Figs water needs: thought they were a desert tree

kumquat1April 26, 2011

I have found that figs do better with watering. Had a neighbor who had a tree growing in wet sand on a lake edge. Beautiful tree. Lots of figs. Tree in a yard a block over that never gets watered -- other than rainfall -- is a pathetic mess. For a desert tree, I just don't get this.

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frozenjoe(9 Arizona)

I moved to Arizona last year. I have several fig trees in the ground here now. I've been surprised as well by how often I need to water them. My figs are still small, so maybe things will improve as they mature. But at this point in the year I have been watering them every 3rd day, otherwise they get sad and droopy in this desert heat. The only caveat is that when you do give them water in the desert weather they grow really fast.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 11:26PM
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wabikeguy(7 AB)

My newly planted trees (mission, kadota, and VDB) needed water every other day last summer when things got real hot. It takes a while for them to establish enough of a root system to survive the heat.

This year so far, it's once a week. These trees will survive and thrive where many others won't. But you do have to water them.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 12:04AM
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girlbug2(z9/10, Sunset zone 24)

Growing up with grandparents in Fresno, I had my share of Kadotas from the abandoned fig orchard across the street. Anybody who's ever visited California's Valley knows how dang hot it gets--regularly into the 100s by August--so yes, it's very desert-like. Opa told me "never" to water figs. I take it he actually meant established figs--obviously the first year, maybe two, a newly planted fig will need some kind of watering schedule. But I doubt anybody was watering those Kadotas in the abandoned orchard.

If personal experience has anything to say about it, the 6 year old Black Jack in my back yard confirms the "don't water" theory, however, my climate zone is considerably less hot than Fresno's. This type of thing may also vary a bit according to the variety of fig. Kadotas are possibly tougher than some others.

One final thought about this: after the first year of watering it regularly, I backed off the watering schedule and let the Black Jack completely alone. That summer it appeared to be dead, but I never got around to digging it up. Much to my surprise it made a huge comeback the next season. Could be that the roots were drought-trained to go deep by that first dry summer. Like any fruit tree, perhaps figs can get used to frequent shallow watering and develop shallow root systems.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 11:44AM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)


That's an interesting theory. This is an interesting thread.

I hadn't watered the large fig tree out back this year, so far and it hasn't shown any heat wilting--Yet, that is. I may let it go and see how it does this year. It will probably jettison all its figs, though. Does that whether, or not it's watered, it seems.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 2:18PM
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wabikeguy(7 AB)

I think there are a lot of factors we may not be aware of when it comes to how much to water...or if at all.

It can be hot day after day after day but if the water table is high...if the ground is usually somewhat moist five or six feet is the case in many areas of Califronia's central wouldn't need to water as much.

Where I live it is true desert. Temps over 110 day after day after day in May through September, night temps above 90. Soild conditions are rock and sand. There is no water six or seven feet below the surface, and I can assure you that failure to water a fig tree here will result in it's death in a matter of a few short months.

I live on a large city lot, and even on my small parcel...some trees, depending on their location and soil conditions and exposure require that I water more frequently than others.

As for the tree growing in damp sands next to a lake...that one should be a no brainer. Of course you wouldn't need to water.

Move that tree 100 yards away from the lake and...without being watered...depending on other would most likely die.

I think it is easy to confuse "how much water should I put around my tree" with "how much water does this tree actually require."

We forget that there are natural sources of water and different water retention characteristics of different soils, and different humidity levels in different areas, different day and night time high and low temperatures...And On...And On...And On.....

Just my couple of cents...


    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 5:37PM
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I have a little Celeste fig tree in the ground around 7 years. 3 years ago I had 10 figs from it. 2 years ago: 12 figs(delicious figs). After pinching per Herman's method, this year I have 2-3 figlets on each branch end, and I assume more pinching will mean more figs to come. I have never watered it unless we had a month with no rain. It is planted under the eves of the house, so if it rains, it gets a good deep soaking. I just want all those little figlets to get as much water as they need. Maybe I have panicked!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 7:31PM
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wabikeguy(7 AB)

I don't have any Celeste, but if your tree is 7 years old and in ground, one would think it would be larger and put out more fruit. There may be other issues (besides watering) that need to be addressed.

Since I have nine of the same age and cultivar (year & a half old black mission trees), I have the ability to compare growth rates and fruiting. Some are nearly five feet high and as wide. Others are less than half that. Micro climates, hours of sunlight, soil composition, compaction, ph, available nutriants, drainage, and a whole lot of other variables come into play.

You may want to check with some local nurseries or growers to find out how to help your tree.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 7:40PM
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Interesting. You guys and ladies are talking about watering fig trees planted in the ground. Like any other trees of mine I water them good in the First year especially if we don't have enough rain fall. But the big question is about Fig trees planted in Pots, if you don't water regularly they die. Also watering is not the issue for figs in pots you have to make sure the pot soil is light by Adding Perlite, the soil, has to retain moisture by adding Moss, the pot has a very good drainage or the roots will rot. It is a catch 22 no moisture the roots die, too much moisture the roots rot. What saved me is what I learned here on this forum. That I can turn my pot into a raised bed by punching 3/4 inches holes in the lower half of the pot and block the button drainage holes. Then make a hole in the garden and plant the pot to about 3/4 of its height. By this way I water less and less and I can see the roots happy and running from the holes into the Garden soil.
The moral of the story is there is no one size fits all.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 8:42PM
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We have acid sandy soil. Fig tree is right by the house on the west side. Big trees 50 feet to the west, so it only gets direct sun a few hours a day. I put lime on it last Autumn. A little fertilize now and then, and rabbit poop. Let me put it this way: I can't get mint to grow around here without a lot of amendments. I probably would have a hard time with bamboo here, just so you know.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 12:36AM
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It is an "ancient" custom to plant a fig tree at the end of the pipe where the sink or washing machine dumps it's gray water. In modern times we don't have pipes such as this. But I am considering doing this.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 11:16AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Figs grow wild along lakes, rivers, and canals around here, and the trees are lush and huge.
Just because a plant will tolerate dry conditions doesn't mean that it prefers dry conditions.


    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 2:39PM
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Italy & Greece are not desert. I think palms are not desert plants, but they grow in water spots near deserts.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 8:06PM
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In terms of watering a fig of unknown type in true desert is it best to water only around the current drip line or to flood a basin around the trunk or to flood the whole lot? Also, for those who indicate that they needed to water every three days or once a week depending on monsoon or drought or the like, what is the indicator you are relying on to let you know when to water? Thanks.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 7:39PM
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Plants are like stop lights, with red, yellow and green lights as far as indicating when they need water.

Learn to identify what your plant is telling you. This is for fig tree or any other living, well rooted and established plant or tree. Know the type of soil that it is planted in and eventually you will get a natural feel for when it needs water. Know when your plant is actively growing or dormant. Obviously if it's dormant the water needs are minimum to nil.

Ideally we want to keep the plant growing at it's maximum rate as allowed by its DNA, all other limiting factors aside.

Water stress will cause a blooming plant to flower weakly (unless near death and then it may just throw out a final bloom), the flowers will dry up fast and then it will start to drop older leaves as well as (if currently in growth) wilt the new tender growth. Eventually it will drop all its leaves and the stem/trunk will start to dry up.

Amount of water is also important, to establish a deep root system, and a more drought resistant plant, it is best to water deeply each time. Try to wet the whole root system, from trunk to outside drip line.

Fig trees in pots are a really fast signal light. With temps at mid 90's everyday I have to water my plants almost daily. Same plants in ground would only need water a couple of times per week, same plants in ground, well mulched, could get by with 1 watering per week. There are so many variables, that the best way to identify your particular plant watering needs it to observe it and respond to its signals and develop a feel for it's requirements after that.

Best of luck...

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 8:36AM
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