Wintering fig trees: expert tips & hardy varieties

The fig tree is used to the Mediterranean climate, but it can also survive our winters. We show how to successfully overwinter a fig tree.

Unlike many other Mediterranean plants such as the olive tree or the oleander, the real fig tree ( Ficus carica ) loses its leaves over the winter. So that it survives the winter well and sprouts freshly in the spring with old strength, we have put together the most important things for you to consider for the winter.

Wintering fig tree

Despite its Mediterranean origins, a fig tree can also beautify your garden. Depending on the variety and region, it can even hibernate outdoors. The plant sheds its leaves in winter, which makes it much more resilient and makes it easier to overwinter. For this reason, fig-trees hardly need any water in winter and they should not be fertilized.

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Hardy fig tree varieties

Over the centuries, some fig tree varieties have emerged that can come up with certain winter hardiness. And so there are also varieties that even survive the Central European winter outdoors. For example, the ‘Dalmatia’ and the ‘Bornholm fig’ are cold-tolerant. You can find out more about winter-hardy varieties here.

Wintering the fig tree: when does it get too cold for the fig tree?

Germany is actually not the typical distribution area of the fig tree – nevertheless, it thrives quite well in our latitudes with the right protection. However, winters that are too cold are not good for the plant. Winter hardy varieties can cope with temperatures down to -15 ° C. Everything below becomes critical. If the aboveground parts of the fig are frozen off, the roots have often survived and can sprout again in spring.

Wintering fig trees: expert tips & hardy varieties

Note: As soon as the temperatures drop below 0 ° C, you should prepare your fig tree for winter or bring it into the house. Usually, this is the case in the middle to the end of autumn. Your fig should be protected from -5 ° C at the latest.

Hibernate fig tree outside

Only winter-hardy varieties should overwinter outside. But even these are not washed with all waters. Young and unwooded specimens are particularly susceptible and should stay indoors for the first few winters. Older fig trees can also overwinter outside. Mild regions such as the Rhine Valley, coastal locations, and wine-growing regions are suitable for wintering outdoors.

But even there fig trees need protection from the cold. You should protect the roots in particular with a thick layer of mulch, leaves, or brushwood. Coconut mats are also an option. These can be wrapped around the trunk and main branches to protect the above-ground parts of the plant. If it is particularly cold, an additional layer of bubble wrap offers special protection.

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An alternative is a ring made of wire mesh, which is placed around the trunk of the tree with a lot of play and loosely filled with leaves and straw. Fig trees that are to be overwintered in pots outside must be wrapped generously with fleece or coconut mats around the root ball. Fig trees should not be fertilized during winter. You should also water only when the substrate is dry – and even then not excessively.

Summary to overwinter the fig tree outside:

  • In mild regions such as wine-growing areas, river valleys, and coastal regions
  • Choose a variety that is as cold-tolerant as possible
  • Protect the roots and trunk with coconut mats and mulch
  • Water very little and do not fertilize your fig tree in winter

Wintering fig trees: expert tips & hardy varieties

The wintering fig tree in a pot

You should overwinter especially young fig trees or non-hardy fig tree varieties. Even in very cold regions, such as in many areas in eastern Germany, it is safer to bring the tree in over the winter. However, since fig trees shed their leaves, they are fairly easy to overwinter. They require very little light and almost no water, as they do not have to take care of their leaves.

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On the contrary, too much water in winter can even damage the roots, as the lack of leaves prevents the water from evaporating. The optimal location for the winter is a cool place with a little light such as a garage, an unheated basement with a window, or a garden shed. Of course, it is also possible to spend the winter in a cool winter garden. The temperature of the winter quarters should ideally be between 5 ° C and 10 ° C.

The summary wintering fig tree in a pot:

  • Bring in late autumn as soon as it gets cooler
  • Choose a cool location with at least a slight incidence of light
  • Do not water or fertilize
  • Bring back outside in April to early May

Maintain fig tree after winter

As soon as the temperatures rise again and the days get longer again, the fig tree also starts the new year, unmistakably from the fresh leaf buds that begin to open. As a rule, the winter dormancy ends by April, but no later than the beginning of May and the fig tree longs for fresh air. If your fig tree has already made fresh leaves in its winter quarters, slowly get it used to the sun by first placing it in the shade. Otherwise, there is a risk of sunburn. When the hibernation is over, it’s time for more water and fresh nutrients.

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