Caring for Fig Shoots, Part I

Mr. Ranallo and his fig tree

During our fig tree growing classes in Pittsburgh, we visit Rodolfo Ranallo who has grown fig trees since his arrival in the US in 1970. Rodolfo is from Ateleta, Italy in the province of L’Aquila in the region of Abruzzo. This was the first winter that he didn’t bury his fig tree. He had seen other trees in the neighborhood that were surviving without protection during recent winters and had decided to see if his might make it too. Unfortunately, this past winter proved to be unusually harsh with sustained freezing temperature that damaged or killed fig trees throughout the East. The photo above was taken in late April. He knew then that the tree had sustained some damage, but was still hopeful that it had only lost the ends of the upper branches. Any green that is visible in the photo is from the tree behind the fig. The fig itself showed no signs of life.


Fig tree heavily pruned

He pruned it heavily in May.

Fig tree cut back

Soon after this photo was taken in mid-June, Rodolfo cut the tree to the ground when it failed to sprout except from the base where new shoots were emerging from the roots.

In the video below Rodolfo talks about how he cares for the developing shoots and how he will protect them during the coming winter. He explains that the new shoots were beginning to flop over as they grew, so he mounded dirt around the base of the stalks to hold them upright. If he finds that they are still unable to stand upright as they grow, he will support them by placing stakes around the perimeter of the circle of shoots. The stakes will serve as posts around which he will string twine to create a fence-like support.

He will wait until fall to transplant any of the shoots. They are too young and tender now (late June) and may snap off where they are growing out of the root. In the fall, he will dig several of them which will have hardened off and produced roots.  To protect during the winter, he will bury them in foot deep trenches covered with heavy cardboard. Dirt will be mounded on top of the cardboard and each trench will be marked to identify its location. Next spring, the shoots will be unearthed and planted.  Rodolfo explains that watering fig trees often throughout the summer is important.

In the video, Rodolfo is holding a potted fig tree given to him as a gift for always willingly sharing his vast knowledge with us. Grazie, Rodolfo!

See Part 2 of Rodolfo teaching more about how to care for new fig shoots. For more in-depth training, consider attending one of our fig tree growing classes, offered periodically in several cities. See the Events page for a location near you.


James S Puliti

This is so timely. My daughter forwarded this to me. I am in the process of having to remove the dead wood, and was wondering how to thin out the great number of shoots growing, and they all look really healthy. —Thanks so much.

Mary Menniti

I’m glad you found the post helpful, James. We’ll post Part 2 soon in which Rodolfo describes another method of protecting the new shoots through the winter. Stay tuned!

Carol Caggiano-Pavlik

My mother’s family is also from L’Aquila. I have a fig which a friend of my mother’s gave to her. It was said to have come from Italy. My husband planted it in our yard about eleven years ago. Now it is very large. I would like to share it with anyone who is knowledgeable about the care and propagation of the fig plant.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *