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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - September 30, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Fruiting of non-native fig trees
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Regarding a Fig Tree that I have, it's about 3yrs old. Last year it gave us about a handful of figs and they were good. This year the small tree is full of figs and they remain green. This summer I have picked about (3) that were good. Maybe not enough sun? It gets shade up until 10:00am and again shade about 3:00pm.

ANSWER:

Ficus carica, edible fig, is native to western Asia and found all through the Mediterranean. The attention of Mr. Smarty Plants and the Lady Bird Wildflower Center is centered on the propagation and protection of plants native to North America. Since many gardeners like yourself wish to try to grow non-native fruiting trees, we will try to help you with some information. This site from the California Rare Fruit Growers can give you a great deal of pertinent detail on the care and harvesting of figs.

In answer to your question about the lack of viable fruits this year, there could be several reasons. One, as you suggest, might be too much shade. Fig trees need a lot of sunshine, and they need room to grow, as their roots will spread far and wide. Ficus carica does best in dryer, warmer climates and our very unusual Texas wet summer could be at least a partial culprit. And, finally, maybe you're taking too good care of your fig tree. One source we consulted said that young, vigorous trees that are being too well-fertilized will drop fruit. However, since you didn't mention your tree dropping fruit, but only failing to ripen, the weird summer weather is more likely to blame. Don't worry, our normal dry, days will come blazing back, and your figs will probably get back on track.

 

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