Did Your Fig Tree Survive the Winter?

Now that Spring has finally decided to arrive, it’s time to uncover, unearth or remove your fig tree from its winter confinement.

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During a visit to Michele’s earlier today, we inspected his trees for signs that they had successfully made it through this particularly long and severe winter.

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We first took a look at the trees that he had buried in the fall, which had spent the winter several feet underground.

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He nicked the bark with the blade of a sharp knife to see if signs of life were visible underneath.  All the trees that had been buried looked moist with a hint of green under the bark.

 

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The trees that he had not buried but rather had wrapped and covered while standing did not fare so well.

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Even though these trees had been protected with a thick layer of straw, then wrapped in blankets and then plastic, none of their branches or trunks showed any green under the bark when nicked. What we saw was just brown and dry wood. But even though they appeared dead, he will wait several weeks hoping that a few of the branches may still be alive.

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If no signs of life appear within a month, he will cut the tree down to its base. It is very likely that the roots are still alive beneath the ground and will send up new shoots this summer.

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We discovered more encouraging results upon inspecting his late winter fava bean planting. He had blanketed the freshly sown seeds with a layer of straw to protect them from a winter that seemed like it would never end.

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A peek under the straw revealed tiny green sprouts.

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Comments

P. Belculfine

Mary,
I partially uncovered my fig tree and it looks like it made it through the rough winter. I had it buried and covered over. The bark was green on the trunk and branches, but it wasn’t sprouted yet on the tips like other years.
I also had one fig tree potted in my garage and it has leaves out on all the branches.
Pasquale

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Mary Menniti

Glad to hear your trees made it, Pat. Thanks for letting us know. It will be interesting to see if other fig growers were as fortunate.

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Tony

My trees that were covered do not look well, but I will also wait a few weeks before doing any pruning. The trees In pots that I winter-over in the garage look beatiful with lots of growth over the past few weeks. Not sure if we will get as many figs as last years bumper crop.

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Mary Menniti

Thanks, Tony. I also have the same results with trees that wintered-over in the garage. My tree that was buried seems to be alive, but I wonder how productive it will be this season.

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Steve

Hi All,

I have the same results with my fig, as everyone else, that I covered. I will play the waiting game with my fingers crossed.

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Linda Romito

Mary: our two ‘babies’ (in the pots, from Michele’s garden last summer on a ‘field trip’) did well being brown-bag covered in the garage all winter long. I did fertilize following his printed directions once I took them outdoors. They were beautiful. I’ve had them outside for about two-three weeks, bringing them back in at night because it’s been chilly. For the last three days I’ve now been dealing with fig rust on their beautiful, vibrant green leaves. I’ve read lots on various websites, trying to determine what’s best for the babies. Do you or Michele recommend stripping the leaves off now, or should I try some of the copper sulfate spray recommended. I’ve also read that wet, cool Spring favors disease emergence. Please advise. I am almost heart-broken. Linda

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Mary Menniti

Linda, I’m glad your trees survived the winter, but how disappointing to see them not doing well now. Were there leaves on the tree when you brought it outside for the first time this year? If so, what you’re seeing may be sun damage on the tender new leaves which will not affect the rest of the leaves or tree. Fig rust generally appears late in the growing season and is more common in southern states. Can you describe what’s happening to the leaves?

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Linda Romito

Hi Mary, When I brought the trees outside, they had one or two nice leaves each. The plants stand about 3 ft. tall. I watered, fertilized about 10 days later, watered again; it rained, too. Each affected leaf has a couple of edges that are dark brown, seem torn and/or curled under. On the leaf itself, the smallish markings are brown, triangular or oblong in shape, and a couple have a translucent portion on the inner part of the brown spot. The rust markings are flecked all over the leaves, more at the bottom than the top.

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Mary Menniti

Linda, I’ve consulted some of my fig-growing experts who are still skeptical about your trees having rust at this time of the year and in your climate. Were your trees perhaps stored in a particularly damp and warm environment over the winter? It is more likely that your trees are experiencing sun damage, especially since you may have forced too rapid growth by fertilizing too soon. Fertilizers shouldn’t be applied for at least a month after the tree is brought outside. During winter storage the tree loses much of its vitality and needs to gain strength back slowly. It should acclimate to the outdoor spring environment and ‘wake up’ a bit more before it is fertilized. If it is sun damage and the leaves drop, the tree won’t be affected and will simply grow new ones. Whether or not it is rust, it won’t hurt the tree to apply copper sulfate. This product works by strengthening the leaves to resist further damage.

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Donna Beverin

I live on the Eastern shore of Maryland 2 blocks from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.
My fig tree is about 25 feet high and at least that wide at the top. It has grown like a weed here for me and I have huge amounts of figs every August with a few in early spring as well.

Right now, no growth whatsoever. I have not knicked my bark. I am just waiting to see if any buds will appear. The tips of all the branches are brown and look dead.
Praying!
If not, I shall take your advice and chop back down and see if new sprouts arise from the roots!
(before I continue in mourning!)

Thanks for the help on your website. I did not know who to ask!
Sincerely, Donna

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Mary Menniti

I’m sorry to hear that you may have lost such a beautiful tree, Donna. But, don’t despair yet. Give it some time and see what happens. Some of the branches may still be alive. I’d wait several more weeks to see if there are any signs of life anywhere on the tree. Good luck and keep us posted.

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Gary

Donna,
I live in Baltimore. My fig trees sound like everyone elses. Recently,I have noticed new sprouts coming out of the trunk of my large fig tree that is up against our house. The growth looks like new branches are going to form from the trunk. Their is also new growth coming from the roots. I am going to wait to trim back until I have a clear idea of where all of the new growth is.

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David

This is the exact same scenario that is happening to my fig tree. Last year’s tree looks all dead, but there is tons of new growth coming from the base trunk area. Is this normal?

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Mary Menniti

A fig tree with a well established root system will sprout from the ground if the above-ground growth dies. Nice surprise, isn’t it, David?

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Donna Beverin

Thanks Mary, I have a friend who works at the Smithsonian in Horticulture and lives in DC and has 3 fig trees and he suggested I wait still also! I was going to post some pictures but I guess that is not possible?

Thanks so much! Donna

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Mary Menniti

Donna, We are working diligently to upgrade the website so that we can post more content, share photos and answer questions on a regular basis. Please watch for these upcoming changes.

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Jason

I planted my fig tree about 10 years ago… I live in Washington, DC… The tree was not protected and hasn’t been in years past… I just realized this past week that the tree has not sprouted leaves…. I fear it might be dead…. bummer. Will wait and see. I also lost some PeeGee hydrangeas.

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Pamela Heyne

The man who mows our lawn said “All the figs in the area appear to be dead.” Our tree looks dead but I did notice a few springy branches.(We live on Md.’s Eastern Shore.)

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Mary Menniti

Pamela, It’s likely that if the tree has a well-established root system, it will send up new shoots this season even if the visible branches and trunk are dead. The new shoots may not produce fruit that will ripen this season, but at least the whole tree won’t be lost. Good luck!

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Lynn

I am encouraged to hear that others are concerned about their fig bushes, only in the sense that we’re not alone in our concern. Our fig is quite old. We have lived here for 27 years and the fig was here long before that, maybe since the late 40’s, early 50’s. We too, had a bumper crop last year, with some of the figs the size of tennis balls. We will be very disappointed if it doesn’t live.

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Mary Menniti

It’s sad to think of losing trees that bring so much joy. Fig trees are quite resilient though. I have one of my grandfather’s trees that was planted at least 40 years ago which I don’t cover during the winter. It dies back each year, then sends up shoots in the spring that grow to over five feet tall by season’s end. It occasionally bears fruit that ripens if hard frosts come late in the season. I use this tree to harvest new starts each year.

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Andrea

Hi Mary,
What do you mean by dying back? My mom has two enormous trees. They go above her garage. THey appear dead. We live in NJ. HOw much longer do we wait before cutting it down to the base? So sad….they are very old and very large. She gets boxes and boxes of figs and gives them away to friends and family.

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Mary Menniti

Andrea, By ‘dying back’ I mean that all visible growth above the ground will die, but the roots may still be alive and produce new growth this season. Before cutting the entire tree, look closely on the trunk and branches for any signs of leaf buds forming. If the branches are blackish and no buds are forming now, then they are probably dead. Snap the end of a branch toward the tip and if it snaps easily and appears brittle then cut that branch back to the trunk to see if it appears greener there. If any signs of life appear, I’d wait a little while longer and continue checking for growth. If you see nothing by the first week in June, then it’s likely that the above-ground growth is dead and can be cut.

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Jack

Wow..Lynn I hope this note finds you with that fig tree thriving.I hope it made it..Do you know what the name of it is?I live in South Carolina..I would like to buy a couple cuttings and pay you for them and the shipping..thanks

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Jon

I live in Eastern Pa. My fig tree is approx. 4 ft tall….I covered it this winter with a tree blanket….so far no leaves …it is May 18….should I be concerned that it is dead…when should it start to grow its leaves???? Thank You

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Mary Menniti

It is very possible that your tree has died back for the most part. By now you should start to see at least a few leaf buds forming on the tips of the branches. It isn’t likely that you’ve lost it completely though. Trees that were buried this winter have survived so it makes sense that any part that was underground during the winter also survived. That means that the root system is probably alive. It wouldn’t hurt to wait another week or two to see if any signs of life appear on the branches. If nothing seems to be happening, then nick the bark on the trunk several feet from the ground. If the bark underneath is green, even a faint light green to white, it is probably alive at that point. If the bark underneath is clearly brown, then try a nick lower on the trunk until you find light green. When you do, nick a little farther down the trunk to see if those spots are as green or greener. As you go lower on the tree, the exposed trunk should be getting greener. When you cut the tree, cut at the point of the first greenish nick. Always make the cuts at an angle. By early July at the latest you should see growth on the stump as well as shoots that will grow from the roots surrounding the tree. Good luck and keep us posted.

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Al DeSimone

I live in Queens, NY. My fig tree started out as a tree. When the main trunk died many years ago while I was still able to wrap it for the winter, new sprigs began to emerge and tree is now a bush and has become very wide and tall, so much so that even with my cutting back in the late fall, it’s nearly impossible to wrap it however, it has survived year after year. This year however it’s mid-may and I am noticing the dreadful “orange” tint on most of the trunks. I did nick back various spots. Some seem to show a hint of life but I know this tree should have started budding by now. My neighbor who has a “mission fig” tree has noticed the same thing. Very depressed over this. Had this tree for nearly 15 years

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Al DeSimone

I checked the base yesterday of one of the many trunks whose color still has a “greenish” appearance and low and behold I noticed a little sprig near the bottom of that trunk. No .. I won’t have figs this season but I know that there is still some life left so I will wait to see if other sprigs sprout from the few other trunks and cut back later in the summer.

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Linda Romito

Mary, my two ‘baby’ fig trees with the spotted leaves (which I thought were rust) are recovering nicely, and all the new leaves are large, healthy, and without any ‘spots’ or small, translucent holes on them. None of the damaged leaves have fallen off, and I’m content to let them stay as they are. I’ve taken your suggestions and those of your expert friends, kept the babies in a shadier spot, and not fertilized again. They did winter in my unheated garage, covered with brown paper bags. Again, many thanks for all you help and talking with your ‘in the know’ folks; I think we’re on our way now.

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Rhonda

Had to cut down my fig trees I have some growth on the bottom hope they do come back they were huge beautiful trees all the trees in brooklyn took a beating hoping they grow big again

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Mary Menniti

That’s great that your tree is beginning to sprout again! As it grows, it will take time and know-how to train it to become the beautiful, large tree that it once was, but please have patience. If you lovingly and skillfully train it into a single trunk shade tree, you will be restoring an important reminder of the immigrant experience.

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Jim Pompetti

My fig does not look good . My only hope is that their are some sprouts at the base of the trunks . What should I do ,wait a few more weeks . Or cut some of it back.

Please help

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Mary Menniti

It won’t hurt to wait as long as possible to cut the tree back, Jim. Several of my Italian American gardening friends are using their dead trees as a trellis for their pole beans this year. They always see ingenious ways to re-use and re-purpose resources.

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Mary Ellen DeVito

Hi Mary! I checked with neighbors and friends in my bronx neighborhood. Everyone’s tree is dead. I think we were lulled into complacency by mild winters, but this last one caught us unawares.

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Mary Menniti

Oh, that’s a shame, Mary Ellen! You had such a beautiful tree and so did Maria and many of your other neighbors. I sincerely hope that they are not lost completely and that they begin to sprout from root growth. These trees and others throughout NYC and across the country have historic value. Most were grown from cuttings brought by the immigrants from Italy and other Mediterranean countries decades ago. They are living heirlooms and speak to the gardening traditions and love of the earth that many immigrants brought to this country. It’s vital that the trees be restored. My fear is that when they begin to grow from shoots and grow in a more bush-like form at first, people will not know how to train them to become the large shade trees that they once were. I worry that people will then just dig them out and dispose of them, not recognizing their historic importance and we will have lost an important symbol of the immigrant experience.

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Andy

I live just outside the DC area in northern VIrginia. My fig tree was about 7 years old and it was giving me an enormous amount of fruit every year. I grew it from a shout from my parents fig trees who live in Maryland and whose trees are over 30 years old. All of us lost them this year. Me my parents 7 trees and several of my friends in the area. I think i was clinically depressed! A couple days ago i saw some minor growth near the base,i think last time i was this happy it was at the birth of my sons!! The polar vortex might not have the last laugh after all! Keep hope alive everyone,the root system is more resilient then we think. I’m going to prune my baby way down to its trunk above the very small growth and give the tree the time it needs before it can bear its sweet fruit again in the future! Trim all the dead branches and keep hope alive!

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Andy

Great question Mary. Fig trees for us immigrants reminds us of our roots a poor time of our life’s yet a simple happy time. They tie us to our families still there they evoke memories of a childhood that was hard and yet beautiful! I dare say most of the trees we have planted came from shouts from our countries,hidden in our checked luggage! Greece as in my case but also Italy Spain and the Middle East to name a few. My tree was more then a fruit bearing tree,but it also gave me great pleasure to share the fruit with many of my neighbors employees and friends!

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Gary

How heart warming to hear the stories/memories associated with fig trees! Although of German decent, I have been blessed by the figs from the tree that has been in our family for over 100 years. My Grandparents managed to train it into a huge fig producing tree well before I was alive. Then, my father brought a couple of shoots to our house when I was little and my father had to sell the property of his parents. When my father passed over 10 years ago, I grabbed a shoot before we sold off our childhood property. I waited with bated breath to see if it would survive. Not only did it survive, but over the past 10 years has become as prolific as my Grandparents tree so many years ago. Seeing it die back is sad, but reminds me that life is fragile and we all need a good pruning from time to time! Not to mention that it will for ever remind me of my father and grand parents. Hopefully my children will continue to family heirloom.

Gary

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Mary Menniti

Andy, What is it about a fig tree that can evoke such passion?! I am hearing from folks throughout the East who feel the same as you about their trees. I’m so glad that these trees are as resilient and adaptable as the immigrants who planted many of them. Most have survived and are sprouting once more. Thanks for sharing your experience and keep us posted!

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Mary Menniti

Thanks for sharing your story, Gary. How lucky you are to have a 100 year old heirloom tree! How wonderful that you recognize the value of this treasure.

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Greg F NJ

Coming back to life?? Im optimistic now after going on here. Thanks so much for all the info!!

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Darrin Monaco

Hi All,

I guess at this point if I don’t see any growth on my fig tree it didn’t make it through the tuff winter we had in NY. I want to cut it back and see if some new growth will come up from the base but I don’t know how far down to the base to prune it. Any help here would be much appreciated. Losing the fig tree was very traumatic for me. I had timed a prosciutto I am making to be ready to eat with the figs at harvest…..now I guess I will have to settle for store bought!

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Mary Menniti

Oh, I hope your tree will sprout from root growth, Darrin! Homemade prosciutto and fresh,warm figs from your tree ..Heaven… You probably won’t be able to enjoy that feast this year, but don’t give up. Try nicking the bark of the tree starting several feet from the ground. At the highest greenish nick, cut the truck at an angle there. If no life appears anywhere on the trunk, cut about 10 inches from the ground…then keep your fingers crossed. Let us know how it goes this summer.

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The Misfit

I live in MD just north of DC. We bought a house with two gorgeous 10-foot fig trees already growing. I had been wanting to plant one but unsure it could survive the climate – apparently, yes! Then, this winter. My fogs have not leafed out and the buds are dark purple, not green. A neighbor just mentioned that they can be cut back if the trunks are green, but his (much larger) tree was completely dead. But I had already scratched the bark and seen green weeks ago. He told me they die back from the ends in, so I snipped off three small branch ends. All are green inside, none brittle. I know the plant is alive, but it can’t survive all summer with no leaves! My little potted fig spent the winter on the badly-insulated porch. It leafed out maybe two months ago and is visibly growing. I put it outside today so it can benefit from more sun and rain, but it is the absolute picture of health – twice as bog as when I bought it last summer. I had been focusing on how to get my big trees to grow larger fruit and now I am afraid I may lose them. (They weren’t covered, by the way.) I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to cut off living branches, but how could a living plant not have leaves by now? It’s nearly June!! Could I harm them more by waiting to cut them back? Can I feed them anything that will encourage leaves? Thank you wise people!!

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Mary Menniti

It won’t hurt to allow the tree to remain as is and just watch to see what happens throughout the next month. You could try pruning a few branches even if they appear dead to see if any growth is stimulated at the cuts. A few of my trees that appeared green earlier in the season, never leafed out and now appear to be dead. I’m allowing them to remain in tact and just waiting and watching.
You could try applying a heavy layer of compost around the base of the trunk. Fertilizing with nitrogen usually produces green growth, but if your tree is struggling, nitrogen might stress the tree further right now.

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Matt

Did anyone in Pittsburgh have an uncovered tree survive the winter without major damage?

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Mary Menniti

I haven’t heard yet of an uncovered tree in Pittsburgh that made it through the winter. I’d be interested to hear if any have. I’ve only seen one covered tree that made it and it had about 50% die off.

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Ellen

Thank you so much for replying back so quickly. I’m so glad it sounds like we can save it! Information on training the new shoots would be great, also any info on what we could do to better protect those new shoots next winter since it seems like we’ll be subject to more weather extremes in the future. Thanks so much!

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Mary Menniti

I will be teaching classes on fig tree growing in the NYC, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and DC areas in the next several months. Where are you located, Ellen?

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Ellen

Hi again.
We trimmed all the dead wood off the fig tree this weekend and were happy to see the tree was still alive much higher than we originally thought. The top 10ft was dead but the bottom 10ft is still alive. on all 3 of the trunks. There are some green sprouts coming out of the trunks (although not that high up) and there is 1 sprout coming up from the roots. Fingers are crossed that our beloved tree will pull through. Is there anything more we should do to support it (fertilizer, wrap the ends where we cut etc)? Or do we just let nature take over? Thanks for your help, so glad we found this site.

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Mary Menniti

That’s great, Ellen! It sounds like your tree will make it. A few inches of compost around the base of the trunk and fanning out several feet over the roots might speed its recovery.

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Ellen

Following up on my earlier post from June. We had cut the top 10 ft off the tree but the bottom 10 ft was still alive on all 3 of the main trunks. Now 5 months later it is covered with shoots all over, growing from all 3 trunks as well as from the base. Wanted to get your advice on how to prepare it for the winter. Should we remove some of the shoots to focus its energy on maintaining just a few? How many shoots should we keep? Should we keep any at the base? We’ve never covered the tree before, but given the harsh winter last year and the fact that these shoots are so young, I’m wondering if we should take extra precautions this year, and if so what. Thanks as always for the great advice!

Mary Menniti

Which shoots and how many you remove depend upon how you would like your tree to grow. If you remove the new shoots growing from the ground, you can maintain the three trunks in a tree form rather than a bush form. You may want to remove some of the side shoots from the three trunks in order to form a more appealing shape. Because the shoots are so young they will be more susceptible to damage if the winter is very cold. You can protect them by wrapping the tree with straw or blankets and a protective water barrier such as a tarp as the final layer. First, bundle the branches/shoots together, securing with medium weight rope, wrapping it as you go down the tree. Wrap the bundled branches and base with a heavy blanket or straw, securing with rope in a similar fashion. The final layer should be a heavy plastic or canvas tarp that will prevent water from reaching the tree. This layer should also be secured similarly with rope. Extra leaves or straw mounded should be mounded at the base of the tree.

Ellen

Hi

We’re having the same issue with our 15+ year old 20+ft fig tree. All the top branches are dead (we nicked them, no green) but there are some leaves sprouting on the truck near the base. There is no green anywhere above about the 6ft mark, but below that all of the trunks (it has 3-4 very thick 6″”+ diameter trunks) have green. I figured it was either the below average temps this winter, or maybe my husband’s dramatic pruning the year before that stressed it out so that the bitterly cold winter hit it harder than usual. Other than pruning we’ve never done anything, no fertilizer or straw to cover the roots etc.

We had a tree expert come out and assess and he told us it was dying because of the limited space the roots have to grow (next to our house and under our deck in the back which faces west, it has grown up along the side of the fence between our house and our neighbor’s, we are in a town house). He recommended we remove it saying it would not survive, but we love that tree. It has given us beautiful shade and privacy and an abundance of figs that we look forward to every year. He admitted he doesn’t know much about fig trees, he’s just a general arborist. So I started doing some searching and found this thread.

Any advice would be very welcome as to what we should do, what the odds are for our tree to not only survive but thrive like it had, will it ever grow tall again or would it become more of a bush etc. Thanks so much for anything anyone can share.

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Mary Menniti

Ellen, It sounds as though your tree was very happy in the space in which it was growing, and it is likely that the very harsh winter has caused it to die back significantly. There is a chance that the trunks will sprout, but certainly you will continue to have growth from the roots. If the trunks die, the shoots can be trained to grow in tree form. Just cut back all of the new shoots except one or two or even three like your old tree. If you choose multiple trunks, make sure they are growing close to each other. They can be pruned to look like one large tree. I will continue to provide information on the website about training the new shoots to grow as a tree. It is important to know that this can be done. Without pruning, fig trees will tend to grow in bush form and look very different from the tree that you had.
Good luck and check back for more information in upcoming posts.

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Rhonda

Hi mary just looked at my trees today see new growth coming from bottom l see little green nubs coming out on bottom stubbs I am so happy to see growth I also brought a new kadota fig are they sweet? I only had brown turkey figs

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Mary Menniti

Wonderful that your tree wasn’t lost! You might be surprised at how tall those sprouts will grow in one year, 3 or 4 feet and sometimes more.
Kadota are very sweet white figs and supposedly the kind used in Fig Newtons.

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Tiffany

This is such a helpful thread! Thank you.

My fig tree has been in the ground for 3 years. I’ve been patiently awaiting figs. Last year it was gorgeous! Strong, green and so healthy. No figs but buds were visable. We wrapped the tree over the winter (we are about 30 miles south of Philly).

We uncovered our tree at the end of April and it hasn’t sprouted. It has an orange-like tint to it and I’m stressing! While a newbie to the art of figs I’m seeking help!

Also, if it is dead, how likely is it that I will lose it forever? “

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Mary Menniti

Tiffany, Since your tree has been growing in-ground for three years, it has had a chance to develop a substantial root system. It’s unlikely that the roots have died along with the trunk and branches. Keep an eye out for new shoots coming from the base of the trunk and from the ground surrounding it.

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Donna Beverin

Mary, In my neighborhood on the Eastern shore of MD I found a neighbor’s fig tree (bushy) that they pruned back to about 5 feet and it has sprouted leaves this week. I am going to try to cut back my tree and see what happens! I am praying!! Thanks again for your website’s support! Donna

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Greg F NJ

I was so glad to to see new shoots appearing at the base of my 2 10 ft figs trees. I cut tree down as it appears in the picture at the top of this thread. Is it wise to cover with surrounding area of the tree with a compost/soil mix?

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Jim Loving

I live in Silver Spring, MD. I just returned home after a 7 week absence. My two fig trees, each of which has produced ample fruit for the past 3-4 years, appear to have been hit really hard from this past winter freezing. Both trees are about 15’+tall and each has a canopy of around 10-15′. The only growth is at/near the bottom, a few new sprouts from the ground and a few near the bottom along the larger trunks. The branches have a brown/gold color, rather than a usual grey. I used a knife today to cut in several places and it appears that given the absence of green under the bark, the generally recommended approach is to cut the trees down to just above the new growth and (gulp!) start over. June 1 would seem to be more than enough time if there was going to be any new growth beyond what I have seen so far. Would you agree? Is there something else that should be done. It has been suggested that in conjunction with this, I should now also check the pH surrounding soil to ensure that recommended pH for figs (6-6.5) is in order. Any suggestions? Prior to this year, I have only pruned in fall, and done nothing else to feed or protect or test soil. Again, ample fruit in prior years. Thanks.
I live in Silver Spring, MD. I just returned home after a 7 week absence. My two fig trees, each of which has produced ample fruit for the past 3-4 years, appear to have been hit really hard from this past winter freezing. Both trees are about 15’+tall and each has a canopy of around 10-15′. The only growth is at/near the bottom, a few new sprouts from the ground and a few near the bottom along the larger trunks. The branches have a brown/gold color, rather than a usual grey. I used a knife today to cut in several places and it appears that given the absence of green under the bark, the generally recommended approach is to cut the trees down to just above the new growth and (gulp!) start over. June 1 would seem to be more than enough time if there was going to be any new growth beyond what I have seen so far. Would you agree? Is there something else that should be done. It has been suggested that in conjunction with this, I should now also check the pH surrounding soil to ensure that recommended pH for figs (6-6.5) is in order. Any suggestions? Prior to this year, I have only pruned in fall, and done nothing else to feed or protect or test soil. Again, ample fruit in prior years. Thanks.
I live in Silver Spring, MD. I just returned home after a 7 week absence. My two fig trees, each of which has produced ample fruit for the past 3-4 years, appear to have been hit really hard from this past winter freezing. Both trees are about 15’+tall and each has a canopy of around 10-15′. The only growth is at/near the bottom, a few new sprouts from the ground and a few near the bottom along the larger trunks. The branches have a brown/gold color, rather than a usual grey. I used a knife today to cut in several places and it appears that given the absence of green under the bark, the generally recommended approach is to cut the trees down to just above the new growth and (gulp!) start over. June 1 would seem to be more than enough time if there was going to be any new growth beyond what I have seen so far. Would you agree? Is there something else that should be done. It has been suggested that in conjunction with this, I should now also check the pH surrounding soil to ensure that recommended pH for figs (6-6.5) is in order. Any suggestions? Prior to this year, I have only pruned in fall, and done nothing else to feed or protect or test soil. Again, ample fruit in prior years. Thanks.

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Mary Menniti

If you haven’t seen any green in the nicks on the bark and only see new growth appearing very low on the tree and from the roots, it would be safe to cut the trunks 8 to 12 inches from the ground. If you have had abundant fruit in the past, it is likely that the pH is appropriate for figs. 6 to 6.5 is the optimal pH.

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Susan Hall

I live in central PA. This is my 3rd season with my fig. It is small and I only got about 5 figs last summer. I put a piece of carpet over the roots only. The branches are dead but there are tiny shoots coming up from the base. How do you bury a fig tree??

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Mary Menniti

“Susan, I’m glad your tree has survived. A 3 year old root system will probably produce shoots that will grow several feet high this season. It’s understandable that you don’t want to risk losing that growth due to another harsh winter. You can see a previous post about how to bury a fig tree here: http://www.theitaliangardenproject.com/tuck-in-fig.html
Look for more information on our site later this year about winter protection.”

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Denise

Hi, I am new here and have been following your posts. I am in NYC and my tree was only 1 year old. We lost our last one during Hurricane Sandy, as we live a block from the beach. I covered the tree over the winter but as others have said no growth has been observed until this past week. My tree, when scratched was green but doesn’t look particularly moist. I noticed two small nubs protruding out about a foot from the bottom of the tree. My prayers were answered and now those nubs are sprouting and it’s June 4th. I also see a sprout on the lower branch. My husband says to wait it out and I guess he is right. He has grown fig trees since he was a kid and always has faith they will come back. So for all of you who are playing the waiting game, give it time. My tree isn’t in the sunniest spot so maybe that’s why it’s also so slow to sprout. My neighbor also had a new tree and thought it was dead. It also sprouted, but from the ground and is going strong. It’s in more sun, so it sprouted about 2 weeks ago. Keep the faith.

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Jim

I have many new shoots ,coming low on the tree. should I let them all grow , or remove some?

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Mary Menniti

Jim, It depends upon the form in which you would like your tree to grow. Fig trees can grow as bushes or trees. If you would like a tree, choose one or two shoots that are close to each other then cut or dig all others. If you dig them, be careful not to disturb the roots of the ones that you are saving. Allow the shoots to grow until they reach a height where you would like them to start branching out. At that point pinch off the top leaf bud and the tree will begin to develop side shoots. More information and photos will be provided in upcoming blog posts.

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Rabab

Hello everyone,

I live in MD. I am sad to see the dead branches on my fig trees. They are not dead, but I am not sure if they will survive, there is not one single green leaf on them.

At this point, I am wondering if I should cut them all the way down or leave them alone and see what happens? There are so many dead branches. The trees had lots of buds in early Feb and March but the extra cold and wintery mixes that we got later in the season killed them. Any thoughts on how to help them come back to life?

Thank you.”

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Mary Menniti

If you suspect the branches are still alive, it might be a good idea to wait to see if leaves sprout. This is such an atypical year that if is difficult to predict if and when the tree will show signs of life.

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Lisa

I thought mine was dead. The branch tips looked pretty dark but it’s starting to leaf out slowly. Glad I waited, I was getting ready to heavily prune it. Richmond, va.

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Lorraine

Hi, I am sorry to say that I have never buried or covered my fig tree but every year it blooms and produces an abundance of fruit..except this year. I really do not know how to care for this tree and just took for granted its bounty. My tree has 3 midsized trunks, none of the branches sprouted so we cut the tips off (as I was told to do by a gardener) Now I am getting new sprouts from the roots and 2 of the trunks are sprouting small leaves. The third trunk has a split in it and is bare. Here is my question: My tree is approximately 20 feet high in places, do I cut down the trunk that is split or should I cut all three down to the ground? Also, how do I encourage the new bush like sprouts to grow into a beautiful shade tree? P.S. reading all these passionate stories of fig trees, I will share mine. My tree belonged to my grandfather Pasquale who died in the early 40s. The tree was long gone until the 1980s when it pushed through the earth in its original spot, surprising us all and to the delight of his children. Since then it had grown into a beautiful tree full of delicious figs. Though Pasquale died long before I was born, his grandchildren and great grandchildren have eaten the figs from his tree and reminds us of our family’s history.

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Mary Menniti

Thank you for sharing the endearing history of your fig tree. Most of our immigrant ancestors had few or no material possessions of great value to pass down to us. Their fig trees now serve as living heirlooms that we can treasure and preserve as invaluable links to the past.
In order for your tree to grow into a shade tree again instead of bush form, cut the split dead trunk to the ground and allow the shoots that are sprouting on the other two trunks to grow into new branches. The shoots that are growing from the ground can be dug and used to start new trees.

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Lovina

Hi

I brought a house in NJ last september and we have lovely figs until september / October. I asked the owner how to take care of the tree as I have never had a yard before and they said they have this tree for 15 years and never covered it or did anything. So I can let it be and thats what I did. My whole yard has bloomed besides my Fig and lavender tree. Everyone that has looked at it said its dead, but I just seen some leaves come at the bottom from two sides.

Can you please help me. Can I do anything to save it? I feel terrible that I couldnt save it or should have done something more to protect it.

Thanks!

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Mary Menniti

Lovina, Your tree has survived if you are seeing new growth at the base. It will continue to thrive and grow rapidly because of the well-established root system of your mature tree. You may want to cut back any old growth that you are certain is dead. Covering or burying it during the winter may help to protect it from future damage.

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Lovina

Hi Mary

Thank you so much for your response. I feel much better and hope that my tree will survive. As I had a tree expert company come by and they said that my tree was dead and needed to be removed and quoted $300. I would have paid that if they said it would survive.

Can you please let me know what is the best way to know that the branches are really dead? I’m really not certain what to do and I guess fearful of loosing the little sign of life it has shown.

Thank you!

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Judy Bouton

I’m so glad I found this site. My thriving fig on LBI, NJ appeared to be a victim of the merciless winter, but now I, too have a dozen “”sprouts”” from the ground. (My neighbors are just as thrilled – when asked what I “”make’ with my hundreds of figs each year, my answer is easy _ “”FRIENDS!”” )
I’m waiting for you to post more specific details on how to dig out (and save???) the shoots and allow a “”new”” tree to grow.
Thanks

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Mary Menniti

Judy, You now have the chance to make even more friends by sharing all the new fig TREES with friends. Maybe the recent devastatingly cold winter can have a silver-lining, and instead of losing fig trees, we can ensure their long-term survival by distributing the new shoots to family and friends to plant and enjoy. I will be happy to do a post soon about starting new trees from shoots.

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Tina Hampson

Hi Mary, It has been great to read all the posts about the fig trees. I have been very very sad to see that my beloved trees looked somewhat dead. Last year i had so many figs that I couldn’t find enough people to share them with fast enough! I have two huge trees one white and one black that were planted when I was a child by my great uncle Rossario who brought the original tree from Sicily when he came over. He planted two sticks. The trees are over 50 years old now. They are more than just fruit trees. They are like family heirlooms. The old Italians shared the trees with all family members so we all had one or two. I was absolutely heartbroken when they looked dead. In the past two weeks they have shown a great deal of new growth from the bottom at the root and lower trunks. I am optimistic that they will survive but doubt that I will get any figs this year. My mom always had me thin out all the new growth from the bottom to give strength to the larger upper parts but I don’t think I should do that this year. I am just going to wait and see what more sprouts. Some sprouts are now coming out about a foot higher. I will heed the advice I have read here and wait before I cut more of the old wood. I just don’t understand how it happened! They survived being burried for over two weeks with the double blizzards we had here in Baltimore a couple of years ago. We had a longer winter but I didn’t think it was that bad. Thank you.

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Mary Menniti

Thanks, Tina. I always enjoy hearing the stories associated with fig trees. Yes, they are ‘more than just fruit trees’.
I also would wait to thin shoot until I was 100% certain the main trunk has survived and is growing new sprouts in an aesthetically pleasing form.

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Donna

I I live in NJ and we too lost our nearly 30 year old fig bush…about 15 ft tall and 18 ft wide with about 12 trunks…we do have about 3 ft high sprouts coming up around the base..lots of them…how long will it take for fruit to produce again?…. Should we cut down all the branch now ? This was not only a great fig producer but a wonderful privacy bush..the neighbors kitchen windows look right into our yard and they are kinda nosy…I’ll miss it as much for that alone

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Mary Menniti

It won’t be long until your tree produces fruit, Donna. That may not happen this season, but it’s very likely that next year you will have some figs. It may be wise to protect those new shoots this winter so you aren’t starting all over again next spring.

You can cut the branches if they aren’t showing any signs of life. Cut 6 – 10 inches above any new growth.

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My Crappy House

Well, I’m glad to see I’m not alone. I have (had?) a beautiful fig tree that produced tons of figs with no help from me. As of now, I have no leaves on the branches, but there is new growth near the base. I guess I’ll have to cut it back.

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Barry

Hi I live on Long Island and it looks like most of my tree is dead. As of today new shoots are coming up from the bottom. Can I cut it down or should I wait till late fall?

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Mary Menniti

Barry, It wouldn’t hurt to wait until late fall to cut it down if you don’t mind possibly living all summer with a leafless, lifeless tree as you wait to see if it sprouts. If that isn’t appealing, you could cut the main trunk after checking for signs of life beneath the bark. Now that you have new shoots coming from the ground you can re-establish those as a fig bush or tree.

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Susan Lee

I live on Long Island and our young fig tree that was planted last summer did not make it through the harsh winter. There are two strong looking shoots growing though. my question is how far do I need to cut the main tree that has died? Also do we need to provide any special care to the new shoots to ensure that they survive?

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Darrin

Hi Susan,

I started seeing some new growth from the base of the tree several weeks ago. I cut the tree down to about 4″” high and a lot of new shoots came up after that. Be careful when cutting the dead wood out not to harm the new growth.

Good luck!

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Mary Menniti

You can cut the main tree to a few inches above the ground, Susan. The new shoots won’t require much care through the summer, but they will need to be protected this winter to avoid damage.

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Dalia Lombardi Scioscia

My son told me about the article in the Tribune Review recently, and I found your blog listed there.
After reading many of the entries regarding fig trees, I feel hopeful I won’t have to wait many
years for my fig ‘bush/tree’ to produce figs again.
A neighbor gave me a twig with a root about ten years ago. I planted it on the south side of a
brick wall and it eventually started producing fruit, but always too late in the season to ripen before cold weather. Then two years ago it had a growth spurt to about 7 feet and was covered with hundreds of delicious figs and repeated last summer. We were so discouraged when this past winter killed everything above ground, but there are many new shoots coming up.
I plan to attend the June 28th class and look forward to meeting you.

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Mary Menniti

I’m glad you found the website and will be attending the class this month. I will be giving tips on how to protect your tree for the winter and how to avoid ending up with late season green figs that won’t ripen. I look forward to meeting you!

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Susan

I have a boat in Annapolis MD. There is a big fig tree there. Looked like it was dead but now there are many shoots coming up. I managed to pull up 3 shoots with roots. I stuck them in water but they do t look good. How can I save these?

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Mary Menniti

Susan, Your shoots may be struggling because they are so young and tender. It would have been better to wait until late fall or early spring before digging them. They would have had a chance to harden off and could be transplanted directly into the ground or potted in a container with a light potting soil mix. At this point, you can continue to try to root them in water in a shady location. Change the water frequently being careful not to damage any existing or developing roots. Gently remove the shoot while discarding and filling the water. If more roots develop, transplant into a container with potting soil and keep in a shady location for a week or so. If they thrive, they can be grown in the pot or transplanted into the ground in the fall. Good luck and keep up posted.

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Susan

Thank you Mary. Too excited to leave them until fall. Lol. I will do as you say and keep you posted.

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Donna Beverin

Thanks again for this great blog. My fig tree has sprouted some new growth. I sent you photos via email.
So everyone, do not cut down! So glad I procrastinated in cutting it back! Miracles do occur!! Nature takes its time!
Donna B

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Mary Menniti

Thanks for sharing the news! This year is certainly proving to be unusual! I visited my friend Tommasina last week (late June) and found that one of her potted trees that she had given up on had begun to sprout. Who would have thought?!

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Mick

Hi everyone! I’m new to this site and it is wonderful! My fig also seems to be dead and it has been around many years.There are many shoots coming from the ground but should i not touch them.I’m hoping a new tree begins from at least one of them…thanks all!!!

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Mary Menniti

Hi Mick, It would be best to allow most of the shoots to develop until fall (October or November) and then assess which you would like to save to grow into tree form. At that time the shoots will have hardened-off and will have established roots. They can be safely dug and transplanted into pots or the ground. The fresh green shoots are too tender now and are easily damaged when working in and around them and will wilt if transplanted.

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Greg F NJ

Happy to say my fig trees have turned into nice fig bushes after chopping them down. I have started some new trees from the new shoots for my new home. Cant wait for some figs!!!!!

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Loretta D, South Jersey

I also have a beloved fig tree that has not leafed out and I am sad. I found it very hard to find any solid advice online until I happened here. Since it is almost 4th of July, after reading here, I am going to cut the trunks back to where I find some green. I have many green shoots coming up from the bottom (about 2′ tall now) and will let them grow and hope for next summer. I had hopes of making preserves from a new recipe I tried last year but alas I guess not. My tree has about 10 trunks, is at least 12 feet high. Also have heard same story from many others in this area.

Yes fig trees are what italians love, it is such a part of our heritage. I grew up in a Philly row home and every back yard had a tree. I will never live without a fig tree!

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Mary Menniti

I know what you mean, Loretta. I hope never to be without a fig tree either.
Good luck with your new shoots. If you find them flopping over a bit as they grow, you can sure them up with some dirt mounded around the base. You can also stake individual shoots if there are only a few or create a support around them all with stakes at several intervals around the circle of shoots and securing heavy string or twine to it to prop the shoots upright.

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Erin S

I just found this site-thank you for great information. I also just moved into a home with what appears to be a dead Fig tree out back-I am in Cincinnati and winter was rough here too. However the last two weeks have shown a lot of growth from the ground and I have tried to support the shoots with the dead tree. Is it best to leave the old tree standing at this point? It is about 4 ft tall. Wait till fall and cut it back or is it better for the shoots if I saw it down now-there are NO signs of growth from the old wood part. Please advise. I am pretty psyched that there is a fig tree out there-I LOVE the leaves and want to help it grow back to its old glory. Thanks for any advice.

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Mary Menniti

Erin, It won’t help the shoots to cut the tree back now. It won’t hurt either except that you might damage some of the new tender shoots in the process. I’d wait until late fall to cut the tree when the new growth is sturdier.
Yes, the leaves of fig trees are beautiful and there are so many different patterns, from deeply lobed and lacey to almost single-lobed with smooth edges.

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Jim

My Chicago Hardy has been in the ground for two years and it survived the winter in southcentral PA. It was slow to start but is now fully developed. It was wrapped with a blue tarp and bags of leaves stacked around the roots. What likely saved it was its south facing location a few feet from a shed wall on the north side to block wind. There are about 5 or 6 leaves on each new branch and I will pinch the growing tips to force energy into the figs.

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Mary Menniti

Thanks for the letting us know about your tree, Jim. It’s interesting to learn which methods proved effective for protecting trees in different parts of the country during this unusually long and cold winter.

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Denise

As reported earlier my year old tree survived and started branching out about 10 inches from the base. It later branched out on most top branches, except for the very top one. I noticed a new shoot coming from the ground. Do I allow it to grow since the tree did well or do I cut the new growth from the roots?

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Mary Menniti

Denise, One shoot will not take enough energy from the main tree to effect its growth. You can save the shoot to dig in the fall if you want to use it to start another tree. If not, simply remove it now.

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Josephine Howe

I live in Doylestown PA. None of the branches of my seven-year-old fig tree survived this past winter even though I wrapped it. I cut the branches down to about one foot from the ground this spring and many new branches have sprouted from the base of each. I thought figs only grow on the previous years’ new growth so was pleasantly surprised to see figs forming on this year’s sprouts. Is this unusual?

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Mary Menniti

On some varieties of fig trees an early crop of figs form on last year’s growth. These are called breba. In Italian they are called fiori di fichi or ficcazana. The main crop is formed on this year’s growth. What you are seeing is the main crop developing. If your tree produces a breba crop, it would not have produced it this year, but may next year on the new shoots that are growing now.

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Josephine Howe

Mary, thank you for this information, and the good news that what I’m witnessing is a normal “late crop.” I’ll pass your message on to the family whose tree is the source of mine. They and I have never had our trees freeze back before so we’ve been unaware that we’ve been getting early (breba) AND main crops. She’s convinced that she’ll have no figs this year. I’ll tell her to take a closer look!

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Amy

I just found this site and it is very useful. I feared I had lost two brown turkey figs I had planted two years ago. There had been no signs of life until May, when sprouts began to emerge from the ground. As per your recommendation not to cut the dead portions of the tree at this point, what is the best way to facilitate the new growth? I have staked some of it but a lot also is growing along the ground. Should I trim that? Can I start new trees with it? Or, should all be staked? Finally, I have not fertilized but should I be doing anything at this point in the growing season? Thank you for any advice.

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Mary Menniti

Amy, Carefully applying several inches of compost around the base of the new shoots would be the best way to facilitate growth. There is no need to eliminate any new shoots at this point. They can all be dug out later in the fall to start new trees. If they are unable to stand upright on their own, you should mound dirt around the base of the stalks and stake them. The soil will help the new shoots develop more roots. Fig trees will root anywhere there is sustained contact with soil and moisture.

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Sunny

My black mission died.
The Hardy Chicago has a robust late comeback.
The Celeste was relatively new but finally at the end of July is showing signs of life.
I live just outside Nashville and have known who have grown successfully black mission for many years

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Terri Forand

My 6-year-old fig tree in Maryland was devastated by the polar vortex, too. I cut it to ground and have diligently watered it. NO FERTILIZER. It has almost recovered former size, but probably won’t produce until next year. 2013 I harvested thousands of figs. Hoping for a milder winter and figs in the future.

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Loretta

So it’s September now. My fig tree has sprouted about 20 great shoots from the bottom. I think I will leave the 2 longest (that actually have figs) where they are. How do I detach the rest to make new trees. My friend’s old italian uncle said to cut them out with roots, put them in a pot and bring them in the basement. Plant next March.

Does everyone agree or are their different methods? I don’t want to lose these. I can give away many to friends who have lost their trees.

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Mary Menniti

September is still too early to dig the shoots. It is best to wait until later in the fall after they have lost their leaves and become dormant. Dig the shoots, trying to retain as much of the root as possible. Potting and storing in the basement will work as long as the basement is rather cool and the tree is kept in the dark or wrapped to block out light. It would need to be watered lightly every few weeks. It can be planted outside after the last frost.

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Loretta

Unfortunately I did not get around to coverning my tree last winter. It was so wide I don’t know if I could. Anyway it seemed fine through most of the winter and then late in Feb/March there was a few days of unbearable cold. I’m not so sure now. I am able to snap off 10-12 inch pieces from the tops of the branches but I do see some green down further. I will be so upset with myself if I have to survive another summer without a tree. I actually almost never covered my trees in Philly or NJ. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. AND I’m retiring in Oct to spend more time in my garden!

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Veronica

Hi, thank you for this site for information on fig trees. We too thought our fig tree was dead from the difficult winter so we cut it way back. Sure enough new shoots came up and the tree looks great. We didn’t expect fruit but it did produce some although late in the season. A handful of the figs did ripen but we now have many figs that aren’t ripening. It’s October and the tree is on the Jersey shore so the growing season is over. Should we take off the fruit that didn’t ripen? We will trim the tree back later in the fall but are not sure about what to do with the figs. Thanks.

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Mary Menniti

That’s great that you enjoyed at least a few figs this season, Veronica. The ones that haven’t matured yet should be removed from the tree after the leaves have fallen and before protecting the tree for the winter. Had you removed some of the smallest ones earlier in the season some of the tree’s energy may have been directed toward ripening a few more.

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Jody Howe

Thank you, Mary, for this advice. Our fig tree froze to the ground over the 2013-2014 winter, and the abundant figs on the new shoots have been slow to mature, because, I understand now, I did not remove the smaller ones earlier in the season. However, we are grateful for the ones that did ripen, three a day, one for my husband, one for me, and one for our fig-loving neighbor.

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Mary Menniti

Doesn’t it seem that sharing figs brings as much joy as eating them? It sounds like you’ll have plenty next year to do both if we don’t have another nasty winter.
I’m curious to know if you plan to protect (cover or bury) your tree this winter? Which zone are you in and did you cover it last year?

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Jody Howe

We live in Eastern PA just northwest of Philadelphia. I do plan to cover the fig tree, as I have done every winter, even though it is close to the south side of our house. I put a canvas wind barrier around it. That has worked well every winter except the last one.

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Mary Menniti

Thanks for letting us know. The new shoots may need a little extra protection this year. They are not as hardy as more mature growth. You might want to bundle them up as much as possible with rope or twine and then pack straw around them, securing with twine. You could wrap a blanket around next and then a heavy tarp as the outside layer to keep the tree dry. This method is demonstrated in the video in the blog post: http://www.theitaliangardenproject.com/resilient-fig.html

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Amy

I greatly appreciated your answers to my July questions. We have had to be out of town much of the past two months. As a result, I did not trim my new sprouts as you had recommended and have two tree/bushes of indeterminate shape, about 8′ tall each. You had advised digging out new shoots in the fall. When I do that, should I plant them in pots for the winter or put them directly into the ground? The latter seems iffy, given that it is nearly November. Also, would you recommend hay, leaves, or a combination of both to insulate the trees prior to covering in burlap?

Thank you in advance for any suggestions – I am a novice at this.

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Mary Menniti

Amy, You can dig out extra shoots after the leaves have dropped. See the video post Fig Trees are for Sharing http://www.theitaliangardenproject.com/share-fig-tree.html to see how Tommasina removes her shoots for replanting. They can be potted or buried in a trench and covered with plywood then dirt. See video post Caring for Fig Shoots Part 1 http://www.theitaliangardenproject.com/ranallo-fig-shoots-part1.html to hear Rodolfo Ranallo explain his process. When you wrap your tree, you may find that hay or straw, rather than leaves, is easier to secure to the tree with rope or twine.

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Dori

Hi, I’m living in the NW, Seattle area, where our winters are rather mild and fig trees seem to do well here without much need of protection. Three summers ago I planted a small fig that had been grown as a standard/single trunk tree and I’m not happy with how it’s growing and want to cut it back to above the ground so that it will grow more as a multi trunk shrub. When would be the ideal time to do that given our mild winters? Now okay or wait until later in the winter/early spring? Thanks so much for your reply. You have an awesome forum here!

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Mary Menniti

Now would be a good time to prune back the tree. Mid-February is ideal because it is after the coldest part of winter and before the tree breaks dormancy. Good luck! I hope you get the results you’re looking for.

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Chuck

Hi,
We have 2 large fig trees that barely survived the cold 2014 nyc winter. Many branches died…and they both only began blooming and baring fruit in September.
Now after this historic cold winter..what are the chances my trees survived?
anyway to get an idea before May/june?

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Mary Menniti

Who would have thought we’d have another winter like last? It’s likely that there may be additional dead branches this year, but you probably haven’t lost the entire tree. If all above ground growth does die off, it will probably sprout again from the roots. To test if a branch is living, take a small cutting and bring it inside and put it in a vase with water. You should see some signs of life within a couple of weeks if the branch is still alive.

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Diane

We have not yet uncovered our fig trees, we live in Jackson, N.J. Last year, we had the same problem as a lot of other people. Our large 9 foot fig tree did not survive the winter,I did what was recommended by pruning heavily and a few weeks later we had new shoots.
Unfortunately no figs were ripe enough to eat before covering it. But, grateful that it’s about six feet tall now, we purchased a new fig tree, and it now sits several feet from the larger one.

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Tommie

I live in North AL and have a year old fig. It has one trunk approximately four feet tall with three branches. The tips of the branches look very dead. When should I check the trunk for life? Is it too late to cut back if I have too?

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Mary Menniti

No need to do anything with the tree at the moment. Just watch and wait to see how it progresses within the next month or so. Even though the tips look dead, some or all may have life in them. It’s too early in the season to tell. Keep us posted.

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Nancy Kingston

I got a late start at wrapping my fig (probably not until late November) is it too early to unwrap and bring outdoors? I live 50 miles south of Pittsburgh.

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Mary Menniti

It wouldn’t hurt to wait a week or so longer, until the weather stabilizes a little more. If the container your tree is in isn’t too large to easily move, you could put it outdoors during the day and bring it back inside at night or when outdoor temps drop below high 30’s. If too large to move, you could bring it outside now but cover with a blanket if temperatures drop.

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Kimber

I have a fig tree that was not covered in the north Texas relatively mild winter. Branches appear black at the top but are green and producing leaves at the bottom. Should I prune the black branches down now or leave them be?

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Mary Menniti

Sounds like north Texas had an unusually cold winter just like all of the northeast. Waiting a little longer to prune back the branches won’t hurt. They might surprise you and leaf out a little later in the season. Waiting another month in your climate would probably be adequate to see what might happen.

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Chew

My fig plant is less than 2 feet tall n around 5 minths old. Should i remove shoots at te the base of the stem n also leaves that appear at the nodes ?tq.

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Mary Menniti

It depends upon the form in which you would like your tree to grow. If you want it to grow as a single trunk tree, then remove all side shoots as they appear. If you prefer to grow in bush form, allow the side shoots to grow and multiply. It is not necessary to remove leaves.

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Dan

My Bronx, NY fig tree has never been covered. It survived the extremely cold 2013 winter and produced many juvenile figs that never ripened late into the fall of 2014. However, it now looks worse after the 2014 winter which I thought was less severe. I checked it this past weekend and noticed many of the branches have what appear to be splits or cracks. I’m thinking the upper portion of the tree is dead. How long into May or June should I wait before cutting the tree back to it’s stump?

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Mary Menniti

Dan, the past two very harsh winters have caused fig trees to respond so atypically that it’s best to wait to cut back what appear to be lifeless branches. If you don’t mind the appearance of the currently dead looking tree, it would be best to wait a month or so longer.

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Dan

Hi Mary. I waited until Memorial Day weekend since this tree has been a monstrous producer in the past. The only new growth on the tree was springing up from the trunk. As such, I decided to cut the tree back to a stump, which seems to have accelerated the growth of the existing shoots. I noticed a significant difference within 48 hours. I checked with some neighbors and they too cut their trees back as a result of winter damage.

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Chuck

Hi,I just stumbled on your website by using google. My goodness,what a rich source of info. My ancestors immigrated here in the late 1800s and”my” branch settled along the NY/Pennsy line. Doubt they had any knowledge of fig trees,but when I went skiing in the Catskill Mtns,we would buy rings of dried figs to snack on and renew our energy(1950s).Forgot all about them until we moved to SC (1970). Lots of people here have figtrees/bushes,so I got a shoot and planted it. It’s now a great big tree/bush and until this past winter we got bunches of figs. We are near Greenville,SC in the foothills below Ashville,NC. Guess the cold reached here also. Wondered what I could do for our”killed-back”fig. Have trimmed the dead stems off back to the six ft. level. All of your protection ideas stirred up an idea. Was wondering if two or more black tarps could be tie-wrapped together at the edges and helped over the tree with one or more long poles and held to the ground with weights. Then, could a/or more black light(s) of the incandescent type be turned on inside under the closed tarps to provide a little heat on bitter cold nights/days. We used to do this with regular 100w bulbs underneath our car batteries in the cold northern winters. They didn’t burst. Maybe it could work. The black light wouldn’t stimulate growth and the heat of one or more bulbs could possibly make the difference. It may be a hair brained idea, but better than a dead tree. Thanks so much for having your site. Gives one encouragement to read your blogs and the family-like info is heart warming. Blessings to you.

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Mary Menniti

Thank you for your kind feedback about the site, Chuck, and for your ingenious suggestion about overwintering fig trees. I’ve heard of using light bulbs to provide heat, but never have heard of the idea of a black light to avoid stimulating the tree out of dormancy. Quite clever! It continues to surprise me that the past two winters have been so damaging even as far south as you are.

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Gail

Just bought a new home with a fig tree. Took the winter cover off and found that most of the branches looked dead. The bottom two feet are sprouting leaves. Top three or four feet are not. Should I trim back to where the leaves are sprouting or down to the stump?

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Mary Menniti

Wow, Gail, how unusual to buy a home that includes a wrapped fig tree! It’s great that you recognize what it is and want to care for it. It’s up to you as to where to cut back the tree. It will begin to sprout new growth out of the stump if cut back to there, or will continue to grow branches higher up if cut just above where the new growth is now visible.

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Margaret

I had my fig tree pruned and I was hopeful when I saw new growth. Now I notice that the new growth branches appear dead at the ends–brown and no leaves while further down the branch, they have leaves and some fruit. What would you suggest? There are also new sprouts coming off the trunk.

Thank you!
I had my fig tree pruned and I was hopeful when I saw new growth. Now I notice that the new growth branches appear dead at the ends–brown and no leaves while further down the branch, they have leaves and some fruit. What would you suggest? There are also new sprouts coming off the trunk.

Thank you!
I had my fig tree pruned and I was hopeful when I saw new growth. Now I notice that the new growth branches appear dead at the ends–brown and no leaves while further down the branch, they have leaves and some fruit. What would you suggest? There are also new sprouts coming off the trunk.

Thank you!

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Mary Menniti

Could it be possible that the new growth was effected by a late frost? In what part of the country do you live? It would probably be best to wait and watch to see if the newly pruned branches re-sprout later in the season. If not, they can be trimmed then.

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Michelle H

My husband and I recently purchased a home on MD’s eastern shore. We have a tree that everyone is saying is a fig tree but it looks like an alien to us. It has all these tentacles growing up out of the ground with absolutely no leaves. I have pictures that I can email you to see if you can tell me if it truly is a fig tree.
Thank you,
Michelle

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Mary Menniti

Sounds like it may be a fig tree, Michelle. The tentacle-like sprouts may be last year’s growth that froze and died during the winter. Watch for new shoots emerging from the ground or leaf buds on the main trunk if there is one. A photo would be helpful. Please email one to me at info@theitaliangardenproject.com

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Theresa

I planted two fig trees last fall. I put extra mulch around the base of the trees and small tarps around the trunks in late September for the winter. They were about 2 ft high when planted. My son took the tarps off in early spring(hopefully not too early) No new growth/shoots yet. Main trunk looks like dried dead wood(did the nick test). It is now after Memorial Day. I am hoping the root survived. They are Mission Figs. My house is all Italian motif, which is cool, but I just really planted them because I love figs so much. Hoping(fingers crossed)….Southern Maryland.

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Mary Menniti

Yes, let’s hope the roots survived. A newly planted tree without a well established root system is more vulnerable though. Maybe it needed to have more winter protection such as blankets and straw under the tarp. The past two winters have been more damaging to fig trees than any winter in decades. Your trees may still be partially alive. Continue to water and wait to see if there are any signs of life throughout at least the next month.

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Misty Shannon

It is July 20, 2016. My fig tree is completely bare, no leaves or anything. The branches snap off. My husband thinking the tree is dead cut the tree to the ground. He said that he noticed some green where he cut the tree at ground level. Can anyone tell me if it is possible for the tree to grow back?

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Mary Menniti

Yes, Misty. If there was green at the base of the trunk, it’s very possible that new shoots will grow from the stump or from the ground close by. Good luck and keep us posted.

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matt call

I live in n.e. north Carolina, and I planted a fig last year and id did really well. even got 3 figs. YEAHHHHH. this spring the tree looks dead and the ends look almost burnt. not sure if it made it through the winter or not. also have an apple that did not make it through but has new sprouts coming up from the base of the tree. hmmmmm. not sure what is goin on but would really like to know.

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Mary Menniti

If you didn’t cover your tree, all or part of it may have sustained damage. A young, newly planted tree is especially vulnerable to stress conditions. The ends that look as though they are burned and blackened most likely have died and will need to be cut back. It is still very early in the season to know anything for certain though. Keep an eye on the tree during the next month, looking for any sign of life on the branches or trunk. Look also for shoots coming from the ground surrounding the base of the tree. Good luck and keep us posted! You wouldn’t be the first to kill a fig tree. Seems to be a rite of passage in the fig growing world:)

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Ethel. Demusis

Hi my tree is In its 3 season,no figs yet,just took it out of the cold dark closet,but it has white roots coming out on the top,what should I do, my dad came from Italy wish he was still here,thank you. GodBless Ethel

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Mary Menniti

Do you mean that there are roots growing out of the tree at the base and emerging from the soil? Or do you mean the tree is sprouting roots in the area where leaves would normally grow? If the roots are near the base of the tree you might want to add a little soil to cover them. If the roots are higher on the tree, it may have been damp for awhile during storage. A fig tree may sprout anywhere along the trunk or branches if exposed to dampness and/or soil. When the tree is exposed to fresh air and sunshine these roots will probably die off which won’t hurt the tree.

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Jerry

Planted a 3 foot tall Panache fig tree last fall. We had an incredibly mild winter, with the exception of one 48 hour cold snap when we were out of town and it got down to 14 degrees. My tree never budded out this Spring. However, it does have new sprouts the tallest of which is probably about 9 inches tall. It’s alive! There are at least 4 of these sprouts growing up all around the base of the old tree. Two questions: Should I remove all but the largest sprout to focus the tree’s energy on growing that one? Two, should I cut down the old tree at some point. A couple of the branches still appear to have moisture in them, but, I have doubts whether they will ever sprout new growth. Our last freeze was way back on Jan 8 and we’ve had a mild, terrific Spring weather wise and all other trees have had leaves for a good while. Thanks for any questions you can answer/advice you can offer.

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Mary Menniti

Sorry to hear that you lost the original tree growth, but glad that it seems to be coming back from the roots. Yes, you can remove all the other sprouts if you prefer to grow a single stalk tree rather than growing the sprouts in a bush form. Cut the sprouts low to the ground rather than pulling them so as not to disturb the root system. It might be best to wait for a month or so before you cut down the original growth. It may still sprout and only need to be trimmed.

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