How to care for Fig trees in pots over the winter

Dimass(6)September 19, 2012

Hi all, I'm new to this forum and also new to fig trees. I have been wanting to have fig trees for many years and I finally have two. !!! One is Brown Turkey and the other is Celeste. My plan is to plant them in the ground come Spring, but how do I care for them over the winter? How do I keep them from dying? I couldn't pass them up when I saw them, they are beautiful, but now I need to know how to care for them. I'm zone 6 and live in Western PA.

Thanks to everyone!


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Keep them from freezing...especially the root-ball. How?

If you have an unheated garage, storage shed, very cool your potted fig trees there. Fig trees will go dormant, and it's best to keep them that way until warm Spring weather arrives. There are plenty of postings on this forum that will cover the over-wintering methods in very great detail.

Give forum members your ideas on how you plan to store these small trees. You'll get plenty of suggestions.

Congratulations! Your little trees are very nice, and they will triple in size within one season, and soon will be producing figs. In 2-3 years you will have large fig-bearing trees.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 6:49PM
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Thank you Frank! Are you kidding, they will triple in size? Wow!

We have a basement and an unheated barn. I'll have to do some searches on overwintering figs. I'm not sure when to stop watering them and/or when to bring them in.

I appreciate your feedback, thanks again,

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 7:53PM
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No I was not kidding, and I was being conservative. They may very well grow even larger, but not in those small pots.

If your basement is good. It has to be cold, around 40 degrees, at least above freezing. The unheated barn will probably be a better choice. I don't know if you have any temp controls in the barn but pick a spot...and it doesn't need any light while the figs are dormant...and store your figs there until warmish Spring weather begins. I would slip those figs out of those small pots and plant them in 5 gallon buckets, with drainage holes. More soil mass...more even temps. around the roots. For now, while weather is still decent, leave your figs in full sun, and fertilizers now, until the leaves fall. They can be left out as long as there are no hard freezes. This may be late October, maybe sooner, but keep them outside as long as possible. Then bring them into your storage area. Check the soil and make sure that the soil is barely damp, and not soaked.

When buds start to swell next Spring, bring them into bright light but not heat. Your figs will sprout when the conditions are right, so don't force them to grow prematurely, or you may get damage to the new, green, and soft tissue growing from the branch tips. Yes, do a search, and do lots of reading.

You WILL have great fig trees starting next season, especially if you grow those small trees planted in the ground, or, sink the containers into a training bed. Keep the roots cool, and the tops in full sun and heat. You may even get a few figs.

There is a lot to learn, but it's all fun, and not hard to be successful. Figs are the easiest fruit tree that you'll ever grow, and will reward you with figs for years to come.

Enjoy the are hooked, and one of us now.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 6:25PM
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Thank you Frank, you've gotten me off to a great start.

I'll have to go with our barn as our basement will be too warm.

There does appear to be a lot to learn, but I never tire of reading about gardening, and this site looks like it will provide the information I need and then some.

All the best to you, :)

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 10:12AM
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Hi, I'm trying to figure out the best way to prep my potted mission fig tree for the winter. This forum looks great. My guess it that I need to take the leaves off. Is that a good start? The tree yielded some figs and grew nicely.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 11:02AM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

I found an easy way to keep my figs watered while they are garaged. I fill a 1/2 gallon milk or juice carton with water and freeze, then cut the bottom off and place the carton in the pot. This allows the ice to melt slowly and penentrate the soil. I had trouble trying to water them because if they got dry the water just ran down the inside of the pot and made a puddle.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 1:40AM
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No, no! Please don't touch the leaves. When temps start dropping the leaves will go from green then turn yellow, and they'll drop off the tree naturally. The leaves are now sending food down to the roots for storage. If you cut the leaves off before food storage, you'll compromise the survival of the tree. The stored food is what the tree will use to push out new leaves next Spring. No fertilizers, now, either.

You mention nothing about the size of your tree, your climate zone, nor, the pot size. Try to slip them into a 5 gallon bucket, but try not to disturb the roots. If you are going to store the figs in an unheated garage, keep the root zone just above freezing, and water the roots once or twice to prevent the roots from drying out. Make sure your tree is planted into a quick-draining mix. Soaking wet, cold soils = root rot.

I urge you to quickly search this forum, and "Figs4Fun" forum, and become familiar with all the different methods used to over-Winter figs in cooler climates.

Hope this helps.


This post was edited by BronxFigs on Tue, Oct 8, 13 at 5:58

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 5:43AM
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Thanks Frank and milehighgirl . Great Input!!
All the best

This post was edited by Chuck0826 on Tue, Oct 15, 13 at 20:34

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 8:18PM
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Thanks for the inputs Frank!! Very helpful!
My mission fig tree is in a 36 in wide by 18 in high pot. I drilled holes on the bottom of it. It looks very health. I believe I am in Zone 6. Also the tree is about 3 ft high.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 8:24PM
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I have successfully wintered many potted figs in my garage before.
The detached garage is (technically) unheated; but I do have
a small heater that 'kicks' in just below the freezing point.
(just to prevent extreme cold temps).
Yes, pot-soil did get solid frozen.
They survived 20*F according to my min-max thermometer.
Also, make sure that the soil does not run bone-dry, add water or snow...

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 4:52AM
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Winter is, and will be the real test for growing figs in colder climates. Growing them through the warm Summer months is the easy part....keeping them alive, to live, and re-sprout the following Spring is the challenge.

Think: Cool, 40-ish, temps, and some moisture around roots. Re-read gorgi's last sentence....bone-dry storage is not a good thing, nor is a soaking wet soil. Moisture/humidity in the growing medium keeps the trees fresh, even while dormant. Use a long bamboo stick, and shove it into the pot near the roots. Pull it out every few weeks and check if the stick feels moist and clammy, or, dry and warm. If the stick is dry and warm, add some ice cubes/snow/water and let the soil re-hydrate. The thermostatically controlled heaters are a good investment. You want the temps to hover around the low 40s. You could also string some twinkle Christmas lights around the containers to keep the soil warm when temps plunge into the danger zone. A inverted, cardboard box over the containers will hold in some extra heat also. Cut a hole in the box for the stem(s). Cover just the container with the box.

Terminal buds will still be green if all goes well. If they turn brown and crispy as the weather warms, they are dead. DON'T trim anything away yet. Let trees come out of dormancy, and the damaged branches should break new green buds further back along the questionable, damaged, branches. Let the tree leaf out, and then trim away the dead tissue. Trim back to an outward facing bud, and direct growth away from the center of the tree for better lighting and air circulation.

Those in Zone 7-8, and warmer, will have fewer problems than those growers in Zone 5-6. New growers: Please read all the past-postings about over-Wintering figs, especially those growing containerized figs. It can be done, easily, by taking some precautions.

Good luck, and happy growing. Next year you'll have perfectly ripened figs to eat....hopefully.


    Bookmark   October 20, 2013 at 8:50AM
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fritzgarden(US z7 NY)

beyond root trim and re potting for the winter.
What should I do as far as pruning the trees before winter? They are currently about 6' from floor to top.
Last year they over wintered wrapped in Refectix and leaves at the sun exposed part of the house, outside.
They did rather well.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 11:55AM
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Thanks for taking the time to respond Frank. This is very helpful.
I just stored my tree in the garage over night because the outside temp is dropping to 29 deg.
Its going back to the 50's in the next day or so but I'm not taking any chances.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 8:31PM
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Thanks for the thanks.

I personally do not trim, or, prune trees until the following Spring. Why? Some branches may die back, or might be damaged by freezing temps. Wait to see what branches survive and re-sprout in the coming Spring, then, grab the pruning shears and prune away. Fig trees are dynamic growers, and new buds will sprout on pruned branches.

Root pruning is usually done just before trees break dormancy in the Spring. Roots are where food and energy reserves are stored, and trimming away at the food supply before Winter is not a risky strategy. Better to wait for Spring to do a root chopping. If you already root pruned give the trees some TLC, and try to prevent the trimmed root ball from freezing.

Establish the basic framework of branches. Decide how you want your tree to look. As the buds begin to break and show some green, start thinning out older, damaged, frost-burned, twigs and branches. Shape your trees. Rub out buds that will grow and send branches into center of the tree. You need the sun to ripen figs and fresh air movement around the leaves to prevent wet leaves from getting diseased with mildew, rust, etc. Strive for an open rack of well-spaced branches, and stay away from a clogged, tangled, bunch of leaves. Use your body proportions as a guide to shape trees....main trunk/stems as high as your belt, main branches from belt-line to shoulders, and subdivided fruiting branches from shoulders up to an extended arm held over your head. You should never have to stand on a ladder to pick figs. Keep your trees at a manageable height for an easy harvest and for easier Winter storage. Between 5ft-7ft total height should do it. The main action should be at/around eye level.

Temps. are now plunging fast. Storage time for the colder climates has arrived. Many will be doing the famous, "fig shuffle"... trees in at night, and out in the warmer days. Northern fig-growers know the routine all too well. It's a lot of work, but it's the 'vig' we growers must pay for perfectly ripe figs next year.

It's fun....sort of.


This post was edited by BronxFigs on Tue, Nov 5, 13 at 9:33

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 8:08PM
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fritzgarden(US z7 NY)

thanks Frank. I'll wait til spring has sprung.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 8:17PM
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You are most welcome.

Yes....wait for Spring to do your thing.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 9:36AM
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cro_smokva(5 Hamilton)

thanks for isharing knowledge on overwintering potted figs.
when you say to keep temperature in low 40 f, how high can temperature go, yet to keep figs healthy dormant?
My concern would be that in my unheated attached garage the temps will be on higher than ideal side. This is my first winter with figs in garage. This morning temp inside was 47F, outdoors was 25F. I know for the fact that inside the garage it never freezes but was never recording the actual values.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 12:01PM
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I have no idea where you live, nor, your climate zone. So what follows is just general advice.

EDIT: Read your page and you are in Zone-6


Try to keep the dormant figs, especially the containerized roots, around 40 degrees, but if temps inside the garage go higher for brief periods of time, don't worry. Dormant figs will not push new leaves unless the higher temperatures are consistent and prolonged.

Open a window, door, etc. and get some cool air in the garage if you must, when inside temps get too high. Ventilation is good. Unheated sheds and garages are generally, about 10 degrees warmer than outside temps. However, I wouldn't start worrying about your quiescent trees unless you see buds swelling and turning green. Then, you got problems.

It takes many weeks of warm temps. for dormant trees to break bud, and start pushing new growth. If it is cool inside the storage area, the trees will remain dormant until warmer Spring weather arrives. Remember to keep the growing medium hydrated over the few months of Winter storage.....just slightly moist. I dump snow into the containers, once in a while, and the snow takes a long time to melt.

In NYC/Zone-7b, I usually start thinking about removing my trees from storage, around the last weeks in March, or when buds just start to swell. Then the trees will re-sprout as the weather warms and new, tender growth will usually not be damaged. However.....I'm prepared to bring trees BACK into the storage area, if a late season freeze is predicted. Trees come out in the day, and then back in at night. It's a real pain.

If you are really concerned how high the temps get within the storage area, buy a maximum/minimum thermometer. Then, no more guessing.

Good luck.


This post was edited by BronxFigs on Wed, Nov 13, 13 at 8:00

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 7:56AM
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Hope you can help me out. I have 3 fig trees of various sizes and live on the east coast in the toronto area.

All three trees are potted and not sure the best way to care for them in over the winter. I do not have a basement or garage so presently have taken them into the house because I was concerned it was to cold outside.

What would be your suggestion?


    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 6:53PM
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Hi, fcd18:

I live in Toronto too and I have 4 fig babies and 1 bigger one planted in the garden. My family goes crazy everytime I winterize the outdoor fig tree!
The 4 fig babies are indoor which I got them from a Quebec nursery this past June.
Three of the fig trees have already shedded their leaves and
the Aripel is in the process of shedding.
I water these fig babies sometimes to keep them just a bit moist.
My aloe plants are more drought resistant than the fig trees!

Don't worry about your fig trees indoor.
Don't over water as the fig tree cannot tolerate wettness since this can kill the tree! The trees will be dormant soon.
Just water them once in awhile as heat can dry up the soil of the fig trees!
I would like to suggest you getting a dolly so you can move them with much less efforts!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 5:41PM
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Hi All!!

So, I pruned my fig in the fall, stuck the clippings in water and a few sprouted roots. The ones that DIDN't sprout roots are now growing little figs on them!?

Also, the mama tree is dormant, but, I didn't have any place to put her this winter that is cool and dark. She's been in my kitchen which goes from cool to warm in a matter of hours and can get light during the day. I did this last year too and the poor thing grew leaves in February and was out of dormancy for like 10 months. What can happen to the tree?

She has no leaves right now, but I noticed little figs growing off the branches! Did I ruin her?? She's a chicago hardy.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 9:58PM
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Hi I have a potted fig tree, It gave me many figs this summer. It doesn't have many lower branches, I wish it were fuller. I did take it into the garage last night as the temps have been dropping and I noticed the leaves were turning yellow and dropping.
There are still at least 10 figs on the tree, do I remove them? What is the best method to water it and how frequently?
I am reading all the posts> Thank you everyone

    Bookmark   October 21, 2014 at 8:52PM
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Hi, I have a Chicago Hardy fig (am in ny area) in a container. It is outside and all leaves have dropped off so after reading this thread of advice I plan to put it in garage for the winter. However I noticed that the tips of each branch have small green buds already--does this mean it's too late and it won't go dormant? Thanks, this is my first fig tree and first time on this forum!

    Bookmark   November 12, 2014 at 2:36PM
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bear_with_me(8 Pacific NW)

My garage is attached - actually, under my kitchen. So it doesn't get too cold- maybe in the 40s or 50s on the coldest days.

I have a metal shed that is separate and gets no heat other than the sun. I don't know the inside temp, but outside the shed last year it got down to 8 F

All of the figs I have kept in either location survived without damage. That includes first-year from cuttings.

So I think they are not too picky. Varieties I have overwintered that way: Lattarula, Champagne, Tiger, Brunswick, Hardy Chicago, King, Atreano, Smith.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2014 at 11:03PM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

diane (original poster), I would really consider NOT keeping your figs in your barn unless you know for sure that it will not get below 20 degrees in there.

Even here in zone 7 I lost a potted fig in my outdoor shed. It was just too cold for too long. I keep one in my heated garage where it stays around 50 degrees.

Also, in your zone it may be too cold to keep them in the ground without major protection. All our local figs here in zone 7a died to the ground last winter.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2014 at 8:35AM
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