Having dry figs on the tree is one of the worst things that can happen with the crop, primarily because it’s tough to know until it’s already too late. In some situations, dry figs won’t ripen properly, even though they may seem ripe on the outside.
In this article, I will discuss how and why this phenomenon happened in my experience. Let’s dive in!
Figs can be dry inside from:
- Extreme heat and drought
- Root stress and damage
- Lack of potassium
- Too much phosphorus
- Fungal diseases
- Fig tree rejecting late fruit
- Fig tree being a caprifig
Extreme Heat and Drought
The weather may be one of the most typical causes of dried fig fruit. Figs won’t be like dried figs we normally see after the ripening process if long over, but rather normal on the outside and lacking moisture on the inside.
As a result of prolonged periods of extreme heat or drought, the fig tree fruit will be dry to the point of being unusable inside. Obviously, you can’t control the weather, but you can make sure to water more regularly and mulch around the tree with straw to help retain water and lessen environmental stress.
Mulch is normally removed when the growing season starts because it keeps the soil cool, as much as it keeps the soil warm in winter. However, during extreme heat and drought, I used mulch to keep the moisture and reduce the temperatures of the soil.
Fig trees are vulnerable to stress because of their weak roots. Dry fig fruit on trees due to high temperatures and extreme lack of water throughout the summer months is almost a certainty.
Even though fig trees thrive in warm/hot, dry areas, they don’t like extreme conditions that last for long periods. Otherwise, deserts would be full of fig trees.
To keep the soil moist:
- Use a thick layer of organic straw mulch all around the plant.
- Consider installing a soaker or drip hose under the mulch to help keep the soil moist.
Be careful, though, because fig trees don’t like “wet feet.” A bit of moisture is more than enough.
Root Stress and Damage
There are certain drawbacks to fig trees’ shallow root systems, which are prone to spreading too far. Most of the time, that’s is a benefit for the tree, but spreading too far means that sometimes roots get in places they shouldn’t be.
Grow the tree in a container or in the ground surrounded by a paved area to keep the roots from spreading too far unless you grow fig trees in an orchard where there is nothing to hurt the roots.
The fig tree should be planted towards the south or southwest in the home garden, shielded from the weather and with as much sunlight as possible.
I’ve recently discovered some other root symptoms that cause figs to dry on the inside. One of those is the trunk elevating from the ground and exposing roots.
It happens with older fig trees, especially in sub-tropical areas. Those exposed roots can dry out easily and cut the water supply. Figs will grow because nutrients are already stored in the tree, but the fruit will dry inside, and leaves will start to fall off.
Another cause of water blockage is nematodes. They swell up roots and form bead-like blockages. I’m surprised most people don’t mention them in discussions about dry fruit because they are well known to restrict water flow to the upper part of the tree.
Normally, the fruit doesn’t grow if the water is blocked completely, but it would’ve formed already and would be dry instead if it happens late enough.
Lack of Nutrients
Additionally, a deficiency of nutrients might result in dry figs. The tree needs water, sunshine, and soil nutrients to create glucose, which is needed for the creation of sweet and juicy fruit.
Specifically, fig fruit relies on potassium to ripen. But the relation between ripening and potassium is more detailed than that. Potassium is responsible for water retention in fruit. Figs can ripe even with very little to no potassium, but they will be dry.
In my opinion, lack of potassium is the number one reason for figs that are dry inside. I make sure to use potassium-rich fertilizer, like Easy Peasy Plants All-Natural Muriate of Potash Granules, when figs have just formed and before the ripening process starts. Usually once or twice from June to July. After that, I stop all fertilization.
Too Much Phosphorus
Phosphorus is used as fig fertilizer before potassium. Specifically, right before figs are about to form. It promotes flowering, and fig fruit are inverted flowers before ripening and turning into proper fruit.
Too much phosphorus can prolong the flowering process and the fig doesn’t start ripening on time. Since flowers are naturally resistant to water, figs in their first phase of growth reject water very well.
Even if the excess phosphorus keeps figs rejecting water for too long, they will start to ripe eventually. Figs will end up as ripe but dry inside.
Male Fig Tree
You may be cultivating a caprifig if you observe ripe figs with dried-out fruit insides.
What is a caprifig?
To pollinate certain female fig trees varieties, like Smyrna figs, the fig wasp nest in a wild male fig called a caprifig. That is likely the case if your fig tree happened to be there by chance rather than a tree that you picked from recognized cuttings from a nursery.
If this is the case, planting a female Smyrna fig beside the male fig is a simple solution.
Fungal diseases damage both the leaves and the fruit, such as black spots and other leaf spot diseases, fig rust, and twig blight.
However, I wondered if I should put this one on the list because figs won’t be dry only on the inside if affected by rust and similar fungal diseases unless it’s the very beginning of the disease spread by a wasp or other insects.
You can further identify the disease by checking the leaves and looking for signs of dry spots.
If you are certain it’s a disease, discard old leaves and spray with copper fungicide, like Bonide 811 Copper 4E Fungicide. I used this method to control the infection and stop the spread. To eliminate the fungi from the tree, you should prune it back until no infected branches are left. Then regrow it back.
Fig Tree Rejecting Fruit
Sometimes fig trees decide to abort the whole crop. Luckily, it tends to happen only to really old trees. I’ve heard it happen with younger trees, but I’ve never seen it happen except in old ones.
While it may appear that the fig is ripening, this is actually only the beginning of its deterioration, and it will continue to decompose. It is common for figs to have some flavor and color but to be quite dry and small since they never reached the point where they swelled.
In certain cases, I’ve witnessed figs that set late in the season and didn’t mature before the tree shut down and went into dormancy, becoming dry like this inside. The tree essentially stores its resources until it’s ready to grow and fruit again.