Charlotte Kidd, M. Ed., is a writer, professional gardener, garden designer and garden coach in Southeastern Pennsylvania. She does horticultural programs for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Philadelphia International Flower Show. She’s a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Garden Writers Association. Contact her at

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Edible Fig
by Charlotte Kidd       #Edibles

A ‘Brown Turkey’ fig tree in mid-July in a Philadelphia garden.

Though we wouldn’t plant a fig tree (Ficus carica) outdoors with winter coming, we certainly can buy one to grow indoors then plant outside in the spring. With global climate change and the USDA Planting Zone adjustments, some fig varieties will thrive where before they’d likely have died in temperatures below 10 F.

Choose a self-pollinating variety. Three tasty favorites will grow in formerly Zone 5, now Zone 6 landscapes. The long-popular ‘Brown Turkey’ fig tree produces sweet and tender, medium-to-large-sized, purplish-brown figs with pink flesh. We often see them on the East Coast, especially in cities with warm microclimates.

The bushy ‘Italian Everbearing’ fig tree sets two prolific seasonal crops of large reddish brown figs with pink, sweet flesh. Fruits are excellent fresh or dried.

The ‘Mission’ fig hails from a Franciscan missionary, who is said to have planted the first fig in a San Diego  Calif. mission. The very sweet, purplish black fruits, borne all summer, are yummy fresh or dried.

About 10 years ago, we planted the rooting branch of a ‘Brown Turkey’ fig in a semi-protected city yard. Now the canopy exceeds 20 feet, which means spring pruning back for size. For eight snowy, sometimes icy winters (until 2011) we triple-wrapped the branches in polythermal fabric and burlap. To protect the roots, we heaped oak leaves 3 to 4 feet high up the trunk and around the base. It hasn’t noticed that we’ve stopped wrapping. New transplants elsewhere have done well with no branch protection.

Common Name: Common edible fig

Botanical Name: Ficus carica

Varieties or Cultivars to Look for: ‘Brown Turkey’, ‘Italian Everbearing’, ‘Mission’

Color: Large, lobed green leaves drop after a hard freeze.

Blooming Period: Flowers are inside the fig. Produces figs from late spring into fall, depending on the variety.

Type: Deciduous shrub/tree in USDA Zones 7 to 10. Tolerates temperatures to 10 F. In colder winters, mulch root area and cover branches. Size: Average 15 to 20 feet wide and tall

Exposure: Full sun

When to Plant: Spring or fall

How to Plant: 15 to 20 feet on center 

Soil: Slightly alkaline, well-drained soil; Mulch root area with oak leaves.

Watering: Water weekly through its first hot summer; drought tolerant after established.

When to Prune: If needed in spring to reduce size and remove dead branches

When to Fertilize: Sprinkle soil with dolomite limestone in fall to achieve pH 6.0 to 6.5.

In Your Landscape: As a specimen, in a planter


Posted: 12/06/13   RSS | Print


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