Chicago hardy fig tree - Is this container too big?

bedtimeApril 27, 2013

I purchased a 2 gallon chicago hardy fig tree. It measured 34" in the original container (measured from tip to bottom of the container). It was pot bound with massive roots coming out all holes so I repotted it in this terra cotta container that measures 16" diagonal. The mix is 1:1 potting soil and perlite.

Is this container too big? How long before growth usually starts?

Anyways I'm new to figs.

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The container looks big for the fig tree!
I would add a "The Plant Caddy":
so it will be much easier (better for the back) to move this pot and
easier to clean the area around the pot!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 4:37PM
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Thanx for the link. Right now carrying it around is not a bother so I'm okay.

So the pot is too big? I'll see about getting one that is abit smaller then. Is there any way to speed up budding?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 5:53PM
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You don't need to change the pot.

Your fig is growing like a whip. You need it to branch out at this stage. To make it branch out you need to prune off the top (between 4 to 6 top nodes). You can use the cutting to root and have one additional plant.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 11:59PM
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I forgot to post my zone but I'm in Canada too. :)

As for the whip like growth, I actually prefer it. my plan is to make this a decently tall tree, about 6 - 7 feet. I'd rather have the growth be in the height instead but I'm new and I don't know if this is possible. Will there be any consequences to doing this, such as decreased crop...

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 9:04AM
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soaht(Central CA 9B)

In a way yes, less branch= less crop produce. Some fig variety will only produce on the old branch/old wood of last year's growth(breba crop). Because it needs a pollinator, the fig wasp which is native to the middle east to pollinate the second crop(main crop) on the new groth. Some have been import to California tho. I doubt you have any in the cold north of Canada up there. Some will produce both a breba and main crop which will be produce on the new growth. These are self fertile variety fig trees so they don't need a fig wasp to pollinate and produce figs. But if your fig produce on the new growth, then you don't have to worry about anything, except pruning. More branch does= to more fruit produce tho whether it's a breba only or both a main and breba fig.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 4:12PM
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Thanx. This fig tree will produce 2 crops in one year. It is also self-pollinating. I guess I'll just leave it as is for now.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 4:31PM
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A height of 6 to 7 feet is good for a fig plant in ground. But a 7 ft tall tree in pot branched at the top will be problematic from stability point of view and more so on windy days.

Fruit accessibility, pinching the branches for fruit production etc will require a step ladder etc.

A good form wil be a trunk with a number of branchess placed at different heights of the trunks.

Also remember, brebas are produced on previous year wood and the main (2nd) crop on the current year wood. So, to keep the plant shape you will need some pruning of branches rather than extention of the branch every year with fruits at the far end as you see when tree is left un-pruned.

The other way is to learn by experience by letting it grow and see what you like and don't like and make changes accordingly.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 2:24AM
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You're right, 6 or 7 feet may be abit high and there are often very high winds on the balcony this high up (10 floors). I'd like the tree to be at least 3.5 feet (where the first branching is, the top would be higher of course) so it can clear the balcony railing and get full unimpeded sun. Also, when the plant goes indoors again for the winter I'd like it to be high enough to reach the window to get sun. I could easily put it on top of something to raise it but my plan is to have some other plants underneith it and generally I just like the idea of a tall tree.

I could support it with a stake if that would help. I don't care about the figs at all btw, and will be pruning them as soon as I see them. I'm only growing this for fig leaf tea. I'm a big tea lover. My citrus is the same way; just for the leaves to make tea. The citrus is about 3.5 feet up at the first branch and it's just perfect for me. That's what I'd for the fig. And it's a big aesthetic thing for me as well.

My hope is that if I start it on the balcony and keep it on the balcony during its stages of infant leaf growth it'll adapt well to the wind. I could easily put the fig beside a wall that would help to block about 80% of the wind if need be.

Sorry to run on.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 12:00PM
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It says that the Chicago hardy fig is Zone5 plant. Anyone in Zone5 has experiences with growing it in ground?

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 1:28PM
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I've looked around and it seems that even 6a areas are very tough to over-winter a mature fig in. My fig says, 'zone 6a'.

Here's the tree update. Its budding:

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 8:52AM
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GuoGuo: I live in Toronto, Canada and I put my fig tree which
was indoored for more than 5 years into the ground last September. I do not know what type of fig tree it is but it has green fig fruits.

I am sure I gave my fig tree enough insulation but the branches
have died. The base of the tree looks fine. As the tree hasn't leaf out yet, I just hope my tree lives! It is heartbreaking when I saw the branches wilted. The branches were killed by molds.
I think my mistake was that I DID NOT keep the fig tree DRY ENOUGH!

It is tricky to keep the fig tree warm enough and not cook the tree that can cause mold to kill the tree. I've found it is a challenge to winterize a fig tree when the weather is not stable.

I am wondering if I should plant a Hardy Chicago because I've heard this fig always growss back even if there is a dieback!

Here 1 website for you:

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 1:01PM
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Glad to see your fig tree budding. I am in zone 5 and my fig tree is still sleeping.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 1:49PM
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Hi fignewbies,

Thank you for sharing your experience. I live in GTA and just got my first fig "Black Jack" this spring. I think you'd better change your ID since you already have a fig tree for more than five years.:)

It's so sad to hear about your fig's situation. I believe she can feel your feeling and will come back soon.

Hardy Chicago sounds great for the cold weather. I may try it next time if I can harvest from my "Black Jack".

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 2:07PM
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lukeott(7 south jersey)

Bedtime, Do a search on air layer. I would start an air layer on the top of your single branch. This way you will get two things to happen. One, you make another plant for you or a gift to a friend. Two, if will make the tree branch out as ottawan says. It is important for your tree to do this. Also do a search of a technique called pinching. In your zone, you will need to learn this. Your season is shorter and if you don't pinch your tree will waste a lot of energy on figs that will never ripen. It is a good idea to ask questions to these growers in your area because they know the time frame of harvest. The pot looks perfect.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 7:30PM
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I'd rather not have it branch this low if possible. I'd like to grow this so that the lowest branch is about 3.5 feet up. I'll just be using the leaves and I'm not concerned about the figs so I'll look up pinching as you recommended. I just want to make fig leaf tea with the leaves so as you say, dedicate all the trees resources to doing that.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 9:31AM
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GuoGuo, thanks for your kind words. My little fig tree is
showing some very small buds. It has reduced to about 1 foot
from the ground because of the molds. Well, at least it LIVES!

Just curious, where did you get your "Black Jack" from?
How tall is your tree and is it in the ground? You may have to wait for a while to get fig fruits if your tree is too small!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 12:10PM
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Hi Fignewbies:

Here's two sources online selling "Black Jack", though the first one is only selling very large/expensive ones:



    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 3:57PM
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Hi, agberg:

Thanks for your info!
After almost 3 weeks time and with a 3 days of rains in Toronto, the longest bud on my little fig tree is close to 1 1/2 inches long with cute infant leaves on it. There are also some small buds on the branches.
It is just amazing how fast a fig tree can grow.
The infant leaves look so lush and green as jade colour.
It is such a joy in looking at the buds!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 8:28AM
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I could never understand the dilemma of potting up in too big of a pot, wouldn't it be the same as planting a fig tree in-ground?

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 9:40AM
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The problem with too-large pots is that they tend to hold water too long. The ground essentially has the worlds largest wick keeping it from staying too waterlogged.

Container culture is very different from growing in the ground.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 8:28AM
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I agree with JoppaRich said that "Container culture is very different from growing in the ground".

When my fig tree was in a container, the leaves on it were not so nice. The leaves were almost like paper thin. I did not give enough water and fertiziler. At that time, I had no idea how to plant fig properly until I've found this forum.

The fig was moved to the ground last September and after that
it is as if it has a new lease on life. Now the leaves are so lush, thick and velvety, I just love touching the leaves!

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 11:52AM
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Just for those curious, this is the tree 30 days later. I have a branch near the top strapped to the trunk, and going straight up, so as to become a new main branch/trunk for the tree. The main trunk seems to have stopped growing and there has only been laterial growth.

Overall looks great to me. No signs of figs but I'll be pruning any figs as soon as I see them. So far 30 leaves on this tree.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 12:18PM
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Hi, bedtime:

Wow! Your previously bare Chicago hardy fig is growing pretty fast for just 1 month. My in-ground (possible a Kadota type) fig tree has only 3 inches of growth on the longest new growths in comparision.

Your tree sure looks healthy and beautiful!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 12:55PM
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I got my tree from the nursary and brought it home and kept it inside in the warm house. I think this helped the tree to come out of dormancy more quickly. Two weeks later went to the nursary where the figs were all outside still. I saw that they had only about a quarter of the growth as mine did. I think due to bringing it indoors. I also brought it outdoors when temperatures went above 14C and back indoors when temps went below 12C.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 4:41PM
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After growing a fig tree, I feel more that I have become a weather person (without pay)! But I enjoy the company of my little fig tree so much that it is not a bother (checking the temperature to ensure tree care) at all!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 12:03AM
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Steve, Z (6Bground,5B roof) Cincy,OH

My hardy chicago fig tree out grew its 5 gallon bucket and graduated magna cumladi to a 55 gallon half drum. The roots will fill it in one summer.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 12:37PM
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@ bedtime:
Glad to see that you getting some good results with your fig tree. I have been growing containerized figs since 2007, and while very rewarding, it's a lot of work if you want to do it right. Once you figure out what to do, it becomes easy, and less labor intensive.

First....the decorative flower pot is too small. Look at the picture of the tree planted in a half a barrel. That's a good size container. Your whip/tree should've gone into a 18-25 gallon container with a mix that drains quickly. That small pot will be filled with roots very quickly, and if the tree gets pot-bound, the growth will stop, and the tree will suffer. It will then need to be re-potted into a larger container. Try using a big, 18-gallon storage tub, and drill/melt holes in the bottom sides for drainage. Also buy a cheap dolly, and put the container/tree combination on the dolly and roll the tree in and out of your house. When the container- (after a few years) - fills with roots, you must trim them to revitalize the old root system and encourage new feeder roots to sprout. You can also replace the old mix with new mix at the same time. This must be done for containerized fig trees every 3-5 years, or trees will eventually fail. Containerized trees must also have high quality fertilizers that contain all the needed trace elements, etc. YOU must provide everything the tree needs. Try Hydroponic Supplies for good nutrient supplements. Espoma makes very good organic fertilizers. I use Espoma Iron-Tone, and get great results. The added iron helps. Dilute any chemical fertilizes that you use.

Potting soils are loaded with small particles that retain too much moisture and not enough oxygen. Roots die off when water and oxygen stagnates, turning the heavy mixes sour. Try the standard 5:1:1 mix and add a cup of Granular Limestone to the mix. Figs hate acidic mixes, and will start to look sickly if mix becomes acidic. Fertilizers also cause mixes to go acidic, and the Granular Limestone counteracts that tendency.

Keep the top in full sun, and if possible shade the container to keep the root zone as cool as possible. Growing a tree on a balcony is fine but the quality of light, if not exposed to direct sunlight, is far less than growing the tree under the open sky. Give the tree as much sun as possible to avoid weak growth. I see your tree is starting to branch. Decide the final height of the branches and pinch back new growth to keep the branches within the limits that you set. Pinching will also encourage new branches to sprout out of dormant buds and you will then have more fruiting branches that will give you more figs.

Your tree is now in the process of being trained into a standard, tree form, and will require some help. Just pinch back and prune away any unnecessary growth. Remember the more growth/branches, the more figs. If branches sprout and grow where not needed, wait for them to give you figs, then, cut and root them.

Keep your containerized fig from freezing solid, and if you bring it indoors for the winter, give it all the sun you can if it has leaves. Take you cues from the plant. I over-winter my trees in an unheated, storage shed, and in your climate zone, I would try to keep the tree dormant as long as possible until the warmer, spring weather will support new growth.

Do some searches on this forum regarding over-wintering containerized fig trees. Growing figs in containers is the easy part. Keeping them alive from year to year, in cold climates is the challenge. Others have done it, and so can you.

Good luck. Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 7:45AM
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