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Q: When do I prune and fertilize figs?

A:   Figs are deciduous trees which can reach heights up to 30 feet but figs seldom attain tree size in Florida.  When frozen to the ground, they sucker from the base and form a bush. Lateral spread of roots is quite extensive and, in certain soils, roots are quite deep.  Shoot growth is vigorous, producing soft wood that is susceptible to cold damage. Prune only to maintain desired bush size, heading back to promote branching. Keep 3 – 5 leaders, removing any suckers. Prune freeze-damaged wood after regrowth commences. Prune all dead wood and remove branches that interfere with the leaders’ growth. Do not leave bare, unproductive stubs when you prune. These stubs are entry points for wood decay organisms. Make all pruning cuts back to a bud or branch. Little is known about specific fertilizer needs, but figs respond well to small amounts of mixed fertilizer applied once a month during growing season.

Common types are recommended for Florida because they do not require pollinators to produce fruit.  Desirable characteristics include a closed eye to prevent insect and water entry, a long fruit stem allowing fruit droop which prevents moisture entering through eye, green skin color results in less bird damage and nematode-resistant rootstocks. Some potential choices are:  ‘Celeste’, ‘Brown Turkey’ and ‘Green Ischia’.  “Celeste’ is also called Celestial, Blue Celeste, Little Brown, or Sugar. This variety is widely grown in the South.  Celeste produces small, purplish-bronze to light brown fruit with closed eye, which ripening from mid-July to mid-August. ‘Brown Turkey’ is often sold as Everbearing, Harrison, Ramsey, Lee’s Perpetual, Eastern Brown Turkey, or Brunswick. ‘Brown Turkey’ rivals ‘Celeste’ in popularity. It produces moderate size fruit of bronze color with medium eye opening, which ripens in late July until late fall and will fruit following severe freeze damage. ‘Green Ischia’ is sold as Ischia Green, White Ischia, Ischia Verte. ‘Green Ischia’ is not widely grown but green color and closed eye make it desirable. Fruit ripens late July to early August but it does not fruit following a severe freeze.