Figs – Tasty Landscaping

One of the pleasures of living in the south is the plethora of plants we can grow in our yards. Growing up in Maine, I probably appreciate the diversity here more than most. When one is limited to plants that are hardy in zones 4 and 5 selection can be meager.

One of my favorite dual purpose landscape plants is the edible fig. It has interesting foliage and delicious fruits that are beginning to ripen. Figs are great raw or in numerous concoctions and they are easy to grow. I made some fig bars last year that were decadent although also wall-to-wall calories.

Figs can be planted away from other landscaping and treated as an orchard crop, but they make a great specimen plant. You can prune them and maintain an attractive shape with dense foliage without hindering fruit production. Many varieties such as ‘Brown Turkey’, ‘Celeste’, ‘Black Mission’ and the large yellow ‘Conadria’ grow and produce well in eastern North Carolina.

‘Celeste’ is probably the most common type found in eastern North Carolina

Fig foliage

. Commonly called the sugar fig, it is long lived and hardy. They usually stay at a manageable size with very little pruning. Most trees seldom grow much taller than ten feet and can be trained to less than that. They can be harvested almost entirely from the ground.

In general, figs have excellent disease and pest resistance, although green fruit beetles can rob you. Drought and heat tolerance are superb, making them very adaptable to our growing conditions. They don’t thrive in wet soils or shady conditions although they may grow there. Deer also generally leave them alone. Likely this might be because stems are full of a bitter latex material.

Fig growers encounter this white juice when pruning branches or harvesting fruit. Many are sensitive to it and have a reaction much like people have with poison ivy. It can be severe, particularly if the material comes in contact with the eyes. Other complications can arise when sun exposure follows contact with the plant sap. A good practice is to wash your hands thoroughly after handling fig clippings or fruit. Those allergic to latex might also want to avoid exposure to these.

Some people have a skin reaction when they eat too many fresh figs. Usually cooking the fruits eliminates this problem. Other allergies are possible though.

Should most people avoid figs in their diets? I would say a resounding no! Fresh fruits are a healthy treat rivaling any other. The biggest problem I have with fresh ones is that they are extremely perishable. Even in the refrigerator they don’t keep very long, so we often must preserve them by drying or canning.

Dried or processed figs may be high in sugars but they still contain large amounts of fiber and are a rich source of potassium and calcium. What gives figs their diet killing reputation is what you do with them. Adding additional sugar and incorporating them into floury greasy dough pretty much makes any fruit less healthy.

Nice fruit set of Conadria. These get tennis ball size.


Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.

About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I recently retired from teaching high school agriculture after 25 years teaching with my wife. Until recently I wrote a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper ( I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that can be purchased on Amazon in Kindle format. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone (presently out of print), a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death (this one is not yet published). In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books. I also wrote a romance novel titled Virginia. It is available on Amazon and is a different type of romance from a man's perspective.
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28 Responses to Figs – Tasty Landscaping

  1. If u planted figs when would be the best time to do it and how long would it take them to fully produce ?

  2. AjFelton says:

    In the article you said fruit beetles “rob you”. What would be a good way to keep those pest away from your fig tree if i were to grow one?

  3. AjFelton says:

    What would be good climate condtions for a fig tree to grow fully?

    • tedmanzer says:

      Figs need full sun for at least half of the day and they won’t grow too far north of here because they can’t stand winter temperatures much colder than 10 degrees.

  4. cjbvans says:

    Never knew that the fig tree gives off a skin eratation from the branches. How would you treat that if in contact with it?

  5. kimberlypaigeweaver says:

    What do latex and fig clipping have in common making people with a latex allgery avoid them?

  6. seankathryn says:

    whenever i hear about figs i always think of fig newtons.. why do deer not eat figs?

  7. what are some other benefits that may come from figs that not many people know about?

  8. donnashawna says:

    Ididnt know figs were green and that big.

  9. amandawensel says:

    Figs are nasty tasting to me, but many make jams and all with these fruits.

  10. i have never had figs but i have had people tell me its good and then some tell me its nasty.

  11. i would have never thought a fig could be use for disease and pest resistance.

  12. awhitenhs12 says:

    I like figs i think they are a very good tasting. I mainly thought they were used for food and were big ingredients in jams and jellies, but it seems like they have uses for diease and pest control

  13. my grandparents have two fig trees, and they are always making jams. I believed i have tried one before and didnt think it was half bad. i feel like the birds always knock them off the tree thou, which really cuts back of what we pick.

  14. tjones123 says:

    how long does it take for a fig to become edible?

  15. sbright16 says:

    I never knew you could eat figs raw and that deers wouldn’t eat them.

  16. Why dont deers it figs???? My grandma has a fig tree but i have never ate them

  17. zachvanett says:

    I think it is really cool thath it can get rid of deseases

  18. zachvanett says:

    how come deer do not eat figs

  19. zachvanett says:

    The way i always know which one is a fig tree is because the leaf is kinda like a giant five finger hand

  20. i never knew that deer didnt eat figs.

  21. Figs are delicious when picked at the right time! But why do deer not eat them? Some type of oil on the skin or something?

  22. Ive heard about figs many times in my life but i never knew they were a fruit tree…Very Interesting might have to try these one time

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