Can you grow a fig tree indoors? The short answer is no.
Here’s why you wouldn’t want to: The edible fig (Ficus carica) needs full sun in the summer, which is almost impossible to get indoors. In autumn, the deciduous fig tree loses its leaves and goes into dormancy for the winter, when it doesn’t need any sun at all. Most common fig trees get too big and gangly and too messy to be good houseplants. But you can grow fig trees in containers for a few reasons which we will explain below.
How to Grow Figs
Most fig tree varieties can be grown outside in USDA zones 7-10 (check your zone). When fully dormant (and with mulched roots) a fig tree can tolerate temperatures as low as 10º to 15ºF (-12º to -9ºC).
If you live where harsh winter temperatures get colder than that (hardiness zones 6 and below), you can grow fig trees in containers outside in the a sunny spot all summer. Then move the container to a warmer area like inside or in a garage before the really cold weather arrives. Once it gets warm enough outside it is safe to move your fig tree back outdoors.
The exception to the “no indoor figs” rule is the dwarf fig variety ‘Petite Negra’, which gets only 3-8 feet tall when grown in a container and usually keeps its leaves through the winter. Ficus carica Petite Negra produces normal sized figs, beginning when the tree is only a foot or two tall. It needs a south-facing window and at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Check out this videos of a tasting of the Petite Negra which is the best variety for growing figs in containers! The breba crop will bear fruit on the previous years growth.
Here are few tips for how to grow fig trees in containers:
- Plant your fig tree in a lightweight container that’s as large as you can manage. One on wheels will make it easier to move around. (You can start out with a smaller container, then pot-up as the tree gets bigger.)
- Use a soil-based potting mix and add bark chips or light-weight perlite to improve drainage. Maintain a nice layer of mulch to retain moisture and reduce the amount of watering you will have to do. Perfect Plants specially formulated Fruit Tree Planting Mix will work wonders as your potting soil!
- Don’t let the potting medium get too dry. We recommend watering a containerized tree for 15 minutes every morning with a drip irrigation tube controlled by an inexpensive battery powered timer, available at garden supply stores. A treegator is a great option!
- Keep your potted fig tree in full sun during the summer.
- Prune as necessary to maintain a size and shape you can work with.
- Fig trees grown in containers need to be fertilized with a high nitrogen fertilizer every four weeks in the spring and early summer. An organic fertilizer such as compost and mulch will help retain moisture as well.
- When the leaves begin to drop in autumn, bring the container inside to an unheated room, such as a basement, garage, shed, or storage building. Throughout the winter, water only when the potting medium becomes dry. A dormant tree doesn’t take in water, but can die if the roots dry out. Don’t fertilize in winter.
- In early spring (if practical), allow your containerized fig to acclimate gradually to the warming weather by bringing it outside for a few hours each day, then move the tree indoors at night. When all danger of frost has passed, position the tree in full sun and get ready to harvest some fresh figs! Ripe fruit will appear in the summer growing season.
- Perfect Plants has several other varieties of figs for sale like the Celeste Fig, Black Mission Fig, Brown Turkey Fig, and Chicago Hardy Fig that can be container grown however they will have the best fruit production outdoors in the ground depending on the variety.
See Perfect plants’ Grow Guide for Edible Fig Trees (coming soon) for much more about growing figs. These trees are easy to grow and fairly cold hardy… they can be grown in many places across the United States. They are pests and disease resistant. Happy planting!