While figs are grown in many parts of the world, they are actually native to western Asia and the Mediterranean region. So, where do figs grow in the US?
Figs are reliably grown in USDA zones 8-10, which include the majority of the South and West Coast, mainly California, where the majority of commercially grown figs are in the US. Some fig varieties can be grown in USDA zones 5-7 with additional care to improve reliability.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at where and how to grow your own fig trees and where to find fresh figs in the US. Stay tuned!
Where Do Figs Grow Naturally?
Figs naturally grow in dry, warm climates of the Mediterranean and middle east Asia. They were spread by fig cultivators even in parts of the Mediterranean with colder and humid winters.
Rainy winters don’t negatively affect figs as much because almost all fig problems related to humidity happen during the growing season.
While most fruit trees have areas where they grow well and where they grow poorly no matter what you do, figs can excel in a wide range of climate conditions as long as you give them proper care.
That’s probably the biggest reason figs are regarded as easy to grow.
We can already see from this where figs would grow with ease and where they would require extra care in the US.
What Are USDA Zones?
USDA plant hardiness zones are used to indicate the temperature range in which various plants can be grown successfully. They correspond with the minimum winter temperatures, not the average winter temperatures.
The USDA uses ten zones for North America, based on each location’s average annual minimum temperature. The colder the zone, the hardier (tougher) the plants should be to survive.
The USDA has a map that shows which zone each part of the US falls into at:
Zone 8-10 suitable for reliable fig growth are in the same range as California, the South, and West Coast.
How Humidity Affects Where Fig Trees Grow?
Temperature is not the only thing that restricts figs from growing in certain climate zones. There is a problem with humidity as well.
Generally speaking, humidity won’t completely restrict figs from growing in above mentioned USDA zones, but it will create problems that fig growers have to deal with.
For example, USDA zone 8 in some dry parts of Texas isn’t the same as USDA zone 8 in humid parts of the South. Fig trees will grow better in drier areas of the same USDA zone.
Where Are Figs Commercially Grown in the US?
As mentioned above, the majority of commercially grown figs in the US are grown in California.
California is where fig production began and remains the leading producer of figs both for domestic consumption and export. A whopping 97% of all figs produced in the United States are grown in California. There are both fresh and processed figs available in California’s fruit business.
A total of 31,200 tons of fresh figs were harvested from 6,700 yielding acres in the United States in 2017. The amount of figs produced has stayed stable while the number of acres yielding fruit has dropped, showing that the fig production business is becoming more efficient.
There were 27,300 tons of that total, or 87 percent of it, processed.
There are signs of growing commercial fig cultivation around the US as in 1998, California accounted for almost 100% of commercial fig growth. We can see that in 19 years, almost 3% of commercial growth spread through other States.
Where Can YOU Grow Figs in the US?
You can grow fig trees in your gardens reliably in areas that are dry, with around 20 inches of rain a year, preferably in winter months and long warm seasons.
Fig’s growth reliability is increased as the humidity and cold reduce, up to a certain point that resembles a desert-like climate. Then it becomes too dry, and temperatures change too much between night and day.
On the other side of the climate spectrum, the reliability of fig growth decreases with increasing cold in both winter and summer.
Too cold in winter, and your fig trees will struggle to survive. On the other hand, not warm enough summer, and your fig trees may not produce fruit or fail to ripen them.
A perfect example would be the northern parts of the West Coast which don’t have too cold winters but sometimes have colder summers.
However, some fig varieties naturally resist cold or humidity better than others. Or even require shorter seasons to ripen.
Since figs are commercially grown in USDA zones 8-10, those are obviously the best zones to grow figs in your home gardens. But what about other zones?
Do Figs Grow in USDA Zone 7?
USDA zone 7 is where I would start choosing specific fig varieties that perform well in a humid climate or have a shorter ripening season.
The majority of areas within USDA zone 7 are rainy. Even those with average rainfall typically have shorter seasons with fewer sun hours. If you live in one of those heavy rain areas, you might want to choose one of these fig varieties.
Winters in zone 7 can be mild or severe, depending on the year. Some growers in USDA zone 7 choose to keep their fig trees in pots so they can easily store them in the garage or a shed if there is a sudden drop in temperature.
However, in-ground fig trees can be successfully grown in USDA zone 7, especially if you choose a cold-hardy or early ripening variety.
I’ve written an article on early ripening varieties where I explain why the balance between early ripening and cold-hardy is important when choosing fig varieties to grow in zones 5-7. You can read it here.
Do Figs Grow in USDA Zone 6?
Fig trees become difficult to grow in USDA Zone 6 without any winter sheltering. It’s even impossible for some fig varieties to overwinter successfully.
In-ground trees can be especially problematic since you need to wrap them each winter. Even then, one tiny mistake, and you have a moldy tree that won’t grow in spring.
Chicago Hardy types can survive USDA Zone 6 winters better than all other fig varieties I know, although they still require wrapping if you want to have reliable fruiting.
Other varieties I would grow in pots and shelter them each winter because that’s the only way to grow them reliably.
Do Figs Grow in USDA Zone 5?
USDA zone 5 is even more extreme in difficulty growing fig trees. Some people opt for completely indoor fig cultivation, which I had the opportunity to try myself for several years.
Growing edible figs indoors is possible with a few tricks, all of which I’ve discussed in my article Can Edible Figs Grow Indoors?
I’ve found that in-ground fig trees survive well in USDA zone 5 only if buried. And even then, all other conditions must be great, including the choice of a cold-hardy fig variety.
Container fig trees can be grown the same way as in USDA zone 6, except with a bit more care when switching from shelter to the outside because fig trees need some time getting used to the new weather.
To get detailed info on how you can help your fig trees survive winter in USDA zone 5, you can read my article Can a Fig Tree Survive in USDA Zone 5?