How to Propagate Fig Trees
Figs – including both ornamental and edible varieties – are one of the easiest trees to propagate. They root readily, even without the use of rooting hormone. Once rooted, you can continue to grow many of them in a container or put them out in the garden in USDA Zones 6 through 11.
Choosing Fig Varieties
Figs include everything from the common edible fig to banyan trees and the fiddle-leafed fig and rubber plant. Here are just a few:
- Ficus carica – edible fig; over 200 named varieties
- Ficus lyrata – fiddle-leafed fig
- Ficus benjamina – weeping fig
- Ficus microcarpa – Chinese banyan
- Ficus pumila – creeping fig.
Propagating from Seeds
All figs that produce fruit – whether edible by humans or not – can be grown from seed. In fact, many wild figs are spread by birds and animals that have eaten the fruit. However, the fig will not grow true to type, so this method of propagation is a gamble. You can harvest them from fresh fruit or buy seeds; soak for 24 hours in warm water before planting in potting soil and keep moist.
Hardwood cuttings are the preferred method of propagating figs. In early spring – pruning time is ideal – while the tree or plant is dormant, select cuttings of wood that is two or three years old. Cuttings should be at least eight to 12 inches long and about ½ to ¾ of an inch in diameter. Select a stem that has at least three growth nodes. Plant the bottom node two to three inches below soil level.
Sometimes called summer cuttings, softwood cuttings are taken in the summer when the plant is actively growing rather than in winter when it is dormant. Choose shoots of this year’s growth but otherwise of the same diameter and length as for hardwood cuttings. They may root better if the leaves are removed and the cuttings kept refrigerated for several weeks prior to planting.
Layering, or air layering, is a way to root a stem before removing it from the mother plant. Use stems of the current year’s growth. Make a small cut about halfway though the stem and wedge it open with a match or toothpick. Surround the area with a handful of damp sphagnum moss and wrap with plastic tied at top and bottom. Roots should develop within a couple of months.
Transplanting Rooted Figs
Whatever method you choose, you will eventually need to transplant your rooted cuttings. For hardwood and softwood cuttings, gently loosen the soil in the pot and remove the cutting while keeping the root ball intact. Plant in a larger pot or in the ground; tamp soil gently and water in well. For air layer cuttings, remove the plastic, cut the rooted cutting from the mother plant and plant in soil.