Figs grow best in the coastal plain and eastern piedmont. They are not generally recommended for the western piedmont and mountains, where they will freeze back in the winter.

Figs are very susceptible to nematodes. Its a good idea to have the soil tested for nematodes before planting. Wash the soil off the roots before planting. If they are knotty and show evidence of root knot nematodes, don't plant them.

The best fig cultivars for North Carolina are Celeste, Brown Turkey, Brunswick, Greenish, Marseille, and Magnolia. Of these, Magnolia is the most cold resistant. Figs need well-drained, reasonably fertile, moist soil. They need protection from winter sun and winds. A northern exposure often helps to keep the plants dormant until warm weather.

Select well rooted one-year-old plants and set them ten feet apart. If a tree is desired; set the plants one or two inches deeper than they grew in the nursery. If a bush is desired, set them four inches deeper than they grew in the nursery. Deeper planting encourages branching. Mulch figs to conserve moisture and to keep down weeds.

In early spring, apply fertilizer according to a soil test report. If you have not taken a soil test apply 10-10-10 at the rate of one pound for each year of age, up to a maximum of 15 pounds. Too much nitrogen gives excessive growth, reduces yield and promotes winter injury. If more than 18 to 24 inches of terminal growth is produced in one season, reduce the amount of nitrogen being applied.

Figs usually need very little pruning. Pruning consists mainly of removing dead and broken branches. Wait until the plant has just begin to produce new growth. With time your fig bush may become to large to easily harvest. In this case, cut back individual branches to the desired height.

Figs often have a problem with fruit dropping before it reaches maturity. Possible reason include: it is not a recommended cultivar for North Carolina, excessive nitrogen which in turn promotes vegetative growth; poor light due to shading; frost or freeze injury; or too much or too little moisture in the soil or nematode damage. Sometimes the fruit will split as they ripen. Usually this is due to uneven moisture or heavy rains.


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© Erv Evans, Consumer Horticulturalist
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