One thing that frustrates me the most is when a fig tree doesn’t fruit. Mostly because there can be many causes to this problem.
I never experience this with my own fig trees because I give them proper care from the start to avoid situations like these. With other people’s fig trees, I have to go through the list of misdoings that could’ve led to the lack of fruiting.
Fig trees may fail to produce fruit due to:
- Age of the tree
- Excess nitrogen
- Lack of sunlight
- Too much water
- Heavy pruning
- Cold injury
- Bad soil Ph levels
- Restricted roots
Do You Need Two Fig Trees To Produce Fruit?
No, fig trees don’t need pollination to produce figs. That’s why I didn’t list it as one of the reasons above.
Even the figs that require pollination will produce figs without it. However, they will not ripen.
That is a common misconception repeated on the web by people who never actually grew Smyrna, Caimyrna, or San Pedro fig varieties.
I planted those varieties some time ago to try and cross-breed new varieties. They were never pollinated, but the fruit still grew out, only it was inedible without pollination.
Before that, I had the same misconceptions most people have.
How Long Does a Fig Tree Take To Produce Fruit?
People often have misguided expectations when expecting a fig tree to fruit at a certain age.
In perfect conditions, fig trees will start to fruit at about two years of age. However, that is often too idealistic to be true and should be taken from the point of hope, not expectations.
I would argue that you can expect figs in year 3 or 4 with some certainty.
And all that heavily relies on your geographic location and climate.
If it isn’t year 4 of your fig tree already, I would wait before worrying about not fruiting.
At What Age Do Fig Trees Stop Producing Fruit?
Fig trees might not bear fruit because they are too old.
It’s difficult to answer at what age a fig tree stops producing fruit because it depends on so many factors.
If figs are left to grow independently, they will stop producing fruit sooner. For a fig tree to produce fruit for many years, there need to be lots of strategic pruning, especially rejuvenation. By strategic, I mean knowing when necessary and exactly how much to prune.
Fig trees tend to go wild as well. I don’t know the right name for it, but they start growing wild at some point, and their wood thickens all over. Like it’s drying before they die, but they don’t.
At that point, there won’t be fruit anymore unless the tree is cut back and forced to regrow from the trunk.
If your older fig tree isn’t producing figs, you might have one of these problems on your hands. Luckily, they can be solved by rejuvenation pruning unless the tree is a hundred years old or so.
Fig Tree Not Fruiting Due to Nitrogen in Soil
Nitrogen is found in all all-purpose fertilizers. The problem is fig trees need nitrogen only at a specific time early in the growing season.
It can cause many serious problems to fig trees at all other times.
One of the problems is that fig trees exposed to too much nitrogen can stop fruiting or fruit too late into the season and not ripen in time.
To fertilize fig trees properly, you need three different NPK fertilizer formulas. Two in humid climates where potassium isn’t beneficial to ripening.
To put it simply, once the green growth starts at the beginning of the season, use nitrogen-rich fertilizer only once.
Two months into the growing season, or whenever your variety starts to grow fruit buds, switch to a fertilizer with more phosphorus and the least possible nitrogen amount.
Phosphorus will help early fruit formation. It is generally a flowering fertilizer, and figs primarily act as flowers until they reach their full size.
In dry climates, use a bit of potassium-rich fertilizer once figs are close to their full size so that they can ripen more easily.
Do this, and you will never experience fertilizer-related fruiting problems.
Figs Not Growing Due to Lack of Sunlight
Sunlight is not often the cause of fig fruit not growing. More of the time, figs just don’t ripen.
However, when a fig tree is young, it can prevent it from fruiting.
The tree won’t have enough energy to support its growth and the growth of fruit simultaneously. Naturally, fruiting always takes the second place in priority between the two.
Fig trees need as much sun as possible to grow healthy anyway, so you might want to consider placing them in a sunny location, to begin with.
You will avoid all kinds of problems, including the ones with growth and fruiting.
Fig Tree Fruiting Problems Related to Water
Figs are sensitive to water amounts only in early spring.
Most guides on the web will tell you to water your fig trees regularly, but that’s not really true all year long. Not even true between the dormancy and growing season.
Midway through the growing season, figs actually benefit from not getting water. And then they need water again once the ripening process is near the end. They will get just the right amount of water for that period from the ground, even if it’s dry for months.
The relevant timeframe for this discussion is early to mid-spring because that’s when a fig tree starts developing fig fruit buds.
Both, too little or too much water can hurt fig production at that time.
My rule of thumb is around three heavy rains spread apart from the middle of March to the middle of May, and I don’t need to irrigate my fig trees at all.
That’s how little water fig trees need.
More than that, and your fig tree wants to grow, more than it wants to fruit.
Less water than that, and your fig tree won’t develop enough fruit buds.
The biggest amount of fig fruit grows right at the equilibrium of the tree’s water needs.
No Figs After Pruning
From what I see, people tend to prune fig trees too much and too often.
Fig trees grow best when simply left on their own. Sometimes they take a bad shape, or you want to steer the growth to your desired form. In those situations, pruning is great. However, you have to be smart about it.
Pruning too much at once can lead to very little fruit production for the year, and sometimes even none at all.
Heavy pruning is recommended only when rejuvenating the tree by getting rid of big old limbs.
I always advise people to prune only when absolutely necessary and let the tree grow on its own as much as possible. Especially when the tree is young, letting it do its thing will lead to earlier fruiting in larger quantities.
Figs Not Growing Due to Cold Damage
Weather is becoming more and more unpredictable in recent years. Late winter or early spring frosts can surprise the figs in a bad way.
That is very problematic because they can die if the last frost happens after a fig tree leaves the dormancy and grows fruit buds.
Leaf buds usually survive, growing healthy, but figs embryos don’t.
It happens more often when potted fig trees are taken out of the shelter.
Cold damage can also hurt the whole tree and stop its growth, but that will be visible immediately, and naturally, you won’t expect any figs in that situation.
Can Restricted or Damaged Fig Roots Stop Fruit Production?
Fig trees can fail to fruit if their roots are restricted or damaged.
However, root restriction rarely happens to such extremes that you get no figs at all. Most of the time, you will see a decreasing amount of figs on your tree.
On the other hand, damaged roots can easily prevent fig trees from forming fruit. As mentioned above, fig trees will prioritize growth to fruiting when anything prevents them from getting enough nutrients.
Root damage is most commonly caused by nematodes, tiny pests that make their living by infesting the roots of fruit trees.
It’s recommended to check for them if you encounter any weird growth problems in fig trees. You can find out more about nematodes here.
Like many other problems with fruit trees, lack of fruiting also has many possible causes. Sometimes they are difficult to identify, but you can easily find a solution if you go through the list of possibilities. Although, usually you have to wait a year to find out if you’ve solved your problem.