Easy, prolific, and delicious!
One of the oldest fruit trees grown by humans is the fig. Fortunately for us in Central Texas, figs are easy to grow. They do not need very rich soil but do need good drainage. Prepare the soil with plenty of good quality compost before planting. If you’re planting in clay soil, make a raised bed by also mixing in prepared soil. See Fruits, Pecans, & Berries for more planting info.
The common fig, grown in Central Texas, does not require pollination to bear fruit. Figs can start bearing in just 2 – 4 years.
Choose a location that receives full sun at least 6 – 8 hours a day. Morning sun is especially important so that dew dries quickly from the leaves; otherwise, they are prone to rust disease. Give each tree space that allows the tree to grow at least 12 – 20 feet wide. Since they can occasionally be injured by frost, a location on the south side of a building can provide extra warmth in winter.
Fig trees do not like heavy pruning. For example, mature Celeste trees will produce fewer fruits in the spring after a winter pruning. Weak, diseased, or dead limbs should be pruned out in winter. Fig trees prefer regular composting instead of fertilizing. Apply a 2” to 3” layer of high-quality compost in the spring and fall over the entire root zone, especially if your fig is a freeze-sensitive variety. These shallow-rooted trees will also benefit from a layer of mulch during the hotter summer months to maintain even soil moisture. Fig fruits have “eyes” or ostioles that, when open, can be susceptible to souring and insects such as the dried fruit beetle. New cultivars with closed eyes have been introduced.
Production & Harvesting
The fruit must ripen on the tree. Harvest figs when the fruit changes color and becomes soft. The stem should separate easily. Consider using holographic scare tape to keep the birds from harvesting the fruit before you do, or try hanging old CDs to help scare them away.
Certain varieties of figs may produce more than one crop per year. A breba (or more commonly breva in Spanish) is a common fig that develops in the spring on the previous year’s shoot growth. In contrast, the main fig crop develops on the current year’s shoot growth and ripens in late summer or fall
After harvest as fall begins, reduce watering. This will encourage the tree to go dormant. After dormancy, water deeply every 3 – 4 weeks, and a few days in advance of a freeze for greater frost protection.
Figs are one of the easiest fruit crops to propagate. Hardwood cuttings taken when the plants are fully dormant will readily root and are most commonly used for propagation of figs. Cuttings should be six to ten inches in length and approximately one-half to one inch in diameter. Place the cuttings in a warm, humid environment such as wrapping them in a moist paper towel and placed in a plastic bag for 10-14 days to encourage callus formation. Cuttings can then be planted in pots in a commercial potting media to encourage rooting and shoot formation. Softwood cuttings can also be used for propagation, but a mist system is usually needed for successful plant production.
Fig Varieties for Central Texas
- Medium-sized fruit ripens July to August
- Green to brown skin
- High quality fruit with rich, sweet flesh of a light tan color and few seeds, with a moderately closed eye.
- Average growth rate with early, vigorous production
- Fruit may be eaten fresh or processed
- Needs protection from hard freezes or will suffer branch dieback
- Large-sized fruit that produces a heavy first crop (breba) in early summer and an average main crop in late fall
- Fruit is sweet, with a light strawberry pulp and purple-black skin
- Vigorous tree, but not very cold hardy
- Best suited for parts of the state with milder winters
- Good fresh or dried
- Closed eye variety
- Medium-large fruit ripens late June, continues to ripen through August
- Good quality, nearly seedless, sweet, mild-flavored, reddish-pink flesh with reddish-brown and purplish skin with a moderately closed eye
- Large and productive tree with vigorous growth and the longest ripening season of all recommended varieties.
- Good for making preserves
- Can recover from freeze injury by producing a fair crop on vegetative growth the next season
- Some consider this the same tree as Texas Everbearing. It can produce two crops per year.
- Small to medium-sized fruit, ripens mid to late June
- Firm, juicy, rich, sweet white flesh, shading to rose in the center with purple-brown skin with a tightly closed eye
- Celeste will become a large tree with vigorous growth and heavy production of excellent fruit
- Delicious for fresh eating, drying, or preserves
- It is the most cold-hardy of all Texas varieties
- Local central Texas heirloom fig from a German rancher near Kyle
- Produces a steady crop on a mid-sized bush from June through October
- Ripens to pale yellow with good sweetness and texture
- Cold hardiness outside of the hill country is unknown
- Moderately closed eye, that opens with maturity
- Hard-to-find heirloom variety from Louisiana
- Large fruit, ripens from July to August
- Round, sweet with great-tasting, deep amber to red flesh and almost jet black skin
- Moderately open eye
- Good cold hardiness.
- Medium to large fruit that, on a mature tree, may produce three crops in a single year
- A light breba crop can appear in early spring, a heavy crop in summer, and a late crop sometimes lasting into December
- Light strawberry flesh with high sugar content and lacking a “figgy” taste
- Fruit has glossy reddish to dark purple skin
- Moderately closed eye
- Vigorous, upright tree that is resistant to leaf diseases but needs protection from hard freezes
- Medium-sized tan-colored fruit with a golden reddish color inside
- Great flavor with medium sweetness
- Mostly closed eye
- Also known as “Improved Celeste” but ripens 1-2 weeks earlier
Texas Blue Giant
- Extra-large-sized fruit that ripens from August to September
- Closed eye
- Mildly sweet taste, with amber to pink flesh and purple skin
- Needs protection from hard freezes
- Medium to large fruit ripens June through August
- Moderately closed eye
- Flesh is reddish-pink as is the skin, nearly seedless, and has a mildly sweet flavor
- Vigorous, large, productive tree produces the most common variety of figs in Central Texas. Some consider this the same variety as Brown Turkey.
Tiger or Panache
- Small to medium-sized fruit ripens from August to September
- Closed eye
- Fruit is sweet, with a flavor similar to strawberry or raspberry jam
- Flesh is crimson-colored, with a green-ribbed or “tiger-striped” skin
- The tree does not put on early spring breba crop
- Fruit requires a long warm growing season with temperatures regularly above 95°F to develop good flavor and sweetness
- Mature trees are hardy to 15°F, while developing trees need protection from hard freezes