When Does A Fig Tree Produce Fruit? (4 Things To Know)


If you have newly planted fig trees in your yard, you may not have any fruit on the branches just yet.  If that is the case, you might be wondering when fig trees bear fruit and when to expect your first crop.

So, when does a fig tree produce fruit?  A fig tree bears fruit 3 to 4 years after planting. An immature tree may produce fruit that never ripens. Fig trees produce fruit as early as May and continue as late as the first frost (November in some areas). Some fig varieties produce fruit twice a year: once in spring or summer & once in fall.

Of course, it may take longer for your fig tree to produce fruit, depending on the variety.  There are also factors such as improper pruning, over fertilizing and environmental conditions that can delay fruit from forming.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at fig trees, when they bear fruit, and the factors that affect your harvest.  We’ll also look at some fig tree varieties you might want to try growing.

Let’s begin.

When Does A Fig Tree Produce Fruit?

A fig tree will bear fruit 3 to 4 years after planting, but this can vary a bit depending on variety and environmental conditions (more on this later).

Some fig trees bear fruit as early as May or June, and continue producing until the first frost of the season (as late as November in some areas).  It is also important to remember that some varieties of fig trees can produce fruit twice per year once they are mature.

The first harvest of figs is called the Breba crop, and it usually occurs in May or early June.  According to Rutgers, this early Breba crop of figs ripens on the previous year’s branches.

Sometimes, these early Breba figs are inedible, or they might have a poor flavor.

The second harvest of figs usually occurs in late September to early November.  This late crop of figs ripens on the current year’s branches.

Common fig trees, or ficus carica, are self-pollinating.  However, keep in mind that self-pollination does not mean guaranteed pollination (more on this later!)

purple figs
The purple figs here are ripe, while the green and red ones are not quite ready yet.

Do Fig Trees Produce Fruit Every Year?

Fig trees do not produce fruit every year.  Most fig trees will need at least 3 to 4 years before they grow to maturity and start producing fruit that ripens fully.

Remember that many immature fig trees will produce fruit that never ripens. You will just have to wait until they mature in a few years to get ripe fruit!

Also, keep in mind that common problems such as frost injury, excessive heat, over pruning, and over fertilizing can further delay the production of fruit (sometimes by a year or more).

For example, Clemson University suggests that dry, hot weather can cause poor fruit on fig trees (avoid this by mulching and watering when the mulch or soil below it is dry).

If you plant a seed harvested from a fig tree, you may end up growing a tree that will never bear fruit.  To ensure fruit production on fig trees, buy established trees from nurseries such as Stark Brothers or Gurney’s.

For more information, check out my article on the difference between organic and heirloom seeds, and my article on the pros and cons of hybrid seeds.

brown fig
To ensure fruit production on your fig tree, buy an established tree from a nursery.

How Much Fruit Does A Fig Tree Produce?

Generally, a mature fig tree that is 3 to 4 years old will produce 20 to 60 figs per tree in a year.  Assuming each fig weighs 1.4 ounces on average, you would expect 28 to 84 ounces or 1.75 to 5.25 pounds of figs per tree in a year.

Commercial growers expect much more from their fig trees. According to the Purdue University Extension, a tree in India can bear 180 to 360 figs per year, while growers in Venezuela get 13 to 18 pounds of figs per tree.

As the tree matures and grows larger, you can expect more figs over time.  However, keep in mind that if you buy a dwarf fig tree, the size of the tree will be much more limited, as will your harvest of figs.

A large, mature fig tree can produce hundreds of figs in a year. On the other hand, a small fig tree whose size is confined to a small container (pot) will produce fewer fruits.

The fruit on a fig tree can be yellow, yellow-green, purple, or brown, depending on the variety. Fig trees can grow up to 30 feet tall or higher and live up to 200 years, so you can definitely get your money’s worth in the long run by buying a fig tree!

green figs
Depending on the variety, mature figs can be yellow, yellow-green, purple, or brown.

What Kind Of Fig Tree Should I Buy?

When selecting a fig tree, make sure to choose one that you can grow in your climate!  For more information, check out the USDA Zone Hardiness Map to find out which zone you are in.

Here are some different varieties of fig trees that you might want to try.

All of the fig trees listed here are self-pollinating (more on this below).  You may want to grow your fig trees in containers, especially if you need to bring them indoors for the winter in Zones 5 to 6 or lower.

For more information, check out this article about growing figs in containers on the Stark Brothers website.

fig tree
A common fig tree is self-pollinating, and most nurseries will only sell this type.

Do You Need Two Fig Trees To Produce Fruit?

You do not need two fig trees to produce fruit.  The reason is that fig trees are self-pollinating.

A self-pollinating tree has flowers that contain both a male and a female part.  When conditions are right, the male part of the flower will release pollen onto the female part of the flower.

However, self-pollination does not mean guaranteed pollination.  The flowers still require some sort of stimulus, such as a bee’s buzzing wings or the wind, to pollinate properly.

You can provide this stimulus with an electric toothbrush if there are not many bees in your area.

bee on blueberry flower
Without bees, pollination may not occur, even for self-pollinating flowers.

For more information, check out this article on common figs from Wikipedia.

In addition to common figs, there are 3 other types:

  • San Pedro figs
  • Caduceus (or Smyrna) figs
  • Capri (Male) figs

Each of these fig types has different pollination requirements:

  • San Pedro fig trees do not need pollination for the first (Breba) crop of figs.  However, they do require pollination for the second crop of figs.
  • Caduceus (Smyrna) fig trees need pollination for both the first (Breba) and second crops of figs.  Without pollination, they will produce no fruit at all.
  • Capri (Male) fig trees produce non-edible figs.

The table below summarizes the four types of figs and their pollination requirements.

Fig
Type
First
Crop
(Breba)
Pollination
Needed
For Fruit?
Second
Crop
(Fall)
Pollination
Needed
For Fruit?
CommonNoNo
San
Pedro
NoYes
Caduceus
(Smyrna)
YesYes
Capri
(Male)
Fruit
not
edible
Fruit
not
edible
This table summarizes the four types of
figs and their pollination requirements.

What Other Factors Affect Fruit On Fig Trees?

Of course, the quality of care that you provide to your fig trees will play a large role in determining how much fruit you get each year.  Some important factors that affect fruit yield include:

  • Temperature
  • Watering
  • Fertilizing
  • Pruning

Let’s begin with temperature.

Temperature

Fig trees historically developed in warmer climates, such as the Mediterranean and the Middle East.  As a result, some fig trees cannot tolerate excessive cold or frost.

frost
It is wise to avoid exposing your fig tree to extreme cold or frosts.

Some fig trees are hardy to Zone 5 (-20 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit). However, some fig trees are only hardy to Zone 7 (0 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit).

If you live in a cold climate, fig trees in a container should be brought indoors for the winter.  However, this may become impractical as the tree ages and grows larger.

Remember that fig trees put down deep roots very quickly.  If your container has holes in the bottom, a fig tree can easily root itself to the ground outside in a single season.

Some fig trees can withstand cold temperatures.  However, if temperatures threaten to drop into the single digits (less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit, or -12 degrees Celsius), it is wise to bring the trees inside if possible.

Also, remember that young fig trees are more sensitive to cold and frost damage. If a frost threatens after flowers or fruit have formed on your tree, consider using row covers to provide some protection.

For more information, check out my article on protecting plants from cold and frost.

Watering

Keep an eye on young fig trees – you may need to water them frequently.  Avoid letting the soil get too dry, and also avoid keeping the soil constantly soggy.

For more information, check out my article on over watering.

garden hose
Make sure not to over water or under water your fig tree!

Clemson University suggests that figs need watering for the entire summer to maximize fruit production. A sign that it may need water is wilted grass beneath the fig tree.

For older fig trees, give them deep, infrequent waterings.  This stimulates the root system to grow deeper and wider, rather than remaining shallow and staying near the surface of the soil.

This will help the tree to survive periods of drought or neglect.

For more information, check out this article on figs from the California Rare Fruit Growers website.

Fertilizing

Before planting your fig tree, work some compost into your soil.  This will provide organic material for your tree, along with some important nutrients needed for growth.

For more information, check out my article on how to make your own compost.

compost bin
Compost can provide organic material and nutrients to your soil.

You may also need to use fertilizer to supplement certain nutrients, especially if you have poor soil in your yard.  The best way to determine how to proceed with fertilizer is by getting a soil test.

For more information, check out my article on how to do a soil test.

Clemson University suggests 1/3 pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer per month during growth for fig trees that are 1 or 2 years old. They also suggest using half as much fertilizer for a tree in an area where it is likely to suffer cold damage.

Finally, remember that it is possible to over fertilize your fig trees.  For example, too much nitrogen can prevent your tree from producing fruit.

For more information, check out my article on over fertilizing, and my article on low-nitrogen fertilizers.

Pruning

Pruning is recommended for young fig trees.  Prune your fig trees in the winter, and make sure to do so before March.  When pruning, wear gloves for protection, since sap from cut branches can irritate your skin.

The Alabama A&M Extension suggests pruning the roots and tops of fig trees every year if you grow them in containers.

For more information on pruning figs, check out this article from the Permaculture Research Institute on growing figs.

You can also espalier your fig tree using a trellis.  For more information on trellises, check out my article on how tall a trellis should be.

fig on tree
Prune a fig tree’s roots and tops every year if you are growing in a container.

Conclusion

Now you have a good idea of when figs are mature enough to produce fruit, along with what time of the year to expect fruit.  You also know a bit more about how to take care of them and avoid problems that can affect your harvest.

I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you have other types of fruit trees, you might want to check out my article on when a pear tree bears fruit, my article on when a cherry tree bears fruit, and my article on when a peach tree bears fruit.

You can learn about dwarf fruit trees, which are easier to maintain and harvest from, in my article here.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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