Figs in Maryland????

kayskatsJune 13, 2010

Is anyone growing figs in Maryland, (I'm about halfway between DC and Annapolis) If so, what variety and what winter precautions are necessary?

I almost bought a Celeste today (said it was hardy to 0 degrees) .. They also had Brown Turkey (10 degrees)

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austransplant(MD 7)

Yes, plenty of people grow figs in Maryland. I'm in Beltsville and grow Brown Turkey and Celeste. Last winter I did not protect my trees and they had no die back and indeed set a Breba crop for the first time (a Breba crop is an early crop of figs from overwintered embryos on the old wood; we usually don't get this crop in Maryland). If you grow your fig up against a sheltered south facing wall, you probably don't have to worry about protecting it. I'd protect small trees grown in the open for the first few winters, however. To protect them I'd put a wire cage around them and fill it with leaves or straw and wrap it with burlap to protect against wind. There's lots of stuff on this forum about protecting figs. Incidentally, Celeste tastes better than Brown Turkey.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 8:56PM
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frozenjoe(9 Arizona)

The variety that immediately comes to mind for me would be Marseilles VS. This variety was propogated from a tree growing unprotected in Maryland. It is supposed to be one of the most cold hardy and productive figs for the Northeast / mid-Atlantic region. I have a small one growing here in Massachusetts. This is the first year I have it and it has vigorous growth and is loaded with developing figs. The thing about this variety is that (as far as I know) you can't get it from a nursery. You would have to get it from another collector here or on figs4fun. The flavor is reported to be very good.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 9:56PM
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thanks for the info and please excuse a few more ????
... what do I need for full sun ... 6+ hours?
I have one spot up against a SWS facing wall that'd get close to 6 hours, but I'd have to take out a 25 years old Juniper that is protecting some Zone 8 azaleas.
The other spot would get 6+, but gets rather biting winter winds...
The Celeste I saw at the nursery was about 4 feet,
How long before I could expect it to bear fruit -- I'm 76 and would sure like a few harvests.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 9:44AM
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frozenjoe(9 Arizona)

A 4 foot tall Celeste is a good sized plant to start with. It should already be developing small figlets at the intersection of where leaf stems meet the branch. If those figlets are there it will bare fruit this season. Celeste would be a good choice for you, but it is really important to plant it somewhere sheltered from harsh winter conditions. One of the things that Celeste is known for is that if it gets bad winter damage it usually will not produce fruit the following year. But if you plant it in a sheltered location with full sun you should be quite happy with it.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 12:42PM
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are you growing figs in Mass? what kind?
U dib't know the variety, but my Dad struggled with his figs in Atlanta, Ga ,,, some years nothing... some years, they died back to the ground. After that experience, you can tell how much I love figs to even consider growing them.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 1:01PM
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frozenjoe(9 Arizona)

Yes I grow figs here in Massachusetts. There are people in this forum who grow figs in colder areas than me. I have one fig that I grow in the ground. I've had it for several years and it is my best producer of figs by far. It is Hardy Chicago. Last year I really got bitten by the fig bug and acquired a few more varieties mid-season: LSU Gold, Celeste, Desert King, and Black Mission. Since then I have also acquired an unknown called Jersey, Marseilles VS, Violette de Bordeaux, and Barnisotte. Last year I only tasted figs from the Hardy Chicago. This year I will taste figs from most of my varieties. It is exciting to collect more varieties and compare how they grow here. Only the Hardy Chicago is in the ground. The rest are all in containers.

In Maryland you should do well with figs. There are several varieties that should be able to withstand your winters if you plant them in the right location and give them protection the first few winters. Finding the right variety for your growing conditions is very important. Maybe your father had a late-season variety. The shorter your growing season the more you need to have a fig variety that ripens reliably earlier in the season. That is one of the reasons that Celeste is popular, because it is one of the earlier ripening main crop figs.

Let us know what you decide to do. Best luck.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 5:44PM
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Frozen Joe,
When do you put your potted fig trees outside in the spring? I live in upstate NY and put my potted fig (not sure which variety) out this year about May 15th, it already had leaves on it because I keep it indoors all winter. I have only gotten one fig in the five years I have had the plant.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 2:49AM
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frozenjoe(9 Arizona)


This year I began to place my potted figs outside at the end of March on warm days. Generally what most people do is let their potted figs go dormant in the fall (drop their leaves like an in ground tree). Then the dormant tree is stored some place cool and dark for the winter, like an unheated garage or basement. That's what I do and it seems to give the plants a lot of vigor in the spring because it simulates the growing conditions of going through winter in a much milder climate. In the spring time you can bring the dormant tree outside as soon as temperature get into the 50s or 60s and bring it back indoors when temps drop below 40.

Another thing you can do is pinch off the bud tip on branches once they grow 5 or 6 leaves. This encourages the plant to put it's energy into growing figs instead of into vegetative growth. It really works. I pinched my trees several weeks ago and they almost all began putting on figs shortly after being pinched.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 6:25AM
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Terry sounds like you are not allowing your tree to sleep long enough during the winter..Figs need to sleep around 160 days in a dark cool environment that is why we store them in an unheated garage. WHen you say the tree produced one fig do you mean it only produced one ripe fig or only one embryo. There could be numerous reasons for a tree not to produce ripe figs. Do you prune it?? in my findings a five year old fig tree would be very large only being able to be moved with a dolly system. unless you vigorously prune it back. Could be you have a decorative variety that will not produce figs..Send us a picture we have alot of informative people on this site.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 1:22PM
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Kayskats: the Marseillese Black VS fig was found in Baltimore, Maryland by Warren Turner. It is said that it was planted in 1943-1947, and has been growing without winter protection since then. Herman2 who has been testing it rates it as a 10 when summers are long and hot and a 8 when the summers in New Jersey are cold like in 2008 and 2009. The historical weather data for Baltimore, Maryland indicates it has gotten as low as minus 7 degrees fahrenheit there. Also, as FrozenJoe stated, Hardy Chicago should work for you also. We have been growing Hardy Chicago here in Connecticut for about 5-6 years, out side without winter protection. Some years it gets killed back to the ground some years only down to about two feet.

Frozen Joe: Do you have any pictures of your Hardy Chicago? How would you rate it for production? How many figs did your Hardy Chicago produce last year. Have you been able to locate any in ground local figs in your area?

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 1:36PM
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Figs do get 5 months or there about of dormancy in my area but its reported by some they only need as little as 200 hours not days. ; )

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 3:19PM
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frozenjoe(9 Arizona)


I'll take some photos of my HC and post them. It's hard for me to compare it's productivity to other varieties since it is the only mature plant I have. Last year it produced about 80 figs and about 30 of them ripened. But that was a cold summer and I pinched it too late it the season (early July). I like the flavor of HC very much. I've tasted store bought figs and they don't even compare. I know of some other people around here who grow figs, but only in containers. I haven't seen any other in ground trees around here. I protected mine last winter so it had a lot of wood left alive this spring. Next winter I might just leave it unprotected and see what happens.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 4:37PM
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frozenjoe(9 Arizona)

Here is my Hardy Chicago tree. Pictures were taken this afternoon.

Here are some of my other figs:


    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 5:22PM
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I will try and post some pictures soon. Two winters ago I stored the fig ( it was sold to me as brown turkey) in the unheated basement. It lost all it's leaves and went dormant. In the spring it started growing leaves while still in the basement because it was able to get some light.
We still didn't get figs that summer, and I had pinched the leaves back.
The one year that it did get the one fig, it was a creamy yellow color, I think a bird must have eaten it, because it disappeared.
The Hardy Chicago in Joe's pictures looks really nice, where can I get one? I ordered two Black Missions from a mail order catalogue from Park Seeds this spring. They are very small plants but appear healthy and starting to grow, the only problem is the labels say "petite negres", not Black Mission. They have leaves very similar to the HC above.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 2:46AM
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Austransplant, I have recently moved to Beltsville, and I too am planting fig trees! I would love it if you'd show me the ropes! I have two Brown Turkey set to go in the ground; dare I ask for a cutting of your Celeste? I have heard great things about them, but my supplier did not have them. I am trying to decide on location for my two, debating a some-times sunny spot which is sheltered, but leaning towards full sun without shelter, but using your wire-cage method in winter. Please advise!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 5:13PM
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austransplant(MD 7)


Sorry for the delay in responding. I tried to send you a personal message without success. See if you can send me one via garden web.


    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 11:37AM
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Hi, Joe, Nice tree!. I grow Hardy Chicago in ground but not as nice as yours.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 3:50PM
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I am in NVA, Mclean and have many large figs in the ground, they hold up very well

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 8:56PM
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mgboosterr(Zone 7 - Mid-Atlantic)

I'm growing 2 figs in Bowie area. Both are about 3 years old and doing well with lots of figs set this year One sent by my mother from Louisiana (unknown type, but it is from my grandfather's tree and I remember climbing it as a a kid). The other is Celeste from a small plant stand in Virginia that I passed. Last year Homestead Gardens (Davidsonville) had 2-3 varieties.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 10:35AM
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I live in Baltimore and recently rescued a potted Brown Turkey fig from
certain death at the lot/graveyard where the city's forestry department keeps their trees. I have it in a big pot outside, and am wondering what to do with it this winter. It's about 3-4 feet tall and very happy and healthy but still young. I've read that I should put it in the basement, but I don't see how this simulates its native habitat at all. I've also read that I can leave it potted outside against a wall (I only have a east-facing outer wall). Putting it in the ground or even dug a few feet into the ground is not possible as we are surrounded by concrete and asphalt. Does anyone have experience leaving potted fig trees outside or in the basement? Another option is to bring it inside by a sunny window. Any feedback or advice would be appreciated!

This post was edited by jkatz1 on Sat, Sep 14, 13 at 13:51

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 1:30PM
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My mom's fig tree appears to have died this winter. There are no leaves yet (as of May 11th) and when I tried to bend some of the ends, they were somewhat brittle. It's a fairly large tree, at least 6 ft circumference, and has been in the same spot for years and producing for a handful of years, too. Kind of shady, open spot, but enough sun for it to produce... It appears it should have leaves already. Did other people lose their trees this winter? I don't know what kind it is, but it was given to her from someone who lived in DE. If it doesn't grow leaves this year should I keep it and hope it will come back to life next year Anyone have any ideas?

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 10:29PM
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fig_insanity Z7a E TN

Rlbloom, this "abnormally normal" winter did in many a fig that has been in the ground for years, but never experienced temps as low as we had this year. There's a good chance, though, that the roots survived. Keep a watch for growth down low, or even from below ground. I've seen trees push new growth as late as June after being winter-killed. That being said, if growth doesn't start by the end of this month, it may not have time to harden off before NEXT winter, and would be killed again. If you do get new growth, trim the existing branch structure to give the new growth as much sun as possible. Once you see what's going to sprout, thin the new growth to 3 to 5 sprouts. You don't want the roots trying to support a jungle after being so stressed. To insure that the growth will harden off, pinch out the growing tips every time 5-7 new full-sized leaves form on each sprout. This will cause the growth below to begin to lignify (harden and form bark), as well as insuring a full, bushy, shrubby growth. DON'T fertilize until next year, it only stresses the plant more.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 7:57PM
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Hi, I was given a fig tree as a gift this Summer. When I received it, it had 2 huge leaves on it. They fell off and several smaller leaves grew. The plant is about 18 inches tall. It has 4-5 leaves at the very top and 4-5 leaves at the base with the length of the stalk bare. I was going to take it into the house and treat it like a house plant this winter.Id keep it in the sun and keep it watered. But I was told it may be better to let it go dormant in the garage. Please HELP ME, I'm a fig newbie. Pawpaws are my go to trees. Thanks

    Bookmark   October 11, 2014 at 8:08AM
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Hey austransplant - that is the best suggestion I have seen so far. I have a young celeste growing on my 16th floor, western exposure balcony in Bethesda and am trying to figure out how to keep it happy this winter. Could you possibly elaborate on your description? Do I have to cover the entire tree or just the roots? The leaves are just now starting to yellow, so I think I need to take care of this soon.. Thanks (anyone!) for any suggestions!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2014 at 9:09PM
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Hi there. I'd like to help if you have a question. Pam or samc

    Bookmark   November 26, 2014 at 8:41PM
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Thanks dontommyg! I ended up planting the smaller pot into a larger container, and getting a few bags of mulch to try to insulate it. I also got a frost cover for wrapping once the temps drop to the teens for a while. I'm hoping it will work, and I am sure that I will have a lot more questions once spring comes around!

    Bookmark   December 14, 2014 at 1:56PM
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