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Last updated on January 21st, 2020
Growing fig trees in containers is a wonderful way to grow smaller varieties of fruit trees in your home, perhaps in an apartment, or outside on a patio for those of you who don’t have large gardens. It’s also a great way to control the size of varieties that might otherwise grow to large. Growing in containers requires the same general care and maintenance as growing anything else. One of the benefits to growing in containers is that you can leave your fig tree outside for the majority of the year giving it ample exposure to light and the water and then move it indoors for the winter which is a great way to protect the small tiny fruit which will be the fruit you harvest first the following year. Fig trees are from the Mediterranean originally so they do best with mild climates and do not thrive in extreme cold but there are some excellent varieties such as Brown Turkey which grow very well in the UK. By growing in containers you can either keep it inside in a cold greenhouse so it doesn’t get exposure to the harsh cold winters or you can leave it outside and then move it indoors over winter only to bring it back out come spring.
In the winter you should repot your fig tree every four years. When you do this you can also remove approximately 25% of the root system to keep it the size you want. This should only be done when the plant is dormant with the best times being autumn or early spring before new growth begins.
Picking a Variety
Choosing a pot
First and foremost you need to be cognizant of the variety you choose. This is twofold. Firstly, you need to pick up a variety that won’t outgrow the space you have available, this is usually not a huge issue as the size is controlled by the restricted pot size. However, if you choose a particularly large variety you might need an oversized container in which to grow it and oversized containers once full of potting soil and young trees become incredibly heavy so you’ll need to make sure you have a space lined up for the container and the tree with enough space in the container for the root system to grow and enough space in the room for the branches to grow. ideally, a pot that is around 2ft by 2ft is usually perfect. Secondly, if you plan to enjoy from your fig tree you will need to pick a self-pollinating variety so that you don’t have to plant multiple fig trees in one area. You can plant one self-pollinating variety per container and in the springtime add fertiliser such as tomato feed to encourage the growth and production of fruit.
Planting fig trees in pots
Compost and feed
When growing indoors, use regular potting soil such as John Innes No 3 mixed with some grit for improved drainage and as mentioned feeding in the spring with a high-potassium feed, such as tomato feed will do very well for all varieties. As mentioned above when you grow in containers it’s important that you move the container where you want the plant to rest permanently and then fill it with soil, water it thoroughly so that all of the potting compost is moist and then plant your fig tree. You don’t want to plant it outside and then have to pick up a very heavy large if you don’t have to.
You should water regularly as needed. You can always test the soil for dampness the same as you would test any other container. If it starts to dry out or you see the leaves start to wilt it’s time to add more water. Don’t overwater however because this can lead to root rot which is a common mistake many people make. Fig trees need a lot of light the same as any other tree and this can be in direct sunlight so placing it near a window or in a brightly lit room is best if you choose to grow them indoors, if positioned outdoors a nice sheltered spot with plenty of sun will be best.
Fig trees need to be fed and watered at very regular intervals when they are grown in containers. You should feed at least every two weeks during their main growth all the way until the end of August and watered as needed. Remember this is a rough guide so during times of hot weather watering every day could be necessary being careful not to overwater.
Pruning Fig Trees in Pots
If you need to prune your fig trees in early spring. Fruit will typically ripen in the middle of summer after which you can either trim your tree gently or give it a heavy pruning depending on what it needs, heavy pruning is best done in February. Younger trees respond much better to regular, light pruning as this helps to encourage stronger main branches. The fruit is grown on branches from the season prior so if you cut these terminal branches, you won’t get any fruit the following season.
When you set out to prune your fig trees make sure that’s the pruning secateurs you use have been properly sanitised so that you don’t accidentally transfer any diseases. With younger trees, you should remove any suckers that are branching out from the base of the main structure. You also want to trim any excess branches, the idea is to choose 4-6 main branches as the fruiting wood, then remove any other branches.
Once your fig tree has reached maturity, you won’t have to prune quite as much. You’ll just remove any crossing stems or dead stems.