propagating fig trees

naftaliAugust 9, 2006

I have several suckers growing out of my fig tree (15 years old with plenty of fruit). I would like to use the suckers and make new trees. (I have been unsuccessful in the past) How long should the cutting be? Where should I place it after planting it in a pot (sun/shade, partial shade). Should I cover the pot and cutting with a plastic bag? BTW I plan to dip the cutting in rooting hormone.

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naftali I dont know about suckers as my figs never have any, to get a rooting I watch the tip of the limbs and early spring as tips swell and turn green I select a straight limb about 18in long, cut it at an angle and stick it in a one gal. pot full of dirt from the garden. I water it well then and place it in shade under the fig tree. It will not root if too wet so keep it on the dry side and the next spring it should be well rooted. GOOD LUCK.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2006 at 7:48AM
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If the sucker is near or below the soil line, it may develop its own roots. If it is just above the soil, you could try mounding some soil around it for the remainder of this year to see if it roots on its own. Then remove from the parent plant with its roots and plant next year.

If the sucker is growing away from the main trunk of the tree, it may have its own roots you can remove with it.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2006 at 2:50PM
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I tried planting some suckers last summer and was successful with only one sucker. Cuttings taken when dormant were much more successful.

You will probably get various advice and all of them might be right. My 2 cents is: I would try removing the suckers when the tree is dormant. Pot them up or plant in a sheltered place mid winter. Once they start growint, water them carefully until they have grown about 4 or 5 leaves, wchih is when cuttings seem to become self-supporting.

On the other hand - do they go dormant in Israel? Maybe advice from someone in Southern California or would be better.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 12:04AM
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thank you for your helpful advice. I think I will try several of the techniques and try to report back if i am successful.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 3:33AM
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Naftali, I would like to add another suggestion for your consideration - air layering. For me this has been the surest way to propagate, with fig trees my success rate is 100%. It is faster than rooting cuttings (four to six weeks during the growing season), and it seems to take less time for the tree to mature than with cuttings.....Elder (Lou)

    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 10:45PM
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stevec(Z6b MD (DC suburbs))


I am attempting a set of air-layer's right now ... this is my first time. How moist do you need to keep the moss ... I am using a handfull of sphagnum covered with pastic wrap around the wound. I wet it we I first started about a week ago.


    Bookmark   August 12, 2006 at 4:24PM
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stevec: I winced when I read the word wound, have never found that necessary for airlayering figs. As to the moss wetness - I hold the moss under water and squeeze it, this seems to help it soak up water. When I take it out of the pail it is very saturated, so I give it a good squeeze, but still leave it fairly wet. I guess somewhere between dripping wet and barely damp. I might add that I cover the plastic wrap with aluminum foil to keep the sun from baking it, and I don't even check it for root growth until the fourth week. Will email you some additional hints on making it easy to air layer.....Elder (Lou)

    Bookmark   August 12, 2006 at 10:51PM
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Forget the simple wound - do the complete girdling! Yes, a
complete stripping of the bark all around the twig, approx
as wide as the twig diameter. Must have some mature leaves
above the girdling. Girdled twig will get moisture from
mama, but food from its leaves will go to produce roots
and even some fruit!
George (NJ).

    Bookmark   August 12, 2006 at 11:39PM
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Sorry to use a thread to answer an individual's question, but was unable to contact stevec through Garden Web. I tried 25 air layerings this year and had 23 take. Both of the two failures, upon examination, still had dripping wet moss, so I would have to change my answer about wetness of moss to squeeze the water out of it, especially if you use plastic wrap and tie it off at both ends. As for the girdling as per gorgi, some people find this helpful, and the reasoning behind it sounds perfectly logical. However, I have not found it necessary with figs.....Elder (Lou)

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 9:48PM
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I'm in SoCal and I root suckers from the base almost every year. I have an old tree currently full of figs, a California Brown Turkey type, although not certain (large, purple, oblate small neck, with amber inside, honey flavor, delicious). I usually wait for roots to develop on the suckers, about 6 inches to a foot tall sucker. Cut the sucker off, pot in well draining soil, and put it in shade. I do it in the summer (also have been successful with dormant, winter cuttings) and I hardly touch it till next spring, when it's ready to give away. I usually put the pot in a humid spot (what I call my mini-greenhouse). I use a quart, soda bottle, cut open at the top then covered, with a little water kept at the bottom. Good luck!!!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 1:00AM
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stevec(Z6b MD (DC suburbs))

OK ... it looks like my inital air-layer attempt is working ... I have roots showing through the plastic. How long do you wait to cut the branch from the mother plant? This represents about two weeks since I started.


    Bookmark   August 27, 2006 at 5:57PM
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From my limited experience, it takes at least 4 weeks
before the rooted branch can safely be seveved from
mama.I mostly use rooter-pots and that is the time
that the roots manage to find their way into the water
reservoir (and later get chopped off while opening
the pot). First time seeing an air layering in a
clear whole envelope - there goes the need to cover,
maybe it only blocks some direct sunlight drying!?
What you are seeing is a first sign of root develpoment.
Plant will defitely benefit from a week or two for the
roots to get more prolific and stronger...

    Bookmark   August 27, 2006 at 6:14PM
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gorgi is entirely correct saying to wait until four weeks - I would add don't be in a hurry. First, the additional time lets the roots get stronger and less likely to break off while you fuss over the plant. Second, the more roots you have the surer it will be that the plant will grow after you cut it loose from the mother plant and pot it. I have left an air layering wrap in place over two months, and the roots were coming out of the plastic. When I put the plant in its pot it just never stopped going forward.....Elder (Lou)

    Bookmark   August 27, 2006 at 7:33PM
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stevec(Z6b MD (DC suburbs))

Update: Per your recommendations I waited 5 weeks ... I cut and potted these two last week (a Sultane and a Negronne) ... both are doing very well ... each had a significant root-ball in the moss when I cut them.


    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 7:41PM
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Nice photo but are you sure you have a Sultane? The leaves do not match the ones on my Sultane. By chance, where did you get yours' from? Mine came from France. I wish I could post a photo but the leaves are mainly 3-5 lobe and the middle lobe is not spatulate like yours. Just curious. Have you had fruit off your tree yet?

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 12:33AM
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axier - Z10, Basque Country (Spain)

Leon, this is the description of "Sultane" that Pierre Baud does in his book Fígues ( The main differentiating characteristic of Sultane from the other varieties is his dark red terminal bud that it shows in winter:


Here is a link that might be useful: Pierre's Baud book

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 4:32AM
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stevec(Z6b MD (DC suburbs))


The parent of this one was from Paradise Nursery. I have not yet harvested fruit from this tree (it is full of fruit but they are not yet ripening ... this is they tree's first year.)


    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 9:56AM
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Comment about stevec's post, 4 posts up:

I see that you, like me, are air-layering GREEN fig twigs!
Probably (like me) have some very young ones that need
to be multiplied, sooner rather than later (for one some
reason or other).

Well from my very limited experience, I think that they
may require more time to root and more TLC afterwards -
relative to older similar last years's twigs.
Glad you waited 5 wks before cutting them (I suggested
4 wk minimum).

Definitly do not 'girdle', they are too weak! Otherwise
some may just SNAP off if any attempt is made to adjust
to the vertical position (best for rooter-pots).

After tranplnating, some of mine droped leaves right
away, but still hope that they will eventually survive.

How HARDY are they for this winter?...
And what to do about that?

George (NJ).

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 11:08AM
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My problem is that here in the Florida Keys, we have no real dormancy period. My figs rarely lose ALL their leaves during the winter. In fact, they're putting out some new leaves right now! When to propagate? Green wood or brown? I've had no luck air layering. Anybody with any experience propagating figs in the tropics?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 5:08PM
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hello_c_j_here(7 Cary, NC)

Hi, I just received a 2 gallon planter of a chicago fig propagation. A neighbor has 3 huge trees out front and I wanted to know how best to propogate from them too. Green juvinile limbs or the older limbs best? Is the air layering fust selecting a 8 to 15 inch straignt limb...surrounding a section of that limb with damp moss... wrapping...and waiting to see good root growth (4-5 weeks?) or am I missing some steps. I dont seem to be getting notification when a reply to post happens... anyone else having this problem?

    Bookmark   October 25, 2008 at 11:09AM
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I want to learn how to propagate my fig tree by tying plastic bags to limbs and removing the limbs and planting the new trees. How do I do this? My trees are huge-15' in diameter-and I want to prune them this winter. How much and where do I cut on the branch?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 12:15PM
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