Fig fruit is in the mulberry family. There are some 800 types of figs, genus Ficus, but the most popular fig varieties that we grow for the delicious fruits are all varieties of Ficus carica, the common fig tree.
The edible fig tree types (that is, common fig plant varieties) do not require cross pollination, so you need only one tree to get large fruits. Learn more about why figs do not need require pollination in our Fruit Tree Pollination blog.
Most varieties grow into medium sized trees, usually maxing out around 20 feet tall and 20 feet across. Some varieties are susceptible to hard freezes, sometimes dying back in winter, but returning in spring and even bearing a crop before the growing season ends when producing fruit. They have large root systems so choose a planting site that is permanent.
In colder climates, small fig trees can be grown in containers and kept small by regular pruning. Some people in the northern United States go to great lengths to protect their fig trees in winter. Growing figs in containers is a great option but they really do thrive best in the ground! These trees will get fairly big and need some space to grow and produce the fresh fig fruit.
Figs can produce two crops depending on your USDA zone. Figs often bear a first crop in spring on the previous year’s growth called the breba crop. The main crop is born later in the summer or early fall on new growth. The breba crop is much smaller than the main crop and is sometimes destroyed by a late spring frost.
Figs develop in a multitude of colors including green skinned fruit that ripens into dark purple skin or even brown skin with red flesh or sometimes pink flesh depending on the variety and type of fig tree.
Fig trees are deciduous meaning they lose their leaves in the dormant seasons. Some different types of fig trees are more cold hardy than others. Figs prefer full sun for best fruit production performance and are drought tolerant once established.
There are more than 700 named cultivars of common fig out there. Characteristics of some of the best fig varieties are provided in the table below…
Common Fig Tree Varieties
|Brown Turkey||5-10||large||medium||late||yes, small||brownish||strawberry red|
|LSU Purple||7-9||medium||medium||mid||yes||reddish purple||amber|
|Black Mission||7-11||large||medium-large||late||yes, small||purplish black||strawberry red|
|Celeste Fig||7-9||medium||small-medium||early-mid||yes||brownish violet||amber|
|Green Ischia||7-9||small||medium||mid-late||yes, large||greenish||strawberry red|
|Chicago Hardy||6-10||medium||small-medium||late||no||brownish violet||strawberry red|
|Desert King||7-11||medium||medium||early||yes, large||green||strawberry red|
|LSU Gold||7-10||small||very large||late||yes, variable||yellow||pink|
|Kadota||7-10||medium||medium||mid||yes, fair||yellowish green||amber|
Tree Size is given as Large = 25’ x 25’ or larger; Medium = around 15’ x 15’; and Small = less than 15’ x 15’. The entries for Fruit Size and Main Crop Season are relative; precise numbers will be dependent on local growing conditions and climate. Breba crops vary from year to year, also based on local conditions.
In conclusion, growing figs can be an easy and rewarding fruit tree to have in your garden and landscape. The high yields of these sweet fruits, the low maintenance qualities, and their adaptiveness to many climates makes them a favorite of ours here at Perfect Plants! Check out the Brown Turkey fig and Black Mission fig for the most common edible fig tree varieties grown! Figs are great eaten fresh, as dried figs, in preserves or baking.
Home gardeners rejoice! Go fig or go home!!
We will have a fig grow guide coming soon for more information on how fig trees grow and how to harvest figs.