Congratulations on Your New Tree! What Next?
Your new tree should arrive safe, if there are any issues please contact us.
The pot has been wrapped in a plastic bag to keep the roots moist during the trip. Unwrap the plastic bag and add some water if the soil is dry (often it is still moist). The stick in the pot was to protect the tree during shipping and can be removed or kept.
Step 1: Acclimate Your Tree
Your tree has just been stuffed in a box and thrown around for 1-3 days during shipping, so it deserves a day or two to rest. It also needs to be adjusted to full sunlight slowly. Assuming the weather is nice, put your tree in a shady spot outside for about a week. Keep the soil moist (but not water logged) and allow your tree to adjust to its new surroundings.
Step 2: Pot or Plant
You can start in a pot, even for a few years, and then plant, or plant right away. If you are in a cold climate, zone 8A or lower, you may want to consider growing your tree in a pot for a couple years before putting it in ground since larger trees are much more cold hardy than new ones (see the section below on pots). In either case you are ready to either plant your tree or move it to a larger pot.
Step 2A: Pot
Your tree is ready for a larger pot, but you don’t have to provide one right away if you don’t want to. Your tree will also do well in the current pot for at least another month, though it will grow faster with a larger pot.
Most growers like to provide their trees gradually larger pots as the tree’s roots expand (over months or seasons). The theory is that this allows the tree to efficiently fill the whole pot with feeder roots and not just send roots to the outside edge of a very large pot. A potting sequence could be tree pot (what your tree arrived in) to 3 or 5 gallon pot, to 10 gallon, to 15 gallon, and so on. Fig trees can be very successfully grown in 5 gallon pots, but will produce more fruit in larger pots. Your space and growing plans will decide the size you want. Keep in mind that if you live in a colder climate you will need to bring your tree into an attached garage or some other structure that stays warmer than the outside. The larger the pot the harder it is to carry. A waterlogged pot gets very heavy when you start talking about 15+ gallon sizes.
Step 2B: Plant
If your climate allows it or you plan on winterizing, then planting your fig tree in the ground is the best way to get growth and figs quickly. Young unprotected fig trees will die back to the ground in minimum winter temperatures below about 18 degrees (or a sudden on set of cold temperatures even if they are in the 20s). If you plant in ground in an area like this you will need to provide winter protection. Winter protection could be as simple as a south facing wall near your tree, insulation, or insulation with supplemental heat(see our article).
Assuming you are lucky enough to live in a warm part of the country, or have winter protection in mind, then planting a fig tree is like planting most other trees. Dig a hole a bit bigger than the pot. Ensure the sides of the hole are broken up (not smooth from the shovel’s blade) to allow roots to grow outside the hole. Do NOT put anything in the hole except the dirt you dug out and, optionally, mycorrhizal (available on Amazon or eBay). You can add fertilizer on the surface of the soil, but not to the hole. Adding fertilizer to the hole can burn the roots, adding better soil can discourage it from growing out in search of nutrients and water.
Step 3: Water
Although figs come from semi-arid regions and (ONCE WELL ESTABLISHED) can do well with little water, they benefit from having access to water and need to be watered carefully their first two years in the ground or at any point if in pots.
For in ground trees, watering deeply once or twice a week should suffice after your tree has had a chance to expand its roots. In the first month you should keep an eye on it and water daily if necessary (i.e. hot and dry weather, or the plant looks wilted in the evening once out of direct sun).
Potted trees need to be water almost daily in hot summer weather. Their large leaves and efficient roots will quickly dry out a pot. Automatic watering systems such as drip irrigation can help, or sprinklers.
Step 4: Fertilize
Fertilizer can include organic or chemical. Apply all fertilizers according to their instructions. Some fertilizer should be applied from mid-spring to about 2.5-3 months before last frost (Early August in NJ). Stopping fertilizer in the summer allows the tree time to slow down and get ready for winter; an actively growing tree will be killed by frost, but a hardened one can survive down to between 10 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 5: Enjoy
Figs are one of the earliest fruiting trees. A fig tree planted in late spring may bear some fruit by the fall of that same year. Most trees will have fruit their second or third year (though this does vary by variety and growing conditions). Figs are not affected by many of the pests that local trees face, though it is always a good idea to keep any eye on your tree and search for information on any pests you do find.
Best of luck growing your tree and enjoying the figs!