How to Grow and Care for Figs in Southern California
Figs may have originated in the Mediterranean, but we are fortunate to have them in the southern states, thriving in our hot climate! With delicious fruit and gorgeous foliage, figs are a delight in the garden and come in many cultivars to suit any garden size.
Ornamental vs. Fruit-Bearing Figs
The Ficus genus is extensive, with many species originating from Tropical East Asia, but the edible fig originating from the Mediterranean. Ficus includes many types of common fig plants, such as the Ficus lyrata (fiddle leaf fig), Ficus elastica, Ficus benjamina, and the Ficus carica, which is a fruiting fig variety. While many Ficus make excellent houseplants, Ficus carica is a joy to grow outdoors in warmer climates, offering shade, beauty, and a bountiful harvest.
How to Care for Fig Trees in
In general, fig trees require full sun for the best quality fruit. In the blazing summer heat of inland valleys, you may find that they benefit from some light filtration, but fig trees in most of Orange County generally thrive in sunlight. They do not require much fertilizing throughout the year, though if you notice your trees need a boost, an annual feed in the early spring will suffice
When planting a fig tree in the ground, ensure that you plant at least 20 feet away from your home or other trees for full-sized varieties. New trees will not require pruning or feeding for the first year, so you can sit back and give them time to establish. After a couple of years, your fig should start to produce fruit.
Fig trees need at least one inch of water a week, with more during the hottest summer months. Be careful to water consistently but do not overwater, as this can cause fruit splitting.
Ripe figs are soft to the touch, while under ripe figs produce a milky substance from the stem when picked. Underripe figs have a protective, enzymatic coating that irritates the skin, so we recommend wearing gloves and sleeves when harvesting your figs. If the fruit is soft and the stem does not bleed, your fruit will be completely safe and irritant-free.
Our Favorite Varieties
There are many cultivars of edible figs, Ficus carica; these are some that are well-suited to Southern California gardens, including full-size, dwarf, and semi-dwarf cultivars.
This fig tree offers marvelous shade and a beautiful silhouette—it is an iconic fig tree if you have the space for it! ‘Mission’ figs are deep purple, very sweet, and ripen in the summer. If you like Fig Newton’s, you’ll like the Mission fig. They adapt well to the coast but will produce the best fruit inland. ‘Mission’ figs require full sun with regular weekly watering, especially during the hottest points of the summer or if you are growing them in containers.
‘Brown Turkey’ Fig
Similar to the ‘Mission’ fig tree, the ‘Brown Turkey’ is another large cultivar that spans 20 feet tall and wide. It has a beautiful shape and is hardy and highly adaptable. ‘Brown Turkey’ fig fruits are brownish-purple with light pink flesh. They produce fruit in the late spring and again in late summer. Weekly water is essential for proper growth, though you may have to water more during the hottest times of the summer, and full sun is essential for proper fruit production.
‘Black Jack’ Semi-Dwarf Fig
The ‘Black Jack’ fig tree has elongated, purple fruit that ripens in the summertime. It is a highly adaptable semi-dwarf variety perfectly suited to growing in smaller gardens or larger containers. The ‘Black Jack’ requires full sun and water when the soil is dry.
‘Fignominal’ Dwarf Fig
If you are seeking a cultivar you can grow in containers, the ‘Fignominal’ fig is a perfect choice. It only reaches 28 inches tall and produces sweet fruit throughout the year. The deep brown, medium-sized fruit has dark pink flesh. Like other fig trees, water when the soil is dry and keep in full sun for best fruit production.
‘Little Miss Figgy’ Dwarf Fig
This most popular variety has large fruit, considering its compact habit. It is a dwarf variety suited to growing in containers or small gardens and produces fruit in the spring and fall. It’s highly adaptable and a gardener’s favorite for its ornamental and productive value.
If you think fig trees are a perfect fit for your Orange County garden, stop by Roger’s Gardens! Our experts would be delighted to help you find a suitable variety for you and provide advice on how to help it thrive in your garden.