Figs are Easy to Grow in the Southwest

Figs are one of the easiest fruit trees to grow in our area. They do well in our alkaline soils, and can quickly grow into lovely, spreading shade trees. Trees produce fruit in as little as two to three years, and thrive and produce with little effort for the next hundred years or so. Figs do not need cross pollination, so a single tree can produce ample fruit for a household.

Fig trees get large and produce lovely summer shade. The homeowner left lower branches for ease of fruit harvest. Photo courtesy of Z. Akulova.

Planting Figs

Plant fig trees in the ground in late winter to early spring when they’re dormant. Figs won’t become well-established if planted during summer. Site the trees in full sun in the High Desert. In Low and Middle Desert the trees will do best with afternoon shade in summer. More about these Southwest gardening zones.

Soil for Figs

Amend your soil with ample compost and sand if necessary so soil is nutrient-rich and well-drained.

Starting my fig cuttings in nice rich potting soil.

Water for Figs

Regular water ensures a good fig crop and long-term tree health. Established trees will need 30 to 40 inches of water per year, depending on size. Water to three feet deep once every two weeks in summer in Low Desert.


Fertilize at the three standard holidays. The spring application should be “bloom” fertilizer, but the other two can be general purpose. (post on Southwest Fertilizer 101 – here – or you can use the “Search” bar at any time.)


Figs are pruned mainly to keep them from taking over the landscape. Prune figs in late winter while they are still dormant. You can root the cuttings and share them with friends.

Fig tree at Tohono Chul Park just leafing out in spring.

Pest Problems

Figs are largely pest-free plants, making them ideal for home gardens. The biggest problem affecting figs is root-knot nematodes, generally not a problem in our soils. Purchase certified nematode-free plants and inspect the roots before planting. If the roots look knobby or knotty, do not plant, and return the fig to the nursery with proper cautions. Root-knot nematodes are hard to control once they find their way into your landscape.

Fig beetles (Cotinis mutabilis) cluster and feed on a single fruit at a time. Photo courtesy of R. Daniaga.

Fig fruits can be eaten by the fig beetle, a June-bug relative. They have very weak jaws though and can only eat fully ripe fruit, which they cluster on and consume entirely. Avoid the issue by harvesting as soon as fruit ripen. You can freeze figs for later processing.

Harvest of Figs

Figs are rich in complex carbohydrates, are a good source of dietary fiber plus a wealth of essential minerals such as potassium, iron and calcium. Indeed, a half-cup of fresh figs have as much calcium as a half-cup of milk. Dried figs are a no fat, zero cholesterol snack, and are deliciously portable, so they are readily available as calcium-rich snacks at home, work, play, or on the road. For how to use figs, visit the food blog site I write for – Savor the Southwest.


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vegetables-soule-growMore about fruits for your landscape in this book Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press).  This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies – at no extra cost to you.

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