Propagation Time: Fig Trees!

Around here, we love figs. Fresh, dried, straight from the tree — you can never have too many! We recently went to the California Rare Fruit Grower’s grafting exchange (an absolute wonderland for tree geeks!) and picked up, among other things, a handful of unusual fig varieties. If you have a favorite fig tree, or know someone who might be willing to share a few twigs, propagating cuttings is an easy way to grow your own tree — but don’t stop with figs! This same method can be used with apples, grapes, and more…

…but figs, we’ve found, are one of the easiest trees to propagate. Start with clean, straight twigs, about a foot long, taken from a tree’s new growth — the dark, smooth branches, not the rough gray ones. Make sure your cutting has plenty of buds; these will be the points at which the twig takes root. You’ll also need pots and dirt. (We’re using one- and five-gallon plastic pots filled with fresh potting soil. Clean, new dirt reduces chances of disease, and good drainage is important; you could use compost or garden soil, but we’d rather not take chances!) Have a pair of clippers handy, and another stick for digging holes.

Begin by filling your pots with soil and trimming your twigs to wherever the buds are densest — most of ours are about 8 to 10 inches long. Again, the buds will sprout the roots, so you want as many as possible in contact with the soil. You can watch this sprouting process, if you like, by placing a spare twig in a jar of water and setting it on a window sill for a couple weeks; when the white roots start to emerge and grow, go ahead and plant the twig.

Use a stick to “drill” the holes in your pot of soil. One-gallon pots are good for one twig, while a five-gallon pot will hold two or three and will need watering less frequently. (A good thing — rooting cuttings need regular water in order to “take”.) Place the cutting several inches deep in the hole, enough to cover at least two or three buds, and press the soil down firmly. And if you’re planting more than one variety, don’t forget to label them!

Finally, give your cuttings a good watering and place the pots somewhere sunny and warm to take root. Ours will be residing in the greenhouse:

Here’s a fig tree we started from a cutting a couple years ago. As you can see, it’s a far cry from the little twigs we’re planting today — but with any luck, they’ll do just as well!

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2 Comments

Filed under homestead how-to, orchard, propagation, spring

2 responses to “Propagation Time: Fig Trees!

  1. Jodie

    Thank you for this! We moved onto a property that was loved by the man who originally owned and planted on it decades ago. The fig trees left are mammoth and overgrown! I really want to use the new shoots from the base of the trees to sell, or give away for others to enjoy but wasn’t certain how. I assumed I could simply cut at the base (under the ‘ball’, against the original root) but wanted to be sure. The only question I have is; do I have to wait until the tree is dormant? Thanks!

    • Hi Jodie — yes, this is typically done when the tree is dormant in the winter; I’ve never tried it at another time of year, but if you have plenty of shoots, you could try one and see if it takes. Cuttings tend to lose a lot of moisture through the leaves if they have them, so removing any leaves (but not the bud at the base of the leaf) might help. They’re very easy to do in winter, so if you don’t have luck with cuttings now, try again when the tree is dormant… good luck!

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