Fig trees are generally known as durable and able to withstand dry periods. They come from the so-called drylands and deserts of the middle east. However, I always try to remind people that it’s one thing to survive and completely different to thrive. There is a reason fig trees grow huge near lakes and river banks.
A plant’s ability to survive dry conditions does not guarantee that it prefers them. The same is true about fig trees.
Planting a fig tree at the end of the pipe where the sink or washing machine empties its gray water is an “old” habit. Unfortunately, we don’t have pipes like this in modern times. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to grow our fig trees in the best conditions possible. To answer the question in short… Do figs like lots of water?
Fig trees don’t like too much water, except during their first year. Older fig trees need water once a week in larger amounts to penetrate to their deepest roots. Younger fig trees need water three times a week in smaller amounts to make sure they grow to their fullest potential.
How To Tell if My Fig Tree Needs Water?
Plants, in general, are like traffic lights. They give us all sorts of red, yellow, and green signals about their needs. Especially the need for water.
I try to learn to identify what my fig tree is telling me. It’s the right approach regardless of which tree or plant we are talking about. It’s always a good idea to know the fig’s current soil type, as well as climate and season. As I mentioned before, we want the fig tree to grow to its fullest potential, to the extent of any immutable limitations.
Fig trees, like most others, can go into water stress when they are not getting enough of it. I had the opportunity to see its effects with a few trees that people asked me to diagnose. Depending on the season, fig trees will start dropping unripe figs, and those that survive will grow too slowly. Instead of getting ripe, they will become dry.
I noticed that leaves also become yellow and start to fall off. This is a good sign before the fruit grows to the full size, at which I can see that something is wrong. In the dormant season, the fig tree won’t show any signs before some branches start to dry off. At that point, parts of the tree are already dying.
How To Water Dormant Fig Tree?
You should be able to tell whether your plant is in growing season or dormant. If it’s dormant, it doesn’t need much water since the growth process is paused.
When the first frost strikes, an older fig tree that is completely dormant can keep water much better than a fig tree in the growing season. I’ve seen figs rot more often if water is abundant in winter. I reduce watering after the growing season, which is late summer or early autumn in parts of the United States, to force it into dormancy and assist it in preparing for cold winter weather.
How Often To Water a New Fig Tree?
New fig trees need water every other day on average. It takes time for them to establish a decent root system that can search for water. As the fig tree matures, roots grow, and it needs less and less often watering. The frequency of watering fig trees can be quite different for each climate, season, and soil type.
I was always astounded by how frequently I needed to water my new figs. Several of them are still young, but things will get better as they mature. I’ve been watering them every third day in summer because the heat causes them to become sad and lifeless. The one limitation is that they grow quite quickly if you give them a lot of water when they would normally endure drought.
When it got really hot last summer, my newly planted trees (Mission, Kadota, and VDB) needed water all the time. It takes a long time for young fig trees to grow a strong enough root system to withstand the heat. However, there is a trick that you can do to make any soil keep moisture.
I put several inches thick layer of moss, fine sawdust, or straw mulch on top of the soil. I cover everything except the small circle around the base of the tree. Water won’t evaporate nearly as quickly because these things keep moisture well.
Another thing I do is plant new fig roots several inches deeper than they are usually planted in nursery containers. This way, I ensure that roots will develop downward and not go through the surface first. This is helpful in heat and cold because the deeper you go into the soil, the temperatures are closer to the yearly average.
How Often Do You Water Fig Trees in Pots?
Because there are so many factors, the best method to determine your plant’s specific watering requirements is to study it and respond to its signals, then get a sense of its demands.
As a general rule, container planted fig trees require water two times a week. However, this number can range from one to four times, depending on the climate, how well the soil can keep moisture, and if it’s in the dormant or growing season.
Container-planted figs will show signals that something is wrong a lot sooner, so I usually test them for a week or two and see how they behave. Then afterward, I know exactly how much water to give them. My default watering of potted fig trees is two times per week in the pacific west climate, with good drainage and a medium layer of sawdust.
The amount of water you pour each time depends on many different things. Some of which, like climate and soil, I will talk about later. I don’t need to worry if I give my fig trees more water than they need because I make sure pots have good drainage. Fig tree roots don’t like to be soaked in water all the time.
It’s difficult to say the exact amount. I advise you to make sure the soil can keep moisture like I explained before and have good drainage. Then you can easily determine the amount of water by yourself. Anything else will only lead to problems.
How Climate and Type of Soil Affect Fig Tree’s Water Needs?
We often forget that there are natural water sources, variable soil water retention properties, different humidity levels in different regions, and high and low temperatures during the day and night. These are all the factors that regulate fig trees’ water needs. That is why it’s even more important to watch for your fig tree giving you signals on what and how much it needs.
Fig trees can grow wild in both dry, sunny locations with deep soil and rocky ones. They prefer light, well-draining soil, although they can even flourish in poor soil. As a result, the tree thrives in climates similar to those found in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
Fig trees have a deep, active root system that scours aquifers, ravines, and rock fissures for groundwater. The common fig is well-suited to seasonal drought, although this does not negate the importance of watering a fig tree. Watering your fig tree should be done regularly if you wish to reap the benefits of its delicious fruit.
It Is Important To Test Fig Trees’ Ability To Survive
I always give my figs as much water as they need during their first year. However, after the first year of regular watering, I reduced the watering schedule and let them show me how much drought they could endure.
The tree can appear to start dying when doing so, and I keep giving it just enough water to survive. The following season, it always makes a major comeback. Like any other fruit tree, Figs may adapt to repeated shallow watering and establish a deeper root system searching for water. The more the roots grow, the more efficient the fig tree becomes at finding and keeping water.
This may seem pointless to some, but to really achieve the fruit of the highest quality, you need to force your fig tree to develop to its fullest potential. It’s not only water that giant root systems find; they find a bunch of different minerals as well.