Figs in upper south?

pyrocaniacJanuary 11, 2013


I'm in W KY about 10 miles from the TN border. I'm still new in my area, and from what I can tell, conditions here are closer to those in much of TN than in much of KY. I'm interested in growing a couple of fig trees here, but before trying, I'd like to have a better idea of my odds of success. I might try posting this on the Fig Forum too, but since my first question is location-specific, I thought I'd try here first.

If I plant them at all, it will be in the ground - I'm very busy and will surely fail to water them sufficiently in pots. I can winterize them under leaves in a make-shift cage for a year or two, but I'm hoping they'll eventually be hardy enough to make it through winter (if they die back every winter but still produce fruit the next summer/fall, I would be happy). I'm thinking about one Hardy Chicago and one LSU Gold on the south side of my house, which gets good sun. Here are my questions:

Are my expectations realistic, or am I deluding myself?

How close to my house (in feet) can I plant the figs without fearing for the integrity of my foundation/basement -- I've read that figs do well planted near a (warm) house, but I don't know what that means for the house?

I'm pretty sure Chicago is as good a choice as I'll find (yes? no?). I've read one report that LSU Gold is relatively hardy. Right or wrong? Better ideas for varieties?

Suggestions for making it work? Or given that I'm hoping for something pretty low maintenance here (pruning and winterizing is okay), should I give up and be looking at berry bushes or some other alternative?


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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Brown Turkey, Celeste, and Chicago Hardy are the three fig cultivars most widely touted as hardy in zone 6. All three types can be found growing in backyards around here (Knoxville). Some are sizeable trees! Most of the larger ones I've seen are in warm microclimates (next to a blacktop driveway, etc), but I've also seen big ones located in areas that I doubt were atypically warm for the area. I think that, if you stick with known hardy cultivars, you should have very little problem growing figs. Protection when young (as you mentioned) is probably not a bad idea, but I really don't think you'd have a problem anyway. I do think proper planting (and even partial bare-rooting) will go a long way in making sure your figs get through their fist winter.

Different people have different ideas about what a good fig tastes like, so I won't even try to cover that. I know what I like, but not necessarily which ones others like best.

I would not plant a fig very close to my foundation. I've dealt with too many cases of tree-root damage to foundations. I haven't ever seen a fig tree damage a foundation, but I also haven't seen one planted very close to a foundation. To me, it just doesn't make sense to take the chance.

Here is a link that might be useful: Planting a Tree or Shrub

    Bookmark   January 11, 2013 at 10:36PM
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I am in JC which is slightly colder than Knoxville. I have a Chicago Hardy and it is doing well. Overgrew the pot some years ago, is planted on a sheltered southern slope, suffers some winter damage - apparently less and less every year. At first was only bearing in fall. Now starts in spring, on old wood. Is spreading, I even thought of dividing a part of it, don't know if it is worth it.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2013 at 11:12PM
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Thank you both for your thoughts. Good to know. I actually saw the results of one study indicating that LSU Gold was hardier than Chicago, but can't remember the source and cannot attest to its veracity. But that's why I asked about LG. Hidden Springs in TN sells both, so I may ask there. I've seen elsewhere that the advantage of Chicago is that it fruits quickly on new growth, so that even if it gets killed back, it will produce a good crop on new wood by fall. Don't know how other varieties are in this regard. Anyway, thanks again.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 11:48AM
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myrtleoak(z7 TN)

Johnson City is markedly colder than Knoxville. Even so, have you updated your zone yet? Are the Tri-Cities still zone 6?

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 12:46AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Current official USDA hardiness zone ratings for the Tri-Cities area range from 6A to 7A (average is 6B). SW Tri-Cities and following down the valley towards Knoxville tends to be in the warmer range, but Bristol and most of the area surrounding the Tri-Cities is in the zone 6 range.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 12:42PM
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I realize this message is late and you may not see it, pyrocaniac, but I couldn't resist telling you about a friend from long ago who had many large fig trees. When I commented on how I would like to grow fig trees, she gave me some advice. She said to make sure the trees are planted near the house or somewhere near a path where you walk by them every day. She said fig trees do better when they are close to people. Of course, she lived in Alabama, so her trees may have been better because of that, but I just thought I would pass that funny advice along.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 9:24PM
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Nice to see people are still talking about figs. Mine is bearing well this year, I even have stored quite some dried figs. I don't know what climate zone I am in any more, it is trial and error. Whatever fails to survive here seems to be mostly from multiple freezing-and-thawing without snow - torture for a normal plant. Mulching may actually make it worse because it gets so wet, it all just rots together.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 7:41PM
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maternut(7 west tn)

I know I am late for this post. I did not see anyone say the figs should be planted on the South side of house or building. Thats something I think is very important to protect from North wind in the winter. This year my Brown Turkeys were loaded and I don't think I had any on the Chicago Hardy. Celest was OK but nothing to brag about. By the way I am in North West Tn. not far from the original poster. I have one I call the green fig, slightly yellow when ripe, have no idea what the variety is but it is really growing fast and had a few this year.I recieved a cutting and the person did not know what variety it was. Wish someone could identify the thing.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 11:29AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Mine are not planted near a building at all. In fact, they are on an exposed hilltop. They seem to be doing well so far, but I guess we'll have to see as the years go by.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 6:16PM
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