which fig is best for east Tennessee?

nancyk(6)August 3, 2011

We planted some figs years ago that were supposed to be for this region(between Knoxville and Kingsport). I believe one was Brown Turkey. None of the figs start ripening until October, and I usually get at most a handful then we have a frost, which kills all the figs. These are more bush-like than tree-like, I have seen one a mile from here that is more tree-like(tall, with limbs, ours are more growth from the ground that die every year, then I have to look at dead growth for 9 months unless I get a spurt and cut them to the ground) that has loads of ripe figs in August.

I would love to have these early figs and would like to know if the trees can be bought locally or must be mailordered? Is it too late to plant them now?


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brandon7 TN_zone(7)


The three most common figs grown in Tennessee are "Brown Turkey", "Celeste", and "Chicago Hardy" (and probably in that order). Be aware that just because they are marked as one of these DOESN'T mean that's what they are ("Brown Turkey", especially, is notoriously confused in the trade). All three of these cultivars should be hardy (once established) in just about any part of Tennessee. A few other cultivars are probably safe bets too, but are not as common here.

One thing that can make a LOT of difference is microclimate. A rock outcrop, sidewalks and driveways, the wall of a building, or the side of a hill can make a huge difference in marginal areas.

It would be a real challenge to keep a fig alive if planted out right now. It's probably the worst time of year possible to plant trees. If it were me, I'd probably wait until spring to plant a fig. Fall might be OK, but, since figs are close to being marginally hardy here, they'd probably be a better bet in spring. Take a look at the link below for planting tips.

I have seen all three of the cultivars listed above for sale at Home Depot. The trick is knowing which Home Depot and when. It seems to be a hit-and-miss kind of thing. I have also seen Home Depot figs range from amazingly healthy looking to looking like they were drug behind the truck on their way to the store. Some local nurseries also have figs in stock (usually in springtime).

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

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 12:08AM
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myrtleoak(z7 TN)

They do well here in Knoxville, but our temps can sometimes be 5-10 degrees warmer than areas going towards the tri cities. Sounds like for your situation you need south-facing exposure planted near the house foundation.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 10:06PM
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Thanks for the advice. I will go speak with the man with the tree-like figs and see if I can dig up a young one. Then cross my fingers


    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 3:05PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)


Your comment about digging up a young tree brings up some questions. If you are considering digging up a nearby seedling, do realize that it WON'T be the same as the parent. It may have some similar characteristics or may not. If you are wanting something that you can count on, you probably will want to grow a cultivar (vegetatively produced offspring of a tree with known characteristics). Besides buying one, another options is to root cuttings from the tree you wish to replicate.

It may be possible to separate a rooted root-sucker from the larger tree, but (at least in my experience) usually figs don't produce suckers that are far enough away and sufficiently self-rooted to be easily separated from the parent tree without a lot of root disturbance.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 12:21AM
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"may be possible to separate a rooted root-sucker from the larger tree"
Yes, that is what I was going to try. If the owner will let me dig one up, I would like to try. I really have nothing to loose. Our figs ripen so late we hardly ever get any. I will also look into purchasing a cultivar for this area, though from reading Gardenweb it sounds that many are mislabeled.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 1:16PM
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maternut(7 west tn)

Nancy I have the three fig cultivars Brandon was telling you about. This year the Celeste beat the others hands down. Celeste has been ripe for about two weeks, Chicago Hardy and Brown Turkey are just starting to get ripe. Now next year it could be the other way around. Be sure and plant on the south side of a building. No variety likes the north wind. I am not in East Tn but zone seven in West Tn.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 10:11PM
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myrtleoak(z7 TN)

My friend here in Knoxville has so many figs right now that he's having to give them away.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 9:04AM
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