Ficus carica, commonly called common fig, is a deciduous shrub (to 10-15’ tall) or small tree (to 15-30’ tall). It is noted for its spreading habit, attractive foliage and edible fruit. Old trees with smooth silver-gray bark (sometime gnarled with age) are ornamentally attractive. Large, palmate, hairy, 3-5 lobed leaves (to 10” long) are rough dark green above and smooth light green beneath. Non-showy greenish flowers form in spring inside hollow receptacles near the branch growing tips. The fruit (edible fig) develops within each receptacle. The main fruit crop ripens in late summer or fall on new wood. In some areas, a lesser crop may appear in spring on new wood. Species plants as well as most fig cultivars are parthenocarpic (fruits develop without cross pollination).
Uses. Ornamental or fruit tree. The fruits can be eaten fresh off the tree, used in salads or with cheese spreads, dried, or used in pastries, preserves, and jams, among other uses. In northern regions, plants may be grown in sheltered locations outdoors with root mulch or in containers that are overwintered indoors.
Figs are best grown in USDA Zones 8-10 in organically rich, moist, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Figs may be grown in protected locations in USDA Zones 5-7 (e.g., against south-facing walls) with root mulch, but plants will usually show significant die back in cold winters. When temperatures in winter dip below 15°F, consider additional protection for outdoor plants to the extent possible (e.g., clear plastic sheets or frames). Water regularly during the growing season but reduce watering in fall. Containers must be brought indoors in winter. Large containers may be overwintered in greenhouses, garages or basements.
Growing Instructions for the Common Fig
- Soak the seeds in lukewarm water for 1-2 days. 2. The seeds should be germinated in a tray filled with moist granular bonsai mix, small lava grit or vermiculite, rather than regular compost or potting soil. 3. The seeds need a warm, humid climate to germinate. In less humid regions, put a plastic cover or bag over the tray and put the tray in a warm area that receives indirect sunlight. As long as condensation appears on the inside surface of the bag or lid, the seeds don't need to be watered. Germination can take up to 8 weeks. 4. The seedlings can be transplanted when they are 4-5 inches tall. Ficus seedlings can be planted into regular potting soil and should be watered well for the first two weeks after transplanting. Ficus seedlings also perform better when kept in indirect sunlight for the first month before being moved to a location with direct sunlight.