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For the love of figs!

Published on February 7th 2021
A close up of a flower
Who eats figs? Everybody. Whether dried, fresh, stewed, preserved, roasted, paired with cheese, or on toast - figs are irresistibly delicious.
However, by far the best way to enjoy a fig is, well ... as close to the tree as possible of course! So, why not grow your own?
A close up of fruit on a branch

What figs want!

Location and Climate
  • The perfect time to plant a fig tree is during late autumn or early spring when the tree is dormant and can best establish itself during the cooler weather.
  • Figs fruit best in areas with relatively dry summers, short and cool winters, and little to no frost.
  • Young fig trees should be protected from frost during their first and second winters.
  • Plant your fig tree in an area that receives full sun and is well protected from strong winds.
  • Good air circulation is also vital, especially in humid and wet conditions.
  • Remember to plant your fig tree at least 7 metres away from buildings and other trees. Also keep in mind that fig trees put down deep roots.
A close up of a plant
  • Figs will grow in all types of soil (sand, clay and loam), as long as they have adequate drainage and moisture, and plenty of organic material.
  • Figs tolerate a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.8. If your soil is too acidic, apply agricultural lime annually.
  • Figs are very tough and drought-resistant once established, however, fruit production will decline if not provided with adequate moisture.
  • Water consistently.
  • Deep irrigation systems are highly recommended.
  • Ensure that young plants receive enough water, especially during dry, hot spells.
  • If you notice the leaves are turning yellow and dropping, it is likely that you are overwatering.
  • To conserve soil moisture and to protect the roots from the hot summer rays, add a layer of organic mulch around your tree.
  • Top-dress the root zone with a balanced fertiliser in spring and mulch with well-rotted organic matter year round.
  • To promote fruit production, feed with a high-potassium fertiliser during the growing season.
  • The last feeding should be done in February to harden the tree off before winter.
  • Fig trees can be pruned during winter by cutting off any dead, weak or diseased branches. Remove a few inside branches if the centre part of the tree looks like it has become crowded.
  • Give old trees a more thorough prune by removing half the length of each branch, which will encourage fresh new growth.
  • Here are some general pruning tips from a pro.
Common pests
  • Figs are susceptible to fig rust, leaf blight, mosaic virus, Anthracnose, Aspergillosis and endopsepsis (Fusarium moniliforme fici).
  • Common pests include mealybugs, nemaodes, fruit fly, aphids, spider mite, vinegar flies and scale.
  • The fig borer beetle (Phryneta spinator) is a major pest on figs.
Have a look at these posts by the community on the fig borer beetle:


And there is this poor fig tree. No hope, says my most knowledgeable gardener. Can I prevent it happening again, to my next one?


I've lost 3 fig trees the past week due to rotten stems. Apparently many people are loosing their fig trees due to this disease. What is it? Cure?


The Fig tree borer beetle (Phryneta spinator) with different stages of larvae. Although the beetles are not active now, the larvae are. Therefore, inspect your fig trees, especially the trunks. For more information, read the following article: Fig tree borer beetle #insects


@ArneStander Hi Arne poor pic of moth. I have posted about this before and you mentioned that lava feed on ficus and poison tree. I do have olive trees which the first picture shows the fig bora eating through the branches of the olive . Zobviously don't want that Oh dear i may have to 'do him in' ; (


Spotted fresh activity of the fig tree borer in our fig trees today..the frass of larvae under the bark showing. Cutting away the damaged bark with a knife, we found the huge white larvae in its tunnel. We shall be much more alert in the next few weeks to check all our trees regularly after very little activity this past summer.


In short: Larva - Adult - Control This longhorn beetle is known as the fig borer, Phryneta spinator, belonging to the Cerambycidae family. The first photo shows the real culprit, the larva. The female lays her egg on the fig tree. The larva emerges and dig into the base of the stem and feeds its way to the core of the stem. Consequently your tree will fall, and you would have thought that it was some sort of disease, while this beetle was the culprit. It is important to inspect your fig trees regularly. Look at the base of the stem for wood shavings, which will be ejected as the larva bored into the stem. Look for holes as well and use a piece of wire and insert it in the hole. If the larva is still there you can simply hook it out with the wire and kill it. At Babylonstoren we use a fine steel mesh to cover the stem of the fig trees - from the bottom (soil surface) and up to at least 40 cm. This is a way to control the borer to drill onto the trees, but won't necessarily prevent them from boring. Therefore, it is important to keep on inspecting your trees.

Ripe for the picking

Figs need to ripen on the tree. The fruit is ripe and ready when the fruit neck starts to wilt, hanging downward, and comes away from the tree with ease.
Different varieties of figs turn a different colour when ripe and can range from green to dark to brown. You will know what colour to look out for once you know your variety. Figs start bearing fruit around two to three years after planting.
Dig into the collection below to explore fig varieties.

Ten fig cultivars we love

Brown Turkey figs ripen late in the season with light brown to red skin and dark red flesh.
Tiger or Tiervy is a striking yellow and green stripy fig, fun to grow in the garden. The flesh is reddish pink.
Kadota is an old Italian cultivar with a prominent, fleshy stalk and typical drop of sugar in the “ostiole” or bottom opening when ripe. The skin is greenish-yellow with white flecks and the flesh yellow-pink. Worldwide this is a popular fig for jam, green fig preserve and for drying.
Cape White or Kaapse Wit is a very sweet French fig. The small flat fruits with green-yellow skin and straw-coloured flesh ripen early.
White Genoa was for many years the most popular for supplying breba figs or voorvye for green fig preserve. This is an early fig that ripens end of January to early February, with an abundance of large, sweet fruits. Skin is yellow-green and the flesh pink.
Cape Black or Koffievy is another unique South African cultivar popular in domestic gardens. It is a small, black early fig with straw-coloured flesh. Can be eaten with the peel.
Eva is a unique South African cultivar with small, egg-shaped fruits, greenish purple skin colour and straw-coloured flesh.
Kaapse Bruin is one of South Africa’s oldest figs, common since the early 1900s. It ripens early to mid-season with uniformly brown skin and pink flesh. Resists the attention of flies well.
Adams is one of the oldest fig cultivars in South Africa. Huge leaves (to hide Adam’s pride, see), large fruits, with purple skin and dark red flesh when ripe, ripen late in the season.
Black Mission was the first fig cultivar taken from Spain to America, where it was planted around mission stations in California. Easy and reliable with a typical fig taste, this is a classic pear-shaped fruit with purple to black skin and red flesh.

Share your fresh fig harvest with us using the hashtag #FreshFigs!

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