coldest winter in record...dead figs?

eciton(zone 7)March 9, 2014

How do we tell if the in ground figs ate it this winter? We have several hardy Chicago, sals black? And a couple unknown white fig varieties. Vary from 1 yr to 3 yes old. Any exposed branches snap off like dry twigs but are green inside. A couple tiny ones had turned black and shriveled up but that was not common.

Just wondering if there's any way to tell if they will come back, hate to lose 14 fig trees. We' ve never had winters this cold (down to 0 several days)

I know I can just wait and see but you know...

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I live in NYC, Zone 7-b, and I have been growing figs since 2007, in large, 18-gallon containers. This was the worst winter in my recent memory, as far as the freezing, dry winds, and very low temperatures. Too cold, too quickly, too early, and, for too long.

I have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that most, if not all, my figs trees have been killed. Why? I'm starting to see the tell-tale signs of freeze-burn on the exposed branches, along with the rusty coloration that twigs get when they are dead. In the past the bark along the twigs remained a dark grey and had a greenish undertone when wet. Not so this year. The branches and buds look dry, and very crispy. The bark layer also looks a little wrinkled, and when scratched, the green looks pale and not very juicy. Not good signs.

I usually store my trees in an unheated shed, but this year, I got caught sleeping, and the trees froze solid before they had a chance to really harden-off before I got them in the shed. Too little, too late. I think my trees got freeze-burned way back in December-'13. The rest of the winter that followed, sealed the deal.

The next few weeks will tell the rest of the story. I have a feeling I will be shopping for new trees. Maybe if I'm lucky, some new growth may sprout from the roots.

Few, if any, of the in ground fig trees growing in The Bronx are protected. Only a few are covered. Most are quite large and have been growing for years. I will have to take a look and see what winter damages these trees have suffered, after the weather warms up.

Containerized, and young trees will suffer the most damages.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 1:39PM
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eciton(zone 7)

Anyone else? My Chicago hardy figs look dead to the ground, where I have pruned back there has been no sap glow or latex ooze. I see that perhaps there are some tiny shoots that were buried that still seem supple. So I'm hopeful.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 7:15PM
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Yes This Winter ,killed most wood above ground on fig trees ,in zone 7,6 and colder.
However the wood under ground is alive and well..
When new trunks start growing,keep only three for every plant and eliminate the rest,in order to ripe fruits this year.
You will have 20 + new trunks,but if you live them to grow the fruits will not ripe till Winter come.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 9:12PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Thank you for the information!

I have two supposed-Black Missions which I purchased at Lowe's in 2009 (someone here said Lowe's was selling hybrids that year rather than true Black Missions, and that seems likely, but the fruit are more than satisfactory).

I planted them on the east side of the house (south isn't possible), 4' from the relatively warm walk-out basement so they'd get a bit of warmth, and have had essentially no wood loss in prior winters. In fact, last summer I described these figs as "trying to eat the house" (as well as the flower bed which has grown around them), and was lamenting that I hadn't pruned them much smaller the previous year.

This year the wood I tried pruning doesn't seem right. It's drier than it should be and a bit too brittle.

I don't record temperatures. This area is hilly and weather varies wildly depending on elevation and nature's whim. However, the closest Weather Underground amateur weather station (just under 2 miles away, also 7a, and with an elevation only 30' above me) says our low was -2* F.

Ah well....

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 10:27AM
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I had a fig tree in my unheated greenhouse which I planted out a bit too soon this year. I just got a green bud from it today even though I was almost sure the top was killed.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 9:52PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

All of my mature in-ground figs look like they will die back either to the ground or not far from it. They should grow back from the roots.

What bothers me is not this dieback on the older figs but my baby figs. I put in some new ones last summer and I usually cover them for their first winter but got complacent after so many mild fig winters in a row. They are probably toast.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 10:01PM
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eciton(zone 7)

Well. Good news is I see some new green buds forming at the base of all the older trees. Some small Chicago hardy show nothing yet but I'm hopeful. Question, how far do I prune back the dead wood? Ground level, below ground level, inches above it? Some show dead wood and bark flaking off very close to the ground and I was concerned about burying that portion and encouraging rot of the tree. Thanks to all!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 6:08PM
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It was a pretty cold winder here in North Carolina as well. My brown turkey fig which is in the ground is already budding out.
My mission fig and another unknown variety which are in pots aren't doing much of anything. If i scratch the main stem, I am able to see some juicy green tissue. Does that mean these figs weren't killed to the ground?


    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 7:50PM
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My seven-year old fig doesn't look good. It has no buds and is oozing sap. It is planted on the southern side of the house. Should I prune now or just wait?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 10:47PM
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The fig tree I was sure was top killed started putting buds out at the base within an inch of the soil line and now is budding 6 or 7 inches above the soil line. I hope it keeps working its way up the trunk.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 4:44AM
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you should give it some time. It may come back as a new shoot (or several) from the roots, or a low bud on the trunk as in the post above. If there is some obvious brittle dead wood at the top it won't hurt to prune that off, but dont be in a hurry to remove it, they can take some months to regrow.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 9:20AM
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Concerned about my fig as well--it is a massive, old tree, and by this time last year it was covered with leaves. Bark scratch reveals pale green, but so far no buds. Trying to remain calm while I watch and wait to see if it'll come alive...

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 11:28AM
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A dozen of my trees that,were killed to soil line,this past Winter,despite ,Winter protection,have incipient buds growing at base.
However,older trees that were left without Winter protection,have no new buds yet.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 12:25PM
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eciton(zone 7)

So if killed to the ground where do you prune to? Ground level, above, below? Thanks

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 10:02AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Pruning is aesthetics more than anything, the wood is dead. The closer to the ground is best but don't damage the living shoots. First thing is wait a long time to make sure you are not cutting off live wood. Then I do a cut at 2' or so just to clear out the bulk of the wood. Later I come back and cut to the ground.

So far the highest shoot on any of my figs is coming from about an inch off the ground. All the big ones are looking alive at least, the roots look very healthy. Even some of the ones I added last year may end up making it, their roots are looking good now.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 10:11AM
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If you will pour water over the trunk, the live part will look "greenish" and the dead part will still look about like it did when it was dry. Just because it does not show sap yet does not mean it is dead.

I removed 18 inches off my Hardy Chicago two weeks ago. The wood looked pretty bad on the inside, but showed up greenish in my water test. I made it into cuttings and put them sideways in pots and covered them with 1 in. of potting soil. One of the cuttings is already sprouting a leaf through the soil.

Figs are tough. Unless the bark is split, peeling and brown even when wet, the chances are still good that the wood is alive.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 8:06PM
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Green when wet definitely means alive, but my hardy chicago was brown when wet and still pushed some buds. I did think it was killed but I am glad I waited.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 6:58PM
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Sorry to hear that you may have lost some trees this winter Herman and Frank and others.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 6:26AM
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zone 7 richmond..I have either a celeste or black mission fig. it's been in the ground for 3 years now. And there's no sign of life. The trunk is 3- 4 inches thick so it's a good size tree. it's sent a shoot from bottom that's budding but the rest of the tree look dead. Is there any hope that the tree might still come back?

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 11:53AM
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ahgrower Horne

Purilisa & others, I have the same problem too. I am in the metro atlanta area and it looks like my figs have zoned out this year. I am so hopeful that they recover and re-grow from the lower limbs but I was sure looking forward to eating my own figs this summer!!! I HATE HATE HATE the idea of having to buy figs from the grocery stores when I have gotten use to eating my own! Schucks, there is no comparison! .I have 3 brown turkeys, and one celeste and they too, have been in the ground about 3 years going on 4 and now this: the coldest recorded winter in georgia in a very long time. I covered up all my fruit trees but I forgot all about my figs...I sure hope and pray that all of you and myself will see our beloved figs recover as they will teach us a very profound lesson about leaving them out when it is time to protect them, guess I will be purchasing another one to add to the collection so I can at least hope to get something off my own tree to eat this year...

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 1:45PM
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Tacoma Violet is the first mature fig,left without protection,to show a couple of green buds at base today.
I am sure others are alive but they will be late to fruit if they do not start growing,soon.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 11:37AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I have two of my six large figs showing growth at the base now. I expect they will all eventually sprout, but it could take a long time.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 3:59PM
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eciton(zone 7)

out of the 14 figs I have inground split between some unknown green (white?) figs, chicago hardy, "sals black", "brooklyn brown", and another unknown brown fig I have found green buds on all.

they are small buds, and only at the base to 4'' high so far but green is beginning to show.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 8:25PM
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Thanks to all for a wide array of advice and observations about the impact of this rough winter on our figs. My tree has 4 large trunks, 3-4" in diameter, from the ground. All appear to be dead, except for green bark on one side of two of the limbs, but it only goes up about 12" off the ground. The local nursery advised cutting all the dead trunks about 2" below the highest extent of green bark. That would remove the tree's attempt to recover the dead areas and divert energy to new growth instead. Like many of you, I see small fig leave sprouts popping up from the ground in and around the 4 trucks, but there's absolutely no activity on any of the trunks themselves, even in the small green bark area. So what do I do - cut them off as suggested by the nursery? I'd like to hear from someone else how is trying this approach and get some feedback. Many thanks. Bill and Cath in Fairfax, VA.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 2:35PM
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My advice is wait a little longer. I live in Atlanta, so we're a few weeks ahead of you. I thought one large branch on my fig had not made the winter, but in the last week it has started budding-even on the ends! I have full leaves on the other branches, and was just about to lop it off, so be patient-you may luck out as well!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 2:42PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Wetting the trunks did not show any green, alas.

But Sunday I could see two sprouts (1" and 1 1/2") from below the southern fig! And Tuesday a small sprout on the other! [All three sprouts were on the side of the trunk which faced the walk-out basement.]

Meanwhile I had purchased a small Chicago Hardy at our local garden show, which I will plant in a different location.

This post was edited by missingtheobvious on Wed, May 28, 14 at 21:55

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 9:29AM
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Our fig tree, at least the larger branches, are not showing any buds as of yet, in Delaware. But throughout the base of the tree we have numerous new growth.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 9:08PM
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wertach zone 7-B SC

We had temps of 0 degrees for the first time in my lifetime here this winter.

My 40+ year old brown turkey is slowly putting leaves and buds out. Normally I would have figs from last years wood and it would be full of leaves!

A 4 year old tree is dead and no signs of sprouting from the roots, I think it is a goner.

I only use my well for watering the garden. When I turned it on last month.... I found busted pipes even with insulation and heat trace, which was still warm. Bummer, but fixed now.

We had a very late frost and I lost all of my peaches, cherries, and nectarines too!

Edited to correct, A grafted apple tree is dead also, not a fig tree.

This post was edited by wertach on Tue, Jun 3, 14 at 14:07

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 2:02PM
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i have a fig tree that is 12 years old and we lost it this winter. It was huge and beared many many figs twice a year. I cried. We cut it back to the ground. It was south facing and 1 1/2 stories tall and very wide. Some of the stems I planted in our flower garden to see if they would take. I am thrilled that there are shoots coming from the base of the the fig tree we left. Seven that I have counted so far. They are little but growing. The fig tree was dead, Really, really dead. The branches just broke off and were black and the huge stumps were not producing any sap. This is the first time we cut the fig tree. The fig tree was given to us by people who are gone now and we can not replace them. This winter we had ice storms and it was so cold. We live in Maryland and we are not the only people who lost our fig trees. Our fig tree produced so many figs that I was giving them away. I will be more diligent in covering them with garden cover and leaves this winter even though they are true south facing and next to our house by our sun room. It will take many years to get to where they were.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 4:58AM
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I had thought my 3 yr old fig was gone, but it didn't. The upper branches are slowly putting out new leaves....very late in the season but it's alive.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 10:09PM
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