Potted figs, fruit never ripen. Speed up tips?

fireweed22September 8, 2013

I have three varieties (hardy Chicago, brown turkey and lattarulla) that are all 2-4 years old. In pots in full sun on the deck. First frost is late September.

They are kept just above freezing, dormant all winter. I find them slow to regrow in spring.

Each year in late July to August little figs show up. They get an inch or more but then I need to bring them into the (full sun) sunroom in September, and the leaves all drop and generally spider mites take over in under a month. They don't like the out to indoor shock.

I already see it happening, nothing will be ripe this year. And it was a hot sunny summer.

Can I feed them more? They are always moist. Any tips are appreciated, as I'm beginning to wonder if t is worth keeping them around.

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Many, who grow figs in containers/pots will get figs off their plants. Obviously something is going wrong with your culture. Your varieties all have the potential to give you ripened figs in your climate zone.

You don't mention:

Pot sizes
Growing medium
Pinching techniques to ripen figs earlier
Breba figs?

If your pots are too small, the roots may be restricted. Your plants should be in a minimum of no less than 5-gallons of growing medium....a quick-draining medium, like a 5:1:1. This forum is loaded with postings that have various growing mix recommendations.

Figs need at least 70-120 days of good sun and heat to ripen main-crop figs. In your climate zone, pinch off all breba figs, and allow only main crop figs to develop. If growth is very vigorous, pinch back all new green stems and leave 5-8 leaves on each branchlet that has main-crop figs growing. This will divert energy into ripening those figs sooner in the season.

You don't mention if you allow your trees to first go dormant before bring them into your sun-room, so now I'm just guessing. If you have a warm Sun-room, if you can, bring those potted figs out of dormancy in March, and let them grow, in full sun, until temps outside can support the new growth without doing damage to soft tissue. You can even bring them outside on warm days, and bring them back into a warm room at night. Many growers do this "fig shuffle" in short-season areas. This "stretches" the growing season, and gives you more time to ripen figs.

If possible, try sinking your figs halfway into the garden soil, and heavily mulch up the sides of the pot. Plant them in full sun, and let the roots run free into the surrounding soil....but beware!...roots growing from drainage holes under the pot will be difficult to cut when you have to lift the pots for Winter storage. If drainage holes are at the bottom-SIDES of a container, run a spade down the sides, in August, to sever the roots for easier lifting in late-September.

Don't over-fertilize with high-nitrogen formulas, and stop fertilizing by mid-July at the latest. Also top dress the growing medium with a good handful of granulated limestone to counteract the acidic conditions that chemical fertilizers can cause in potting mediums. Figs hate soggy conditions, so try not to over-water. If you use a quick-draining mix it will be virtually impossible to over water.

You also need to do something to stop the Spider-Mite infestations. Plants weakened by insects, etc. will be slow to push fruit. Once growing conditions are corrected, and good culture takes over, you will get to eat properly ripened figs, even in Zone-6.

I have been growing in containers since 2007, and get figs each year. Most of my fig trees are planted into 18-gallon storage tubs that I purchase at Home Depot. I convert them by drilling 3/4" holes along the bottom-sides....never into the bottom surface. They are filled with modified, 5:1:1 mix and I use a granular limestone as a top dressing 2X per season. I use "Espoma, Iron-Tone" (organic fertilizer) and supplement with a dilute - (1 tbs/5-gallons of water) - "Miracle-Gro 24-8-16" tonic, 2X per month, until mid-July. The Espoma, Iron-Tone will continue to release small amounts of residual food until trees go dormant, sometime in mid-October. I also pinch back all branches growing figs, but keep 6-8 leaves. I keep doing this pinching if necessary. Roots like to be kept cool...a difficult thing to do when trees are grown in containers....that's why I suggested sinking your containers and mulching if possible.

Don't give up on trying to grow figs. Some years are good, some are great, and some are terrible, like this year. Hope this will help you.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 7:07AM
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Frank, thanks for such a detailed response. I can see several items here to try next spring, everything from the medium, ph issues, and even spring start up.
Changing any of these will surely effect results, so will try them all.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 8:41AM
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I have the same problem and my trees are over 10y ears old and in 25 gal pots with fast draining soil. Every year I have a tree with dozens of small, hard figs that never ripen. Might try putting one in the ground this fall and see what happens in the spring.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 9:44AM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)


I was just going to post about this problem. I planted a Chicago Hardy in the ground last fall and it overwintered in a cinderblock bunker just fine. It has a handful of figs that haven't grown in the past month or so. I was hoping that planting it would help it produce, but so far I haven't had a ripe fruit from it and I bought it 4 or more years ago.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 11:25AM
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