Growing Figs Indoors

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Figs are not a fruit we eat that often; however, when I have seen them in the grocery store as a seasonal novelty, I always buy them. I love them raw, drizzled with a little honey so I can pretend I am relaxing in the Mediterranean sunshine. Figs transport me elsewhere--back to our honeymoon climbing every island crag we could find in Greece, back to my summer backpacking in Italy--and who doesn't want to be transported elsewhere from time to time?

Below is a diary of this Black Mission Fig's journey. So far there have been no figs, so I will be doing my research on this variety to see if I can get a fall harvest next year. I received the fig tree via mail order in August of 2021 and promptly planted it in an 11 by 14-inch planter. I had read that figs like good drainage so I added a bit of sand to the organic potting soil mix I used. I have been regularly fertilizing the plant every four months or so.

January 24, 2022

Black mission fig putting on new stems and leaves.

When I brought the fig in from the back patio in the fall, it immediately began to lose its leaves. I thought it was the transition from outside to inside, but upon further research, I read that figs are deciduous (duh for anyone reading this that knows the plant); they naturally lose their leaves in the fall and then regrow them in the spring. The plant quickly rebounded and put on new leaves.

Though the fig tree seems quite healthy in the afternoon sun provided by a southwest-facing window, I have learned figs love at least 8 hours of full sun. I made a space for it atop my seed starting shelf in a directly south-facing window and will see what this does for flower and fruit production. It currently is putting on a large number of new leaves and stems which, I have read,  proceeds a spring flowering and fruiting of not-so-good fruit. Fall flowering and fruiting then follow, and this is when the best fruit is produced. This summer the fig will reside in the full sun on the yurt deck.

June 15, 2022 

Black Mission Fig leaves just prior to moving outdoors.

In mid-May, once the likelihood of freezing passed, I move the fig to the yurt deck to get full sun. This was an enormous mistake! The poor tree suffered a terrible sunburn and lost many leaves. It did proceed to sprout new leaves that seemed acclimated to the full sun but it has yet to flower. I did not take a picture, which I regret as this is supposed to be a full-disclosure series so others can learn from my mistakes.

October 15, 2022

Black Mission Fig after being brought in from the outdoors in the Fall of 2022

Black Mission Fig after being brought in from the outdoors in the Fall of 2022

I was a terrible fig caretaker this summer. June and July were hot, hot, hot and I did not water enough. Luckily for all of my plants, we had a nice monsoon season in August that in all likelihood saved them from my neglect. In my defense, one must prioritize free time and this summer most of mine was spent with my family in the mountains, escaping the heat.

The stress of not being watered enough most definitely kept the fig from blooming. No figs for us! The plant has gotten very spread out and has far fewer leaves than in the past.  It is fall and I know it should lose its leaves, but I am thinking this plant needs pruning. I'd like it to grow taller versus wider and I think this will be the best time of year to do this. I am going to do some research and return with a post once the fig has had a haircut.

November 15, 2022

Pruned for increased height, this Black Mission Fig will not likely fruit next spring or fall.

I have learned that pruning a Black Mission Fig will negatively affect the chances of the plant producing figs; this is due to the fruit forming on the terminals of the previous year's growth. I mainly am interested in pruning for a taller versus wider shape and at this point, this is more important to me than next year's fruit. I would like this plant to be more manageable and the best time to manage its shape is now while it is young. The recommended time of year to do this pruning is in fall/winter. If I were to go back in time, I would have pruned the plant when I first got it into the shape I wanted so I could get fruit sooner.

I also took this opportunity to re-pot the fig into a larger pot. This allows the roots more room to grow, more water to be retained--especially in the summer months--and more light to reach the fig from the windows. I used miracle grow indoor potting mix as I have a fungus gnat problem. Because the mix uses coconut coir instead of peat moss, it still retains water yet is less attractive to fungus gnats. Incidentally, coconut coir is a more sustainable option than peat moss since it takes thousands of years to develop peat and one season to develop coconuts.

Dear reader, if you have tips and tricks for growing figs, I invite you to join the conversation in the comments!

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