The figs at home are quite easy as they don’t require much attention. Figs have been cultivated for many years, and people grow around 470 varieties of common figs in the southeast. You can consume their delicious fresh, preserved fruit or in desserts like ice cream and cakes.
Archeologists have found evidence of fig tree cultivation dating back to 5,000 BC, indicating its long existence. These small, warm-climate trees can grow in almost any location, and some fig varieties can survive in temperatures as low as -12 to -6 Celsius. Furthermore, fig trees produce an excellent yield for approximately 15 years.
Figs should be planted in an area with good drainage and plenty of sunlight for optimal growth. Although they can grow tall trees or shrubs reaching a height of 15 to 30 feet, they tend to grow wider than taller, so pruning can help manage their height. Figs can serve multiple purposes, such as providing shade, acting as a screen in the summertime, or being grown in containers or as espaliers. So, figs are suitable additions for homeowners who want to do some backyard landscaping.
Fig Trees History
Figs have a rich culinary history and are one of the oldest fruits eaten by humans. In the past, they were commonly used to sweeten desserts before sugar became widely available. Even today, figs remain a staple ingredient in many popular holiday dishes and the classic Fig Newtons cookie that has existed since 1891.
The fig has roots in northern Asia Minor and was introduced to the Mediterranean by the Greeks and Romans. In 1520, Spanish Franciscan missionaries brought the fig to southern California, where it became known as the Mission Fig. While this was happening, records suggest that the fig was also abundant in both China and England.
The fig tree has a long history of cultivation and is mentioned in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Scholars believe that the forbidden fruit in the Bible eaten by Eve might have been a fig instead of an apple. Sumerian stone tablets dating back to 2500 B.C. reveal the culinary use of figs, and fig tree remnants have been discovered during excavations of Neolithic sites from 5000 B.C. As a result, some historians consider it the first domesticated crop.
Many religions worldwide, such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism, use figs to symbolize fertility, peace, and prosperity. Figs were given to Olympic athletes in ancient times, and Pliny the Elder praised their therapeutic properties. The prophet Mohammed supposedly said he would like to see figs in paradise more than any other fruit.
Clothing from Fig
Local fig tree bark has been used by cultures in Africa, Asia, and South America to create wearable or writable material. Ugandans still produce cloth from fig tree bark, a process classified by the United Nations as a “masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.” This material has been adopted by researchers and designers globally and can be found in furniture, high fashion, yachts, cars, and aircraft.
Figs also have significance in other cultures. For example, the Kikuyu people in Kenya believe that a group of sacred fig trees at the center of their creation story are essential. Additionally, an Indonesian story describes how the first couple was formed by two gods from a fig tree, using horizontal wood slices to create the woman and vertical slices for the man.
According to a myth from the Kutia Kondh people in Odisha, India, the goddess creator Nirantali created the first human tongue using a quivering leaf of the sacred fig. Additionally, another tale states that the goddess gave the first humans seeds from the Ficus benghalensis fig tree, which grew into trees that provided shade and nourishment in milky latex until grains became available.
Significance in Hong Kong
The Ficus macrocarpa fig trees are believed to have spirits in them in Hong Kong. Two of these trees have gained popularity as “wishing trees.” For several years, people used to throw oranges with wishes written on crimson paper strips tied to them into the trees’ branches. If a branch caught hold of the orange, the wishes could be blown up to heaven by the breeze. However, in 2005, a branch broke off due to the weight of too many wishes and injured a man and a child. As a result, the government prohibited this practice.
Significance in Indonesia
The Batak people, who live on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, believe in a mythical Ficus benjamina tree as their ‘world tree.’ As children, people used to dust their leaves. According to the Batak, this tree is located among the stars and has roots that extend down to Earth. People can climb up its roots to reach heaven. Indigenous peoples in Borneo, the Iban, and others, have a tradition of not growing fig trees from cutting because of the presence of spirits among their roots.
Significance of the Fig in Other Areas
Some interesting beliefs about fig trees exist in different parts of the world. For example, on the Japanese island of Okinawa, there are red-haired spirits named kijimuna, often found living in fig trees in the northeast. In Timor-Leste, people believe that the Sun god, Upulevo, impregnated Mother Earth while settling in a fig tree farther south. Similarly, in the Sepik River area of Papua New Guinea, it is believed that crocodile spirits live in fig trees.
The original communities in Australia are cautioning people about the yara-ma-yha-who, a creature that looks like a man and drinks blood. This creature is said to reside in fig trees and attacks unsuspecting travelers. On Guam, an island in the Pacific Ocean that is thousands of kilometers away from the closest big landmass, the roots of fig trees are believed to be the home of ancestral spirits known as Xanthomonas.
Myanmar has a history of worshipping nats, including Nyaung Bin, an old man who resides in a fig tree, for a millennium before Buddhism became the main religion. In the Philippines, it is believed that supernatural creatures like goblins, giant tree demons, and tikbalangs (who are half-horse and half-human) reside in fig trees.
Fig Tree Growing Conditions
Figs are a plant that produces a delicious fruit that tastes best when eaten ripe and fresh from the tree. Unlike many other fruits, figs ripen completely while still on the branch. Therefore, if you plant your fig tree, you can harvest the freshest fruit possible. The common fig tree grows well in warm climates and doesn’t need pollination to bear new fruit. However, some specific types of fig trees require pollinators, so you should check the growing conditions of your preferred variety before planting your tree.
Fig trees can grow in different kinds of soil, but they prefer slightly acidic and well-drained soil. It’s helpful for the soil to have plenty of organic matter to promote growth. You can use regular potting mixes for fig trees if the mix retains moisture and is well-aerated. These trees do well in coastal regions and tolerate loamy, clay, or sandy soil conditions.
For a bountiful harvest and the tastiest fruit, planting fig trees in an area that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily is crucial. With sufficient sunlight, the trees will produce fewer figs.
It is recommended to plant fig trees in areas with high temperatures, specifically in the Lower, Coastal, and Tropical South, for optimal growth. In the Middle South, planting these trees near a wall that receives southern exposure is best so they can benefit from reflected heat. For the Upper South, it is suggested to choose cold-hardy fig tree species like ‘Celeste’ and ‘Brown Turkey.’
To keep your fig trees healthy:
- Fertilize them twice a year.
- Use Espoma Citrus-tone (5-2-6) or slow-release all-purpose fertilizer in late winter/early spring to promote new growth.
- After the trees bear fruit, add fertilizer near the roots for more fruit.
Fertilizer can also improve foliage appearance if it’s dull.
To ensure proper fruit development, it’s essential to water fruit plants regularly and check them every day. Pick the fruit only once it’s ripe. In the first year, while the plants are still established, water them frequently and provide mulch. Once they are established, fig plants can withstand long periods of drought.
Temperature and Humidity
Fig trees require warm, subtropical climates to grow well, but they can still tolerate low temperatures above 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Areas with severe winters are not suitable for fig trees. However, you can plant them in large pots and protect them during the winter by storing them in a cool garage or basement. Fig trees prefer well-drained soil and thrive in dry climates. In excessively wet environments, fruits can split and spoil due to too much rain, hindering proper fruit development.
Layering for Fig Propagation
Layering is when a branch of a fig tree is rooted while still attached to the main tree. It’s a good method for propagating a tree without taking cuttings and for growing a bigger tree faster. To propagate fig trees outdoors, the first method requires temperatures that don’t drop below freezing during the dormant season.
Ground layering involves burying a part of a low-growing fig branch with 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm.) of the top visible above ground. After the buried portion, roots can be cut off from the parent tree. Although ground layering is the easiest way to propagate figs, it can pose difficulties in maintaining the area while the branches are rooting.
To ensure successful layering, it’s best to do it at the start of your growing season, as the process usually takes 1-3 months. You can layer your current season’s new growth or fruiting branches. There is a higher chance of root formation when air layering around the Summer solstice, so aim to layer your fig trees before or during that time.
Rooting Fig Cuttings Outdoors
One of the most dependable and commonly used methods for propagating fig trees is by rooting cuttings from an existing tree. Here are some useful tips for propagating fig cuttings through rooting are:
To propagate a fig tree, cut the branch and score the end. You can dip the cut end in rooting hormones such as Clone-X Rooting Gel. To plant the cutting, use a rooting medium that is both moist and well-draining, such as vermiculite, perlite, bark fines, Pro-Mix HP, rice hulls, or your preferred well-draining mix.
To help your fig cutting grow:
- Place it in a warm and bright spot, indoors with strong grow lights or outdoors with indirect sunlight. The ideal temperature should be around 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
- After the roots have developed, move the cutting to a bigger pot or plant it in the ground.
- Keep the new fig tree in a warm sunny spot and water it regularly.
Rooting Cuttings in the Ground
Propagation of fig cuttings can be simple. You can follow simple procedures. Just plant the fig cuttings directly into the ground using the “old Italian man way.”
The process is very simple, and the results are clear. Cut a long shoot from an established fig tree with one to three feet in length pruning. Score the bottom of the cutting, dip the end in rooting hormone, and bury the cutting as deep as you can, but leave a few nodes above the soil line.
Select a location with direct sunlight and good drainage as the permanent spot for the tree the fig cutting is establishing its roots. It may be helpful to use shade cloth and Parafilm wax to prevent it from becoming dry.
Another option is to make a raised bed with good drainage and plant your fig cuttings directly into it. Using loose and airy soil will allow your fig trees to root easily, and you can later transplant them to another location in the summer or fall.
Rooting Figs In Water
It is possible to root fig cuttings in water, but some people prefer to use this method last. Once the fig cutting has grown roots, transfer it to a soil or rooting medium to help it grow further. Some growers find it challenging to transplant the cutting from water compared to other methods. To guarantee success, it’s essential to change the water every day so that the cutting receives enough oxygen.
Propagating the Fig Plant
To propagate a fig plant:
- Use a six-inch healthy cutting and remove most leaves, except for one or two at the bottom.
- Put the cutting in a jar or glass filled with water.
- Propagate the plant cutting, place a humidity dome over the top, and regularly replace the water.
- Provide warmth and ample sunlight by placing it on a sunny windowsill or using full-spectrum grow lights.
- After the roots have developed, transfer the cutting to a bigger container or plant it outdoors.
Propagating Figs From Stem Cuttings
To grow figs, the most common way is to use dormant cuttings. These should be taken in winter, either before or after the risk of frost. Usually, the cuttings are taken by POP during late fall, after the tree has shed its leaves and become dormant.
Keep the cuttings moist and wrap them in a slightly damp newspaper. Then put them in a plastic bag before refrigerating. Collect cuttings from trees shielded from the cold or towards the end of a mild winter for optimum results. Avoid using branch tips exposed to harsh winter conditions as they may have died back and won’t be suitable for propagation.
Cut one-foot-long branches from the previous year’s growth tips to propagate figs using a sharp pruner. The branches should be at least half an inch thick. Cut the branch into smaller segments with at least four leaf nodes if longer. While not required, you can use rooting hormone to expedite rooting.
Moist Potting Soil
To grow fig trees from cuttings, follow these steps: take cuttings around March or April, and put the cut ends into moist potting soil or vermiculite in a pot. Ensure only one node is above the pot’s surface, then water deeply.
Keep the pot in the shade and the soil moist until rooting is finished. It generally takes a few weeks for rooting to begin and leaves to develop. Developing a good mass of roots will take a couple of months. A single-gallon pot can hold multiple cuttings, which will be separated later.
Once your cuttings have rooted and grown leaves, place the pot in a sunny spot away from direct wind. Water only if the soil dries, usually once or twice a week. When the cuttings are fully grown, you can separate them and transfer them to larger pots.
You can plant them in the summer or fall, but they are highly susceptible to cold during this early stage. Therefore, they require robust protection during the winter season. Usually, POP keeps the young figs in pots, which are kept in a shade house or an unheated garage or basement during the first winter. Afterward, they are planted in the ground or bigger pots in spring.
Fig trees are a great addition to any garden; with the right knowledge, you can easily propagate them from cuttings. Following the steps outlined in this article, you can grow your fig tree by cutting without much effort or expense. Whether growing indoors or outdoors, ensure sufficient sunlight and water it regularly for optimal growth. With proper care and maintenance, your fig tree should produce delicious fruit within two years of planting! So get started today – happy gardening.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about how to grow fig trees from cutting.
What is the best time to take a cutting from a fig tree?
The best time to take a cutting from a fig tree is during the winter months when the tree is dormant and has shed its leaves. This will minimize shock to the plant and create an optimal environment for rooting.
How long should the cutting be for successful propagation?
The cutting should be one foot long with at least four leaf nodes. This will give the tree the best chance for success when propagating.
Should I use rooting hormone when propagating a fig tree from a cutting?
Rooting hormones is unnecessary, but it can help expedite the rooting process. If you choose to use it, follow the directions carefully and wear protective gloves.
When can I expect my propagated fig tree to bear fruit?
A fig tree generally takes two years to propagate from a cutting to bear fruit. With proper care and maintenance, you can expect your tree to produce delicious fruit within this period.
Are there any common diseases to be aware of when growing a fig tree from a cutting?
Yes, fig trees can be susceptible to fungus and root rot. To prevent this, ensure the soil has good drainage and check regularly for signs of disease.