Fruit growing

Growing fig trees – the beginner’s guide

Last updated on March 14th, 2022

Our site is reader supported, this means we may earn a small commission from Amazon and other affiliates when you buy through links on our site.

Fig trees are wonderful additions to any home and with so many varieties available on the market today you can grow your fig trees in containers outside or inside, you can grow them directly in the ground, you can get self-pollinating versions as well those that give you fruit using a single plant. Of course, in order to get the fruits and enjoy a successful fig tree, you need to know how to grow them and it starts with planting them. When planting them in the ground it’s better to restrict the root growth to help stop them from getting too large and instead concentrate on producing more fruit. Fig trees planted with unrestricted root growth get very tall, which is why they are also perfect for growing in containers.

General Care

Create a contained pit in the ground or grow them in pots

The soil you pick should be moisture retentive with good drainage. The height and spread of a full fig tree once fully established can reach up to 2 metres in height and 3 metres in spread so you want to allow enough space for it to create its fan shape. Container plants can theoretically be planted at any time, however, it’s still best to do it in the spring. If you restrict the root growth you will help to encourage more fruiting and control the size to a more manageable size.

Fig tree General care. Water and feed from spring, prune in spring and remove unripe fruit at the end of the season

If you are growing your fig tree in a container, a smaller container (around 2ft wide) will help to do this automatically, but if you are growing them in the ground you need to dig a hole that is approximately 2ft x 2ft x 2ft and then line the perimeter of the hole with vertical slabs or flags and add a layer of broken rubble such as bricks or even broken pots to the bottom to create a boundary for the root expansion that is 20cm deep. This will help contain the roots but keep the soil well-draining.

Growing Them in Containers

When you are growing fig trees it is recommended that if you live in a very cold area, for example, more up north towards Scotland that you grow them in containers so that you can move them inside a cold greenhouse or shed when there is a danger of hard and prolonged frost. Once this danger has passed you can move them outside to a sunny location in spring.

Feeding in Spring

Give them an all-purpose feed and mulch at the base to help maintain moisture levels and suppress weed growth.

Once you see figs starting to appear on the tree start, apply a liquid tomato feed every two weeks until you notice the figs begin to ripen. The reason we recommend tomato feed is because it’s high in potassium, which is what is needed to help form better fruit. You should also be watering them regularly, at least every two weeks, at the same rate (or more) if they are being grown in pots or in periods of dry weather, especially when the fruit is forming. 

Protecting Over Winter

If you can bring your containers indoors for the winter, do so. You can also move them inside a greenhouse or into a shed that is unheated in the autumn. If you have an outdoor plant that you cannot move, you need to protect it over winter by packing straw or covering it with a couple of layers of horticultural fleece and protecting the young small fruit from the current year that hasn’t had a chance to ripen. From May onwards, you can remove this insulation.


When you are pruning your fig trees you want to wear gloves because the sap can irritate your skin. You can limit your exposure to the sap by always starting from the bottom of your tree and pruning upwards. The pruning should be done more frequently when the plant is young so that you can help it to establish the necessary frame and shape. When it gets older you will need to prune any branches that are dead, diseased or crossing, or simply prune them to keep the desired shape in early spring.

Fig tree pruning - prune any unwanted shoots in early spring leaving on the main fruiting stems.

You can prune once a year at any time of the year but do so between the early spring and the beginning of summer. The only thing to bear in mind is that you shouldn’t prune after June. Pruning encourages better and large fruits, however, pruning too late will remove the fruiting growth because they fruit off the previous year’s growth.

To prune you need to take pruning secateurs that have been properly sanitised and cut away all but 4-6 main shoots. The aim is to create an open canopy, leaving what will be the fruiting wood, the rest of the branches should be removed. Pruning is more essential with trees grown in the ground and helps promote better and larger fruits.

You can read our detailed guide on pruning fig trees here.

Harvesting Fruits

When it comes time to harvest your fruit, you will know they are ripe because the skin will be soft to the touch and if you squeeze them gently they will split. Occasionally your figs might have a small tear from which a sugary liquid is secreted right at the base of the fig, and this is also indicative that it’s time to harvest.

You can eat them when they are warmed directly by the sun right after you pick them, or you can preserve them by drying them. With most figs grown outdoors in the UK, you will get one crop each season, however, if you grow them in an unheated greenhouse you might get two crops per season. At the end of the season, any large figs that have not ripened should be pruned off but do not remove the small pea-sized embryonic fruit as they will grow and ripen the following year.

Fig are ready to be harvested when they soft.

Growing Figs Outdoors

When grown outdoors in the UK, fig trees do best if they are allowed to grow inside a greenhouse or up against the wall because this will provide shelter. They can be trained much the same as a vining plant or a climber and they do best if you give them the appropriate structural framework by way of early pruning (in spring) and then train the remaining branches up a set of horizontal wires or against a wall.

Much the same as pruning, you should wear gloves when you are training just to make sure you don’t get any of the sap on your hands. With newer plants, you can pinch the tips of every other young shoot that spans from the main framework, every year before June. Doing this will help you to get a lot of lower growth from your fig tree instead of it growing far too tall and spreading outwards from the top only. As the new shoots start to develop you can train them up a wall, around a trellis, or directly into the horizontal wires you set up.

Fig can be grown outdoors but they need a sheltered position. Small fruit late in the season should be protected from frost with fleece.

They can also be grown as a standard shrub with the aim to have 4 to 6 main stems and an open canopy.

Growing Indoors

Fig Trees can be effectively grown indoors. Just because you don’t have space outside doesn’t mean you have to go without your favourite fruit. In fact, fig trees do not respond well to seriously cold temperatures as they are naturally from the warmth of the Mediterranean. Fig trees grown in the UK usually do better in pots that can be moved indoors for the winter or even grown as a houseplant in a sunny position. When growing indoors in containers it is important to not only select a container that is the appropriate size for how large your variety will be at maturity, but equally important to select self-pollinating plants if you want to collect fruit from your fig tree. 

In order to encourage a large production of fruits, you can use fertiliser in the spring. Regular potting soil is perfectly suitable for fig trees as long as it is well-drained soil. Much the same as a regular fig tree, you can prune to help maintain a strong frame. When grown indoors it is particularly important to prune younger trees lightly, keeping a strong framework or structure to support the remaining growth.

Watering and Feeding

Trees need regular watering and feeding. They should be given a feed high in potassium (such as tomato feed) from spring and whilst the fig fruits are forming. Thorough watering is also necessary every two weeks, from the beginning of their growth cycle until the end of August. Beyond that, you want to make sure that they are properly watered and never allowed to dry out entirely. The key with figs is consistent watering but not too often. Inconsistent watering can cause the fruit to begin to split.

Fig trees should be watered during dry periods specially when the fruit is forming. Feed in spring with a tomato feed to promote better fruiting


Birds and wasps can be an issue when growing figs as they eat the fruit. Try using wasp traps and growing under netting if birds become a problem.


The biggest problem you will face is birds. Birds will eat the young growth, the buds and the fruit, so you may need to protect your tree by covering it with netting or fleece.


As the fruits ripen, wasps will be attracted to the high sugar content and can damage your fruit, so it may be worth putting a few wasp traps up.

Spider Mites

Another issue with which you may contend is glasshouse red spiders or spotted mites. If you see the leaves are pale, covered in webbing (on which small mites can be seen) you need to rectify the problem by misting your plant regularly. These spiders and mites thrive in very hot and dry conditions, which is why they can become an issue when grown in a greenhouse.

Our Favourite Varieties for the UK

Brown turkey is a classic fig tree to grow in the UK and is the ultimate choice for most people. It produces a lot of tasty fruit and we'll thrive outside in the ground or in large containers.

Ficus ‘Brown Turkey’

Brown Turkey is a classic fig tree to grow in the UK and is the ultimate choice for most people. It produces a lot of tasty fruit and will thrive outside in the ground or in large containers.

Ficus ‘Osborne Prolific’

If you want to grow figs in a greenhouse then another popular variety is the ‘Osborne Prolific’ which produces dark purple fruit.

Ficus ‘Brunswick’

If you’re growing figs outdoors a strong and sturdy option with large fruit is the ‘Brunswick’ variety.

Ficus ‘Rouge de Bordeaux’

If you are growing inside in containers you could try the ‘Rouge de Bordeaux’ variety that offers the finest of taste but requires a warm indoor area to grow well.

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at

Write A Comment