Figs were one of the very first cultivated fruit trees and there’s evidence of fig trees dating back to 4,000 BC with their origins in either Egypt or Arabia.
They were used as a sweetening method before sugar was more widely used. Fig trees grow well in UK gardens and are such a versatile fruit to have at your fingertips. Figs can be enjoyed in summer salads, or wrapped in prosciutto, roasted or grilled, and eaten with cheeses.
Growing Figs in the UK
Figs in the UK climate will be ready to pick during late summer and through to September and October and grow surprisingly well despite the lack of Mediterranean heat. Fig trees don’t flower or blossom like apple and cherry trees, but you will be treated with some gorgeous green leaves.
Fig trees can reach dizzying heights if grown as an open tree which may not work in your garden. Instead, you can fan-train your fig tree which means it will be the more modest height of 2 metres. Alternatively, get yourself a dwarf fig tree variety. They are very compact.
Once planted, fig trees reach full maturity around 8 to 10 years later. Our guide on growing figs and cooking with them has more information on gardening with this popular fruit tree.
How To Grow Fig Trees in the UK
Fig trees need quite a lot of care and attention when they are grown in the UK, and particular care is needed over winter. Read our guide on the annual taste you should carry out on your fig tree.
When To Plant Fig Trees
Figs in their pots can be popped outdoors once the danger of frost has been eliminated. During the winter months, your figs in pots need to be moved into a greenhouse or shed ideally. If you have a fan-trained fig tree that can’t be moved you can cover it with some bubble wrap and then over the top some horticultural fleece. These steps will protect it from the harsh elements.
Where To Plant Fig Trees
Placing your fig trees in a sunny and sheltered location will give you the best chance of success. You can train it to grow on a fence, wall, or trellis – alternatively, a container also works well. They need soil with good drainage and as much sun as possible to get the best crop possible.
Top tip: Planting your fig tree into a Gladstone Bag can produce more fruit because the root run restriction encourages a better crop to be established.
How To Prune Fig Trees
Pruning your fig tree is vital to its overall well-being and crop rate. It’s easy to prune fan-trained fig trees and this should be done to encourage a good shape that allows plenty of light in. More wild trees may need some extra support to see them through those windy seasons.
While the tree is dormant (winter or early spring) you should prune your fig tree by removing damaged branches and any that are growing across other branches. Suckers will grow from the ground and these should be removed to ensure the tree focuses all its energy on the fruit growth. When pruning you should wear some gloves as the sap is an irritant. You will notice pea-sized embryos around November time. These shouldn’t be removed as they will be next year’s fruit crop.
When To Harvest Figs
You can look forward to picking your juicy figs straight from the tree in the late summer or early autumn. You will know when it’s ready to be picked as they will be soft to the touch and often have a sugary liquid escaping from the base. The stalks will also bend which is a tell-tale sign it’s ready.
Uk garden fig trees crop once a year but ones in warmer climates or in a UK greenhouse may have two crops in one year. Some fruits may be on the tree that won’t ripen – these should be removed to encourage new fruit the next year.
Best Fig Tree For UK Climate
Brown Turkey fig trees are hardy and adapt really well to the UK’s temperamental climate. They produce wonderfully juicy figs that are brown on the outside and red in the middle. It’s a popular garden tree due to its growth being more bush-like so it’s easier to maintain and care for. You can expect a good crop from just one Brown Turkey tree as it’s self-fertile so this is an ideal choice if space is an issue.
Fig Tree FAQ’s
Growing figs in the UK may seem challenging but our FAQS will help. Here’s our expert answers to all your fig gardening questions to help you decide if this fruit tree is right for your garden.
How Big Will A Fig Tree Grow?
Fan-trained bushes and fig trees grown in containers won’t grow too drastically tall. You will be looking at around 2 to 4 metres high which is an ideal size for the average-sized UK garden.
How Fast Will Fig Trees Grow?
A fig tree won’t produce fruit during its first few years of development but can produce fruit from year 5. It won’t reach full maturity until 8-10 years, by which time fruit should be plentiful. Container-grown fig trees will mature more quickly.
How Do You Pollinate Figs & Do You Need Two Fig Trees To Produce Fruit?
Uk based fig trees are self-pollinating so you only need to plant one to get a successful crop. This is great if you are short of space in your garden.
How to Grow Figs From Seed?
You can grow a fig tree from seed but results can be very variable and the best results come from using fig tree cuttings. To plant from seeds you will be most successful from planting from a female prune tree, as male ones may well produce inedible fruit. Seeds can be soaked and then planted in a pot as they germinate within 1-2 weeks. They should be kept well watered and in plenty of light.
How Do You Fertilise Fig trees?
You should aim to fertilise your fig tree during the early spring and you should use a good quality fertiliser. You can also surround the base of your tree or bush with organic waste, which provides nutrients and deter weeds.
Are Coffee Grounds Good For Fig Trees?
Coffee grounds are great for the garden as long as when you mulch them you don’t do it too thickly. Thinly spread them to stop them from going mouldy which will make the soil acidic.
How Do You Keep Squirrels Out of a Fig Tree?
Squirrels are both inquisitive and highly adventurous so can and will explore your fig tree – of that you can be certain. You can cover your fan-trained fig tree with bird netting that will provide some protection. However, a determined squirrel can chew through these. The alternative is to feed the squirrel away from the tree.