin/saucer/dike type planting was a good way to go for what seemed like many obvious reasons. The tree thrived and all seemed well. Then came drought situations in California and home owners where told to stop watering their yards and trees. As a result in short order long established trees with a basin/saucer/dike type planting quickly died. Often within 1-2 weeks which surprised everyone. At the same time it was observed that trees without this type of planting continued to live and thrive.
When the trees were replaced it was found that the trees with a basin/saucer/dike planting had much smaller root systems that were confined to small areas around the basin. When water delivery was interrupted to this small area the mature trees were unable to grow roots quickly enough to sustain them and they died. Mature fruit trees should have wide ranging root systems that reach out 20-45Â in all directions depending on rootstock.

Left on their own feeder roots grow/spread out much more quickly than many may think. The feeder roots of a small tree planted in the ground should outgrow a 3Â ring rather quickly. Something like 1-3 months not 1-3 years. If someone wants to use a dike as you suggest thatÂs up to them. If there is no chance the water supply will ever be interrupted it may not end the life of the trees. However I would not use a basin a saucer or a dike out of concern for how it will affect root development. Especially since the current recommendation of how to plant and the use of mulch has proven to be very effective in the establishment of trees even in our inhospitable environment.

On a side note my brother lost 8 trees in Southern Ca do to this very issue in the 1970Âs. I had a role in planting them and digging them out. It was shocking how small the root systems were on the 4 year old trees we pulled out.

The links below are of two videos posts by a UC Davis Professor well respected author and Master Gardener. In it he covers this subject and many more and I highly recommend them.

The Home Orchard Part 1

The Home Orchard Part 2

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 12:16PM
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I am not describing a system that is intended to last until the tree is adult - this is something to make it easy for the homeowner to apply lots of water to a baby tree and give the roots a decent-sized volume of nice wet dirt to move into. Then the summer rains, winter rains, neighbor's overwatering, etc. can take over.

I recommend that people plant 5-gallon trees because they are easier for novice gardeners to establish. If someone wants a 48" boxed ironwood, the care instructions are going to be seriously different.

I've seen "flower-potted" mesquites where the drip system was never moved away from the original tiny area - they blow over real easy.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 10:58PM
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aikanae(z9b AZ)

My first fig tree that I planted died in apx 3 years. What I think happened is that I planted it too deep by covering the base where the roots and trunk meet. That's the way the tree was planted in the pot. Since then I've learned to plant a little shallower, leaving a tiny bit of root exposed (I've observed when some trees are first planted, they are actively establishing their root systems first. Vigorous visible growth on top is secondary. A lot of nurseries reverse that order to produce plants for "show" and the roots may already be stressed due to too much foliage without enough roots. The tree may need time to recover.

A basin system of watering, even temporarily, could keep their root system restricted to a small area, forcing top growth, when the tree really needs to spend it's energy establishing roots wide and deep to survive the coming summer. That's not as important when I plant earlier in the year. But I've had to learn patience with trees (ouch). The second year's growth will more than make up for waiting because of the healthier, well-established root system - and the tree will now out live me. Anyway, I have veggies and annuals for immediate results.

Just my thoughts.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 3:12PM
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Lazygardens first let me apologize for coming down on you so hard. Your first post on the subject got be off track a little.

I think what you are saying has some merit and may be worth doing during the first three months give or take after a tree is planted in the ground. After the new feeder roots get going though I would remove the dike given what we know about how trees respond to this kind of watering long term.

People are promoting basin and dike planting anew on sites dedicated to water conservation. The concept is not new. It was done for a looong looong time and no one new it could be problem until we ran into drought and saw the affects. Some people back east never got the message as they almost never have the kind of conditions we grow in. With all the stuff posted by AZ Master gardeners and UC Davis and others who say it should not be done. There are still others who come here and don't know. There is one link that is from a site here in AZ that still says its a good thing to do. Only one though and like I said its the old way as we know better now but old was die hard.

I'm not knocking it though for very short term use. In fact if we were in a drought and water use was drastically cut. I would cut back in ground trees and add a dike and mulch them well as it might be the best (yes I said best) way to save them. Then again that would assume we were still able to water them but under those circumstances I would.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 1:03PM
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I live in Chandler AZ and dug my hole to plant a fig tree last night. I filled it with water to see about drainage and still have about 4 inches of water in the hole this morning! What steps should I take to make my soil suitable for the fig tree? We have caliche soil in my area! I have several mature citrus that do extremely well in this soil!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 11:02AM
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Here is my Black Mission I planted a couple of weeks ago. Still small, but so cute.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 11:22AM
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wabikeguy(7 AB)

herbmmm, I have the same problem with caliche here in Lake Havasu. I purchased a demolition hammer (it's an electric jack hammer) on line last year and broke up the claiche with that. Or you can rent one. You want to go deep and then pull up all the rocks you break up with the hammer. You may find that you are replacing a lot of dirt. My earth to rock ratio was less than 50/50 in some spots.

Ten of the fig trees I planted were all cuttings from the same local tree. I planted in February and March. The trees I planted in the ground with out breaking it up are less than a foot tall right now and just surviving.

The trees I planted after digging down nearly two feet, removing the rocks, backfilling with a compost/soil mix...are over 4 feet tall and have produced figs their very first year.

Digging that stuff up and hauling it off is a lot of work. But if you don't do it, your trees will do poorly and may even die. Especially if your test holes won't drain.

Best of luck....Dave

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 6:33PM
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wabikeguy(7 AB)

Pamperedchef, that's a beautiful tree, but if it is a black mission like say it is, expect it go grow over twenty feet high and 10-15 feet wide as it matures. I mention this because it looks awfully close to your patio. You can shape it and prune it back, but this will still be a big tree.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 6:41PM
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Wabikeguy, thank you. It is a beautiful tree isn't it? :-)Thanks for sharing the info. I don't think I need to worry too much. The slap of concrete you see is actually for a swing. If my trees grows that big it will be perfect for the swing!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 8:14PM
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I have a couple of short limbs coming from the trunk about a foot from the ground, do you think I should cut them off and have all the growth at the top of my new tree? My tree is about four foot tall.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 11:39AM
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herbmmm - what you should do if you decide to cut those lower branches off is to do an air layer before you chop them off. Make a hole in the side of a plastic pot(a galon size is good). make the hole a little bigger than the thickness of the branch. Make a slit from the hole to the top of the pot. Now you spread apart where you made the slit and slide the branch down until it goes through the hole and the top end of the branch goes up in the middle of the pot. Put the pot on something so it sits at the right height. Now you fill the pot with potting soil and pat it down to make sure there are no voids around the branch. Water well for a few weeks, then you can chop the branch at the place where it enters the pot and you have a new baby fig tree and it's already potted. Works better than trying to start cuttings.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 12:51PM
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agility_mom(z9 AZ)

I have had that happen lots of times when planting. What I do is just dig the hole deeper and try the water test again. Usually when I dig the hole deeper, I hit lots of rocks and not caliche.
If you do hit caliche, it is not always a thick layer so I would see if I could break it up.
On the other hand if you have the bad stuff like wabikeguy, I'd bring out the heavy equipment :)

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 7:57PM
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The fig tree that I just planted has 8 large figs(still green, its a Black Jack Fig Tree). My question is will these figs have time to ripen before tree goes dormant for winter? I'm in Phoenix/Chandler Az area.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 10:07AM
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I am a newbie. In Spring 2010 I planted a fig tree from Baker Nursery in Phoenix. The plant was (still is) 3 feet high) - it hasn't grown one inch in 8 months. While it still gives new leaves, the older leaves are brown, brittle, and dying. The plant had a fig already on it when I bought it, which made me think (wrongfully I suppose) that the plant was in good shape. I have fertilized very little, and the tree has sufficient water.

Was it the summer sun? Too much water, not enough water, needs fertilizing? Any thoughts are appreciated.

thank you,


    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 3:18PM
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wabikeguy(7 AB)

newuser, a couple of my fig trees are doing the same thing. Does the tree have adequate drainage? One thing I have noticed is that site prep (digging deep and removing the large rocks and breaking up caliche makes a BIG difference.

Another big issue for us here in Az is the summer heat. You want to mulch heavily (4 to six inches for a couple of feet all around the base of the tree) to protect the root zone. Keep the center of the mulched area clear of the bark for several inches, but you want to protect those roots from the summer heat.

Also...sometimes it just takes a while. If your tree is still putting out new growth (leaves), that's a good sign.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 1:38PM
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thank you wa bike guy,

drainage.. hmm.. it is in the ground and it is near a lawn patch. I dug about a foot deeper than the root, added clean soil and mulch. No rocks there. The root area can't get too hot, since the tree is north of a wall that blocks the afternoon sun, but I will add more mulch per your advice.

So a new fig tree doesn't need any fertilizing?

thanks again.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2010 at 8:16PM
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wabikeguy(7 AB)

I give my trees a shot of miricle grow once in a while...diluted to half a tablspoon in a gallon of water. The trees that seem to be doing the best were planted in half native soil (sand and rocks), and half compost, then a lot of straw on top for mulch. The straw cools the roots and breaks down to add to the compost. Also, you want to keep the roots damp the first year. The roots are shallow our sandy/rocky soil...for me...that meant watering every other day...and sometimes even every day when temps were consistantly over help them along.

If you planted them in a mulch/soil mix...depending on the composition of your mulch...that could also slow down growth untill the mulch breaks down and begins to provide nutrients.

Also...if it's not getting a lot of sunlight (you said it is on the north side of a wall)...that can slow it down till it gets high enough to get more sun. Being on the north side of a wall is not a bad thing. It's roots and lower trunk will be protected from the worst of our sun and heat. As it grows taller it will get full sun and probably take off.

And finally...after having said all of the above...a couple of my trees did the same thing their first year in the ground. I think I overfertilized them with a chemical fertilizer after transplanting, but I'm not sure. Both trees are doing better now...showing new leaves and putting on growth.

There's lots of factors that can slow growth. If it were my tree I'd probably give it a little miricle grow and keep the soil around it damp.

Sometimes you just have to give them some time.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2010 at 7:21PM
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wabikeguy(7 AB) planted it in the Spring...just before we get our real hot weather. Your new tree survived transplant shock and it's first desert summer. That's a lot in itself.

My trees seem to put on their best growth in Oct/Nov and March/April/May.

Keep the roots damp. I'll bet your tree is growwing gangbusters by April.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2010 at 7:44PM
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I need some help/advice. The only thing i have ever planted are vegetable plants. last spring a co-work gave me a fig tree cutting. Tt was about 6 inches high and had no leaves on it. i repotted it into a five gallon container and gave it a shot of MG fertilizer for tomatoes as that is the only fertilizer I had. It gree very well and i got some very small figs on it but that ws it.My friend told me to expect that and that i would get figs next year. He told me wait until the leaves fell off (I live in upstate New York and my first frost date is around Sept 15th. He said to put the container in my garage away from light which i did and to water it about once a month which i did. This spring i put the container out and gave it the same fertilizer. I am in zone 6b and my last frost date is May 15th. At first nothing seemed to happen. he advised me to check all the branches and to cut a little off the top of each one. if the wood was brown to keep cutting until i reached green which i did and all of a sudden the thing took off. It got so big that I decideed to put it into a 10 gallon container. before long the tree was filled with green figs. in all there are now about 2 and a half dozen very large figs on the plant. I checkeda few website and determined that the figs i had were called Conadria because of their light green color. I also noticed that the figs were very hard and this was now into August. I spoke with someone from Willis Oorchard who told me that the figs should ripen before my last frost date. I also found out that they grow bst in zone 8 and above.

two weeks ago I noticed two of the figs were turning a purple color. that week were were hit with heavy rains and when it stopped two of the figs were nice and soft so I picked them and they were very sweet however the rest ofthe figs are still hard and some are starting to turn purple.

Is there a chance that the figs will ripen before i get my first frost?? what type of fertilizer should I be using and how much and how often.

I know that when my tomaotes do not ripen in time i put them in a brown paper bag in a dark closet and they will turn red. Will the ame thing happen with figs??

I forgot to mention that i plantedthe tree in MG potting soil for containers.

I will be heading up to Canada tomorrow morning so if canyone can give me advice before then it would be appreciated.


    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 9:38AM
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pgde(Tucson Zone 9)

Why are you posting in the Arizona Gardening section? Arizona is much different than New York....

If you want in-depth (haha) advice on figs, you should go to the Fig Forum at or click the link below.



    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 7:58PM
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Are fig trees in Phoenix less frost sensitive than ficus?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 9:39PM
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i had no idea i wa posting in the arizona section. thanks for the link

    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 8:18AM
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