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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Fig Culture

Every city block or square mile area should have a fig. I think that most of you who have grown figs in this area realize that a large fig tree can really produce a lot of figs. The plant starts off really cute and petite and producing just enough figs for the family to enjoy. As the years pass so does the ability of the family to consume the abundance of figs produced. The birds appreciate the excess but needy neighbors could make better use of the delicious fruit. Thus, only one tree per city block or square mile area is necessary.

The fig is one of the oldest fruit crops known to man, and it has long been an important home fruit crop in the South. In the early 1900s, there was a 17,000-acre fig-processing industry on the Gulf Coast, which attests to the fruit's adaptability in the South.

Figs can be grown as trees or bushes, depending on the way they are propagated and pruned.

Have you ever considered what the fig fruit actually is? It’s an unusual fruit. If you doubt this, then ask yourself if you have ever seen a fig tree bloom, you do peaches and pears. When you eat a fig fruit, you’re actually eating flower and all. The plant structure we are accustomed to calling a fig fruit is an enlarged ovary, a floral part. In many of our fruits, we can see clearly where the flower petals were attached. According to that definition, a fig is not properly a fruit. The flowers, and later the technical fruit, are hidden inside a specialized structure. The whole arrangement is so unusual that botanists have devised special terms to describe it. We grow fig trees for the flesh of this specialized structure, which contains the actual fruit we call a fig.

What's of interest to the would?be fig grower is that the unusual flower structure complicates the process of pollination. Bees, which are the pollinators we most rely on in the garden, can't reach fig flowers to pollinate them. Only one pollinator can do this—a small wasp, whose own life cycle further complicates the fig pollination process. The wasp must find a home for its young inside the fruits of a fig species known as 'Caprifig'.

Caprifig, then, must be available in the vicinity of the edible fig tree so that wasps hatching from the caprifigs can enter the edible figs and pollinate the hidden flowers. (The wasps are actually laying eggs for the next generation and, in the process, are carrying pollen to the female flowers.) This process is referred to as caprification. Fortunately for the backyard fig grower, most fig varieties do not require pollination by wasps.

Varieties recommended for this area include:

Celeste (Celestial, Blue Celeste, Sugar Fig) is a small, dark and sweet high quality fig which ripens in mid?June. Celeste fruit have a distinctive closed eye that prevents entry of the dried fruit beetle and on?the?tree spoilage. The tree is moderately vigorous and very productive. It is a good fresh?eating fig and is also excellent for preserving purposes.

Texas Everbearing is a medium?large, pear?shaped fig with copper brown skin and yellow flesh. It ripens in late June. The tree is very vigorous and produces over a long period of time. The fruit has a relatively closed eye that prevents premature fruit spoilage.

Alma is a high quality fig that is extremely productive and ripens in late June. The tree is moderately vigorous, comes into production at an early stage and produces extremely heavy crops. Alma is a recent release of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. The fruit eye is closed by a drop of thick resin that inhibits on?the?tree fruit spoilage.

Caring for Your New Fig Tree

Figs are relatively tolerant of a wide range of soils, thriving in fairly heavy clays as well as in loose, sandy loams. Soils from slightly acid to very slightly neutral will support them. Trees should be kept free of weed competition, and moisture should be constantly available. A deep watering about every 10 days is recommended where summers tend to be dry. Once growth has begun, an early spring application of a complete fertilizer may be made, or the trees may be kept mulched with compost. High nitrogen applications should be avoided. Excessive nitrogen levels can cause figs to split and become watery tasting, and the trees will be more susceptible to winter damage.


Figs can be propagated by suckers, layering or cuttings. Using suckers from the crown of a mature bush is not recommended because it can transfer nematodes from the roots of the mother plant. The easiest way to propagate figs is by stem cuttings taken when the tree is dormant or just going dormant. Cuttings should be 6 to 8 inches long and taken from one growth that is one year old or less. Cuttings may be stuck in pots of potting soil or stuck directly in the ground. Wait until the trees are dormant before moving them to their permanent location.

Training and Pruning

Pruning should be minimal once the tree's main structure is formed. Commercially, young trees are pruned at about two to three feet from the ground, which causes the tree to develop its first branches at about that height. Fig trees make attractive espaliers grown along a trellis against a south-facing wall.

Normally, figs are pruned very little. Mature Celeste and Alma trees should not be pruned since this will reduce the crop size. Mature Everbearing varieties will produce a fair crop following heavy winter pruning or freeze damage. Dehorning figs encourages rapid growth and will increase water stress.

Figs can be trained to a single?trunk, open vase?type tree or to a multi?trunk bush. The bush system is by far the best for the South because freezes occasionally kill the upper part of the plant. The tree system can only be used along the coast.

Older trees that show little growth each year should be thinned out to stimulate new growth. This will also increase fruit size. The trees should be pruned enough to stimulate approximately one foot of growth each year. All weak, diseased or frozen limbs should also be removed each dormant season. Frozen limbs should be thinned out after damage becomes obvious in late spring.

Mulching and Fertilization

Organic mulches such as grass clippings, hay, or pine needles are extremely important in growing healthy fig trees. Mulch the tree 12 inches deep. The mulch will insulate warm soil temperatures in the winter and prevent the crown of the tree from freezing. It will also conserve soil moisture, cool the soil, and control weeds during the growing season. The decomposing mulch will slowly add nutrients to the soil. Commercial fertilizers are not needed on figs.


Figs have very few pests. They normally do not require any spraying and can be grown completely "organically". The two most common pests of figs are nematodes, small microscopic worms that feed on the root system, and fig rust, a fungus disease that causes premature defoliation. Birds are also known to enjoy figs.

'Nematodes' are small microscopic worms that are a universal fig problem. Figs seldom are without nematode infestations. They feed on small roots, reducing movement of nutrients and water within the roots. For this reason, figs should receive optimum moisture management. To prevent or delay the onset of nematodes, always use stem cuttings –not suckers—for propagating new plants. Never plant figs in an old garden site that may contain nematodes. Always inspect the roots of new plants to insure they are not infected with nematodes (small knots).


Harvest figs as soon as they are ripe (soft and purple). They will not ripen further after being picked. Wear a long-sleeved shirt when harvesting figs as the foliage may irritate your skin. If overripe fruit remains on the bush for more than a day, birds, dried fruit beetles, and spoilage will claim the crop. Never drop spoiled fruit under the bush because they will also attract more insects.

Climate and Soil

Though the fig grows best south of Interstate?20, it can be grown in any sunny location in the South. The tree is frost?sensitive and can receive occasional injury in all southern areas. If growth does not slow significantly in the fall, early freezes can damage or kill the tree. However, mature bushes that are fully dormant can endure temperatures as low as 10 degrees F. with little damage. In colder areas, trees should be planted on the south side of buildings.

Most southern soils will grow healthy fig trees. Figs grow in sands or clay, high or low Ph, and moderately drained soils. They are relatively salt?tolerant and can be grown in the Southwest or along the coast near brackish water.

Planting and Spacing

Plant your tree immediately after acquiring it. Choose a location that receives full- or mostly-sun and does not stay permanently wet. Space fig trees 12 to 20 feet apart. Prune off any broken or dried?out roots and branches. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the root system and plant the tree just slightly deeper than it was grown in the nursery (as indicated by the change in color on the stem). Water the tree well to eliminate any air pockets in the soil that can lead to drying-out or freeze damage. Do not add any fertilizer at this point. As young figs are susceptible to freeze damage, place liberal quantities of mulch around the newly planted tree. Pine straw, compost, grass clippings, hay, etc. all make good mulches. If a severe freeze is expected, cover the entire plant with mulch, a box, a blanket, etc. to insulate it from cold. If the top of the tree does happen to freeze to the ground, it should return from the root system as long as the soil doesn't freeze.

More about figs can be found at:

Delicious fig recipes can be found at:


Now that you know all there is to know about fig production, check your neighborhood—you may be the lucky person who should plant the communal fig tree or bush.