propagating fig tree

chome360October 22, 2012

I'm extremely new growing fig trees, in fact this is my first attempt. My mom has an outstanding Desert King in her yard that's she's had for about 15 years. A few months back she saw a couple branches growing out near the base of the tree which were dipping down to the ground. She covered up the portions that were touching the ground with dirt. They ended up growing some roots where she had them buried. She dug them up, cut them below the roots and gave them to me to plant as separate trees. Unfortunately, before she had done that, she had already pruned those branches back. So what I have is two trees that are basically chopped off at the top. They're about 3 feet tall and 1/2 inch in diameter. My question is, is there a way to train these to grow into a "tree" instead of a "bush", or am I going to be stuck with a bush?

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Here's a picture of one of the fig trees

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 9:29PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

will it be going outside.. into mother earth???

the amount of sunlight it gets.. MIGHT determine what form it takes..

all trees re-leader ... it will be up to you.. to prune it into what you want ...

your potting media.. does not look good for a tree ... it will probably 'hold' much more water.. than the tree will need or want ...

the only question left.. and i know nothing about fig.. is whether moms tree was a graft.. and whether.. you will get the same figs as mom had.. from a root sucker ... if no one here gives that answer.. try the fruit forum ...


    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 7:59AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Figs are usually grown on their own root. You can prune yours to what ever you want it to be. Al

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 9:18AM
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Thanks for the responses. It will be going outside, but since its just now starting to get cold in WA I figured I'd keep them inside for the winter and plant them outside in the ground (no pot) in the spring. I potted it in 1/3 potting mix, 1/3 compost and 1/3 perlite. I had read that was a good mix for figs as they need good drainage.

So in terms of it re-leadering, since the "main stalk" has been chopped, will it be able to be as if it never happened. What I'm trying to decide is if I should commit to this tree, or one of my cuttings (from the same mother tree) that I have rooting in a bag right now. I figure the advantage to the cuttings is it has not been chopped and I can train it from the start the way I what. The advantage of the branch in the photo is it has a year head start on the cutting. The "potential" of the branch is the big unknown to me...

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 4:22PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

If it survives the small pot, inside over the winter, and you get it outside next should take off, and turning it into tree-form will be no problem.

If your hardiness zone / climate allows, your fig would probably do much better outside. If you can't plant it outside, at least consider moving it into an unheated garage for the winter. The poor little thing looks like it's already suffering!

Lots of variables (not knowing your hardiness zone, not knowing the cultivar, etc, etc) make giving specific advise a little challenging. But, I can tell you that if you give the plant the conditions it needs, it will do fine, can grow quickly, and has the potential to be shaped into a handsome tree.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 9:05PM
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Thanks for the great info Brandon. Yes, the tree is struggling a bit right now. Looks a bit odd to because its really a branch with some roots that got stuck in some dirt. Glad to know it has potential. The plan is to plant in the ground as soon as winter is over. The tree it came from is in WA as well and is 15 ft tall. Hope to get the same.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 12:53AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

1/3 potting mix, 1/3 compost and 1/3 perlite.

==>>> your winging it..

that is NOT a good draining mix.. in fact.. it is one of the wettest combinations i can think of ...

and never mix compost into an INDOOR POT ... you are bringing bugs, molds nad mildews into your house ....

use the GW search function for something like 'al's gritty mix' .. or if its the same al.. he can link you..

i usually suggest a bagged cactus mix for trees ..

but again.. i dont do fig.. so that might make a difference ... nor do i grow trees in the house ...

but most important.. IF the fig is zone appropriate.. for the long run.. THEN GET IT OUTSIDE ... and left it go dormant.. and let ma nature take care of it ... and if you have more than one.. make sure some do get out there ...

if they are not zone appropriate.. that is a big tree in a very small pot... it will need to be up-potted when the roots come out the bottom..

finally ... clay pots.. indoors.. everything i ever grew in one.. died.. they are a greenhouse tool.. and most likely.. they will end up killing the tree ...

good luck


    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 8:25AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Ken, really, accusing a pot of killing your plants? But you're not the first. Usually it's the other way around, though, with the accusation being directed at plastic pots.

There are countless indoor gardeners (with stronger backs than mine) who swear by and would use nothing but clay pots. They dry out quicker. Left outside, they freeze and crack.

When people say good drainage, what they really mean is inability to retain excess water. The clay pot should be helpful toward that end, wicking moisture away from the contents of the pot. If the compost you used was from a bag, I wouldn't be concerned about bugs or mold (unless you keep the soil way too soggy.) If it's from your pile in the back yard, you probably already know there could be a wide variety of critters possibly living in that. I use pile compost in pots, but submerge pots to encourage any residents to evacuate before coming inside.

I've never had any luck bringing hardy, deciduous plants inside for winter. You might want to consider putting this in the ground, assuming it's hardy to your zone, as mentioned above. Looks like it's going dormant already. You've seen how easily they are propagated from layering. It's just as easy to cut a piece of desired size and stick it right in the soil, if you'd to try for more next year. I've started a lot of new figs this way.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 12:13PM
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Thanks for the posts guys.

Purpleinopp, I appreciate the insight. Unfortunely the compost was from outside...lesson learned. I could put them outside still, my thinking was that since they can't go in the ground yet, that inside would be better. The branches are from my mom's tree which is outstanding. 15-20 feet tall and 10 time more figs than she knows what to do with (probably 200+). I have 10 cuttings rooting in a bag right now. My plan was to get started with those. When she showed up with the branches I had to act fast.

Ken, I'm definitely not "winging it", I did as much research as I could. I had read the number of posts were people used that mix for fig trees, so I went with it. There's a lot of perlite in there, so that should help with drainage. The pots were the best I could find. Went to three stores and all the plastic ones were too small. The clay was the right size I had never heard of clay pots being a bad thing.

End of the day, I'm knew to this and just getting started. If anything, I learned something. Regardless, I appreciate the advise.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 12:46PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hi, Chome. Don't get discouraged. There is nothing wrong with adding compost to a potting soil, but adding too large a volume of any fine soil ingredients brings with it more water retention than is advisable, so it's not the "compost" you need to be wary of, it's its small particle size that is likely to be problematic. I have to agree that your 1/3 each of compost/potting mix/perlite will have some inherent issues that will need to be dealt with, but it's not impossible to reduce the soils tendency to hold excess water. More on that if you're interested?

I'll wait to see if you're interested in some direction that will leave you feeling like you're much closer to taking control over your growing experience. What determines our ability as a grower is how well we're able to recognize and eliminate to the largest degree possible, those 'things' that are limiting our plants, or if you will, preventing them from realizing the potential with which they are genetically endowed. I think you would be very surprised at how much progress you can make in a very short time. I'll watch for your reply.

BTW - I love clay pots, indoors or out. They offer much greater opportunity for plants to grow at closer to their potential than pots with walls that are not gas permeable.


    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 2:21PM
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I grow all my figs in pots. Pots give all the control I nee. My way I start with small pots and graduate the trees to larger pots. Some of my trees are in 10, 15 and 20 gallons pots. I allow the roots to travel in the garden soil through holes. I allow my trees to grow to 8 feet high only. The pots allows me to give them winter protection. The fact that the roots travel in the garden soil it would not get crowded in the pot and I use the shovel to cut the roots when I take them inside. I started with four trees and now I have 20 trees. The way I multiplied my trees is by air-layering technique. Last season we had good crop enough for my family and the three kids families also 6 of my neighbors got generous gifts. I don't have all the varieties of fig trees but I have Brown Turkey, LSU, black Jack, Chicago hardy, Black negre, Celeste and Condria.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 4:52AM
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