Figs are one of the first fruit mentioned in historical writings.
Fig trees grow to a variety of heights depending on the type. Many dwarf fig trees reach up to 10 feet tall and wide like the “Celestial” fig tree (Ficus carica “Celestial”). This dwarf fig grows well in USDA zones 7 through 11, producing small sweet figs, which ripen in the middle of June. Semi-dwarf trees like “Black Jack” fig trees (Ficus carica “Black Jack”), in USDA plant hardiness zones 7 through 9, reach up to 15 feet, but they produce well when kept at 6 feet tall by annual pruning. Standard trees like “Brown Turkey” fig trees (Ficus carica “Brown Turkey”) grow to 25 feet tall and wide in USDA zones 7 through 9.
Fig trees originate from western Asia where hot, dry summers and cool, mild winters occur. By 5,000 B.C., this fruit tree was distributed throughout the Mediterranean area by traders. The fruit is common in the Middle East as well. Some wild varieties tend to grow slowly and stay short naturally. Plant hybridizers have taken advantage of this tendency and developed dwarf forms that still produce full-sized figs.
Dwarf fig trees require pruning only when they are young and need shaping. Take only a little of the growth off a few of the branches each year until the tree is the desired shape. Heavy pruning contributes to fruit loss since figs develop on last year’s growth. If heavy pruning is needed, cut only half the branches the first summer and trim the other half of the branches the next summer. Always whitewash the tree if severely pruned. This prevents damage from exposure from the hot summer sun. After the first crop of figs of the year, remove dead and broken branches.