Fig Trees Refusing to Go Dormant

wabikeguy(7 AB)November 6, 2009

I recently moved to western Arizona and of course, one of the first things I did was to plant several fig trees and an avacado. I planted a black mission, and a kadota a in the first week of October. Both figs are 3 foot trees, and both are sprouting new leaves. The kadota is actually putting out new fruit.

It rarely freezes in my area, so my question is....does it matter? I mean.....will it matter if they don't go dormant?

The avacado is also leafing but, being an evergreen, I'm not concerned.

We moved here from Washington, where I had to go to great lengths to protect my one fig tree. While I appreciate not having to wrap and keep them warm here in the desert, seeing new growth in October is a little disconcerting.

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Welcome to Arizona wabikeguy. It was 89 today and will be in the high 80's for awhile yet.

Having said that it will get cold enough for your figs to go dormant in December or January and all will be well.

As far as fig trees needing to go dormant for fruiting thats a myth. I took my fig trees indoors and kept them growing under lights two years ago. The never went dormant and they all still fruited.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 8:06PM
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wabikeguy(7 AB)

Thank you for the quick response thisisme. I have since found that others are experiencing this on the fig forum as well. It's kinda weird. This time last year my brown turkey had lost all of it's leaves and I was getting ready to protect it. I had protected it with straw bales stacked three high on three sides (it grew close to the south west wall of our house), insulation on the ground around it, and two strings of christmas tree lights strung on it.

Won't have to do that this year lol. Instesd, it's going to be shade cloth and bird netting.....

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 9:19PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I think Thisisme's statement is much too sweeping to be taken at face value, and declaring a 'myth' based on observing a single tree is a too hasty. Some individuals of the species do not require a cold rest to grow and fruit well in the subsequent growth period and some individuals do. (Chinese elm is another tree that displays this peculiarity.) Trees that grow and fruit well in northern locales DO require a cold rest to grow with the best fruiting and vitality in the subsequent growth period, while individuals that grow and fruit well near the equator do not need the cold rest. Just because a tree survives the winter and fruits in the next growth cycle is no clear indication that sort of treatment is the wise course and should not be looked at by others as a clarion call to follow suit. It is a practice that weakens the tree and is more often than not fraught with problems.

BTW - the PRIMARY driving force behind dormancy is photo-period .... day length, more specifically, the length of the dark period. Second to photo-period is chill, which only helps to deepen dormancy. Figs have extremely short periods of dormancy - only a few days. Chill actually releases the tree from dormancy, after which time it passes unnoticed into a period of quiescence. During the quiescent period, the tree will remain quiet until it is exposed to several (consecutive) days of soil temperatures above 45, at which time viable trees will commence growth.

Allowing your trees to go dormant and then keeping them quiescent as far into spring as you can (by keeping them between 25-42*) will assure you of being able to maintain your trees at the best vitality allowed by the combination of all other cultural factors.


    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 10:03AM
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wabikeguy(7 AB)

Thank you Al. What you say makes sense. In your last paragraph you state:

"Allowing your trees to go dormant and then keeping them quiescent as far into spring as you can (by keeping them between 25-42*)..."

My trees are in the ground in Western Arizona. We may indeed get temps down to 42 degrees later this year (at night), but those temps just ain't gonna happen for any extended periods here.

While I agree with you that the trees should go through a dormant period, how does one "allow" one's figs to go dormant? Bringing them inside is not a reasonable option, and temps would exceed 42 degrees by doing so in any case. Covering them to shade them will probably only heat them up, as we're still experiencing day time temps into the 90's here. Should I put some shade cloth up to shield them from the sun?

I have since read on another thread on this forum that others in the Southwest are experiencing this same thing with their figs trees. Perhaps, in December or January, they will go through a brief period of dormancy.

We'll know in a couple of months.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 10:57AM
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AL I did not realize I had put forth a call for people to not let their fig trees go dormant. I do not even recall saying it was a wise practice either. I was merely stating what I did and what the results where. Somehow your response makes me feel like you are putting words in my mouth.

By the way it was not "one tree"; (your words again not mine) it was nineteen trees consisting of eleven varieties. Some are considered to be northern cold tolerant and others considered to be southern varieties. All of them without exception fruited and did well for their relative size.

In a warm winter here we will get zero chill hours and we will never end up with so few daylight hours that they will go dormant from not having enough daylight hours.

Besides my personal observations I also watched a program on the Food Network where they went to a fig farm on Hawaii. They said their trees never go dormant and produce figs year after year while even varieties recommended for the south list requirements of 100 chill hours.

I can't say for sure that all fig varieties will fruit without any chill hours but so far I have never seen a fig tree that will not fruit when given no chill hours.

If you have some personal experience, that is to say; If you have attempted to grow figs without any chill hours and found fig varieties that will not fruit without sufficient chill hours please post what you did and what varieties refused to fruit so I will know what not to grow here in the hot Southwest.

wabikeguy you are not going to make your trees colder no matter what you do. Trust me they will be ok outdoors and they will go dormant here nine out of ten yours and even if they don't you will still have fruit.

Another Garden Web member with a lot of experience that does not line up with what is taught in botany class is applenut. The guy lives in zone10 with no chill whatsoever in most years. Still his 250 varieties of apples all flower and fruit regardless of reported chill requirements.

Every book every botanists every tree nursery will tell you its impossible but its true. They don't bloom at the same time as they do in climates where they get more chill hours but they all flower and fruit quite nicely.

Some people argue with him and tell him it can't be so but all those trees with all that fruit says otherwise and I can't or should I say I won't argue with that. Instead I will be taking his advice and buy a couple more apple trees because he has grown them with no chill year after year.

He says other fruits like stone fruit will not flower and fruit unless they get enough chill so its not the same for everything. However apples and dare I say figs or apples and many figs will fruit with no chill hours.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 1:30PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I had broadened my comments to include those that might be growing trees in containers and in cooler areas because of the first reply to your post. I meant that you should let nature take its course, instead of holding tight to the idea that you somehow need to protect your trees from chill or freezing temperatures.

I wouldn't bother with shade cloth unless the trees are (for some reason) exhibiting symptoms of photo-oxidation (sunburn).


    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 1:31PM
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wabikeguy I agree with Al on there being no need for the shade cloth and netting. In most cases shade cloth is only needed to protect a tree that is somehow weakened during our summers when hardening them off. A good for instance would be when you order a tree and it arrives in the mail during the summer months.

About every 4-6 years we do get a cold snap that requires covering the trees during the nighttime hours. A blanket or a tarp is more than enough protection though and the need seldom lasts more than 1-3 nights. No need to go through extreme measures down here to protect from cold.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 4:29PM
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I am not a botanical expert but we always observe that every assiduous tree in nature passes through some stage of dormancy during the yearly cycle where it drops its leaves in fall then rests without leaves for a while and then springs back to growth when the conditions are right in the spring time. Even in places with relatively warm winters these trees go through this natural cycle of falling leaves, rest period and springing back with new growth. So, as is the case with many other things in nature, if one disrupts this cycle of the plant, there have to be cumulative consequences even if small at a time that will eventually build up and weaken the plant. The rest & recover period is the one without leaves during the shorted days which are usually relatively colder days of the year for the location.
Correct me if I am wrong that the chill period does not necessarily mean a period of very cold days/hours. I thought it means the cumulative period of time when the temperature is below the growth temperatures for a specific plant type. If I am correct then within the same period of time two different kind of plants at the same location, say figs and apples, may accumulate different amounts of chill hours.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 7:57PM
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Hi ottawan, no they would accumulate the same number of chill hours.

Figs trees in Hawaii or like I over wintered under 1,200watts in my garage do not lose their leaves. The same is true of deciduous trees grown in an environment where they have enough heat and light hours to keep from going dormant. They may lose leaves that are damaged by wind insects or disease. However they do not defoliate if the days are long enough and warm enough.

For the most part deciduous trees lose their leave/go dormant when daylight hours shorten and it gets colder. It is thought by most that this is done to conserve energy. And this is because the leaves are not able to produce enough energy under winter conditions to both support themselves and the tree so the tree aborts them.

When a deciduous tree lives in an environment where it's leaves can produce enough energy through photosynthesis year round the tree no longer has a reason to abort them/go dormant. With most fruit trees this will put them in a constant vegetative growth state that ebbs faster and slower with the seasons and they will not transition into a flowering state and thus will not produce fruit. Others are able to flower while going through vegetative growth or are able to somehow adjust to the more subtle changes in seasons and flower and produce fruit in spite or the constant vegetative state.

I know this is not true of all deciduous fruit trees as stone fruits need a period of dormancy. I think their obvious need for dormancy is one reason why most think that all deciduous fruit trees require a period of dormancy in order to flower. Apparently not all deciduous fruit trees are so rigorously bound to this. Does it hurt them over time I can't say.

I only did this one year but in Hawaii fig trees can go many years without going dormant while maintaining fruit production. I know this flys in the face of conventional wisdom and I'm not sure I explained everything right but what I said about the trees flowering and fruiting without any chill hours or a noticeable period of dormancy is true.

My guess is that conventional wisdom will change over time to fall in line with the facts or there will have to be a new definition of dormancy that does not include what are today considered the obvious signs we all look for when we call a tree dormant.

The obvious question is can a deciduous fruit tree be dormant when it's covered in green leaves and has fruit growing on it? If the answer is no then either they are not going dormant or we need a new definition for the word. Or perhaps some deciduous fruit trees do not need a dormant period in order to go though a fruiting cycle.

wabikeguy please forgive my hijacking your thread. It was not my intention but things just kind of went in that direction.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 9:20PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I don't think that anyone knowledgeable believes that deciduous trees go dormant to conserve energy. They go dormant as a protection mechanism against chill, or they enter a different type of dormancy (environmental dormancy) as a protection mechanism against cultural conditions other than cold - usually drought. As trees are moved toward dormancy by photo-period, water moves from cells in living tissue and leaves behind the solutes, which act as anti-freeze and prevent bound water from freezing and rupturing cells - the protection mechanism.

As I noted above, there are many tree species that are somewhat unusual in that they have individuals that require a dormancy and individuals that do not, and F carica is one of these trees.

"When a deciduous tree lives in an environment where it's leaves can produce enough energy through photosynthesis year round the tree no longer has a reason to abort them/go dormant."

Trees are not reasoning organisms. They cannot suddenly decide that it's warm and there is no need to go dormant. Those deciduous trees that are genetically obligated to go dormant according to photo-period need a dormant rest. Though manipulation of photo-period and temperatures can trump that tree's ability to fulfill that obligation, deprived of their obligate rest, they often either grow weakly or go dormant at some point in the next growth cycle, often in the middle of summer. Remember, I'm talking about deciduous trees as a group and not carica specifically in the immediately previous.

Where carica is concerned, if we are to draw a generalization about a trees dormancy requirements, it woulds be closely along the lines of: those trees that grow and fruit well in southerly provenance (nearer the equator - Hawaii) would not be genetically programmed to require a dormant period. Those trees, however, when moved to a more northerly provenance will not survive unless given full protection because they have no resistance to chill, nor will they fruit well because of the difference in photo-period between their native provenance and their new home. Conversely, trees of a northerly provenance when moved to locales nearer the equator will not fruit well for the same reason, and will decline due to temperatures being too low to satisfy the obligate dormancy requirement.


    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 11:28PM
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Again wabikeguy I am sorry for taking up so much of your thread. I wrote a response to Al but decided not to post it here and will not post it here unless you give the go ahead as you started this thread.

Al we should take this to emails or start another thread but I don't think it would be productive. You keep misrepresenting what I post in your responses. This leads me to believe you are either purposely trying to bate me and are being combative or you are incapable of understanding what I am writing for one reason or another. In any case this discussion is going nowhere and in any case it should not be in wabikeguy's thread without his express permission.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 3:28AM
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wabikeguy(7 AB)

I don't really think we've gotten off topic. The topic is dormancy....or rather the fact that, this late in the year, some trees have failed to do so and why.

I had thought about the shade cloth.....not for protection, but to possibly induce dormancy by cutting down on the sunlight available to the trees, since dormancy is conventionally thought of as a response to decreased amounts of light and warmth.

Having looked at other threads, such as "Still putting on new leafs" however, and having read what others in this climate are experiencing, I am concluding that this is no big deal. They may go into dormancy for a short time in December or January when the days are shorter and somewhat colder, or they may not if our winter remains mild.

That others here have experienced their figs apparantly not going into dormancy in this climate with no noticable ill effects.....that is the information I was seeking.

I had never heard of this before. So thanks to thisisme and the rest of you for passing on your observations and experience.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 2:36PM
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My Fig tree from home depot is not coming ot of dormancy.Please help

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 9:44PM
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My Fig tree from home depot is not coming ot of dormancy.Please help

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 9:05PM
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Bumping this page to top for the newer members.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 12:29PM
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