How to Grow Fig Trees in a Cold Climate

(common edible types)

If you want to know how to grow fig trees in a cold climate, this is the place! Fig trees can survive in colder northern areas with proper winter care. Here are the specific planning steps you need to take in advance.



Brown Turkey figs.

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First, you must pick the type of fig tree you want to grow. There are breeds that claim to be hardier than others, but generally speaking you will need to take the same steps to winterize one no matter the type.

Each one tastes different so grow the type you like to eat. Brunswick, Brown Turkey, Celeste, Black Mission and Hardy Chicago are all good. The best idea is to grow a variety that you know has been grown successfully in your neck of the woods.

Choosing a place to plant your fig tree is the first step in preventative winterization. Make sure your tree will get plenty of light, ideally facing south. If you can provide a space near your house, the tree will be protected from harsh wind on one side and even absorb some warmth from the structure.

Stop feeding the fig tree by late summer to give new growth a chance to harden before winter.

When winter approaches, there are a few things you need to do:

  • Spread a thick layer of mulch around the base of the tree. Don't go right up to the trunk--start the mulch a few inches away. Mulch to the drip line.
  • Once the tree goes dormant and the branches are bare, wrap it in burlap to cover the exposed branches. You may also go the extra step of covering around the cloth with plastic.


How to Grow Fig Trees in Containers

Some gardeners choose to plant their fig trees in pots, instead of in the ground, so they can move them indoors in the winter. A good place to move your tree to is a frost-free garage if you have one.

Or you can create one.

Depending on how well insulated your garage is, you may be able to keep the temperature inside it high enough to overwinter your figs by running a small electric space heater on very cold nights.

One year, when I had too many potted figs and tender citrus trees to fit into the garage, we put contractors plastic over the screening on our completely uninsulated back porch and ran a little space heater on frosty nights.

When the heater was running, it was toasty enough out there to sit out and sip cocoa. I got to use and enjoy the porch all winter and the plants came through without damage.

Alternatively, you may have a basement you can use.

When protecting potted figs in this way, wait until they go dormant before moving them into whatever area you will be storing them in. You can even wrap them in burlap for extra insulation.

During the winter, periodically check the moisture level in the pots. You don't want to let the trees dry out completely, but you do want to keep them on the dry side. You can start watering more when you see new growth emerging in the spring.

If you don't have a garage, basement, or back porch you can insulate, you can always move your pots into the house proper. The problem with this plan--for most people--comes down to space.

Figs are not going to go dormant or stay dormant long inside a heated house.

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While they are in active growth they require a great deal of light. Most homes have a limited number of windows. You may have to use supplemental lighting to make this work. If you can get bulbs that are cheap to run (they'll be on 12-16 hours per day) it might be worth doing.

I have heard of certain strains of Brown Turkey growing and fruiting all winter indoors. That would sure take the edge off of winter.

If you are going to overwinter your figs in the house, you can bring them in before they go dormant if you want to keep them growing throughout the winter.

If you can't provide them with enough light, let them go dormant and then put them in the coolest room in the house. This is healthier for the trees than keeping them in a warm, dim area where they will grow poorly and attract insects.

Whichever way you choose to protect your tree, make sure to plan ahead for it. You will be grateful for the sweet crop you harvest because you learned how to grow fig trees in a cold climate.


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Related Pages:

How to Grow Fig Trees in Wet Climates

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