A fresh, properly ripe fig is a thing of great beauty. To grow figs successfully outdoors in the UK, it's important to choose a hardy cultivar and plant it against a sunny wall. In colder areas figs require winter protection; luckily they grow well in containers which is ideal where space is limited. These spend the summer outdoors and are overwintered in a cool, frost-free place. Even a single plant provides a successful crop.

Figs ripening

Month by month


Move figs growing in pots into a sunny location, outdoors, once there is no danger of frost.

In spring, apply a general-purpose granular feed and mulch around the base of fan trained plants, with well-rotted organic matter, to retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Once the figs appear, apply liquid tomato fertiliser every two to three weeks during the growing season, until they start to ripen. Water well during summer.

Dig around the outside of a planting pit every couple of years with a sharp spade to ensure that no roots have escaped.

Figs can produce fruitlets in late summer and spring or summer. Only the tiny pea-sized fruitlets produced in late summer survive winter and are sufficiently well advanced to flower the following summer. Fruitlets produced in spring may ripen in greenhouses but seldom outdoors.

Remove larger fruits that are not mature enough to ripen at the end of the season, leaving the tiny embryo fruits at the shoot tips, to ripen the following year.

Winter protection outdoors: protect fan-trained figs in winter. After leaf fall, pack a fan-trained plant with straw, bracken, or even bubble wrap and then cover with horticultural fleece. Remove the insulation during late spring, from May onwards.

Winter protection in containers: In autumn, move plants that have been grown in pots into an unheated greenhouse, shed or porch.

Training and pruning

Train figs on walls outdoors or in the greenhouse against horizontal wires 30cm (12in) apart or hang 15cm (6in) netting 30cm (12in) away from the glass.

The sap is an irritant. Wear protective gloves, start pruning from the bottom of the plant and work upwards.

Fan-trained figs: in June pinch out the growing tip of every other young shoot carried on the main framework to encourage lower, bushier growth. As shoots develop, tie them into the wires.

Containerised figs: In late March, cut out dead stems and weak branches before growth starts. Mid June: remove the shoot tips from the new growth, leaving four to five leaves.

Read more advice on fig cultivation


Soil should be moisture retentive and free draining – figs thrive in any soil with good drainage.

Allow enough space to train the fig as a fan. The height and spread at maturity can be up to 2m (6.5ft) x 3–3.5m (10–12ft) wide.

Although container-grown plants can be planted at any time, spring is ideal as there is a full growing season for them to become established.

Restricting root growth encourages fruiting. Either dig out a planting pit or grow figs in containers on the patio, or plunged into the soil. Prepare a planting pit by digging a hole 60 x 60 x 60cm (2 x 2 x 2ft). Line the sides with vertical slabs, with 2.5cm (1in) higher than the surrounding soil to prevent the roots from spreading outwards. Add a layer of rubble or broken bricks and crocks 10–20cm (4–8in) deep, in the base.

Plant 20cm (8in) away from the base of a sunny south or south west facing wall or fence. Backfill, using garden soil, (improved with well rotted organic matter if necessary) or with John Innes No 3 compost.

For figs in containers, plant ideally March-April into a pot one size larger than the original. Start them off in 30cm (1ft) pots and re-pot every two years in March using John Innes No 3 in a pot about 5cm (2in) larger each time. Leave a gap of at least 2.5 cm (1in) between the soil and the rim of the pot, to allow for watering.

Read more information about growing fruit, including figs, in containers.

Common problems


Birds, especially pigeons, can cause an array of problems including eating seedlings, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables.


Protect the plants from birds by covering them with netting or fleece. Scarecrows and bird-scaring mechanisms work for a while, but the most reliable method of protection is to cover plants with horticultural fleece or mesh.

More info on Birds

Glasshouse red spider or two spotted mite
Glasshouse red spider or two spotted mite

Leaves become mottled, pale and covered in webbing, on which the mites can be clearly seen; leaves also drop prematurely.


They thrive in hot, dry conditions, so mist plants regularly. Use biological control in the greenhouse.

More info on Glasshouse red spider or two spotted mite


All tree fruits are prone to wasp damage. As their fruits ripen, the high sugar content attracts wasps, which not only damages the fruit but also poses a threat to gardeners.


Hang wasp traps in trees and harvest crops as soon as they ripen. Avoid leaving windfalls or over-ripe fruit on the ground.

More info on Wasps


Figs grown in an unheated greenhouse usually produce two crops per summer, but those growing outdoors crop once.

Figs are ready for harvesting when the skin is soft, occasionally a tear of sugary liquid is secreted from the ‘eye’ at the base of the fig. They also split when gently squeezed.

Eat them sun warmed, from the tree. Figs can also be preserved by drying them on trays in the airing cupboard, turning them once a day for a week.


‘Rouge de Bordeaux’:One of the finest for flavour. Needs a warm, sheltered site or conservatory.

‘Brown Turkey’:The classic fig for British gardens, heavy cropping, producing a mass of tasty fruit. Outdoors or in containers.

‘Osbourne Prolific’:Delicious dark purple fruit. For greenhouse cultivation - except in warmer climate.

‘Brunswick’:Hardy and good for growing outdoors, with large, sweet fruit.

‘White Marseilles’:Large fruit with sweet, translucent flesh. Ideal for growing in containers and outdoors, it produces two crops per year under glass.

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