Figs in the UK

Fig trees are not native to Northern European countries. Countries such as Portugal, Spain and Italy for example produce very good and delicious figs. Certain varieties, but not all varieties, will happily crop in the open, in the garden, even in Northern European countries such as the UK. However, where in the garden? If you know the spot in the garden which is most sheltered and sunniest, that’s where the fig tree will perform best. Do not plant the fig tree in a cold, wet or damp place. You will be disappointed if you do! Basically if you get the spot right and you plant the tree in a container, then growing figs will be a lot easier. Growing figs in a cold greenhouse is of course great. But red spider mite can be nuisance.

Fig trees do best in containers

If you plant the fig tree in a container with wheels then you can store the fig tree from November onwards in a garage or a shed, to avoid frost damage to the tips of the shoots. It is the tips of the shoots which will produce next year’s crop. If the tree is left outside during the winter months. it is best to wrap a double layer of garden fleece around the main branches to stop the tips of the branches being damaged by winter frosts.

Fig tree in containerPersonally I have had very good crops from fig trees grown in a container which has never been moved. White Marseilles, Brown Turkey and Brunswick are varieties suitable for the UK.

It is possible to bury the container as long as the rim of the top of the container stays just above ground level. Provided you water the fig tree very regularly, you can start the tree off in a reasonably small container, for example 35 cm diameter. Always make sure the container has good-sized drainage holes. Repot the tree after a couple of years to a bigger pot. You can do this several times.

Growing the tree in a pot controls excessive shoot growth, while retaining regular crops of figs. Use soil-based compost such as John Innes compost number 3. Always choose a pot or a container which is the same width at the top as at the bottom. These type of pots are more stable, when the wind blows. All the same, trees in pots are best secured to a wall or a post to prevent them from blowing over and the pot being broken or the tree being damaged.

Always remove the late-developing figs before the winter arrives. In the UK, this second crop of figs will only ripen if the tree is grown in a greenhouse. Feed the tree in moderation to ensure healthy green leaves. If fig trees in containers are left to dry out, the leaves and the crop will fall. It won’t kill the tree immediately, but you will have lost the crop for that season.

Top ten fig tips

  1. The best time to plant a fig tree is from November to March.
  2. If it is to be espalier trained against a wall, erect a support frame.
  3. Prune in April and feed with “Growmore”. Read more about pruning fig trees.
  4. Prune back new growth to a 5-leaf length in June.
  5. Continue to water weekly. Approximately 5 litres/week from May onwards.
  6. From November to April, protect new growth against frost with a double layer of garden fleece. This protects the mini pea-size figs.
  7. If you like figs annually, then you will have to plant the tree in a container 45 cm in diameter and at least 40 cm in depth, with good drainage holes, covered with broken terra cotta pots. A bigger container results in a bigger tree.
  8. Keep the plant free from weeds and particularly grass.
  9. Figs will appear at the new growth each year.
  10. Drought conditions will kill the fig plant! However the more sun the better.
  11. Recommended varieties are White Marseilles and Brown Turkey.

How to prune a fig tree that has gone out of control

Please visit our page about fig tree pruning.

Watch a video about growing figs in the UK.

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